Giving Compass' Take:

• Here are learnings from a nonprofit news outlet on how best to engage the public now that COVID-19 has prompted organization events to go completely virtual. 

• How can organizations instill a sense of community during these events? How will this impact future fundraising and garnering donor support? 

• Read about bringing civic engagement to a virtual world. 

As coronavirus continues to curtail in-person events and the face-to-face “experience economy,” nonprofit and independent news outlets around the country are turning to online gatherings not only to engage the public in civic dialogue, but also to spark financial support.

Nonprofit media organizations have aggressively experimented with events over the past decade as the sector has grown rapidly to fill a void in civic information left by the shuttering of local news outlets. With the pandemic forcing civil society groups of all types to take fundraisers online—from walks to telethons to concerts—news outlets’ efforts with virtual, discussion-based events can provide additional ideas for any organization seeking to foster community and maintain financial viability.

I’ve kept a close eye on news outlets’ event strategies while conducting research on how audience engagement is changing journalism in the digital age. During the early stages of fieldwork for a book project, I was struck by how every newsroom I visited was embracing in-person events as a vital tool to build loyalty and spur financial support.

Virtual events, it turns out, can serve the same purpose. Even if free to attend, virtual interviews, panels, and forums can draw new members, encourage donations, and generate revenue through sponsorships. If your organization is looking to give virtual events a try, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Prepare thoughtfully.
  • Keep it short.
  • Don’t overlook security.
  • Think beyond the one-off.
  • Be flexible, with an eye toward the future.
  • Circulate your event after the live session ends.
  • Try converting attendees into members or donors.
  • Look for silver linings.

Read the full article about virtual events by Jake Batsell at Stanford Social Innovation Review.