One of the many joys of being part of a giving circle is the community you build with others. There will always be a strong desire and value to gather with your giving circle members in-person, but 2020 has shown us that giving and gathering can and will continue in virtual spaces. As you begin planning your next event, review these considerations as you explore hosting a virtual event. These tips will help make your event a success and encourage connection while breaking down virtual barriers!
1. Choose the right platform.
Do your research to learn more about the platforms available and what options you have for connecting with the members of your circle. Zoom and Google Hangouts are popular choices. Make sure your members know what platform they’ll be using, and consider giving them a basic overview of how to use the platform.
2. Prepare well ahead of time.
Get ready! Your members may need time to do their own research or to make sure that they’ve set aside time in their schedules for your giving circle meeting. While getting together may look dramatically different this year, that doesn’t necessarily mean that people don’t have plenty of places they need to be and plenty of things they need to take care of. Many of them, especially if they’re juggling working from home with the responsibilities of caring for kids who may be doing virtual school, may be tighter on time than ever! Make sure you choose a time that works for as many of your members as possible to encourage everyone to attend. Try tools like When 2 Meet or a Doodle poll to get a better idea of when your members are available.
3. Have a clear agenda.
At a virtual event, you may have different activities than you can in-person. There are, however, several things that you can get together and do online. Think about the members of your giving circle and what they’re interested in. Consider the activities they usually enjoy most when they get together in-person. If you prepare early enough, keep in mind that you can mail supplies or have members come by and conduct a socially-distanced pick-up. You can also offer supply lists that members can pick up before the big event.
You might want to incorporate activities like:
- Virtual crafts or tutorials so that you can complete items for donation. Try putting together quilts or designing special items that will go out to the people who need them most this time of year.
- Holding a trivia contest. Who knows the most about the organization you chose to donate to this year?
- Holding a watch party together to review specific materials about your chosen organization.
Set an agenda for important activities. For example, if you usually include a discussion of which grantees you finally decided on this year or the final amount of your donation, make sure you set aside a specific time, usually at the beginning of the event, to share that information. You may also want to note a clear end time to the event so that people can easily schedule it into their day. Make sure you ask for help or assign tasks to others so that everyone can be involved in the event.
4. Include incentive for members to participate online.
In an online event, it’s easy for guests to sit back and simply watch everything going on. Instead of allowing them to miss out on the fun and sense of connection, provide them with incentives to connect! You might, for example, want to offer prizes for the people who win specific games or those who make the best craft. Pick up small prizes ahead of time. These could be virtual prizes–an online gift card code, for example–to cut down on shipping, or they could be tangible prizes that you mail out to the winners. Make sure to allow plenty of time for shipping delays, especially around high-volume times of the year! You can also leave prizes at a central location for members to collect in a socially-distanced way.
Offering prizes can help break the ice and convince people to contribute, especially if they’re feeling awkward or having a hard time getting started.
5. Follow up after the event to get a better idea of how it went.
You may already be looking forward to holding your next event in person. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should skip your event review. Ask questions like:
- What tech challenges did your members face? Did your group, as a whole, like the platform, or did you struggle with the shift to a virtual platform?
- What did members like about your virtual giving circle? You may find that some members not only appreciated the chance for connection, but like the idea of going virtual in the future.
- What would members like to see done differently in the future? How can you continue to meet the needs of your own members as you prepare to give to others?
Follow up on your event in a Facebook group or on Philanthropy Together’s Community Forum to keep the conversation going. You may also choose to send out an email or even have your members fill out a poll or form as they leave the event. If members have detailed complaints, consider following up with them over the phone for more detailed information.
People always want to feel connected to one another. If your group cannot gather in person for any reason, a virtual event is a great option to ensure your members can still come together.
Want to connect with others who are planning virtual events for their giving circles? Check out Philanthropy Together’s Community Forum for some great ideas and new chances to interact with fellow giving circle members.