Virtual Events: Could you? Would you? Should you?

06/30/2020 2:30 PM | Elizabeth Duffrin

By Stacy Harker, ACN Member

In these socially-distanced times, many nonprofits are debating whether to move a planned in-person event online. Before you take the leap, consider these questions.

Could you?

One of the first questions your team needs to ask is COULD WE put on a virtual event? Are you able to pivot from an annual in-person event to a meaningful virtual experience? As you and your organization pose this question, there are several logistical considerations that you need to evaluate:

  • Do you have the necessary technology?
  • Can you present your mission and impact visually?
  • Do you have the staff/team/volunteer capability?
  • Is there a budget?
  • Can you repurpose content from your in-person event?
  • Is your event sponsor flexible about moving online?

Do you have access to experts who can help you with the logistics of moving online?

Would you?

If you think you CAN, the next question is would postponing your in-person event would do more harm than good compared to pivoting to a virtual event? Before making a decision, here are some vital questions to ask your team:

  • Does this event fit in with your overall plan for the year?
  • Can you whip up the strategy, timeline and back-up plans in time?
  • Do you have a host or emcee?
  • What will your actual programming be?
  • Can you still share the impact of your work?
  • Do you have tech support for attendees?

Should you?

Let’s say that yes, you WOULD change course and that you COULD logistically pull it off, you really need to ask yourself SHOULD your organization do this?  Whether or not you have the capabilities, all this boils down to is whether or not it is fiscally responsible and within the scope of your organization’s mission to conduct a virtual event. These questions are not just about your “return on investment” but also your “return on energy” since this most likely means going where your organization has probably not been before:

  • Does leadership champion the transition?
  • Is your constituency likely to attend a virtual event?
  • Will you be able to dedicate appropriate marketing support?
  • Have you built in enough time to test your presentation and technology with your team, and test, test…and test again?
  • Can you build and manage a good virtual events team?
  • Can you be SUCCESSFUL?

The biggest question you need to ask for your organization in the current climate is can you be successful?  What do you define as success? Is it hitting revenue targets? Is it adding more donors?  What definable goals can you use to benchmark your event as a success?  Have your organization’s goals been adjusted to reflect this unprecedented time? Are you providing the next best avenue for connecting with your donors if this is your main event of the year?  Asking your organization all of these questions will put you on the right path to determine whether or not you could, would and should take your event into the virtual realm.

Stacy Harker, an associate at KEES, provides interim staffing services to nonprofits going through the executive search process. Stacy has more than 19 years of nonprofit experience in education, performing arts, media, consulting, interim staffing and executive search.

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