As our time at home has extended, more and more nonprofits have had to pivot to offering programs and services virtually. If you’re looking at the upcoming year and trying to find innovative ways to reach your community, you may be considering running a webinar for your nonprofit.
Webinars can serve all kinds of purposes, from trainings, to community discussions, to fundraising. But you want to make sure you do your webinar right.
Let’s take a look at the best ways to run your webinar for your nonprofit.
Interested in learning how to run the perfect webinar for your nonprofit? Watch the free webinar on-demand:
1. Setting Goals For Your Nonprofit’s Webinar
Webinars can do all kinds of things. At heart, they are any presentation or seminar that takes place online. When you decide to host a webinar for your nonprofit, you want to start by determining what you want to accomplish.
- Are you trying to raise money?
- Are you trying to educate people?
- Are you aiming to get feedback?
- Excite your audience about an upcoming offering?
- Creating evergreen content?
Figuring out your goal will help you determine the audience you want and help you decide if you’d like your content to be live or pre-recorded.
It will also help you think about the other logistics of your webinar:
- How long it’s going to go on
- How many people you’re aiming to reach
- What speakers or resources you need
- How you plan to bring in revenue (if that’s one of your goals)
- Best practice for fundraising: Have a specific donation or crowdfunding page set up just for your webinar.
In this example, Westside Justice Center created a CauseVox page for their Virtual Party with a Purpose. This allowed participants to join as virtual fundraisers and support the event.
Depending on what you’re asking your participants to do, you can adjust your fundraiser or donation page. Here, Regina Caeli set up a recurring donation page that matched their ask. Keep in mind that the style of donation or fundraiser you use will change how you share the link.
Typically you’d direct people to the link in the chat, have a slide with the link, and the URL in the recording description on whatever platform you’re hosting the recording on.
But if you’re asking folks to fundraise as a peer-to-peer fundraiser in advance, you may be sharing the link via social, email, or other channels. Get that link out there however you can!
Determining Your Nonprofit’s Webinar Format
Nonprofit Webinar Length
Similarly, each logistics concern will be affected by your goals. For example, if you’re using a webinar to raise money, you probably don’t want your program to go on for much longer than 30 minutes.
On the other hand if you’re working to educate your audience about a complex topic, maybe you need a longer time frame with breaks incorporated into your nonprofit webinar.
Pre-Recorded vs Live
In general, pre-recorded content is easier to produce. If something goes wrong you can always do another take, or you can use editing to deal with any issues.
Live content means you have to deal with problems in the moment. Of course live content often entices audiences: they have the chance to interact live or ask questions and make comments. Think about what makes the most sense to you, or consider a mix.
How Many People Will Be Attending Your Nonprofit’s Webinar?
The number of people you want to include in your nonprofit’s webinar will also help you decide on the technology you want to use. If you’re looking to host 500 people, you’re going to need different software than if you’re holding a small 10 person meeting.
After you’ve answered these logistical questions, it can be helpful to keep them all in one handy document. That will allow you to make sure the technology you choose meets all of your needs, and it helps you keep your goal in the front of your mind.
2. Choose Your Webinar Technology
Speaking of technology, once you’ve finished the goal-setting portion of planning, the next step is to choose your nonprofit webinar technology. Different sites have different pros and cons. You’ll want to pick the one that most suits your personal needs.
The most common options are Zoom, GoToMeeting, and Google Meet.
Zoom For Nonprofit Webinars
For a proper webinar format, Zoom is the ideal platform. You can create breakout rooms so that attendees can connect with a smaller group, and even set up those rooms in advance so that specific people will be grouped together.
You can set a password so no unexpected guests show up, have a lobby that keeps guests waiting until you’re ready to start, screenshare, and more! You can also record directly from Zoom to share the content later on Youtube or Facebook.
Google Meet For Nonprofit Webinars
Google Meet tends to feel a little less formal when it comes to webinars and is great for interaction among attendees.
Google Meet is a great option if you already use many of the tools in your Google Suite and want to use them during your webinar. You can integrate it directly with Google Calendar, Chat, or Drive. If you want to take notes while you’re meeting, chat is a fantastic function that you can then search through later.
If you already use Google Docs and Slides, Google Meet would make a lot of sense for your webinar. Plus, GoogleMeet is very affordable if you’re on a shoestring budget.
GoToWebinar For Nonprofit Webinars
The third major player is GoToWebinar. The benefit of this option is that users don’t have to download any external software, which can be nice for guests who are uncomfortable with technology. The other big pro for GoToWebinar is that it has a lot more space for you to record and save meetings, which is really nice if you want to make your webinar available after the fact.
Of course there are other options out there. If you’re hosting a complicated virtual event, you may want to look into something with more custom options. Keep in mind that the more complex the software, the more expensive it’s likely to be.
Interested in hosting a virtual event? Here’s 23 Top Virtual Fundraising Ideas.
If you’re looking for ways to livestream your event, you can use Youtube Live or Facebook live to share your webinar as it’s happening.
Skid Row Housing Trust runs webinars each month as a way to hear from the community. They call these community meetings and it allows them to update people on their work as well as hear concerns or suggestions. They share the recordings on Youtube and Facebook afterwards so that anyone can see them.
