We’re entering 2022 full of optimism. It’s going to be a GREAT year for fundraising! We’ve lived through the fear, chaos and reliance on video meetings of 2020. We’ve made it through the “here we go again” fatigue and innovation of 2021, and identified areas of improvement for both virtual and hybrid events. While 2022 is still defined by uncertainty, we’re noticing trends that give us reason to hope and cause to embrace Year Three of fundraising during a pandemic.
People ARE Still Giving – Some More Than Ever!
Good news: Charitable giving increased in 2020.
GREAT news: That trend continued into 2021! Let’s hope for the best in 2022.
The majority of events we produced in 2021 were virtual. Many of them were with orgs hosting their second or even third virtual fundraisers. So we’re bringing the best practices we’ve gleaned from them with us into 2022.
Here’s what we think you’ll want to focus on for a successful year.
Virtual is Here to Stay
While some folks are eager to and comfortable with socializing in-person, some are not. That’s one reason virtual events are here to stay through 2022 and beyond. Some orgs prefer this format: Virtual events are easier and less expensive to produce than in-person ones, and they often net as much money, if not more. Virtual fundraisers are proving to be a valuable tool in a fundraiser’s toolbox, and fundraisers are nothing if not resourceful when it comes to using ALL of their tools! But if it’s your second or third rodeo, make sure to keep it fresh. Think elevation and innovation.
Virtual 2.0 or 3.0
Elevate + Innovate
Your 2020 virtual event was a success. That’s awesome! Now let’s up the ante by offering your donors, supporters and viewers something more. Consider the production value and how you can improve upon it. Dump boring videos with lousy sound immediately and invest in quality, professional videographers to craft your storytelling. Can you improve the pacing of your virtual show, from the one you produced last year or the year before? You’ll be amazed at the difference visuals like motion graphics make in that regard. Brand your show with your unique look and colors. Proudly display your logo. Consider investing in custom lower-third banners, borders, transition wipes and graphics. Partner with a professional livestream vendor and lean on your teammates! They’ve been doing this for going-on three years (or longer) as well. The good livestream teams – the ones you want to be working with – are always looking to innovate and keep things interesting. Ask your tech and AV team for fresh ideas. Encourage them to brainstorm with you! If they’re not heavily invested in your success, you ought not be working with them.
The Evolution of Hybrid Events
In all honesty, we thought hybrid fusion events would be a much more popular trend in 2021 than they actually were. We produced a few of them, but the vast majority of 2021 events were still 100% virtual in our markets. We do, however, believe in hybrid events – there’s something for everyone and the ones we’ve executed have been successful. To that end, we’re looking into ways to innovate hybrid events – making them easier to plan, less expensive to produce and keeping them trending! Before we look at some ways hybrid events are evolving in 2022, let’s examine one of your most important keys to success across the board – meaning, in the virtual world, the hybrid world and the in-person world: An involved, engaged and energetic crowd who participate in the offerings.
Craft Guest Experience. Maximize Crowd Engagement
The live social chat is a fantastic strategy that keeps your at-home crowd feeling like a part of the action. Not only is it fun, it’s the best way to turn passive viewers into active participants (and hopefully donors & bidders). It builds community, showcases gratitude and adds flair. It helps reinforce mission language and educates your viewers about the great work you do. Throw some trivia questions in the chat to further drive home your mission and/or increase viewer engagement: Who founded the org? What year? What’s the ED’s favorite food? Favorite movie? Favorite holiday? Are they watching The Book of Boba Fett? (Get creative – your trivia questions don’t have to be mission-related – but do tend to perform best to educate donors when they are!) Offer small prizes – gift cards or swag from your org – to encourage participation. Also keep in mind, people can re-read the comments when they watch your live stream again. So have fun with it! And treat it as the nuanced and powerful tool it is.
Games are a great way to bridge the airwaves between the virtual and in-person crowds. Craft activities, games, content that can reach both groups. Maybe you deliver a “party pack” to your at-home audience and distribute one to your in-person crowd. Include games that can be played together, like poker or bingo. Drawings. Brainstorm some mission-centered games that would be suitable for both crowds to play simultaneously.
Selfies + GIFs
Encourage your at-home crowd to send in selfies of them enjoying the action from home. This is a terrific bridge as it’s something both crowds can enjoy and bond over. It helps folks at home feel like part of the event. It’s a lot of fun to see the picture you took five minutes ago show up during the livestream. And by livestream, we don’t recommend work-like Zoom conferences, as donors don’t enjoy feeling like they’re still working after hours. If you want to bridge the gap between your in-person and at-home crowds successfully and seamlessly, invest in a skilled livestream team. It turns a dull video meeting into an entertaining live streamed show and effective fundraising program it’s meant to be.
