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What is a Virtual or Hybrid Nonprofit Fundraising Event?

What is a Virtual or Hybrid Nonprofit Fundraising Event?

The digital age offers nonprofits and charities more fundraising opportunities than ever. Today, you don’t have to limit yourself to a traditional in-person fundraising event with expensive overhead and limited audience potential. Instead, you can offer your supporters a virtual event they can attend online or a hybrid event that lets you keep the best of both worlds in an event that’s held in person and virtually.

But just what is a virtual event or a hybrid event? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what defines a virtual and hybrid event. We’ll go over the advantages you can enjoy with each type of event and offer several examples of popular (and profitable) virtual and hybrid events. And we’ll touch on how an excellent online platform such as PayBee is important in hosting successful hybrid and virtual events.

What is a Virtual Event?

A virtual event is an online event that enables a group of people to interact in a virtual environment usually through an online platform that makes such interaction easier. People participating in a virtual event can communicate with each other via video chats like group Zoom calls. They can also interact by typing messages in real time through group chats.

Virtual galas can be used for many types of events including virtual tradeshows, virtual job fairs, virtual conferences, and of course, virtual fundraising events. Depending on your needs, you can even merge different virtual events together. For instance, some nonprofit groups and charities find their supporters enjoy participating in virtual conferences where they can engage in webinars and contribute to a nonprofit’s programs by donating online.

Virtual events can be live or pre-recorded. In a live virtual event, your event activities are live streamed, allowing your audience to experience the event in real time and even participate in the event through online chats or video conferencing.

In contrast, a pre-recorded virtual event offers pre-recorded content that your attendees can access online at their convenience. While live stream events are popular, pre-recorded events can also attract large audiences who appreciate being able to attend on their own schedule.

Keep in mind that your virtual event can have both live and pre-recorded portions. In fact, some event planners find that keeping some segments of your virtual event pre-recorded makes the overall event easier to produce and manage.

Although virtual events have existed for many years, the 2020 pandemic made hosting virtual galas and meetings much more of a necessity. Thanks to virtual events, many businesses and organizations found they could continue meeting professionally and socially while keeping everyone safe through social distancing.

Advantages of a Virtual Event

One of the best advantages of a virtual event is its ability to attract huge audiences. Unlike a traditional in-person event, you don’t have to worry about renting large meeting halls or reserving space at a restaurant to accommodate your attendees. As long as you have a good virtual platform like PayBee, your online space can easily “fit” hundreds — or even thousands — of audience members.

This lets you host very large meetings and gatherings for a fraction of the cost associated with an in-person event. Your online participants will be attending your event from home through their laptops (or even their smart phone or mobile devices). This cuts down on travel time, hotel fees, staff costs, and on-site maintenance.

For a fundraising event, this offers several benefits. Thanks to the lower cost of virtual events, your nonprofit or charity will be able to use more of the fundraising profits for your programs. And because virtual events can attract larger audiences than in-person events, your network of donors and supporters can expand dramatically. 

Not only will this make your fundraisers more profitable, you’ll also be able to increase your organization’s brand awareness substantially by sharing your mission with more people.

That being said, you might not want to eliminate all the niceties of an in-person event — and thanks to modern virtual event technology, you don’t have to. Event planners have hosted successful virtual dinners and luncheons where freshly cooked meals are delivered to event guests who can then interact with fellow diners via video chat. 

Several nonprofits and charities have also hosted virtual wine tasting fundraisers where bottles of wine get delivered to participant houses. All of this helps make your virtual event more fun and interactive — and more profitable since attendees will purchase meal tickets online.   

Examples of a Virtual Event

As more and more people began interacting with each other through virtual galas in 2020, virtual event technology became more advanced through necessity. This also caused people to discover they could enjoy a wide variety of virtual events. Some of the most popular events include:

Webinars

Webinars are popular virtual events to host particularly if your organization is related to education. Using live streaming, a popular speaker can interact with people around the world through their laptops. Since the cost of producing a webinar is so low, many organizations offer free admission to webinars, which is a great way to attract people to your virtual event and educate them about your business or cause.

One nice feature about webinars is that they can be recorded, enabling people to view them even after the event ends. This is a great way to keep attracting people to your website after the original live webinar ends — and also an excellent way to promote any future webinars or virtual events you’d like to host.

When choosing a speaker and topic for your webinar, make sure to keep your audience in mind. Choose subjects popular with your target attendees and find experts in those areas who are skilled at communicating with an online audience. Remember: webinars can be on practically any topic from business to social justice to marketing training, giving you a lot of creative planning space when you start developing yours.

