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How To Plan Your First Virtual Legacy Event

Amy Nield By Amy Nield

Planning a virtual legacy event

Offline legacy events are a pillar of charities’ acquisition and stewardship activity. But with many potential pledgers now facing an indeterminate time locked indoors, physical events may now be off the table. 

The prospect of applying the formula to online events – particularly with an audience stereotyped as reluctant to venture into virtual worlds – may sound daunting.

But fear not – we’ve assembled some advice to guide you to the best solution for your cause and audience, along with some practical advice on how to make it happen.

Recreating offline legacy events like-for-like is impossible

Effective legacy events typically thrive on atmosphere and conversation.

Recreating this digitally is going to be a very tall order. So it’s important to acknowledge that you’re not going to be able to lift and shift everything online.

So take a step back, reflect on your objective(s) for the event. Then you can start thinking about which elements of your offline legacy events usually help you achieve these, and how you might apply them in the digital space.

PART ONE: WHAT SHOULD WE DO?

Your way in

If you’re planning a legacy event, you’ll need to think about how you can provide people with something valuable and special in return for their time and their information. 

If you have a legacy proposition, think about how you can bring it to life in ways that will connect with the interests of the audience you are trying to engage, and where you have the resources to make it happen.

You may have a captive audience, but with plenty of organisations providing free content right now, and without the draw of a free day out, you’re going to have to work hard to provide something with real interest and appeal.

Some areas to explore include:

  • Archives and heritage

  • Research and breakthroughs

  • Exclusive access to what’s going on behind the scenes – either business-as-usual,  or during the pandemic

  • Teaching people new skills using your organisation’s experts (what can your organisation offer that would be beneficial to your legacy audience?)

  • Pure entertainment, like a quiz or a game, with legacy information woven through it

The best legacy events feature passionate speakers sharing incredible stories. It’s worth thinking about who and what you already have access to – after all, compelling content doesn’t need to be new.

Revisit your archives for stories, and contact teams on the ground. 

With regard to key speakers, it could be someone from your stories team, a volunteer, a researcher, a beneficiary, or another expert whose experiences would make for an engaging event. 

If you’re used to running localised events and wish to continue this digitally, you could pre-record some stories, and feature a local speaker that pledgers may recognise.

What level of participation to offer

We know that conversation – between attendees and speakers, beneficiaries, experts, members of your legacy team, and even between attendees themselves – is often the most powerful part of a legacy event.

Do you want to try to recreate that conversation, by running an event where people can interact like they otherwise would? Or will you run a ‘broadcast’ event, with more limited participation, but which sets up conversations before and/or after the event?

Work out which format works best for your cause, audience and the resources you have available.

It might be safer to start with a broadcast event, like a live or pre-recorded presentation, whilst you and your audience gets to grips with technology. Consider how you may bring participatory elements to it – with Q&As, pre-submitted questions or an online chat – and how you could give existing pledgers special access to this.

Where in the journey?

Decide where in the journey this event will be used – one event could work for both acquisition and stewardship, but be sure to tailor the experience before and after to each.

Think about how this event will fit in with your other legacy comms. An invitation to this event could act as a reason to get in touch with your supporters, and do some much-needed supporter care throughout the pandemic, especially if you have had to pause some of your planned activity.

Think about what you could provide people with after the event as well, either digitally or by post. You have an opportunity to wrap up the event as it happened, and provide personalised takeaways that are relevant to each attendee and where they are on their journey.

For most, virtual legacy events will be an experiment, and so this is a great opportunity to ask them for feedback ahead of next time!

PART TWO: HOW SHOULD WE DO IT?

Choosing a platform

Think accessible, and with the least friction for the attendee. What are your pledgers or prospects used to using?

You could experiment with Facebook Live, a video conferencing platform, or having a dedicated place on your website that’s easy for them to access and simple to use, but also allows you to know who attended so you can thank them later.

If you’re exploring using virtual events as acquisition tools, your choice of channel could help you engage audiences that you may not be currently reaching with traditional offline events.

If you’ve identified a segment of your supporter base that you feel may offer untapped legacy potential, think around the channels they may already be using, and plan accordingly.

Getting people online

We’re well aware that for many legacy pledgers and prospects, going digital may be daunting.

We’d recommend sending out a paper invite, as you would with any other legacy event, with clear instructions (including pictures!), and making sure you have someone on hand to help people get online.

Consider accessibility needs too, with captioning and descriptions for screen readers.

Recreating the magic

Anyone who’s been to a legacy event will know that the magic exists in those unique experiences where pledgers get to visit a special place, ask an expert about their work, and connect with other attendees.

There are some ways you can recreate some of those things, but consider how you can make it feel really special.

This is where you can use the novelty of a new format to your advantage – using innovative tech like 360º video (like the one we created for British Heart Foundation), or even VR to create an unforgettable experience.

We are living in times where we’re being forced to adapt, experiment and iterate. Accept that you’re not going to get everything right first time, but use this as an opportunity to explore the possibilities and try something new that could turn out to be the basis of an ongoing legacy event strategy!

Hopefully this is helpful in guiding your planning of future virtual legacy events, but if you need further advice, we’re more than happy to use our legacy expertise and digital know-how to help you create something brilliant, and effective.

Amy Nield

Amy Nield

Strategist

A pin sharp planner with a passion for people, Amy is a digital strategy expert with a range of big brand experience. She was named one of Campaign’s Faces to Watch in 2017 for her work with Digitas’s LGBT+ network and is fascinated by communities and conversation – we reckon you’ll enjoy chatting with her.