Many nonprofit organizations are enjoying the huge benefits offered from hybrid fundraising events. These galas combine the best of both virtual events and traditional in-person fundraisers by offering a fundraiser with in-person and online experiences.
This allows you to attract both an in-person and virtual audience, increasing the number of your supporters and donors. You’ll be able to gain more volunteers, increase your brand recognition, and raise more money to support your programs and your mission.
But before you start planning out your next hybrid event, you’ll want to read this guide. Hybrid events come with a lot of perks, but they also require special preparation and an understanding of your different audiences, as well as an appreciation for new online tools and software that can facilitate the hybrid experience. To get you up to speed, we’ve created this article that covers the main steps involved in hosting a successful hybrid fundraising event.
Step 1: Decide what kind of event will engage your audience the best
As with any successful fundraiser, knowing the type of event that will attract the most interest and support from your target supporters is essential when you’re starting out. Reflect on the type of galas that have been successful for you in the past. If your supporters have indicated they’re interested in attending a specific type of event, like a charity concert or a fun run, now’s the time to see if you can incorporate that into your hybrid event.
You’ll want to focus on hosting an event that will excite both of your audiences and get them interacting with each other. The more your virtual and in-person experiences blend, the more fun your supporters will have — which translates into better donations for your nonprofit.
With that in mind, here are a few of the best activities to offer during a hybrid event:
Sharing meals is always a good way to socialize and connect — and you can host hybrid dinners where guests can eat at both your dining hall and at home (or a restaurant) while connecting via video chat. Since the event will be livestreamed, everyone can still dress up and have the experience of an interactive get-together.
Virtual concerts were popular during 2020, and today concerts can still be live-streamed so your online audience can share the experience along with the in-person crowd. You can also provide virtual behind-the-scenes tours and meet-and-greets for your online crowd.
Online platforms like PayBee support both silent and live auctions, both of which can be adapted for hybrid events. Just make sure to use the right mobile app that allows online participants to enter their bids alongside the in-person bidders and use an experienced auctioneer who knows how to excite both an in-person and virtual audience at the same time.
Peer-to-peer fundraising enables your supporters to build their own fundraising pages in support of your event and get their social network to participate in your hybrid event. The events promoted are usually at least partly in-person, so hosting a peer-to-peer walkathon, bike race, or fun-run would be a good way to get support. Thanks to special apps that record walking distance and time, your participants don’t even have to be in the same geographic space to join in the fun — they can just share their time and post photos on social media.
Step 2: Choose Your Online Platform
When planning your hybrid event, you need to consider how tech savvy your audience is. Since the majority of your attendees will likely be experiencing your hybrid event virtually, you’ll need to invest in an easy-to-use online platform like PayBee that supports the type of events and activities you want your audience to enjoy.
PayBee’s intuitive platform supports video chats and livestreaming that make it easy to create an interactive environment for your in-person and virtual audiences. You can also create multiple fundraising campaigns, including peer-to-peer fundraisers, with just a few clicks and share your event via social media very easily.
Step 3: Rehearse your event with your support staff
Offering two separate ways to experience the same event can lead to some technical and logistical issues — which is why it’s essential to have an experienced support staff to handle the behind-the-scenes tasks for your hybrid event.
We actually recommend having two support teams — one to handle the virtual experience and one to handle the in-person experience — just to make sure you’re completely covered.
When selecting your virtual support staff, you may need to hire:
- A virtual fundraising consultant to oversee the logistics of your event
- A production team of professional videographers and tech support
- Virtual hosts who can interact with your audience and keep the energy up
- Chat moderators who can answer questions and help your attendees communicate
Likewise, your in-person support team will need to have:
- An on-site producer to coordinate the event
- A tech support team to handle lighting, sound, and other technical issues
- On-site staff to deal with answering questions, serving attendees, and clean up
Beyond simply having good support teams, you need to make sure they know how to work in tandem with each other and not get in each other’s way. For this reason, you’ll want to rehearse your event with your support teams to get them familiar not only with the schedule of activities but also your online platform. Luckily, platforms like PayBee make it easy to run simulations of your entire event during rehearsals.
Step 4: Promote your event well in advance of the hybrid fundraiser
As you assemble the logistics of your hybrid event, you also need to start promoting your hybrid fundraising gala well in advance of the event itself. We recommend marketing your fundraiser at least four to six weeks (and possibly earlier if needed) before it begins.
How should you advertise your hybrid event? Much like the event itself, a mix of in-person and online promotion works well. Have each member of your board — along with several of your volunteers — tell at least ten people about your event and incentivize them to attend. This alone can help guarantee decent attendance if you make sure to communicate how vital it is for your staff to get people to come.
You should also market your event on social media — focusing on the channels that your supporters frequent. If your audience spends a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, that’s where a lot of your online marketing materials need to appear. It also helps if you already have a big following on these social media channels, so if you’re not already spending a lot of time chatting or sharing posts on social media, now’s a good time to send some friend requests and offers to connect.
Email marketing is also a highly effective way of promoting your hybrid event. If you already have an email newsletter with several subscribers, including multiple notices about your hybrid event as you count down toward the event date can help build anticipation.
Regardless of what marketing strategy you choose to use, your materials need to make event registration clear. Offer links to your event registration page in all of your advertisements and make sure people know all the pertinent details about your hybrid gala. For instance, if your in-person attendees need to follow certain social distancing requirements or your virtual audience needs to click on a certain link to access an online experience, all of this should be communicated early on.
Again, the PayBee online platform offers easy-to-use tools for building event registration pages, creating ticketing campaigns, and marketing your hybrid event — often with just a few clicks.
Step 5: Hold your event
Holding your first hybrid event can be stressful but if you’ve spent an adequate amount of time preparing, you’ll have everything in place to handle all the various functions.
Make sure to delegate clear responsibilities to your on-site and online team members. This includes volunteers, staff, caterers, and entertainment. Experienced and dedicated moderators and tech support staff should be standing by to deal with any issues that come up.
Also, remember that your event is offering two experiences, so assigning a producer to oversee the in-person activities and another producer to manage to online experience is an excellent idea. Hybrid events are fun, but they do require a lot of support.
Step 6: Continue engaging your supporters with follow-up activities
Once your hybrid event ends, you’ll still want to spend time analyzing the records from your event to see how much money you raised, which activities were the most popular, and which attendees you still need to collect donations from.
Take time to send thank you emails to your attendees along with invitations to follow your nonprofit organization on social media. This is also a great opportunity to ask your guests for feedback about what they liked about your hybrid event, what activities they’d like to see again, and what they’d like to experience differently. All of this information will help you produce a better hybrid event next time.
To make all of this follow-up activity easier for you, PayBee records all of your event statistics and lets you view them at a glance. You can also easily send pledge reminders and record cash and check payments with a few clicks. Learn more about this easy-to-use platform by signing up for a free online demo that lets you experience a PayBee online auction and ask questions to our support staff.