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Preparing for Hybrid Galas in 2021: Why Hybrid Events will be the Standard for Charity Fundraising

Virtual galas became a necessary source of fundraising forcharities and nonprofits in 2020. And it’s easy to see why – with COVID-19keeping everyone indoors, being able to hold fundraising events online wasoften the only way to keep your nonprofit going.

For nonprofits that learned how to host a successful virtualgala, the change came with many benefits. Virtual fundraising events can accommodatelarger audiences than in-person fundraisers. They’re more affordable and, inmany cases, easier to put on. And thanks to online venues like the onesprovided by the PayBee platform, attendees haveplenty of opportunities to donate – making many virtual galas more lucrativethan in-person fundraisers.

As we enter 2021, charity fundraising is evolving again –this time into hybrid galas that combine the best aspects of virtual galas andin-person events. Just as virtual galas required you to rethinkyour fundraising strategies and learn new skills, hosting a successfulhybrid event comes with its own set of challenges. For nonprofits and charitiesthat can adapt to this new change, however, the rewards are substantial.  

To help with this adjustment, we’re offering an overview ofthe uniquebenefits of hybrid galas and why these virtual/live events will become thestandard for charities and nonprofits moving forward.    

What are Hybrid Galas?

At its most basic, a hybrid gala is an event where part ofyour audience attends in-person while the rest of your attendees join in via avirtual space. Both your live and online audiences get to participate in theevent, meaning you can now attract even more supporters to your gala,build greater awareness of your mission, and raise more funds for your cause.

Hybrid events aren’t new – concerts, conventions, festivals,sales meetings, and even weddings have all provided a virtual space for onlineattendees in the past. However, as these virtual/live events continue to evolve,event planners need to make sure that both your live audience and virtualaudience have a quality experience that lets them interact with the event anddonate generously. This means you’ll have to meet some new standards to enjoythe benefits of a hybrid gala.    

What are the Pros and Cons of Hybrid Galas?

Zoom calls and virtual events may have allowed people tokeep in touch during 2020, but by this point, people are hungry for actualhuman interaction. And thankfully, the COVID-19 vaccine is gradually makingsmall in-person galas morepossible.

That being said, many people still aren’t comfortableattending gatherings. Others might be unable to attend due to state and countylockdowns. Distance can also be a problem, especially if some of yoursupporters run into travel restrictions.

Hybrid galas can accommodate both of these groups. Bylearning how to successfully host a hybrid fundraiser, you can offer donors andsupporters many benefits, including:

More Face-to-Face Interaction

For many donors, being able to meet and talk to other supportersat annual events was the main appeal of attending a charity fundraiser. Thepandemic took away most of this face-to-face interaction and even devotedsupporters found chatting through livestreaming didn’t feel as natural asmeeting in person – especially if the event planners didn’t know how to reducelivestream lag which can negatively affect video and sound.

Hybrid galas bring back the ability for supporters to meetin person. While large gatherings might not be feasible yet, hybrid events doallow small groups of donors to attend in person. These donors might be yourorganization’s VIP donors and honorees who will appreciate your organization’sability to accommodate their needs. And since you’ll be dealing with fewerin-person guests, maintaining social distance requirements will be easier.

More Supporters

Your live event may need to be small out of necessity, butyour hybrid gala can still attract massive numbers of donors from around theworld thanks to your unlimited virtual space. As long as you invest in a good online platform,you’ll be able to host hundreds – or even thousands – of virtual guests.

This lets you reach a larger number of supporters who willdonate to your cause. You’ll also be able to increase awareness of your causesimply by being able to communicate with so many people. By making sure tooffer both your in-person and online attendees an excellent experience, yournonprofit or charity’s brand awareness will expand and attract more support.

Better Savings on Staff, Food, and Event Venue

One of the greatest benefits nonprofits and charities enjoywith virtual fundraising events is the lowercost. Since virtual events are held on an online platform, you don’t haveto rent a dining hall or conference room. Your event team can be limited to a host,producer, and tech support. And you didn’t have to worry about food costs –unless you want to have meals delivered to your guests’ homes.

Guess what? Many of these benefits can still be enjoyed withhybrid galas. While you do need to rent an event space to accommodate yourin-person guests, you won’t need to spend as much money since you’ll be dealingwith fewer people. These savings also carry over to your food and staff costs.

Better Event Energy

No matter how good your livestream service is, a virtualevent just doesn’t have the same immediate energy that an in-person eventoffers. There’s something about having people interact directly with the emceeor auctioneer that adds an extra spark to your activities – which can encouragemore donations and support for your cause.

