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Jon Lofthouse: Mapping the future for virtual events

10 Feb 2021 Expert insight

As charities consider how they can make virtual events more exciting for existing and new supporters, technology offers a whole host of new possibilities, writes Jon Lofthouse from Enthuse

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Covid-19 has posed questions for every industry over the past year and the third sector is no exception. With fundraising events such a key component of almost every charity’s income, the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions mean the search is on for creative ways to plug the gap that physical event fundraising has left. 

As ever, when challenges present themself, innovation is never far behind. The advent of virtual events has proved a crucial ingredient in helping charities bridge their income gap. That said, with every virtual cycle or Zoom quiz, it’s only natural that a certain amount of digital fatigue sets in. 

So, with that in mind, how do charities keep virtual event fundraising fresh and interesting to get supporters excited about taking part? 

Engage your core 

Virtual events have been a vital lifeline for charities throughout the pandemic but, based on our quarterly donor research, we know supporters want more. Virtual events need rejuvenating to keep them fun and engaging so that supporters and prospective donors want to continue to get involved. 

We’ve all seen friends and family promoting their sponsored runs around the local park for charity on social media - but how do charities keep it fresh for them? Software that empowers charities to give supporters a different way to get involved is now available, with innovations such as map-based challenges for popular fundraising routes. This could include the likes of the Inca Trail, the National Three Peaks, and the Mount Kilimanjaro Trek, to name a few. It’s developments like these that add value and help charities and fundraisers to stand out from the crowd. 

If, for whatever reason, you’re unable to run an event like a marathon, then running the virtual route (with notifications for when you pass key landmarks) is a worthy alternative. This sort of innovation will appeal to supporters and help charities to keep their fundraisers excited about taking part. 

Make it personal

Another key factor to the success of any event is making it personal, this is particularly important with virtual events when the opportunity to offer that human touch is much harder. Virtual events are fast-becoming a saturated space. To stand out from the crowd, charities need to ensure that they are tailoring their virtual events.

For example, having pre-loaded, popular routes for running, walking and cycling virtual events is great but if an annual, physical event is cancelled, charities may want to replace it with a virtual replica for their regular supporters. This gives charities the power to create a virtual event where the route, distance and activity is specific to them and their supporters, to ensure they don’t miss out on important funds by cancelling altogether. 

Healthy competition 

Friendly competition is a staple of any event and that shouldn’t be lost in the virtual world. Charities need to look towards solutions that capture that sense of competition, whether that's having the map of the route displayed across the event page or event leaderboards that show who has finished the route, sorted by the fastest finisher. Features like these encourage team and individual participation and help to replicate the experience of a physical event, as well as bringing virtual event fundraising to life. By maintaining that sense of community, charities can help encourage their supporters to spur each other on in their fundraising. 

Virtual events have proved invaluable during the pandemic and now charities need to find ways to keep them exciting for supporters. As virtual event fatigue sets in, charities need to be innovating to keep virtual fundraising events fun, bespoke and competitive to maximise their return.

Jon Lofthouse, is product director at Enthuse, which has launched Virtual Journeys – a map-based challenge solution for popular fundraising routes, such as; the Inca Trail; the London to Brighton Challenge, and Lands End to John O’Groats.

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