How to Host a Successful Hybrid Fundraiser for your Nonprofit

Table of Contents

  1. Plan Your Hybrid Fundraiser in Advance
  2. Assemble Your Support Team
  3. Choose a Good Hybrid Fundraising Platform
  4. Choose Hardwired Fast Internet
  5. Get Your Auctioneer on Board with Hybrid
  6. Promote Your Hybrid Event
  7. Run Your Hybrid Event
  8. Follow up with Donors and Evaluate Your Data
  9. Preparing for Your Next Hybrid Fundraiser

The 2020 pandemic changed many assumptions about effective fundraising and ushered in a new age of virtual fundraising events. As we move past the pandemic, however, virtual galas will give way to a new form of fundraising that combines the best of both online and in-person events: hybrid fundraising. Hybrid events allow for small in-person gatherings (improving social interactions and lowering costs) while also enabling hundreds of additional supporters to attend virtually (increasing brand-awareness and financial support).

Your nonprofit organization or charity can enjoy huge benefits by hosting such hybrid events. However, hybrid fundraising requires its own unique set of support staff, online tools, and event planning to offer a good return on investment for your efforts. To help organize your next fundraiser, we’ve put together a series of tips based on PayBee’s proven track record of hosting successful hybrid fundraisers.

Please read carefully — past experience has shown that incorporating these details can lead to a substantial rise in donations and support.

Plan Your Hybrid Fundraiser in Advance

Hosting new fundraising events requires plenty of planning, and you’ll want to make sure to give your fundraising team plenty of time to establish their goals, plan activities, and market your event. We recommend planning a hybrid event at least four months in advance. During this time, you’ll want to:

Establish your goals for your attendees’ virtual and in-person experiences

When planning for any fundraiser, in-person, virtual or hybrid, there’s one question every event planner needs to ask first:

What kind of event do I need to create that will engage my audience and encourage them to donate?

Depending on your audience and the nature of your nonprofit organization, the answer can vary. Maybe you want to create an all-inclusive hybrid auction with in-person and online bidders that will raise a lot of money for your programs. This sort of event may require a professional auctioneer skilled in managing online and in-person attendees, mobile bidding apps, an online platform capable of hosting hybrid auctions, a physical venue, and more.

Or, maybe your audience is more physically active and wants to participate in a hybrid marathon or fun run. This will require obtaining special mobile apps to track each participant’s progress, a staff to manage the in-person events, a social media campaign that promotes each run, a website for the event, and more.

As you become more familiar with hybrid galas, you’ll discover that there’s really no limit to the types of fundraising events and activites you can host with them. This is a good thing, but it also means you can’t just “decide to host a hybrid event” without taking into account the hybrid activities your audience wants to participate in — and the expenses associated with them.    

Set your budget

Hybrid galas are popular because they generally have smaller budgets than traditional in-person events. Even so, they come with unique expenses that you’ll have to work out in the planning stage.

Since you’ll be providing part of your audience an in-person experience, you’ll need to have a physical venue. This can be a traditional meeting hall you can rent, a restaurant dining area you’ll need to reserve, or a different physical venue. However, since your in-person audience will be smaller for a hybrid event than a traditional in-person fundraiser, you won’t need as much space, meaning your rental expenses will be lower.

Like a virtual event, your hybrid event will also require certain technological expenses for your online audience. This includes an online fundraising platform and tech support staff. Depending on what type of activities and experiences you’ll be offering, you may also want to invest in a professional camera crew and staff for the online portion of your hybrid gala.

Ultimately, the biggest challenge in hosting a hybrid event is to get your in-person and online experiences to work together. This is why it can be vital to hire a producer or entire production team that specializes in hybrid events. Hiring a seasoned expert comes with its own set of expenses which you’ll need to take into account.  

Decide what type of new technology you’ll need for your event

You’ll want to invest in an online fundraising platform like PayBee to help produce your hybrid event. Make sure to choose a virtual platform that’s easy to use, especially if your audience isn’t familiar with participating in online events.

Events like virtual or hybrid auctions require mobile bidding apps that let online bidders participate in your event through their smart phones or mobile devices. The more active bidders you have in these events, the more money you can raise, so it’s a good idea to use an app like the PayBee mobile bidding app.

If your hybrid event is going to offer a highly interactive virtual component, like a hybrid concert, you’ll likely need to hire a professional on-site event videographer with the equipment to film and stream an excellent virtual event. Videographers with specialized editing or filming skills can cost extra, so be sure to be clear about all of your needs when it comes time to find one with the technological skill you need. 

Work out appropriate accommodations for your audiences

Hybrid events might take up less space than traditional fundraisers, but you should still make sure you select a comfortable meeting area for your in-person audience. If you need to rent an event room for your hybrid auction, make sure your guests are seated comfortably (and can social distance easily). The same goes for any restaurant reservations you need to make or outdoor accommodations you need to prepare.