Virtual Auctions

Although nonprofits and charities were concerned that their fundraising events would suffer in 2020, many organizations were pleased to see how well some of their more popular activities adapted to a virtual setting. This was particularly true for fundraising auctions.

Thanks to online fundraising platforms like PayBee, virtual auctions are very easy to host and can be incorporated into many virtual fundraising events. Nonprofits and charities can also choose from two basic types of auctions: live and silent.

Live auctions are held during your main event and usually involve a professional auctioneer who interacts with bidders via live stream. The auctioneer introduces the items up for auction and participants can enter their bids through their laptops or mobile devices. A good virtual auctioneer knows how to energize an audience and keep the bidding going, which is great for your fundraiser.

Silent auctions, by contrast, can be held over a longer stretch of time and can often begin several days before your main fundraising event. Using an online platform like PayBee, you can post images and descriptions of each auction item on your fundraising website and promote your auction via social media channels. Bidders can then visit your website and place their bids on the items they’re interested in. PayBee even includes a “Buy It Now” feature where bidders can simply purchase an item for a price you set in advance.

Because silent auctions last longer than live auctions, they can potentially generate very high profits. In fact, many virtual events choose to host a silent auction and a live auction to get the best of both worlds. That said, it’s usually a good idea to end your silent auction before your live auction starts to keep your audience’s attention focused on your main activity.  

Virtual Concerts 

Many people come to events expecting to be entertained, and what’s more entertaining than a concert? While music lovers had to put their concert tours on hold in 2020, virtual events offered an acceptable substitute by producing virtual concerts.

Much like televised concerts, virtual concerts are events where an experienced crew films and records a music band’s performance. These events can either be shared with audiences through pre-recorded content or live streaming. Provided that the picture and sound is good, virtual concerts can be exciting events, especially since they can take audiences to prime locations — giving them virtual front row seats, or even taking them onto the stage with the band while they perform.

The musicians can also interact with the audience via live chat or video chat, creating a better connection with attendees. And while some virtual concerts might be centered around well-known celebrities, other popular concerts are built around local bands or more niche musicians. Both types of concerts can make popular virtual events — just be aware of what your audience likes. 

Virtual Luncheons and Dinners

Plenty of nonprofit organizations and charities organized successful virtual luncheons and dinners throughout 2020 — and those who enjoyed them will likely continue hosting such online events from now on.

There are plenty of fun variations to these virtual events. You can hold a “traditional” luncheon or dinner where attendees purchase tickets online and select meal options (make sure to offer vegetarian or vegan options as well as choices for those with other special dietary needs). These lunches and dinners can be prepared at a restaurant and then delivered to participating households where attendees can video chat with fellow diners while enjoying their meal.

Alternately, you might consider hosting a virtual wine tasting event where those who sign up receive samples of various wines and the ability to voice their opinions online. Other organizations go so far as to host a virtual cooking class where attendees receive an online cooking lesson which they can participate in with delivered ingredients. Afterwards, the students can enjoy the meal they prepared while chatting with each other online.

Whatever way that you decide to arrange your virtual meals, be aware that these types of virtual activities require some advance planning. You’ll need to arrange for a restaurant or catering business to prepare the meals and deliver them. You’ll also need to use an online platform like PayBee to create a ticketing campaign with menu options. In the case of cooking classes, you’ll also need to make sure your attendees have all the cooking implements and utensils they’ll need for the lessons.

Logistics aside, virtual luncheons and dinners are a great way for groups to socialize and express their creativity. While nothing can replace a face-to-face dinner, the ability to bring multiple people from across the country together at a virtual brunch or picnic is an attractive one and reveals all the fun options virtual events offer. 

Virtual Video Game Tournament

Here’s one special activity that seems tailor-made for virtual events. Video game tournaments attract plenty of online interest and have been known to raise thousands — and even millions — of dollars for nonprofits and charities.

Again, the options for hosting such an event are varied. Some gamers with strong followings on Twitch and other social media sites can promote a virtual event to their followers where they pledge to play in support of a charity or nonprofit. These gamers might play for several hours in an attempt to break a record while their supporters donate to their cause.

Another more inclusive option might be to invite multiple players to participate in a big gaming tournament that can be hosted by your online platform. Players can pay to enter the game and spectators can also donate to the nonprofit or charity being promoted during the tournament.

What is a Hybrid Event?

Virtual events might be more convenient and cheaper to attend, but if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that virtual events cannot completely replace traditional face-to-face meetings. Plenty of people began suffering “virtual fatigue” as their schedules became overloaded with Zoom meetings and too much screen time. People also began hungering for more real-world social interaction. As a result, hybrid events are now becoming a more popular option for people to meet.

