by Jake Fabbri
Although your association might not be meeting in person right now, plenty of organizations are moving their meetings and events online and engaging members in the digital realm. Just as you hold virtual meetings, webinars, or conferences, your organization can also host a successful virtual day of service to safely and efficiently give back to the community.
At Fonteva, we know a thing or two about how to keep your association members connected and engaged during this time of physical separation. Our association management software allows organizational leaders to manage their administrative duties and engage with members in one centralized digital platform.
As with any new process, we know there’s a learning curve to figuring out how to host an enriching virtual service event. Luckily, we’ve come up with a few tips to help you get started! To set your association’s virtual service event up for success, leaders should:
- Define goals and create a schedule
- Construct a communication plan to engage members
- Use virtual tools to encourage participation
- Anticipate technical difficulties
- Assess your data to create a long-lasting strategy
These tips will help you engage your members with a fulfilling virtual experience that not only gives back to the community, but also grows their engagement within your association. Let’s jump in!
Define goals and create a schedule
First, you’ll need to create a planning committee to take charge of the organization and execution of your virtual day of service. Be sure to also define the type of service you’ll be doing: will your members conduct virtual tutoring for local students, transcribe historical documents for a museum, or take on a Wikipedia editing campaign to update pages relevant to your association’s focus?
Next, describe what you want the impact of the event to be: will you target a certain number of pages to edit, or volunteer hours put in? What outcomes can you expect and measure from your day of service? You should determine the metrics you will track and how you’ll sort this data to assess later. On top of that, you need to decide how you’ll log and track your data in your organization’s constituent relationship management (CRM) system.
Lastly, construct a schedule for the events of the service day. Decide if you’ll host a welcome meeting or closeout at the beginning and end of the day. Also, provide scheduled opportunities for volunteers to check in with event managers and ask any questions or voice concerns.
Pro tip: Check out our top event management software options to help with your virtual service day planning. Event planning software can help you organize your event, market the opportunity to members, and collect data to measure event success all within one system.
Construct a communication plan to engage members
To reach your goals and host a successful event, you need to make your members aware of the opportunity and provide clear instructions to sign up. Reach out to your members several weeks in advance to generate excitement for your virtual day of service. Consider these digital marketing ideas from AccuData to spread the word about your virtual service event:
- Your email newsletter. Advertise your virtual day of service in your weekly or monthly member newsletter. Describe the purpose of the event, the impact it will have on your chosen cause, and the activities attendees will be involved in throughout the day. Provide a link to your sign-up page and invite members to ask questions ahead of the event.
- Your social media pages. Share frequent reminders about your upcoming event on your social media pages. A week out from the event, consider launching a series of posts counting down to the event day.
- Your website. Include a prominent link to your event sign-up page on your association website. You can also share updates about the success of your virtual day of service on a permanent page on your site.
After participants sign up for your virtual service day, create segmented email lists to notify them of service assignments and other pertinent information they need to know before the event begins.
Pro tip: In your event marketing efforts, highlight the benefits members will receive from participating in your virtual service day. These include the chance for participants to use their skills to give back to a worthy cause or the ability to connect with fellow members they haven’t seen for a while. These factors will help incentivize members to sign up!
Use virtual tools to encourage participation
Choose an event platform that will work best for your association’s needs. For example, if you plan to engage a large number of virtual attendees reaching the hundreds or thousands, you want to choose a platform that can handle large group meetings along with small group or one-on-one breakout sessions.
Additionally, select an event platform with a plethora of engagement tools to turn your members into active participants on the event day. Consider breaking your members out into groups at the start of the event to host icebreaker activities or introduce themselves with fun facts. This is a great way to not only kick off your service event and set the tone for the day, but also to provide an opportunity for association members to connect with one another.
Throughout the day, allow members to send questions in the live chat or provide updates on their progress. You can also implement gamification elements to encourage further participation and generate friendly competition. For example, you might send participants a digital badge or a specific number of points whenever they complete a checkpoint such as reading 1,000 words of a classic novel for an audio book or another measurable action during your service event. At the end of the event, participants can cash in their points or badges for a prize.
Anticipate technical difficulties
Your virtual service day wouldn’t be complete without a dash of technical difficulties to make things interesting. All jokes aside, it’s highly likely that your virtual event will face a few technical challenges along the way, so try to anticipate and address these challenges before they arise.
We at Fonteva recommend conducting a test-run of your virtual event before event day arrives. Have your planning committee test out the virtual event platform and tools and note any elements that aren’t functioning properly or aspects of your event schedule that need to be adjusted. Additionally, provide clear instructions for event attendees on what event day will look like, how to connect to the event platform, and how to use the platform’s tools.
Designate your most digitally-savvy member to take charge of troubleshooting any technical issues that arise on event day.
Pro-tip: Be sure to provide alternative options if any participants can’t connect to your video conferencing rooms, such as a text or audio-only channel. The more opportunities you give your event to pivot when things don’t go as planned, the greater success you’ll have in keeping attendees engaged and satisfied with your virtual service experience.
Assess your virtual event data to create a long-lasting strategy
Use this virtual service event as a learning opportunity to inform your approach to future virtual events.
After the event, send a survey to attendees to gain feedback on their experience. Use your own observations of the event and data within your management software, as well as this feedback, to adjust your strategy for your next virtual event.
For example, if participants say they enjoyed using breakout rooms or one-on-one chat rooms, you can incorporate this element into future online events. If you noted a few technical difficulties throughout the day of service, consider implementing a troubleshooting guide to reference in future virtual events.
Don’t forget to share follow-up resources after your service day to keep members engaged and inspired to continue exploring virtual volunteer opportunities. Consider repurposing content used during the event and creating educational materials that attendees can reference after the fact to further engage with the cause.
Pro tip: Even when in-person events start up again, it seems virtual events are here to stay. Formalize your approach to virtual events now to give your association a game plan for future digital or hybrid engagements.
By investing in an event management platform, you’ll be equipped with the structure and tools you need to create an impactful virtual service event for your association members. Remember to keep your plan flexible to adapt to any changes that arise during the service event. But most importantly, remember that your virtual service day is meant to be an enjoyable experience for members to do a little bit of good for the world, so have some fun with it. Happy planning!