As you’re choosing your software, think about whether you want each of these options and check if the software offers it:
- Display slides
- Stream video
- Talk to your audience
- Call to action
- Breakout rooms
You can also use your software creatively for a virtual event. The Autism Society of Minnesota used Zoom to host a jigsaw puzzle competition. Because they needed to see each team to verify completion time (and no cheating) they broke teams out into rooms of twenty and had a room monitor for each.
They also set up one additional “participant” that was just a countdown clock for everyone to see. There are tons of ways to use the software to meet your needs, so don’t get bogged down in how everything is traditionally used.
3. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Now that you know your overall plan, you want to get into the nitty gritty details. Murphy’s Law is especially true when it comes to technology: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. In order to fight that inevitability, you want to have all the details prepped on your end.
Have An Agenda For Your Nonprofit’s Webinar
Make sure that you have a clear agenda set out ahead of time and that anyone who is speaking or presenting knows that agenda. If you’ve prepared your video ahead of time, this shouldn’t be a problem. But if you’re livestreaming you want to make sure that you’re ready for any issues.
Test Out The Tech Ahead Of Time
To ensure you’re providing top-quality content during nonprofit’s webinar, you’ll want to:
- Make sure your audio sounds good. If your microphone isn’t working well, your viewers will leave, or may simply be unable to understand what you’re saying. Bad audio is worse than bad video.
- Think about your lighting. Natural light is best, so windows are your friend.
- Keep the background of your shot uncluttered.
- Try to get your camera even with your face.
Here’s an example of one of the most popular webinar sessions from our Digital Fundraising Summit, which exhibits these qualities:
It’s also a good idea to prepare your technology in advance: test out what you’re planning to do before the day of. Whether you’re breaking folks into breakout rooms or sharing your screen over Zoom, you don’t want to be doing it for the first time in front of your audience.
If you have an employee who’s more familiar with technology, ask them to be on hand to deal with any problems. Having someone who’s dedicated to managing the technology takes the stress off of others and ensures that there’s always someone whose full attention is on the tech. If you have a lot of participants who may not be familiar with the technology, it can also be helpful to have a point person for questions and troubleshooting. Telling your participants who they can call if they can’t access the webinar helps them to feel comfortable too.
The more you can tell your staff and participants ahead of time, the more successful your webinar will be. This may include sending out slides in advance or giving very explicit instructions about how to access the webinar.
4. Engage Your Audience
Once you’re actually in the midst of the webinar, one of the most important things you can do is keep your audience engaged. It’s incredibly easy for your viewers to zone out: they’re comfortable in their own home! They have all kinds of easy distractions! Your goal is to keep their attention.
Luckily there are some helpful tools that most platforms have to make it easy:
- Use polls. You can set these up ahead of time in Zoom, and then have your audience members answer it during the webinar.
- Ask questions and encourage folks to answer it in the chat. That kind of back and forth gets people involved and gives them the opportunity to engage with each other.
- Have a Q&A. Make sure you incorporate time for your viewers to ask questions if they need to. There are a couple of ways to effectively include questions. You can ask viewers to put questions in the chat and have a staff member monitoring to let the speaker know. Or you can set aside time when viewers can unmute and ask their questions out loud. That’s a particularly engaging method, but it can become chaotic quickly.
- Have prizes! Everyone loves to win. Getting your hands on a few small raffle items can make a big difference to the success of your webinar. Spread out the drawings throughout the stream to keep people focused over time.
In an example of a larger event held as a webinar, Nicholas House took their annual Dream Builders fundraiser and moved it to a virtual event. They encouraged peer-to-peer fundraising through CauseVox, but instead of hosting an in-person event at the end they shared a virtual program.
The Dream Builders program included musical performances, panel discussions, messages from leadership, and stories from clients. They posted the event schedule in advance and recorded certain sessions for community members to watch later.
This is a great example of a more complex nonprofit webinar that fulfills multiple functions. Not only was it a fundraiser, it was also an educational opportunity and a chance for community building. People got incredibly engaged with the wide variety of content. Definitely take some time to explore their event website to get inspiration!
5. Communicate Clearly
Now that you have your plan in place, it’s time to get people to sign up for the event! Here are some of our top tips for incorporating marketing into your webinar:
- Have a recognizable speaker at the event. If you can get someone from outside of your organization, they’ll bring their own following.
- Share small tidbits of information from the webinar on social media to get people excited.
- Offer an early bird rate to incentivize early registrations.
- Be clear about what information participants will learn
- Don’t forget to continue the relationship once the webinar is over! Offer participants information about upcoming events or other ways to get involved in your organization.
Of course, you’ll still want to use all your digital marketing strategies to engage your audience as well.
Fundraise Alongside Your Nonprofit’s Webinar With CauseVox
Ready to raise more online through your nonprofit webinars?
Use CauseVox to easily spin up crowdfunding campaigns, donation pages, and peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns.
Giving online has never been so easy: it only takes 15 seconds for your donors to complete their donation via credit card, Apple Pay, or Google Pay.