For many nonprofit organizations, fundraising events make up a significant portion of overall fundraising revenue and donor engagement. In the last year, many of these events typically held in person were forced to transition to the virtual realm with little to no notice. However, as things begin reopening in many parts of the country and vaccines continue rolling out, in-person events are beginning to take precedence once again.
Yet many people, fundraisers and event attendees alike, have appreciated the flexibility and accessibility offered by virtual events, and are not looking to give those benefits up just yet.
That's where hybrid fundraising events come in.
Hybrid events incorporate a combination of in-person and virtual engagement strategies to give supporters the flexibility to choose their preferred attendance method.
At OneCause, we completed a study of more than one thousand self-reported Social Donors and have uncovered actionable insights from our 2021 giving experience research. From our recent study and experience working with nonprofits, we pulled together a few tried-and-true tips for taking your upcoming event hybrid:
- Invest in hybrid software.
- Leverage peer-to-peer fundraising.
- Spread the word about upcoming events beforehand.
- Strategically engage with multiple audiences.
Nonprofits tend to host a variety of events in the fall, such as fun runs and field days as the weather begins to cool down. Schools and community groups are especially busy this time of year! If you'll be hosting a hybrid event this fall, spend time now planning exactly how it will work.
1. Invest in hybrid software.
If you’re looking to host a hybrid event for the first time, improving your software toolkit beforehand is a smart move. You might already have a few hybrid event essentials in your back pocket (such as ticketing and registration software), although other important features will likely be exclusive to your upcoming hybrid experiences (like remote bidding, live streaming, and real-time donor recognition).
While trying to piecemeal solutions for your hybrid event is certainly possible, it can create more work for you and provide a disjointed giving experience for your supporters. Investing in a dedicated hybrid solution, on the other hand, can help you effectively manage your event from a single platform.
When deciding on a hybrid solution, look for the a following features:
- Seamless giving processes from anywhere in the world at any time to maximize your event’s reach
- Mobile-optimized event platforms to allow supporters to tune in from any device
- Ticketing, registration, and payment processing to provide users with a streamlined user experience
- Virtual event center to ensure an intuitive live streaming event experience
- Robust reporting and analytics tools to track your progress and make improvements as necessary
- Live streaming platform to engage dual audiences from afar
Our research shows that having an easy-to-use online platform is a necessity for virtual event participants to be highly engaged. In fact, ease of giving was reported as the #1 motivator behind social, hybrid, and virtual participation.
Even for the in-person elements of your experience, having the right hybrid fundraising software is critical for managing the behind-the-scenes aspects and providing a seamless event for everyone involved. Technology can make a huge difference for attendance, engagement, and ultimately revenue, so carefully review your toolkit well in advance of your event.
2. Leverage peer-to-peer fundraising.
Peer-to-peer fundraising is a popular strategy that amplifies social giving, and is growing amongst today’s donors . In fact, an estimated 1 in 3 U.S. adults have reported giving to a peer-to-peer campaign in the last twelve months.
Peer-to-peer fundraising comes in a variety of forms, and has the potential to take your hybrid fundraising events to the next level. These forms often include DIY or occasion-style fundraising, timebound campaigns, event-based campaigns, and more.
While a DIY-style fundraising campaign can be an excellent choice for year-round fundraising, other peer-to-peer best practices include recruiting fundraisers with an ambassador campaign. Within an ambassador campaign, your organization recruits, trains, and equips a smaller number of dedicated individuals to fundraise for your cause or drive attendance for your event.
When recruiting volunteer fundraisers for your event, these characteristics make for excellent ambassadors:
- History of giving and/or event attendance with your organization.
- Socially well-connected with a significant social media presence.
- Corporate or business connections in their community.
Peer-to-peer fundraising strategies can have significant benefits for hybrid events. They offer powerful opportunities for your cause to connect with new supporters and raise funds from donors near and far. Plus, the “social proof” of your ambassadors’ personal connection to your cause can be an extremely powerful motivator for new supporters to get involved.
3. Spread the word about upcoming events beforehand.
Even the best-planned-out fundraising events are hard to support if your supporters aren’t aware they’re going on. And since your hybrid events have the potential to reach donors worldwide, getting the word out beforehand is critical. That’s where strategic marketing and donor outreach comes in!
GivingMail’s guide to marketing for nonprofit organizations encourages fundraisers to leverage the following channels when marketing an upcoming event:
- Direct mail: Sending a direct mailing can be a fantastic way to grab your supporters’ attention and inform them of your fundraising efforts. This personal touch can show you care about the recipient enough to put time, effort, and resources into sending them an invitation. They might even keep the physical reminder of your upcoming event around, retaining your nonprofit at top-of-mind for longer.
- Email: As you know, email marketing is a simple and low cost method for communicating with large numbers of individuals simultaneously. Leveraging a customizable drip campaign can help you coax recipients into taking a desired action, such as registering for the event, and continue sending updates and reminders as it approaches.
- Social media: Social media is an effective way to get the word out about your organization and its fundraising efforts while taking advantage of social proof. More than likely, you already have a number of social media profiles on various platforms with followers who support your mission. Use those accounts to promote your event, and encourage attendees and other supporters to share your posts to do the same.
- Your website: Your nonprofit website should be the hub of information about your upcoming event, with easy access to ample information as well as a way to register or purchase tickets. Then, be sure to direct supporters back to your website with other marketing materials such as your direct mailings, emails, and social media posts.
To create maximum reach, we suggest taking a multi-channel marketing approach rather than focusing on a single strategy. This will help you spread the word about your upcoming event to the widest audience and get guests excited about attending.
Pro tip: Be sure to highlight the different experiences available within your hybrid event so that attendees can register early and understand how the process works for them.
To create the greatest buzz and momentum, just remember it’s critical that you begin event promotion 2-3 months in advance. This way, you give supporters enough notice to not only plan to attend, but spread the word to their social giving networks.
4. Strategically engage with multiple audiences.
A hybrid experience, by definition, requires your organization to engage with dual audiences: your remote attendees and your in-person guests. While it might be tempting to focus more of your time and efforts on providing an optimal experience for your face-to-face supporters, the truth is that a successfully planned hybrid event engages both groups simultaneously. And that can take a bit of strategic multi-tasking!
For the best results, we recommend having separate teams of event staff dedicated to each audience. Team A might focus on your in-person guests while Team B places an emphasis on your virtual, off-site supporters.
While some aspects of hybrid events can engage both in-person and virtual audiences (such as stories about your mission and your donors’ impact and event themes), others are more particular to one audience or the other. Here are a few findings from our Giving Experience Study:
- For on-site guests: Things like live entertainment and face-to-face communication with other supporters, staff, and volunteers were strategic focuses.
- For virtual guests: Using picture-in-picture technology and a mobile-optimized event platform were highly engaging elements for remote attendance.
Understanding the types of content to produce and engagement strategies to invest in for each audience will go a long way for harnessing your event momentum and keeping new and long-term supporters involved over time. And while the specific elements you choose for your event will vary based on your audiences and your mission, don’t expect to be able to copy and paste the same tactics from one group to the other.
Remember, you’re looking to facilitate two seamless but slightly different experiences within the same event. This takes planning and strategy, but careful attention to the experiences that both audiences have will ultimately pay off in engagement and revenue.
All in all, hybrid fundraising events have a significant potential for reaching donors, engaging supporters, and raising money for your cause. In order to get the most out of your efforts, we suggest following these research-backed best practices.
Whether you choose to host a hybrid charity auction or walk-a-thon fundraiser, you’re sure to make a significant impact on your cause. Good luck!