Hybrid 2.0 for 2022
Viewing all fundraising as a continuous annual campaign, as opposed to one specific event, is another trend we predict will grow in 2022. For instance, kick off a week (or month) of giving with a virtual or in-person event. A week later, offer the opposite type of event – so you reach ALL your donors in ways THEY want to interact.
One idea: Host a virtual event on Friday. The following week, invite a select few major donors for a VIP cocktail hour. Have a representative from your org speak. Since your virtual event from a week ago was fantastic, perhaps watch it (or parts of it) again as a group! This is extra special if you had a lively chat. The idea is to harness group energy again, while your mission is still at the forefront of peoples’ minds. You might also consider creating a sizzle reel of the virtual event, if you think folks won’t want to watch the entire livestream again.
In-Person Events. Virtual Components.
We’ve had some orgs report that the reason they shy away from virtual events is cost. Livestream engineers are highly skilled and not inexpensive! A livestream is not the same as a Facebook Live or a Zoom. However, we’ve had some great results adding a lower-priced social media live streamed event as a “companion” piece to in-person events.
Speaking of Facebook Live, you can harness it successfully – here’s an example:
Virtual Paddle Raise
Try a short virtual paddle raise in conjunction with your in-person event. Your content will be minimal – maybe your ED says a few words, reflecting on what an amazing campaign is underway. Or you can replay your special appeal video, if you had one at your in-person event. Keep it short and sweet, since it’s meant to be a companion piece. Contact us to learn more about how Marquam’s Livestream Team can help you produce your very own virtual paddle raise.
2022 Charity Auction Trends
Online auctions have all but replaced traditional in-person silent auctions. Why? Not only are they much easier and less labor intensive to set up, they’re netting MORE money and delighting donors due to longer bidding windows and having the option to bid even if they won’t be in attendance at your event. Why WOULDN’T you bring your silent auction online? Mobile bidding software programs are innovating making online auctions easier than ever. The ins and outs of your mobile bidding software is highly technical stuff, folks, but you don’t have to understand it – you just have to decide what you want from it and how you want to use it.
Live Auctions: In-Person
If you’re planning a live auction, it’s nearly impossible to include the at-home crowd in an equitable way. There’s really no way to do it that’s fair for everyone involved, when you take into consideration livestream and bid platform latency. In-room bidders automatically have an advantage, because the auctioneer can see them in real-time. The at-home crowd, however, has to deal with latency and being physically removed from the auctioneer while generally being represented by a too small monitor not within the auctioneer’s optimal view.
That said, as we just mentioned, mobile bidding software is another industry that’s evolving and innovating rapidly. Online bids can come in nearly instantly with some software programs, all but eliminating bid platform latency (or at least really minimizing it). But even if that latency problem is solved, there’s another intrinsic problem with mixed bidding: It’s super difficult for your auctioneer to cater EQUALLY to both an in-person and an at-home crowd during a fast paced live auction. Your at-home crowd often leaves feeling somewhat left out. Consider yourself warned!
Still want to have both an in-person and virtual crowd bidding on live auction items? Okay. Let’s set you up with some best practices.
The first thing you need to decide is how each group will bid. Will everyone place their bids online? There’s an advantage to this, in that it keeps everyone involved on the same page at the same time. But you’ll forgo the energy and excitement of live auction bid paddles shooting up, which could limit the amount of money you raise.
Mixed bidding means the folks in the room use bid paddles and are competing against the online crowd. (In this scenario, we’re going to assume your robust mobile bidding software has nearly eliminated latency as mentioned above.) If you go this route, consider using a mobile bidding back-end support administrator. This person will enter the in-person bids to the back end of your mobile bidding platform, so folks at home can immediately see if they’ve been outbid (remember, it’s a perfect world and there’s little latency). Thanks to your mobile bidding administrator, your two groups of bidders are co-existing. There are two other roles that help synchronize the in-room and at-home crowds: Bidder concierges and proxy bidders.
We always say, know your big bidders. Then offer them the VIP service and perks they deserve for their ongoing support – assign them a bidding concierge! That’s someone who is in the room with the auctioneer and on the phone with your at-home virtual bidder, who is watching from home and placing bids verbally via their bidder concierge.