And don’t forget about your online audience! Sure, they’ll be meeting in a virtual environment, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be made to feel comfortable. Choose a virtual platform like PayBee that’s easy for your online attendees to use. The simpler it is for them to interact online (and with the in-person audience), the better the experience will be for them. It’s also a great idea to have an online support staff on hand to answer any questions and offer help to any online attendees who need help navigating your virtual platform.

Create ticketing campaigns that will attract in-person and online attendees

Hybrid events are successful since they allow different groups of people to attend your event and support your nonprofit in the way most convenient for them. Your ticketing campaigns should reflect this by providing incentive for people to sign up for your event in advance.

Be sure to include links on your marketing materials (including social media posts and emails) to your fundraising site so people can easily sign up and purchase tickets. PayBee’s online platform offers an easy way to create multiple ticketing campaigns for everything from raffles to dinner party tickets, making it easier to secure your guests.

One option you might want to consider is to make the online experience of your hybrid event free. Since you don’t have to invest as much money or resources for your virtual attendees as you do for your in-person guests, offering free tickets can be feasible. In addition, attending a fundraiser for free often gives online attendees more incentive to donate generously!

Assemble Your Support Team

Successful event planning teams know when to delegate authority and a hybrid event requires people with specialized skills. Even if you’re accustomed to running large, in-person events, you’ll want to assign specific key roles to people with expertise in:

  • Hybrid fundraising technology and software
  • Promotion (especially in social media, print, and online marketing)
  •  Finding and securing sponsors
  •  Engaging supporters (for generating excitement via online chat and in-person activities)
  • Attendee support (for answering questions and assisting in-person and online)
  • Obtaining items (for auctions, raffles, games, and other fundraising activities)
  • Logistics coordinating (for building timelines, overseeing volunteers, and on-site management)

Choose a Good Hybrid Fundraising Platform

Finding the right virtual fundraising software and online platform is important since it will form the central hub of your hybrid event. When choosing the platform that’s right for you, make sure to find one that’s:

  • Finding the right virtual fundraising software and online platform is important since it will form the central hub of your hybrid event. When choosing the platform that’s right for you, make sure to find one that’s:
  • Customizable
  • Platforms should be able to create different fundraising pages. For instance, PayBee’s software makes it easy to build campaigns for different virtual and hybrid events. This includes ticketing campaigns for hybrid luncheons or dinner; live or silent auctions that can be adapted for a hybrid audience; and popular virtual fundraising games.
  • Mobile friendly
  • Virtual attendees should be able to access your event from their smart devices and navigate your fundraising pages easily with their smart phones. This is particularly relevant if you conduct a hybrid auction and want online bidders to participate with a mobile bidding app. Again, PayBee offers a great mobile app for online auctions in its virtual platform.
  • Cloud-based
  • Your tools and data should be able to be accessed at any time from anyplace. Your event planning staff needs to have all their online resources available during the planning stage, rehearsals, and the event itself.
  • Easily managed
  • When you’re running a complex event like an online auction, your software needs to let you track and manage your items with ease.
  • Payment card industry compliant
  • Your attendees need to be able to bid and donate securely from your site. It’s also good to have an online platform that accepts payment from multiple sources, including credit cards, Apple Pay, and even checks, making it easy for people to donate to your nonprofit.
  • Social media friendly
  • Great online fundraising platforms like PayBee make it easy for you to promote your event via social media sites. Your fundraising software should also be able to notify and remind your participants of your event as the date grows closer.
  • Data-gathering friendly
  • The best virtual and hybrid events learn from previous fundraisers. Analytics tools in your online platform should help you analyze each event. This can include anything from discovering which activities were the most popular to how much each participant donated. Fundraising software that organizes and makes this data easily accessible helps your team build more enjoyable and profitable hybrid galas moving forward.
  • PayBee’s user-friendly software and online platform offers one of the most intuitive and easy-to-use fundraising platforms that can easily be customized for in-person, virtual, or hybrid events. Sign up for a free demo to see if it will fit your needs.

Choose Hardwired Fast Internet

Hybrid events may not be a purely digital event, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect your Internet service. We’ve found you’ll need at least 5 mbps upload speed along with a hardwired connection to the stream controlling computer to provide your virtual audience with the best experience.

Get Your Auctioneer on Board with Hybrid

Charity auctions have been a mainstay in fundraisers since the very beginning — and when virtual galas became the norm, nonprofits and charities were thrilled to discover that many people enjoyed, and in fact preferred, bidding online and participating in virtual auctions.

