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Stephen Cotterill: The virtual event experience has its benefits

08 Mar 2021 Voices

Face-to-face conferences still seem a long way off, but the virtual event experience has its benefits.

Even though lockdown 3.0 is set to ease as I write this, the joys of sharing a coffee, assorted pastries and a good fundraising natter at a real-life event still seems a distant dream. However, one thing the pandemic has given rise to is a raft of professional, cost-effective online conferences, panel sessions and seminars.

At the start of the first lockdown, most virtual conferences were little more than extended Zoom sessions, with a lot of “you’re on mute” exclamations from the session chairs and “connection lost” buffering signals. But things have changed over the last 12 months and the fundraising community has become very adept at sharing the conference experience online as best it can.

Obviously, we all miss the human contact – after all, fundraisers are people – but there are benefits to the virtual experience. No commute or hotel costs and lower delegate fees are all welcome savings for already stretched budgets, while flexible programme schedules and being able to have access to sessions at a later date are both positives of the online experience. These features have led to a kind of democratisation of the event calendar.

For the first time this year, Civil Society Media, which publishes this magazine, is running its Charity Awards online. It will include a new award for the best response to Covid, with entries accepted until the end of this month. The virtual event will be held in June and anyone can tune in.

The publisher is also hosting its inaugural Spring Summit on 20-21 April. This new virtual event will explore the role of charity leaders in guiding their organisations through the pandemic and rebuilding for the future. The event has been themed across three specialist areas, which align with Civil Society Media’s print publications: governance and leadership, charity finance and fundraising.

Until we are all jabbed, virtual is the best thing we’ve got, so don’t miss out on the opportunities it presents.


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