Proxy bidding is nothing new, and it’s just what it sounds like: Someone to keep an eye on the action on behalf of a donor who’s not physically present. The donor lets the proxy bidder know ahead of time what items they’d like to bid on and how much they’re willing to spend for each item. The proxy bidder bids on the donor’s behalf, up to their maximum dollar amount, for each item. If and when any item exceeds the donor’s maximum bid amount, the proxer bidder stops bidding.
You need VERY clear ground rules about how the auctioneer will decide who wins an auction item, particularly with mixed bidding. Then you must communicate those rules to both crowds, LOUD and CLEAR. Ideally, in writing. If there’s any confusion, it’s incredibly stressful for all involved. Plus, you’ll end up with some very unhappy bidders. And they won’t forget they were unhappy. Don’t let that happen! Clear communication is key.
How will you recognize your bidders and winners? Again, know your donors. Do they want their names to show up in the livestream? Do they prefer to remain anonymous? Reach out and ask. Never assume anything.
Donor Development 2022
Dive into data! Who gave big last year and the year before? Personally reach out to your major donors because (naturally) those are the folks you want participating, whether it’s an in-person event, a virtual one or a hybrid. Consider sending your personal contacts calendar requests so your event appears directly on their calendar (and pops up reminders to boot!).
You might “rank” those donors and pursue them accordingly: Place your most generous givers on the A team and reach out to them first with personal invitations. The next biggest givers are the B team, and so on down the line. Lapsed donors fall somewhere in the middle. In order to maximize your time and efforts, reach out to major donors first. But keep in mind that ALL donors want your gratitude, time and attention. According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, an org whose mission is to help nonprofits raise as much money as they possibly can, the year 2021 saw an increase in newly retained donors – that is, donors who gave in 2020, also gave in 2021. This means that in general, you’re doing a good job keeping your loyal supporters. So let’s keep that trend HOT by giving donors what they want.
What DO Donors Want?
We spend a lot of time polling donors and soliciting their feedback and sometimes we’re surprised by what we hear. Everyone knows donors prefer short, succinct, energetic programs. Check! Mission all the way. Got it. They prefer ZERO lines at registration and bars. Check. Check! And they overwhelmingly prefer a well-edited video to any gifted speaker, talking too long, without visuals to support their words.
Perhaps it’s born out of digital fatigue, but surprisingly, these days a majority of donors are asking for items they can touch. Think mission-driven goody bags, gift boxes, or branded swag like mugs, hats, tote bags. Sell these tangible items through your event website. Create a new revenue stream. With the click of a button, your supporters can purchase something fun for themselves – OR, since they’re already in a charitable frame of mind, they just might want to buy an extra one to give to someone else. Not to mention, how cool is it to see YOUR branded swag representing your org and mission walking about throughout the community? It’s FREE product placement!
Cheerleaders, fans, advocates, ambassadors…whatever you want to call them – solicit their support and get THEM to solicit support for you. A Campaign Champion is an official patron of your cause. Who should be on your Campaign Champion team? We don’t recommend you ask current board members. They’re already heavily invested in your cause and they spend myriad hours advocating on your org’s behalf – that is, if they’re doing their jobs! Consider asking a former board member to be part of your Campaign Champion team. Or family members of your current staff. It’s always fun and extra heartwarming to see your ED’s elderly parents and sometimes even grandparents show their support.
As a fundraiser, what’s your worst nightmare? Hosting an in-person fundraiser that becomes a Covid superspreader event has to be high on the list, right? How can you limit your liability? While we’ll never be able to make in-person events 100% risk free, there is plenty you can do to keep yourself and your guests safe. No doubt, you’re already requiring masks to enter and when guests aren’t in their seats eating or drinking. You’re providing hand sanitizer at entrances, high traffic areas and tables. Now, some software companies are making it easier than ever for you to help your guests comply with your own Covid policy (and the government’s, and the venue’s). Our friends at SchoolAuction.net, for example, now offer COVID custom fields for guests to fill in when they register for the event. Using their version, you first inform guests of your individual policy, then it gives them the option to prove compliance. Are you requiring vaccines or a negative test? The feature lets guests upload their vaccine cards or negative test results themselves. Check with your software provider to see if they’re offering similar features. Keep yourself and your guests safe and give yourself some invaluable peace of mind, knowing you’re doing everything possible to protect your community.
Ready to fundraise in a rapidly-changing, uncertain environment? Sure you are! Reach out once you’ve perused these trends and best practices. We’re here to help.
Here’s to funding your cause!