Hybrid events combine aspects of virtual events and traditional in-person gatherings. Although large numbers of people can still attend these events virtually, hybrid events also offer physical meeting spaces for some audience members to meet in person.

These physical spaces tend to be smaller than the meeting areas of the past. For instance, a hybrid event might not have to rent a huge conference hall when the majority of its attendees are still participating from home through their laptops. On the other hand, a more intimate meeting area like a restaurant or a park can still offer the type of real-world interaction people want that they can’t get through a virtual event.

It’s important to emphasize that hybrid events are not two separate events attended by different groups of people. Instead, a successful hybrid event planning team will work to provide the in-person and online guests with two separate experiences of the same event. This usually involves providing opportunities for in-person and online attendees to interact with each other. This can also mean offering virtual guests the chance to see parts of the event that in-person guests can’t — and vice versa.  

Advantages of a Hybrid Event

One of the best parts of a hybrid event is that, by offering experiences for two groups of people, they can attract larger audiences. After all, after being stuck indoors for much of 2020, a lot of people are hungry to attend an in-person event and will gladly fill your guest list.

That being said, you don’t have to sacrifice the near-limitless space afforded by your virtual meeting areas. 2020 also helped familiarize thousands of people with the ins and outs of virtual events — so keeping online meetings and option is still a smart move.

In fact, the majority of your hybrid event audience will still come from your virtual attendees as online participation remains the more convenient option. Likewise, social distancing requirements continue to prevent you from hosting large gatherings, making hybrid events a necessity if you want to create successful fundraisers, conferences, and meetings.

While hybrid events do come with additional costs, many of these costs can be minimized. For instance, although you do need to have a physical meeting space for your in-person guests, it doesn’t have to be as big (or as expensive) as your traditional in-person event since you won’t have to deal with a huge crowd.

Catering to a smaller in-person audience also means you can actually offer your guests a nicer experience. For instance, some nonprofits and charities have chosen to hold the in-person portion of their hybrid event at a place with gorgeous scenery, like a waterfall or a nice hiking trail, in order to attract in-person attendees. In-person guests tend to be willing to pay more for the face-to-face experience, and since you won’t be dealing with large parties, your expenses can still be manageable.

Examples of a Hybrid Event

Many popular in-person and virtual events can be adapted to a hybrid setting. That being said, it’s important to emphasize that you can’t just live stream an in-person event and expect your virtual attendees to be satisfied. Successful hybrid events need to offer dual experiences of the same event so both of your audiences feel they can participate adequately. Here are some good ways to host hybrid event activities:

Hybrid Auctions

By now, it should come as no big surprise that auctions are a mainstay in fundraisers, whether you hold them in-person or online. Thus, hybrid auctions are a very popular activity that can attract huge bidding pools once you showcase all the great auction items you have available.

After all, when most of your audience is already comfortable with placing their bids with their mobile devices, it’s easy to attract a virtual audience to your auction. Of course, some bidders still prefer to attend in person and use traditional bidding paddles, so you’ll want to make sure the platform hosting your event can accommodate both groups.

Hybrid auctions also require some additional investments to be successful. For one thing, you’ll want to have a large monitor for your in-person audience so they can see the current status of all the bids, not just the ones placed by the people in the room. Likewise, people bidding with mobile devices should be able to receive alerts when someone outbids them so they have a chance to raise their bid (and increase your event profits). The PayBee app includes a feature to do just this.

While it’s a good idea to invest in a professional auctioneer who can keep both your in-person and online attendees energized, it’s an even better idea to have a group of volunteers on hand to keep track of all the bids coming in from your in-person and virtual bidders. You’ll essentially be managing an auction that will take place on two fronts, so be sure to have adequate support.

Hybrid Concerts 

Virtual concerts may have offered a decent substitute for music lovers back in 2020, but let’s be honest: there’s nothing like attending a good music concert in person. And now that social gathering restrictions have been relaxed in parts of the country, hosting a hybrid concert for in-person and virtual audiences is a sure-fire way to attract plenty of attendees.

That said, you need to be prepared to manage a lot of logistics when managing a hybrid concert. Your in-person audience needs to be properly guided through the music venue via signs and guides who can remind them to social distance and keep spaces uncongested. Hand sanitizer and other cleaning products need to be made readily available. And souvenir stands may need to be replaced with an option to purchase T-shirts and other souvenirs online.

Managing your virtual audience might be somewhat easier since you won’t have to worry about social distancing, but you still need to have a skilled team to ensure they have a good experience. Audio and video equipment should provide excellent picture and sound for live streaming. Online attendees should be able to view the concert from great angles. You might also want to offer your online attendees some special bonus experiences — like a virtual backstage tour that can’t be offered so easily to your in-person audience.

