If necessity is the mother of invention, then 2020 required nonprofits and charities to come up with a wealth of creative and inventive ways to engage their donors and supporters through virtual fundraising events. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, people couldn’t meet in-person to raise money for an organization’s mission or cause, but online fundraising platforms gave nonprofits and charities new ways to connect with people through a limitless virtual space.
As we enter 2021, we’re about to see another explosion of creativity as virtual fundraising events evolve into hybrid fundraising events that combine the best parts of online and in-person galas. Hybrid galas are poised to be the new mainstay for nonprofits and charities, especially since large-scale traditional fundraisers aren’t expected to return until late 2021 or even 2022. All of this just shows how important it is to stay creative and adaptive in this new environment.
So, we thought it would be useful to offer a recap of some of the innovative ways nonprofits and charities like yours have used virtual events in 2020 — and how this might affect the way hybrid fundraising will develop in 2021. Be aware that as your needs change, fundraising technology will continue to evolve, offering you an ever-expanding number of options to connect with your supporters.
Virtual Fundraising Events Opened the Door to New Supporters and Participants
One amazing thing nonprofits and charities discovered in 2020 was how virtual events actually increased the number of people who could participate in their fundraising galas.
This is because online galas offer an unlimited virtual space for supporters to meet in. This enables virtual events to accommodate thousands of guests who don’t have to worry about travel time or costs. This led to many great opportunities including:
More Affordable Celebrity Guests
Because celebrities don’t have to physically fly to a location to be involved in a virtual fundraising event, many entertainers can offer their services for a much lower price. Comedians, famous speakers, and actors can all easily interact with your audience in a virtual platform from the comfort of their own homes.
Many virtual event organizers have even found that interacting with celebrities on this level offers an improved sense of intimacy between attendees and guests that you don’t get from seeing a celebrity performing on a stage.
Of course, if you do want a sense of greater showmanship for your virtual or hybrid event, virtual or hybrid concerts are always popular draws. By live-streaming your concert through an effective online platform, you can offer your virtual audience an excellent entertainment experience. And as lockdown restrictions lift, a hybrid concert also allows small gatherings to see your performers in-person as well.
The pandemic has inspired many people to learn new skills or pick up new hobbies during lockdown. Many nonprofits and charities see this as an opportunity to offer their supporters access to fun and informative classes during their fundraisers.
This can include anything from a virtual yoga class to a more elaborate cooking class that teaches participants how to make a new meal at home (using delivered ingredients) and then eating their creations with classmates in a virtual dining experience.
When offering virtual classes, make sure to choose subjects that fit the interests (and skill levels) of your supporters. You might even be able to offer virtual classes as prizes in other activities — for instance offering virtual exercise courses as items in your online auction campaigns can attract a lot of healthy bidding from fitness enthusiasts.
New Ways to Promote Supporters
Regardless of the nature of your mission, successful fundraising has always depended on attracting strong support from your community. This support can be expressed financially or through volunteer efforts, but nonprofits and charities need a powerful base of sponsors and promoters to create a profitable fundraiser.
And fortunately, virtual events offer plenty of new ways to promote your sponsors via an online fundraising platform. Excellent virtual platforms include a virtual lobby space where your event sponsors can display their business logos for hundreds or even thousands of online attendees. Your supporters can also display their logos on donated items for your online auctions, giving them additional ways to advertise their businesses on both your website and the physical auction items.
Even better, as fundraising shifts from a virtual platform to a hybrid mix of in-person and online events, the opportunities for promoting sponsors will only rise. From social media to physical posters and ads, the ability for sponsors to increase their brand awareness by supporting your cause will continue to be a major draw, giving you a unique selling point to emphasize when you seek out new partnerships and sponsorships.
Virtual Galas Kept People Physically and Socially Active During the Pandemic
When many people think of virtual events, they picture attendees staring at computer screens and passively participating in recorded activities. However, most successful virtual fundraising events make sure to incorporate physical and social elements in their galas.
These activities not only let their supporters interact with each other but also help people stay physically active and energized even during the pandemic. Some of the most popular activities included:
Virtual Fun Runs
Popular events like the Boston Marathon had to be cancelled or postponed in 2020, but thanks to virtual events, running and cycling enthusiasts everywhere still got to compete.
For instance, the 2020 virtual Virgin Money London Marathon enabled 37,000 runners from everywhere in the world to participate in the race by using a special Official Virgin Money London Marathon App to log their 26.2 miles. The app even offered exclusive audio commentary and provided a soundtrack for the runners. Many runners were able to use their place as a way to raise money for a charity of their choice, making this a very effective virtual fundraiser.
The virtual marathon proved so popular that in 2021 a hybrid marathon is being planned with both a virtual marathon and in-person London Marathon to be held on October 3, 2021.
One of the more popular aspects of traditional fundraisers is the chance for donors to dine with other supporters and socialize with them. Thankfully, this is still possible in both virtual and hybrid events.
Major events such as the 2020 World Refugee Day Awards Campaign arranged for supporters to pick up takeout picnics that they enjoyed at home while watching the virtual ceremony. Other events such as Hope for Haiti even created virtual alcohol tastings with Haitian crema while raising money to provide clean water to Haitian communities.
When arranging for virtual dining, be sure to take the dietary needs of your attendees into consideration. For instance, PayBee’s ticket campaign feature allows you to create options that let attendees select vegetarian or gluten-free options. By customizing your menu to fit your guests’ needs, you’ll establish a better rapport with your attendees, which will translate into greater support.
Virtual Art Tours
In addition to physical fitness and dining events, art gallery tours have been very popular for people eager to interact and socialize with fellow art lovers during the lockdown.
Once again, virtual events offer a particularly attractive way to offer tours of art galleries since your online gala isn’t limited to a set geographic space. As long as you’re able to secure the proper partnerships, you can offer an inside look at some very attractive museums and exhibits even during the pandemic.
Alternately, you can connect with smaller artists in the country who would be happy to showcase their personal galleries to your donors and supporters. Many of these artists may also be able to supply your online auctions with attractive items to bid on, enhancing your fundraising efforts.
Hybrid Fundraising Technology Keeps Evolving
As virtual events transition into hybrid events, the fundraising technology available to you continues to advance and offer your attendees great experiences at your galas.
For instance, one of the mainstays in fundraising are nonprofit and charity auctions. These auctions have enjoyed great success during the pandemic thanks to the way mobile auction apps, such as the ones offered by PayBee, allow both in-person and online bidders to participate in real-time auction bidding, preserving all the fun of a traditional auction among a much larger pool of participants.
Even so, some charity auctions still like using bidder paddles for their in-person audience. Being able to wave paddles adds plenty of energy and excitement to your event, which affects both your live and virtual audiences.
Because of this, the PayBee platform now automatically creates bidder paddles that match auction bids with in-person paddle raises even as the virtual attendees place their own bids via the mobile app. This makes your event more interactive and fun — something that will become increasingly vital as modern fundraisers retain aspects of virtual events and merge them with traditional in-person activities.
To learn more about how online tools are evolving to fit the needs of your current and future fundraisers, be sure to sign up for a free demo of the PayBee online platform. You’ll be able to participate in virtual event activities, experience the thrill of bidding in an online auction, and ask all of your questions to our team of expert advisors.