By having an in-person audience in your hybrid event, youcan translate some of that immediate energy into your overall gala. Anin-person audience’s excitement feeds into the virtual part of your event,providing better incentive for your entire audience to participate and donate.

Of course, in order to gain the best event energy, you’llneed to provide your online attendees with ways to interact directly with yourhybrid gala. This lets them stay active participants and not passive observers,which can cause some of them to feel left out of your fundraiser.

This leads into an important point about hybrid galas – theycome with some unique challenges you’ll need to meet. Your nonprofit or charityneeds to be prepared to deal with certain issues, including:

Synching Your Live and Virtual Events

One of the biggest challenges with hosting a hybrid gala isthat you’re basically hosting two events – one in-person and one virtual. Evenmore challenging is the fact that these events have to be held simultaneouslyand allow both audiences to participate in the same fundraiser.

To make sure both of your audiences feel included,incorporate the following tactics into your fundraiser:

·      Use two hosts – one for your in-person group andanother for your online audience. This will ensure both audiences feelacknowledged during the event.

·      Assign someone to engage with your virtualaudience through an activechat window by playing trivia games or offering other online activities.The more social interaction you provide, the better your audience will respond.

·      Plan activities for both in-person and onlineaudiences. Both audiences can participate in a silent auction held online priorto your event. PayBee also offers mobile bidding options that allow online andin-person participants to bid in live auctions. You can also livestreamentertainment for your virtual audience.

·      Have a support team in place to help manage yourevent. Nothing pulls an audience out of a fundraiser more than technicalissues. Having a support system in place, like the PayBee Support Specialists, helps youfocus on your audiences and not so much on the tech.

Choosing Your In-Person Attendees

Unfortunately, pandemic restrictions limit the number ofin-person guests you can invite to your hybrid gala. While this is done for thesafety of all of your guests, you do run the risk of disappointing some of yoursupporters if you’re unable to accommodate all of them.

When choosing your in-person audience, you’ll need to askyourself several questions:

·      How many people can your event venue safelyhandle (especially with social distancing regulations)?

·      Will the people invited to your event give moreif they attend in person?

·      Will your in-person audience generate the energyneeded for your event? Will they laugh, cheer, and clap so your virtualaudience feels more excited? While you don’t have to limit your entire audienceto such people, it helps to include supporters eager to interact with yourevent.

Choosing Your Ticket Price

Some nonprofits offer free admission to their virtualevents, which can encourage online attendees to donate more. Hybrid galas,however, may need to require in-person guests to purchase tickets to help payfor the event venue. Your event costs, seating capacity, and fundraising goalsall play a big part in setting a ticket price for your in-person supporters.

Make sure to calculate how many in-person tickets you cansafely offer before starting a ticketing campaign. If it fits your needs, offeran “early bird” registration for your most generous donors and best in-personaudience members. This helps ensure your in-person event will enhance yourhybrid gala.

Why More Nonprofits and Charities Will Turn to Hybrid Galas in the Future

In a January2021 article for Forbes, head of marketing for All AmericanEntertainment Jennifer Best predicts that all companies andorganizations will be making the shift to hybrid events in 2021. She stressesthat event planners will be competing for attendees and organizations thatoffer the most flexibility will pull ahead in the next few months.

And it’s easy to see why. Now that nonprofits and charitiesknow how effective virtual fundraising events are at raising donations andsupport while lowering overhead, virtual galas will remain an important part offuture fundraising efforts. Even so, organizations need to remain sensitive topeople who prefer in-person galas especially as small gatherings become morepossible.

Hybrid galas offer an ideal middle ground for your nonprofitor charity. By combining the new opportunities offered by virtual fundraising withclassic in-person events, you’ll be able to attract more supporters, increaseyour brand awareness, and raise more donations to further your mission. Learninghow to manage this type of gala also gives your group a useful flexibility thatlets you shift between virtual and in-person fundraising depending on yourneeds.

That being said, this is still a major new shift infundraising and many nonprofits and charities have expressed concerns withtheir ability to connect the virtual and in-person aspects of a hybrid gala. Toensure your organization is prepared to host these new fundraising events,learn all about the hybrid event resources available to you with PayBee’s InnovativeEvent Technology. Our knowledgeable support team is ready to keep you onthe cutting edge of fundraising trends.  

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Michael Jung

Michael-Jung