Virtual, In-Person, or Hybrid: Which Fundraiser is the Best Option for Your Nonprofit?

Virtual, In-Person, or Hybrid: Which Fundraiser is the Best Option for Your Nonprofit?

As 2021 draws to a close, nonprofit organizations are left with a wealth of new opportunities in fundraising. Thanks to advances made in virtual fundraising software, nonprofits and charities are earning more donations and support thanks to online donors from around the world. This marks a major shift from the traditional in-person fundraiser which, while still popular, could only reach a limited number of supporters. 

And as travel and gathering restrictions become more relaxed in parts of the U.S., nonprofits and charities are embracing a form of fundraising that combines the best of both worlds. Hybrid fundraisers enable large groups of supporters to engage in fundraising events virtually while also allowing smaller groups of people to participate in-person and retain the personal touch offered by live interactions.

Of course, with so many new and classic fundraising options now available to you, how will you decide what’s best for your nonprofit? In this article, we’ll examine the advantages of both virtual and in-person fundraising events. We’ll then put the focus on hybrid fundraisers and reveal the best ways to offer hybrid event activities with a user-friendly online platform like PayBee.   

Virtual Events: A More Profitable Form of Fundraising

Let’s start by examining just how profitable virtual fundraising events have become in just the last couple of years. According to the Blackbaud Institute’s 2021 Charitable Giving Report, overall charitable giving went up by 2% in the United States during the 2020 pandemic — but online giving went up by 20.7% compared to 2019.

What’s particularly significant is that the report shows that in early 2020, charitable giving actually dropped in April, May, and June by 17% for some smaller nonprofits. Despite this, online giving kept rising, was up 36% in the second quarter of 2020 compared to 2019, and continued to rise in 2020.

All of this reveals not only an increased willingness on the part of businesses and people to donate to nonprofits but also the importance of making it easier for donors to contribute through online donations. As we move into an era in which donating online is both the norm and preferred way of contributing to a charity or nonprofit, the need for NPOs to invest in user-friendly software like PayBee also rises.

Advantages of Virtual Fundraising Events

So, just why are virtual fundraising events so successful? While it is true that the lockdowns of 2020 made virtual events and communication a necessary way to interact with others, virtual galas come with a whole host of advantages for fundraising. These advantages enable nonprofits and charities to not only raise more money but also raise awareness of their cause to a much larger audience.

Some of the best advantages of virtual fundraising events enjoyed by nonprofits include:

Larger Audiences

Odds are, you’ve struggled to increase attendance at your fundraising events. In addition to marketing issues, part of the problem has always been with the size of your venue. Not all nonprofits can afford to rent a large meeting hall or ballroom and, with current social distancing regulations, such meeting areas are less likely to attract large crowds today.

Fortunately, that’s not the case when you hold your fundraiser online. Thanks to the near-limitless size of virtual meeting areas, you can easily accommodate audiences with hundreds or even thousands of members with the right online fundraising platform. Platforms like PayBee also include chat options that make it easy for attendees to interact with each other regardless of how many people are in your virtual “room.”

Plus, the fact that virtual fundraising events can be attended by anyone with an Internet connection means travel restrictions don’t apply for your audience. Your online fundraiser can be attended by people from the U.S., Canada, multiple European countries, and even Japan so long as each attendee can connect via their smartphones and laptops. This opens up the possibility of expanding your nonprofit’s support system internationally and increasing awareness of your mission beyond local audiences.

In fact, the ability of virtual fundraisers to connect with a wider audience is one of the big reasons nonprofits want to continue hosting virtual fundraising events even after travel and gathering restrictions go away. The increased convenience and wider reach of a virtual fundraising event offers advantages no nonprofit will want to give up.

Lower Cost

You need to invest money to make money, but for many nonprofit organizations, the cost of hosting a traditional in-person fundraising event can cut severely into their profits. In-person fundraisers require you to rent large event venues like a banquet or meeting hall. Then there’s the cost of hiring a staff, servers, and clean-up crew. Even if volunteers and donations can help alleviate the cost, you’re still looking at a substantial bill.

Luckily, virtual fundraisers can be hosted for substantially less than a traditional fundraiser. While you do need to invest in key essentials, including a user-friendly online platform like PayBee, an online support staff, and recording equipment/crew, the cost of these items and services is still low when you consider you don’t need to spend money on a physical meeting venue or staff.

In fact, the low cost of virtual events makes it easier to raise funding for them, especially if you use sponsors. Sponsor dollars can go a lot further in hosting a virtual fundraiser, and you can also offer sponsors many more advertising opportunities on an online platform like PayBee. This makes your virtual event a win-win for both sides.

Virtual fundraisers are so affordable that some nonprofits choose to offer free admission into these events. Not only does this help attract bigger audiences, but those attendees will also feel more willing to donate more thanks to the savings you passed on to them.   

Improved Event Analysis

Great nonprofits are always looking for ways to improve their fundraising events. This inevitably means your event team will spend time analyzing how much money your last event raised, what activities were the most popular, what the average donor contributed, and how many people who signed up for the event actually arrived.