Like many good hybrid events, it pays to have two separate teams managing your hybrid concert — one to focus on the needs of your in-person audience and another to manage the online attendees. While keeping these experiences working in tandem can be tricky, the end results can be both amazing and profitable.

Hybrid Fun Runs and Walks

A lot of people feel that virtual and hybrid events involve nothing but sitting in front of a laptop and staring at the screen for over an hour. However, not all virtual or hybrid activities need to be stagnant affairs.

Hybrid fun runs and walks, for instance, get people out of their homes and interacting with the real world. If you live in an area with relaxed social gathering rules, you can assemble small groups of people to go on a fun run or hike. And with the aid of a mobile app, these people can keep track of their progress and share their experience with others on your website.

The great thing about hybrid walks and runs is they can be held in multiple places simultaneously. Your website can function as a central hub for participants to show how far they’ve traveled and even post photos and videos of where they’re walking or hiking. If you want to turn this hybrid event into a fundraiser, your participants can get businesses and people to pledge money based on how far they walk or run.

Even if some of your participants don’t live near a location where they can go for long walks or hikes, they can still participate. Your hybrid event can supply virtual hiking videos that attendees can view while walking on a treadmill and adding some miles to the fun run. This is a great way to raise money and encourage people to exercise!

Hybrid Costume Parties

Everyone loves a good costume party — and now with online platforms like PayBee, it’s easier than ever to turn these galas into hybrid events and maximize your guest list. Like traditional costume parties, you’ll want to hold the in-person portion in a meeting area where guests can show off their costumes in person.

Simultaneously, however, your virtual guests can show off their costumes from home via live streaming, social media posts, and other interactive activities. Hybrid costume parties are a lot of fun because you can merge many other virtual and hybrid activities into them — such as auctions, dinners, dances, and raffles. Just make sure both your in-person and online guests can participate, and you’ll have a very popular hybrid event on your hands.

Hybrid Tours

Letting groups of people tour amazing places has always been a great way to attract guests — and with hybrid event technology, you can now place your attendees in all sorts of fun areas.

During the pandemic, art museums, galleries, and even private studios offered virtual tours of their facilities to schools, businesses, and individuals. This was a great way to keep interest in the arts alive since the virtual tours could connect art enthusiasts with places that would be inaccessible to many people due to distance or money (like the Louvre Museum) or unknown (like a local artist’s workspace).

These days, museums and galleries can once again offer in-person tours — but that doesn’t mean the virtual component needs to go away. A hybrid tour can allow some audiences to view a museum’s artwork via high resolution images or even downloadable VR experiences. Simultaneously, in-person audiences can view those exhibits in person — or better yet, view a completely different art exhibit, giving them incentive to return and experience the virtual component of the tour.

And don’t think these hybrid tours need to be limited to art-related institutions! Sometimes, a tour of your organization’s own facilities can prove extremely eye opening and illuminating to newcomers interested in your business and mission. Nonprofits have gained many new supporters after giving them an up-close-and-personal look at their operations. Charities can better reveal the impact of their work when a group can see the results of their programs, both in-person and virtually.

Because hybrid tours can make use of pre-recorded content, they’re extremely useful for promoting your organization and events. Your in-person tour guides may need to stick to a limiting schedule, but your online platform can continue offering virtual tours at any time of the day. This is a great way to stay connected with your audience and gain support.    

Hosting Your Virtual or Hybrid Event

While traditional in-person events won’t be completely replaced by virtual or hybrid galas, the fact remains that virtual and hybrid events are here to stay.

Now that people have gotten a taste of how convenient it is to attend virtual events — and how these online events can be merged with in-person experiences, they’ll be more willing to participate in hybrid galas that offer both options.

What’s more, technology is now developing at a rapid pace to accommodate these new needs — and with the future of social gatherings still uncertain, it’s to your organization’s advantage to become familiar with hosting virtual events and hybrid galas.

So, how should you start? To begin, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the technology available to you now. Sign up for a free demo of PayBee’s online fundraising platform. You’ll be able to login to an actual virtual event and participate in a mock online auction (complete with virtual money) that will show you what your virtual audiences will experience.

What’s more, you’ll be able to chat with PayBee’s team of experts and learn how their software can be applied to your organization’s events. With a platform capable of creating multiple fundraising campaigns, from auctions to raffles to virtual luncheons and more, PayBee’s online platform is very versatile and will be able to fit all of your needs. Schedule a free demo today and learn about all the amazing virtual and hybrid options available to you now!

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Hybrid Fundraising
Virtual Events
Nonprofit Fundraising
Michael Jung

Michael-Jung

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