Don’t let anything derail your fall and winter fundraising plans. Be ready for everything and consider a hybrid event – a combination of in-person and online or virtual elements.
Hybrid events are inclusive. They encourage donors near and far to support your mission, in a way that works best for them. So hybrid events help you expand your reach. What’s more, they’re lucrative, fun, and they offer lots of room for creativity.
Worried about cost? Don’t be! Regardless of your budget, there’s a strategy that’s just right for you and your org. So what is your budget? How many bells and whistles can you afford? Here are some options for your consideration.
When planning a hybrid fundraiser, you’re serving two very different audiences – one in person and one watching from elsewhere. There are too many different variations to list. But here are a few of our faves.
Hybrid Watch Parties
Hybrid watch parties bring a group of people together to watch the livestream together, with a host who’s there to guide the experience. You’ll want to provide your host with a (VERY conversational!) script, to keep everyone on the same wavelength. The host sort of steers the ship, so to speak – showing guests where the food and drinks are, making sure everyone is gathered in front of the computer or smart TV when it’s showtime. They can prompt and guide the mission-related discussion. They can also help folks with text-to-give technology, if necessary. Watch parties offer a plethora of giving opportunities. Viewers can pool their resources and donate one large gift – which can then be recognized and celebrated during the in-person event.
Capitalize on Competition
If you really want to bring the fun (and raise a lot more money while you’re at it!), you can plan for a few watch parties to be held simultaneously, while adding an element of competition. Whichever party raises the most money gets a prize – AND bragging rights!
A hosted watch party will be a little more structured than one without – a bit more formal, perhaps. But a great host will be both leader AND guest. They can be as involved or as hands-off as you want them to be. So if you decide to go this route, choose your host wisely!
One Show, One Camera
Perhaps the most simple (and subsequently, most affordable) hybrid fundraising method is to produce the show for your in-person audience, then position a camera in the back of the room. The back-of-the-room camera is what folks at home are watching; t’s the source of the livestream that’s showing up on their computer or Smart TV. This tends to make virtual viewers feel a bit left out – it’s simply impossible for your auctioneer and emcee to serve both audiences equally. But you’re still going to expand your reach, by putting your in-person event out there in cyberspace. You’ll hook the folks who wouldn’t have attended your in-person event anyway, but who still may want to catch the action from wherever they’re most comfortable. And hopefully they’re participating in the chat!
With this variation, your in-person crowd watches a live show (not necessarily in their cars, although that can be a fun, more casual option), while that same show is being live streamed to folks watching from home. The live show could take place at a winery, wedding venue, really any private property that can accommodate large groups outdoors. It’s more socially-distant than being in-person in a ballroom, and it’s a great option to mix it up.
Livestream Studio Viewing Party
Most of us are intrigued by behind-the-scenes entertainment. Capitalize on this by inviting a crowd to watch your livestream from the recording studio. Your in-person guests get a different perspective of the show being livestreamed to virtual viewers. Your two audiences can chat with each other while the show is underway. Your in-person guests can send pictures of the behind-the-scenes action to folks at home. Can you see how this could create quite the buzz?
One Gala – Multiple Cities
What do you get when you combine all of the above? You get the gold standard of hybrid events! A multi-city gala. If your org is part of a national chapter, you’ve got to give this a try! And even if you’re NOT the local affiliate of a larger organization, this is an event to aspire to. Think of New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, when you have a host in Times Square, checking in with hosts in other areas of the city, and even cities beyond. Did you see the simultaneously co-hosting from New York and Los Angeles, respectively? That’s how your multi-city gala would be set up. You have hosts/fundraising ambassadors at multiple locations, either around your city or around the country, accompanied by live stream teams at each venue. You have a master engineer switching between locations. Your fundraising ambassadors can check in with each other. They can interview an org leader, who’s in another city, attending their gala there. The technology is there, so let’s have some fun with it! Obviously, a multi-city event will require a budget more robust than other hybrid models. But just think about your expanded reach! And people can watch it over and over again, since you’ll record it and make it available for viewing after the main event.
Now let’s consider some of the virtual elements that can make your home crowd feel like a part of the action in a hybrid format.
Fundraising events are the perfect vehicle for powerful storytelling and videos, and this is especially true with regard to hybrid and virtual events. Folks watching at home aren’t distracted by other activities and background noise the way they can be with in-person events. So if you can, invest in video. It’ll pay for itself by providing a better understanding of what you do. As a result, you’ll collect more donations. Plus, you can upcycle them for other campaigns throughout the year after your event. It’s the best way to educate folks about your mission and hook them emotionally, and ultimately, financially. NOW they’re invested in you and your mission!
The chat function of a virtual event engages viewers and invites them to take part in the action, instead of simply watching. It helps viewers connect with each other while watching your live stream. Add fun facts and mission-centered trivia to keep all eyes on YOU. Viewers can send you love notes. And if you offer any contests, it’s the perfect place for viewers to cast their votes. Best costume? Most adorable adoptable animal? That sort of thing. Bet you have some ideas for contests, too!
Go SOCIAL! PaddleRaise
A Go SOCIAL! PaddleRaise is a little somethin’ somethin’ that you can use in myriad ways. You can use it as a stand-alone fundraiser, or a companion to your in-person event.Yet to really get the most out of your Go Social PaddleRaise, use it in conjunction with your existing multi-tiered fundraising campaign. So what is it, exactly? It’s a virtual fundraiser, but in a much more scaled-down format. Keep it short – around 15-20 minutes – and encourage all of your supporters to share it on their social media channels, peer-to-peer (P2P) style.
As for content, calls to action and incentives, let your creative juices flow. There really are no rules (except definitely remember to ask for gifts, and provide an easy way for folks to do so). You can always invite someone important to your org – perhaps a board member or service recipient – to showcase a special talent and/or add some comic relief. Maybe one of your org’s recognizable leaders – your ED or board president – recites a spoken-word poem with mission-centric language, or sings a song to a popular melody you’ve rewritten the lyrics for to showcase your org. (We can help you write it!) Our partner, the Cleveland High School Foundation, had astonishing success with this little tool – check it out for yourself here.
Hybrid – Here to Stay
Statistically speaking, while in-person events are making a cautious comeback, hybrid events are here to stay. Take a look at the data from our friends at Eventgroove. 63% of the event and fundraising planners surveyed said they would plan an in-person event in 2022. Also, a full one-fifth of those surveyed said they planned to focus on hybrid events, while less than 3% are going solely virtual.
Whatever you choose, KEEP FUNDRAISING! Your fellow fundraisers are. In the survey we just mentioned, nearly 80% said they were planning to host some sort of event, while only 11% were on the fence.
In case you’re among that 11% – on the fence about whether it’s the right time for a fundraiser – take a quick moment to check out this tool. Our fundraising calculator helps you determine how much you’ll spend on a virtual, in-person or hybrid event. It’s a risk-free assessment – check it out!