While necessary, event analysis is very time-consuming and tedious, especially if your team didn’t keep detailed records of the fundraisers being analyzed.

Virtual fundraising software helps by recording and arranging everything you need as your online fundraiser is taking place. Once your event is done, you’ll be able to easily access all the reports on the money you raised, which donations are still outstanding, the number of people who attended each activity, and more.

By keeping such records organized, you’ll be able to easily contact attendees with outstanding donations to make sure you get all your money. More importantly, you’ll be able to see what your audience liked best about your event, thanks to records showing which activities had the highest attendance and biggest donations.

From there, it’s easier to make sure your next fundraiser includes the popular (and profitable) activities while improving any event functions that need to run smoother. Proper data analysis can make a world of difference in fundraising, and online software like PayBee can make the burden of such analysis much lighter.

Easier Campaign Building

These days, hosting a successful fundraiser means more than just building a single campaign. You need to create multiple campaigns, each designed to make your overall event run smoothly.

For example, let’s say you want to offer your attendees the opportunity to attend a fundraising dinner (which can be done in a virtual event by delivering meals and interacting online). At a certain point in the event, you may want to offer a raffle drawing and later a live auction.

All of these separate activities require their own campaigns. Dinners require you to send advance tickets to attendees with meal options. A raffle needs its own separate set of tickets. And an auction requires quite a bit of setup and materials, including livestreaming, auction items, and a professional auctioneer.

Luckily, an online fundraising platform like PayBee helps you set up these campaigns much faster. Using the provided templates, you can quickly customize online campaigns for your next charity dinner, auction, or any number of other activities. The PayBee system also makes it easy to not only send out tickets but also keeps track of your orders.   

Additional Marketing Opportunities

One of the most challenging parts of any fundraiser is marketing your event. In the past word-of-mouth was the primary way supporters and donors learned about your upcoming gala. While this is still a very viable way to promote your fundraising events, the digital age offers many other marketing opportunities.

It’s no secret that most people learn about upcoming events through social media. What’s tricky about using social media to market your event, however, is knowing what social media channels your target audience frequents. Facebook and Twitter are both excellent ways to promote online galas, but unless you already have an online presence on those pages — and an active community that follows you — your ad campaign may not reach the right people.

Likewise, email marketing is a very cost-effective way to promote virtual fundraisers — but you’ll want to have a sizable number of people signed onto your email newsletter before you can use email to your fullest advantage. Luckily, PayBee’s online platform makes it easy for you to develop these marketing campaigns with just a few clicks once you determine the best way to reach your online audience.

One great way to use past virtual fundraisers to market your upcoming online events is to share recordings of your previous events in your ad campaign. You can use recordings of your live stream concerts and auctions to show future attendees how fun your fundraisers are. These recordings can easily be shared on Facebook and other social media channels and are effective at enticing future participants.

Advantages of In-Person Fundraising Events

For all the benefits of a virtual fundraising event, some nonprofits are still eager to continue hosting traditional in-person events.

The reasons for this can vary. Maybe their pool of donors and supporters simply prefer face-to-face meetings and are hungry for a more personal gala after spending over a year in lockdown. Maybe their audiences experienced too much virtual event fatigue from all the Zoom meetings and online events they needed to attend in 2020 and don’t want to sign up for a virtual fundraiser.

Regardless, the fact remains that in-person fundraisers aren’t going anywhere and will continue to make up part of a nonprofit’s fundraising strategy. Audiences do enjoy benefits unique to an in-person fundraiser, including:

Better Personal Connections

Online fundraisers may be easier to attend, but when it comes to building personal connections with your supporters, many people feel in-person fundraising events are the better choice. There’s just something about being able to meet and talk to someone in real life that creates a stronger bond between your nonprofit and your supporters.

Sure, your online events can show riveting pictures and videos, but images and recordings can only do so much. Giving your supporters a chance to foster greater personal connections encourages them to donate to your programs — often on a recurring basis.

More Opportunities for Emotion-Driven Giving

Fundraising events may use facts and statistics to show the impact of a nonprofit, but when it comes down to it, most people still choose to donate and support causes through emotion rather than logic. Think of all the successful fundraising campaigns built around photos of the homeless children or animals that a nonprofit or charity is raising money to support.

And when you hold an in-person fundraiser, you don’t need to limit your marketing materials to pictures or video. Instead, you can have the people whom your nonprofit helped show up to interact with supporters and explain how they were helped. You can enable potential donors to meet the people involved in your program and reveal how they deal with the challenges their nonprofit deals with. All of this provides a very powerful motivator for people to give more generously during in-person fundraisers.   

The Ability to Connect with Supporters

So far, we’ve looked at the opportunities that supporters have to connect with your nonprofit. But there’s a flip side to all of this. Being able to meet and interact in-person with donors also gives the staff and volunteers of a nonprofit the chance to understand their support network better.

Online fundraisers may require your staff to focus on getting your event to run smoothly for hundreds of virtual attendees, but an in-person fundraiser is more immediate and lets your staff and volunteers see how attendees react to event activities and programming. They’ll be able to see how well audiences understand the nonprofit’s mission and how much they want to participate in the fundraising activities.

