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How to maximize ROI for your next virtual event

It’s a common misconception that virtual events – while a great alternative to in-person – aren’t as valuable at the end of the day.

But I’m here to tell you that a well-produced virtual event has tremendous value that extends beyond the event itself.

And though the world is slowly beginning to reopen, virtual events will remain in our lives for good. So it’s important to know how to plan a virtual event that will bring you the highest ROI, leaving sponsors – and donors – wanting more.

How can you do this? It all boils down to positioning.

In this blog, I’m sharing how positioning plays a role in maximizing ROI before, during and after an event.


Before the event

There are three major things that need to happen prior to your event for it to be successful.

The first is finding your platform. While there are many factors that go into this decision, the most important aspect for ROI is the real estate it provides for sponsorship.

At in-person events, sponsorship opportunities are finite. They’re limited to things like invitations sent prior to the event, tables at the event itself and short slides recognizing supporters.

But at virtual events, the right platform gives you a tremendous amount of experiential real estate to recognize sponsors, including:

  • Virtual VIP tables
  • Banners
  • Links to websites
  • Video messages from the CEO
  • Sponsored chats
  • Booths
  • And so much more

Once you’ve identified a platform, it’s time to develop a revenue architecture for your guests and corporate sponsorship. This will help position the benefits of sponsorship to potential partners and ultimately impact your bottom line at the end of the day.

Your revenue architecture should not only provide details on the virtual real estate sponsors can take advantage of, but also outline the selling points of going virtual. Talk through the increased reach thanks to a larger audience, the demographics of those attending and the number of impressions they’ll be receiving thanks to the extended shelf life a virtual event provides.

By strategically positioning the added value a virtual event provides to sponsors, you’ll be able to bring in more funding for your program.

Finally, plan to bring the fun! When planning your virtual event, think of engaging ways you can connect with your audience through the screen.

With virtual events, the opportunities are endless. Whether you choose to feature celebrity speakers, live auctions or experience boxes, think of out-of-the-box ways you can entertain attendees. A well-planned, fun experience will not only make the event more enjoyable, but it will also have a huge impact on the revenue you raise during the event and well after it's over.


During the event

It’s time to act! During the event, activating features like your chat and major donor tables will help drive engagement, connections and donations.

When you can share active engagement numbers with your sponsors and stakeholders, you’re adding a tremendous amount of value to your event.

It’s important that sponsors see this as an engaging and valuable experience, rather than a video stream of talking heads that lacks impact and is one dimensional.


After the event

Before you take your well-earned break, there are a few things you need to do after an event is over.

The first is preparing an ROI Report for your sponsors, board members and any other key stakeholders. Not only will this show the value of the event just held, but it will also help promote buy-in for future virtual events.

Your ROI report should include:

  • Audience metrics
  • Impressions
  • Time spent in the event
  • Reach
  • Engagement rate
  • Screens
  • Fundraising
  • Auctions details (who bid where and on what)

The second is to begin making connections and building relationships with your attendees. Big names and CEOs tend to be more willing to go to virtual events than in-person ones, so look at any new donors and auction participants who you can begin to make follow-up contact with.

By building relationships with event attendees, their value will extend way beyond the event itself.


How it all comes together

Cleveland Animal Protective League had to take their Annual Fur Ball virtual in November of 2020. Following this guidance, the organization was able to plan an engaging event that maximized their ROI and sold stakeholders on the value of virtual for years to come.

Here’s a quick look at some of the details:

  • Reduced event costs in 2020 led to an increase in net revenue
  • 53% of virtual attendees were new donors, up from 26% at 2019’s in-person event
  • The new audience continued to give beyond the event, with donations trickling in through December

For more details on the success of this event, check out our breakthrough here.

As we move into the new age of event fundraising, organizations who take advantage of virtual events will see new opportunities for extended sponsorship, audience expansion and increased fundraising potential.

Karla Baldelli

Karla is an elite nonprofit fundraising executive with a 25-year career in mid-level and distinguished donor fundraising, engagement and stewardship for major nonprofits. Her experience includes transformational roles with JDRF, Coast Guard Foundation, American Heart Association, Arthritis Foundation, The Salvation Army and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. While at the American Heart Association, Karla built the first-ever mega-donor event, Honored Guest Day.  She designed the campaign architecture for the $100 million Mission Lifeline Campaign and conceived the AHA’s National Giving Society, Cor Vitae.

Karla brings strong leadership and strategic counsel for thoughtful, year-round donor experience strategies integrated throughout campaigns and giving channels. Her expertise is changing the culture of major donor programs, including educating staff with her proprietary training, the Power of the Donor Experience.  Since coming to RKD, she has implemented a holistic program - leading with data insights and centered on the donor experience and organizational execution - that results in more inspired giving and increased revenue.   

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