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Why Hosting a Virtual Panel Discussion Is Still a Great Idea for Your Nonprofit

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, nonprofit organizations have become pros at hosting virtual events. At-home swag bags, coffee or lunch for every participant from a restaurant local to them – we’ve pulled out all the stops to create engaging experiences from a distance.

A woman in a headset smiles at her laptop as she watches a virtual panel discussion.

As we move forward and begin to see more and more in-person events, we’ll take with us a lot of what we’ve learned. Some new practices will continue. 

But – does every virtual event need to be quite this extravagant? Has the face of the humble webinar been forever changed?

Not at all! Here are five reasons you might want to consider keeping simple virtual panel discussions on your event roster.

1. Participation in a virtual panel discussion is low-pressure.

Zoom fatigue is real, and with the widespread adoption of awesome tools like virtual breakout rooms comes a pressure to use them for all of our events. But there’s something to be said for letting attendees determine their own level of participation, too – minus the small-group discussions and icebreakers we’ve all learned to incorporate into virtual events.

Even the most straightforward webinar platforms provide functionality for viewers to submit questions to the host. And might just be all you need this time around!

2. Panel discussions can elevate community voices.

A simple, moderated discussion panel generally takes much less preparation than a fully-developed virtual event – meaning it might just be easier to loop in some of your always-busy key community members as speakers and participants. 

An easily-accessible, well-attended webinar can do a lot to amplify voices and broaden the reach of local advocates and organizers.

3. Hosting a virtual panel discussion fits within most budgets.

A basic virtual panel discussion is much less expensive than an hours-long online event that includes food for attendees, swag bags, and other fanfare. And because you can adjust the details of the event to fit your unique needs and circumstances, a simple event like this can pack a lot of punch for organizations without a lot of budget!

While you won’t have to worry about covering travel costs for your panel participants, you might consider providing honorariums for your speakers and moderator to compensate for their time and expertise.

4. Panels can be adapted to reach different goals.

Panels can easily be adapted to meet a variety of goals for your nonprofit:

  • Speakers can donate their time to a ticketed panel that serves as a fundraiser for your organization;
  • You can ask an elected official to join as a speaker to address local needs, concerns, or projects;
  • Community members and local experts can speak to a specific need for an audience of local funders…

...Among many other possibilities!

5. Virtual panels produce evergreen marketing content for your organization.

Make sure you’re able to record your webinar, and have someone on-hand to edit the footage into short, compelling clips that you can use as marketing collateral in the future. You can pull significant quotes from the event, as well, and turn them into shareable graphics for your social media channels. 

Materials like this are what’s considered “evergreen,” as they aren’t time-bound and can be used in a variety of ways to further the message of your organization.

Want to know more? Get access to the extended version of this article and lots of other great resources by joining THE LAUNCHPAD – the Center for Nonprofit Advancement’s membership program brings regular tips, tricks, and best practices to nonprofit leaders across the country. Join us today!

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