All of this plays a big part in shaping how your future fundraisers are arranged — and how you communicate your nonprofit’s mission to others. Online fundraisers may attract larger audiences, but they don’t always provide the opportunities for getting to know your attendees that in-person fundraisers do. 

The Ability to Connect with Your Community

Virtual fundraisers offer such a great way to gain wider support for your mission that some nonprofits lose sight of the fact that their mission is intended to benefit their local community. In-person fundraisers can help reconnect with this by providing opportunities to work with the local businesses and services that benefit from your nonprofit.

You can arrange to be sponsored by local businesses that show up to participate in the actual event. You can also work with the schools, shelters, or other services involved in your programs and hold your event in or near those venues. All of these in-person events serve to showcase the impact of your work on the community and help build better relationships with your partners.

Networking Opportunities

Many donors and supporters enjoy going to fundraisers for the opportunity to meet and network with the people and businesses that support your nonprofit. While networking shouldn’t overtake your fundraising efforts, it is a big draw for some fundraisers and certain online platforms even offer special chat options so people can network more effectively during virtual fundraisers.

Still, most people prefer to network in real life, which is why an in-person fundraiser can be more attractive to people who attend such events for the networking opportunities. Offering social activities such as charity dinners can help entice attendees who come to your events to network — and donate to your cause.

Best Ways to Host a Profitable Hybrid Fundraising Event

For nonprofits struggling to decide whether to host an in-person or virtual event for their next fundraiser, there is a third option — offer audiences both experiences with a hybrid fundraising event!

Hybrid events offer the best of both worlds. Not only will you be able to attract large audiences to an online event, you’ll also retain the sense of personal connection by providing an in-person experience for smaller groups. Both groups get to experience your fundraiser in tandem, encouraging regular and recurring donations.

Even better, online platforms like PayBee make it very easy to host a hybrid fundraising event with features including:

  • Dual registration for in-person and virtual attendees
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising tools to let participants raise money on behalf of your nonprofit
  • Hybrid auction hosting features and support team
  • The PayBee App to let your in-person event staff check in guests, accept donations, and manage event functions all from their smartphones

Using the online tools available through platforms like PayBee, you’ll be able to adapt many popular fundraising activities into a hybrid setting. Some of the most popular hybrid fundraising events include:

Dinner Galas

Host a hybrid dinner gala by renting a restaurant dining room for your in-person guests while they chat with virtual diners via your online platform. You can arrange for food and cocktail kits to be delivered to your online guests — all for a much lower cost than most traditional in-person charity dinners.

Live Auction

PayBee’s online platform makes it easy to host a variety of popular auction events, including live and silent auctions. You can adapt these events into a hybrid setting — just make sure you have a large monitor to keep your in-person bidders apprised of all the incoming bids from your live and online attendees. The PayBee Mobile App also makes bidding online easier and an experienced online auctioneer (supported by a volunteer staff) can keep the energy level high during such lucrative events.

Hybrid Concerts

Livestreaming technology makes it easy for hundreds of online guests to share the best seats in the house when you put on a hybrid concert. And now that social gathering restrictions have been relaxed in many areas, you can invite live audiences to have the in-person experience they’ve been wanting for all of 2020. Just make sure to follow proper social distancing guidelines — and take advantage of special perks like an online backstage tour that can attract audiences to your event.

Hybrid Art Exhibits

Tours are a popular fundraising activity, and hybrid fundraisers can offer their guests some spectacular experiences with pre-recorded or livestream tours of museums and exhibition halls. Likewise, your in-person guests can enjoy their own live version of the tour, which can take them into places virtual guests can’t go (and vice versa). Being able to experience an event from multiple angles can actually encourage some guests to attend your fundraiser multiple times (and donate more).

Hosting Your In-Person, Virtual, or Hybrid Fundraiser

For many nonprofits, fundraising is entering a new and exciting age where people can connect in-person, online, or in both the real and virtual worlds. While this can also be intimidating to nonprofits still adjusting to these big changes, the opportunities to raise more money and expand awareness of your nonprofit’s brand and mission cannot be denied.

That’s why it’s so important to not only learn about different types of fundraisers — and how they can benefit your nonprofit — but also to discover the best ways you can host your own ideal fundraiser.

To begin, you’ll want to sign up for a free demo of PayBee’s online platform. This hands-on live demonstration allows you to experience a virtual or hybrid fundraiser just the way your attendees will. By seeing how easy it is to use PayBee’s online platform, you can easily determine how best to use the PayBee system to host your in-person, virtual, or hybrid fundraiser.

What’s more, you’ll be able to learn all about the best practices for a virtual gala from PayBee’s experienced team. Enjoy the benefits of having a support team that’s helped host hundreds of online fundraisers show you how to create your most profitable fundraising event. Sign up for a free demo today!

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Charity Fundraising
Hybrid Fundraising
Nonprofit Fundraising
Nonprofit Tips
Online Fundraising
Michael Jung


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