As it turns out, hybrid auctions can potentially be even more successful thanks to their ability to attract large numbers of in-person and online bidders who can drive up prices and help your auctions raise more funding for your programs. However, this can only happen if these bidders remain excited about participating in the auction — and to do that, you need a professional auctioneer.

Anyone who’s participated in an auction knows the auctioneer controls the action and plays a key role in the fundraising process. Event planners who helped host virtual galas learned that auctioneers have to be capable of producing that same level of action and excitement through a computer screen, which is why it’s best to hire a seasoned auctioneer with experience in live and virtual auctions.

As auctioneers adjust to hybrid auctions, they need to practice some new skills. These include:

Not losing control over the auction to the tech platform

Online fundraising tools have evolved substantially over the last couple of years out of necessity. While these tools make it easier to conduct an in-person, virtual, or hybrid auction, it’s important that your auctioneer not lose control over the actual auction to the tech.

This can happen in numerous ways. Maybe your live streaming or broadcasting services experience a glitch, keeping the virtual and live aspects of your hybrid auction from working in synch. Maybe certain bidders aren’t familiar with the tech and end up holding up the bidding.

For these reasons, it’s important to employ a good technical support team who can deal with any technical issues that show up during your event (and prevent them from happening in the first place). It’s also good to have a staff member or volunteer available to answer any questions your virtual and in-person attendees have about the tech to take the pressure off the auctioneer.

Being comfortable with the fundraising technology

Both event planners and donors have become more tech savvy thanks to the wider availability of online fundraising platforms like PayBee. However, it’s important that your auctioneer is not only familiar with but also comfortable with the tech being used at your hybrid event. For this reason, we recommend that your entire fundraising team — and not just your auctioneer — engage in regular rehearsals in advance of your event to familiarize themselves with the tech. While PayBee prides itself on providing an easy-to-use, intuitive platform, it’s still best to give your team time to get to know the tech.  

Working with volunteers to spot live and online bids

Your hybrid auction should use the services of a professional auctioneer — but that doesn’t mean you can’t make good use of your volunteers. Exciting auctions are fast, and when your bids are coming from both in-person bidders and through your online platform, it can be difficult to keep track of everything.

Having a team of volunteers who can spot live bids and send them into the online system is a good way to stay on top of things. These volunteers can also inform the auctioneer and the in-person bidders of all online bids to make sure everyone knows what the current bid on an auction item is. While online platforms like PayBee do provide tech tools to keep the auctioneer informed, having a supplemental team of volunteers ensures your auction goes smoothly and encourages more bidding.

Promote Your Hybrid Event

Your hybrid event may offer a great experience for your audiences, but unless people know about your gala, you won’t get many attendees. And these days, the best way to generate buzz about an event is to market it online.

However, you also want to take your audience’s preferences into account. Do most of your supporters and donors use social media? Do they prefer Facebook or Twitter? Knowing this can help determine where your marketing efforts (and budget) should focus most of your promotional efforts. If you’re hoping to attract new supporters, it also helps to know where they learn about new events online and plan a marketing campaign for their favorite social media channels.

One of the most cost-effective ways to market your hybrid event is by creating an email marketing campaign. In fact, some studies indicate that you can earn $42 for every $1 you invest in an email campaign. Again, these campaigns work best if you already have a network of supporters who regularly read your nonprofit’s emails. Creating a weekly e-newsletter that spotlights your nonprofit’s activities (including your upcoming fundraiser) is a great way to build up your email subscriber list. You can also add new email subscribers by collecting emails when people sign up to attend your fundraiser.

Regardless of whether you choose to promote your event on social media or email (or both) make sure to advertise your event well in advance of the actual fundraiser. Six to eight weeks offers your attendees time to include your hybrid gala in their schedule. And be sure to include a link to your fundraising site to get people to sign up and buy tickets.

Beyond online marketing, it’s important not to forget about word-of-mouth marketing. Reach out to your existing fundraising team and charity network and have them tell multiple people about your hybrid event. Make sure they know how to sign up for the event and what it’s meant to support. Highlighting your auctions, raffles, and other special events provides plenty of incentive too!

Effectively communicating the roles and responsibilities of each of your team members is key to making a hybrid event run smoothly. Make sure everyone is in place to answer questions and coordinate activities (both for your audience and fundraising team). Keep the following tips in mind:

Run Your Hybrid Event

Effectively communicating the roles and responsibilities of each of your team members is key to making a hybrid event run smoothly. Make sure everyone is in place to answer questions and coordinate activities (both for your audience and fundraising team). Keep the following tips in mind:

End your ticketing campaign before the hybrid event

Ticketing campaigns should start weeks in advance of your hybrid fundraiser and be heavily promoted on social media and email campaigns. Attendees need adequate time to learn about your event and purchase tickets. This is particularly relevant for your in-person audience since they may need to take care of travel and lodging arrangements.

