We strongly believe in learning from experience. We’ve been a data-driven company from Day 1.
Data has been at the forefront throughout our pivot to virtual and hybrid fusion fundraising events. Gathering and keeping data is a little different in the virtual world, but it’s no less valuable or effective!
Let’s explore the ways in which data guides you toward better, more effective virtual fundraising events and live streams.
Here’s some good news. It’s much, much easier to determine what works and what doesn’t in a virtual environment than an in-person one. Viewership numbers are instantly available, in both your mobile bidding software and most permanent recordings of your livestream. With this in mind, after your virtual event, review the recording. Take note of how many people watched and for how long. Did your numbers stay consistent until
the end, or did you have a drop-off in viewership at some point? If you did, what was happening at the time? Can you blame the drop in viewership on an unexciting video? An on-camera speech that would’ve been inspiring in-person, but didn’t translate well in the virtual world? Data provides instant feedback into what you want to change and/or adjust, to make your livestream better next time around.
We always recommend soliciting feedback from your biggest fans and major supporters. Again, this provides an instant roadmap into how to improve next time. Ask your supporters and major donors what they thought of your virtual program. Encourage
them to be brutally honest! What did they love and what could they have done without? Were there heartstring-tugging moments that made them want to give, and give big?
And on the topic of giving, use data to track your donors’ activity at various event formats. Let’s say for example you’ve hosted both an in-person event and a virtual one. Are some of your donors giving at both? Are you expanding your reach in the virtual world, and seeing new names appear? This is data that can not only help you decide what format will be most lucrative for you, it can also help you target the right donors. In other words, give the big givers opportunities to give big. Then repeat!
Data: Cost Vs. Revenue
Now it’s time to think about your budget and what you’ll spend producing a successful fundraising event. Out of the main three types of fundraising events – in-person, hybrid fusion, and virtual – you’re going to shell out the most for a hybrid fusion event. Just the tech and AV alone typically costs about 1.8 times as much as an in-person event, factoring in the livestream itself and the technical staff required to broadcast it. But it takes money to make money, right? You’ll make it back quickly, especially if you post your livestream so folks can watch it again after the event. You’ll bring in, on average, 15% more in donations by keeping your show viewable. So keep sharing that link and marketing it! Our data also suggests that live auction items sell for about the same price, whether you’re hosting an in-person, hybrid OR virtual event. But online auctions? Yes, please. They outperform the old tried-and-true silent auction every time – by as much as 40%.
Data: Event Formats
So about those big three. Which fundraising format are your fellow nonprofits using the most? And how is that trend evolving since spring 2020, when the world was buttoned up tight? During Year One of the pandemic, nearly half of the events we booked were virtual. 11% were in-person – all of them occurring in January and February. During the summer and fall, a small number of orgs gave hybrid a try and planned a very small in-person event to accompany the virtual livestream. In this market, in 2021, virtual events were still the overwhelming favorite. 85% of the events we helped plan were virtual. A few more orgs gave hybrid a try, about 10%, and the remaining 5% stuck to the traditional in-person format.
So far in 2022, most orgs are optimistic about in-person events, with nearly 70% going forward with plans for one. About one in four are producing a virtual-only event, and about 10% plan a hybrid of virtual and in-person.
Data-Keeping: Updated Event Formats
Meantime, some of our clients who pivoted to virtual in 2020 are now experimenting with new combinations of those main three formats. Some are streaming their in-person events from the live event location. Some are hosting a Week of Giving, kicking it off with a virtual event, then finishing off the week with a smaller, in-person event (or vice versa), that may or may not have a major giving element, and incorporating the entire kit and caboodle into another livestream, that folks can watch over and over again. Remember, keeping your event viewable after the event brings in an average 15% more revenue. The data has spoken! Now use it to boost your ROI.