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Digital Fundraising with Virtual Events

One silver lining to the Covid-19 pandemic and numerous lockdowns has been emergence and popularization of virtual events. Beginning in March 2020, organisations across the world were forced to pivot from physical to virtual events which provided an opportunity for digital innovation. Audiences have now become accustomed to engaging virtually with museums in the form of online games, resources, exhibitions, tours, events and more…

In terms of digital fundraising, the virtual event is a great place to solicit donations by creating pay what you can tickets, promoting in the moment donations and most of all, pulling together a real-time audience with whom you can communicate your fundraising goals and aspirations.

In this article, we’ll go through three ways to solicit donations via virtual events: pay what you can models, text to donate platforms, and weaving in fundraising messaging.

Pay what you can

Many museums offer “Pay what you wish” options daily to select groups or advertise certain days where everyone and anyone can visit their collections for as much or as a little as they have to offer. If you know the optimal day of the week and time, you can museum-hop in New York City as there are an abundance of museums that have this flexible entry option.

This pricing structure can work brilliantly for virtual events. Rather than setting a fixed price, consider the “pay what you can” option for chargeable events and you might be surprised with the results. It’s likely that audiences will appreciate this attractive option and pay a higher ticket price than the number your museum originally had in mind.

While the UK-based Manchester Jewish Museum recently used a “Pay What You Feel” option for their “Eat the Archives: Appetizer” event in February 2021 for the purpose of increasing accessibility and connecting with their community, they had some surprising results…

“It’s really important for us that our events are as accessible as possible, especially in the current circumstances. For us, our online events aren‘t about generating income but keeping connected with our audiences. Our Pay-What-You-Feel model is based on voluntary donations given after the event. We have been pleasantly surprised with the result – although many people choose not to donate, the donations we do receive have been really generous and we’ve received really positive feedback. We’ve also been able to make new connections with audiences who might never be able to physically visit the museum.” – Manchester Jewish Museum 

The pay what you can model can benefit your museum in a variety of ways through increased accessibility, broader community connections and highlighting a sense of generosity to audiences. All of these factors are important for building up a supportive base for future digital fundraising campaigns. If your museum has the flexibility, take a chance with the pay what you can model – you might just wind up hitting or exceeding your digital fundraising goals!

Text to donate

With a global population of 7.83 billion and unique mobile phone users at 5.22 billion as of January 2021, 66% of the worldwide population has access to digital fundraising via text to donate.[1] This method of digital fundraising has been around for years and like contactless donations, is extremely easy to use.

The text to donate method involves prompting potential donors to text a code or certain phrase to a number which will allow that supporter to make a donation via their mobile device which will either be added to their monthly phone bill or debited from available non-contracted mobile phone funds. Usually, the amount to be donated via texting a code is pre-determined but some text to donate platforms like the ones listed below offer the option to give more or and/or set up a recurring donation.

Handbid – This fundraising software includes text to give, mobile bidding, live-streaming, chat, peer-to-peer fundraising, donation campaigns and crowdfunding functionality.

Onecause – This powerful software offers text to donate options (including event thermometers, tracking and more…) as well as campaigns, ticketing, live-streaming, hybrid fundraising and event management.

Qgiv – This slick fundraising software affords museums the ability to build online donation forms, offer text giving options, run peer-to-peer fundraisers, and manage events.

Pledge – This donation platform consists of livestream funding, donation forms & pages, donor data, text to donate, event fundraising and ecommerce donations options.

Text to donate can work wonderfully with virtual events as you can take advantage of having a captive audience to explain to them just how much a small, one-off donation could help your museum. Take advantage of that moment and offer them the simple option of texting to make that contribution and show their support.

Show donors exactly what their £5 donation could provide for the museum (e.g. allowing one schoolchild to attend a session on ancient Egypt of buying one box of acid-free tissue paper for conservation). Creating an image of what supporter’s financial contributions will do helps to authenticate digital fundraising appeals and allows for additional context which can motivate donors.

Weaving in fundraising messaging

During your online event, make a point to remind virtual participants about how to support your organisation. Weaving in fundraising messaging is crucial to gently guide audiences towards donating. Follow the “Rule of Seven” which states that a prospective customer needs to see or hear a marketing message seven times before taking action. Within a virtual event setting, this means including donation information before the event with the joining instructions, during the event by promoting text to donate as well as verbal calls to action and following up after the event with clear instructions on how to support and what participant’s financial contributions will mean for your museum.

Creating an “elevator pitch” is a smart exercise for anyone involved in digital fundraising within your museum. Volunteers, staff and trustees alike can benefit from creating a formulated, short speech (no more than 20-30 seconds) about why the organisation needs help and what future donations will mean for the museum. Having this prepared means that anyone can be ready to jump in and share a meaningful appeal which can be especially useful for virtual events. When thinking about how to naturally weave fundraising language into your event, it’s good to feature a variety of people from your organisation which can make your appeal appear more genuine and the call to action more impactful.

Wrapping up

Remember that behind every fundraising campaign, no matter what the method and tactics, should be an important message, a story that truly compels people on the receiving end to open up their wallets and use their hard-earned money to support your museum. Tell a meaningful story, share a meaningful appeal and make sure that your ask comes from a place of authenticity.

There’s a whole digital fundraising world to explore and we here at MuseumNext are here to guide you. Don’t miss out on reading our articles on winning at e-commerce and online donations as well as learning more about online fundraising platforms.

[1] Based on the “Digital Around the World” report by DataReportal, https://datareportal.com/global-digital-overview

Learn more about how museums are increasing their donations with digital at the MuseumNext Digital Income Summit.

About the author – Devon Turner

Devon Turner is an Arts & Culture Writer. She has worked extensively in arts marketing for both the visual arts and performing arts in the US and UK. Now living in London, Devon works in the arts and culture sector and enjoys traveling to visit museums.

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