However, you’ll want to end your ticketing campaign at a well-established date before the hybrid event. Creating a deadline to purchase tickets promotes anticipation for your event and incentivizes people to buy tickets early. It’s also a great promotional strategy to send out regular email reminders or post multiple notices on social media indicating how many tickets are still available to your event as you approach your deadline. Once your audience sees your fundraiser tickets are in short supply, they’ll be more likely to buy them.

Start your silent auction at least a week before your event

One of the best ways you can start fundraising immediately is to create an online silent auction campaign. These auctions allow you to advertise multiple auction items on your website complete with images and enticing descriptions. Visitors to your auction site can then place bids on items or, if you use a fundraising platform like PayBee, select a “Buy it Now” option and purchase the item outright. If someone places a higher bid on an item, the original bidders can receive live item notifications so they can adjust their own bids.

Since you can hold silent auctions well in advance of your actual hybrid event, these auctions provide you with a great way to raise money even before your main fundraiser starts. Even better, your participants don’t all have to be attendees for your hybrid fundraiser and can place their bids independently of your main event.

Because of this, it’s best to start (and promote) your silent auction at least a week before your event to give participants plenty of time to bid on your items. Be sure your promotional materials let people know they can start bidding immediately — and spotlight items that you know your audience will want (like a vacation or spa day). This will also help build awareness and anticipation for your main hybrid fundraiser, especially if you’re offering another auction there.

Make sure your attendees know how to donate and bid online

Online fundraising platforms like PayBee offer intuitive easy-to-use features. Nevertheless, it’s important that your attendees receive clear instructions on how to navigate your platform. In particular, you want to make sure your audience knows how to donate online and place online bids if you’re offering a hybrid auction.

Create some easily-accessible FAQ pages and/or videos for how to use your platform. Make sure your online support staff is available to answer any questions attendees may have about donating during the event. And make sure the links to and buttons for your donation pages are clearly visible on your fundraising site and promotional materials. PayBee’s online platform offers multiple options for donating, including one-time, long pledge, recurring, and pledge drives. The easier you make it for people to donate, the more money you’ll raise.

Do not run your silent auction during your live auction

Silent auctions are great additions for most hybrid events — except when you’re holding a separate live auction. Then the silent auction becomes a distraction since you need your participants focused on the live auctioneer and the items being spotlighted for your in-person and online audiences.

So, make sure to close your silent auction before your live auction begins. Many hybrid events make sure to end the silent auction before the hybrid event starts to keep your audiences focused on the main activities (and to remove one more activity to manage). If you’re dead set on letting people bid in a silent auction for the long run, make sure to end it as the live hybrid auction begins. Then those online bidders can turn their attention to your new auction.

Don’t Neglect Your Virtual Audience

One common issue with hybrid events is the tendency to think of them as two separate events instead of two experiences (virtual and in-person) of the same event. This can cause event planners to favor in-person attendees over online participants, which can reduce the amount of donations you receive from your virtual audience.

Remember, your virtual audience will most likely be much larger than your in-person group, and capable of donating more to your cause. Provide them with online experiences that let them feel that they’re an active part of the live event. Chat tools, a virtual host, and professional produced video tours of the in-person venues (which can all be offered through the PayBee online platform) help incorporate your virtual audience into your event, which can make a big impact on your donations. And don’t forget to add a digital join link to your digital marketing materials. The easier you make it for your audience to participate, the more support you’ll gain.

Follow up with Donors and Evaluate Your Data

Your work doesn’t stop when your hybrid fundraiser ends. Sending personalized thank you emails, letting donors know the impact of their support, and informing attendees of your upcoming events are all important follow-up activities. If many of your attendees are new supporters, you can invite them to a virtual tour or upcoming volunteer activity to make them a more active part of your network.

Offering post-event surveys also helps collect valuable data on what your supporters want from your nonprofit or charity and what they’d like to see at your next fundraising event. This is a great way to develop better rapport with your attendees.

Finally, you’ll want to use the reporting/analytics feature in your fundraising software to analyze the success of your hybrid event with your team. Be sure to examine:

  • How well did you meet your goals for the hybrid event?
  • How well did the attendees participate in the activities offered?
  • Which audience — in-person or virtual — donated the most?
  •  What were some of the most popular activities? What were the least?
  • What can you change in your next hybrid event based on the current data?

Preparing for Your Next Hybrid Fundraiser

Hybrid fundraising events come with unique challenges — and rewards. To make sure your next hybrid event is a success, be sure to employ the services of a strong support team and fundraising software like the PayBee online platform. Find out if our event software is right for your nonprofit or charity by signing up for a free online demo that lets you experience one of our online auctions and ask questions to our support staff.

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Charity Fundraising
Online Fundraising
Virtual Conferences
Michael Jung