Fusion Fundraisers 101
A blend of the best of in-person AND virtual fundraising galas!
How long will the pandemic limit live events and fundraising galas? No one knows, of course, but a question we’re just as interested in is this: When it’s over, will people still want to gather in such large groups? We’re planning on NO… and YES! How, you ask? With a sweet little thing we’ve coined Fusion Fundraisers.
A Fundraising Event Hybrid of Traditional In-Person + Virtual Galas
The virtual galas we’ve planned and executed have all been even more successful than we could’ve hoped for – so successful, in fact, we suspect that even when we ARE legally and safely able to gather in large groups again, not everyone will want to. That’s a testament to how effective VGs truly are, but that’s not all. It’s a safe bet that for some folks, big crowds aren’t going to hold the same appeal they once did (at least not for a long time). But we hate to leave people out and we HATE to leave fundraising dollars on the table, so we began wondering – how can we appeal to most everyone, promote equity AND satisfy a multitude of donor personality types – while still providing what nonprofit organizations need from their fundraising endeavors? Fusion Fundraisers! It’s a cool new concept of a blend of a live virtual gala and a traditional in-person event. We think they’re going to be all the rage soon. Try one on and enjoy some major advantages – increased reach AND upgraded experiences for every donor personality with decreased hard costs. The result? Higher net revenue for your org. You’ll cater to extroverts, introverts, event-lovers and homebodies alike – all while making the fundraising dollars you need to keep operating and providing services to fulfill your mission. Winning!
How Does a Fusion Fundraiser Work?
Invite however many folks you can, legally and safely – for this example, let’s say 25-100. Gather guests together for your choice of a lovely evening spent amongst like-minded friends OR an upgraded VIP experience – drinks and hors d’oeuvres, similar to a traditional event but even more thoughtfully curated, since you’re not having to plan for (and pay for) such a large crowd. Since you’ll have fewer people in attendance, you can plan a more intimate gathering of old friends and loyal supporters; or go all-out with a VIP experience – upgraded quality food and wine, elegant tables, artful decor, valet parking…whatever you can come up with to enhance donor experience. As for entertainment, do what you will during the cocktail hour, but create the main attraction – your superbly-crafted live program – knowing two things: 1. It will double as your virtual gala program and 2. It will be adapted in creative and more visual ways for viewers at home.
In-person guests will experience the live program together, as they normally would. Folks at home will watch a virtual version (mindfully adapted to enhance their enjoyment and engagement), from the comfort of their own couches. They can watch that night, the next day, the next week, two weeks later – tell us what you think would be the best fit for you, your supporters and your org, and your dream can become a reality!
How do YOU envision your Fusion Fundraiser event?
Will you simulcast the virtual event at the same time as your in-person gala? If you will, you’ll likely need a separate emcee to host the pre- and post-virtual program, catering to its unique needs, while the elements of an in-person gala that don’t translate well to virtual (like games, longer speeches, thank you’s, keynotes, etc.) are underway. You could also consider having your emcee pre-record those elements of the virtual broadcast. The elements that don’t translate well to virtual would not be included in the virtual gala broadcast. You’ll also need a fundraising auctioneer familiar with both the live environment as well as virtual giving environments, strategies and methodology. And you’ll definitely want another bid assistant monitoring the mobile bidding platform’s incoming bids.
We can tell you from experience – the execution of a simulcast virtual gala, with all its moving parts, scripting, and visual bells and whistles, is a show in itself! We’re just salivating at the thought of the kind of innovation events like this will generate. Seriously – how much more creative would we all get? And how fun would THAT live chat stream be?!
But wait! We’re just getting warmed up – here’s yet ANOTHER option: You can record the live program, make strategic edits and broadcast the virtual gala at a later date of your choosing – targeting another demographic of your supporters entirely – with its own unique giving strategy and social and marketing campaigns. Now you have more decisions to make. Will you edit in videos, PPTs or other visual fodder into the recording to cater its content for the viewers you intend to entice to watch the virtual show? Will you target the same demographic or an entirely new base? What revenue streams will be included as part of the virtual program vs your live program? How long should you craft the virtual program to be for ideal engagement and giving? What type of content is working best in a virtual program? Consider all the details and logistics from every angle, as the answers could completely alter the revenue and engagement strategies you’ve used for years.
The pros are many! A major one? Cost savings. You won’t need as big of a ballroom, since you’ll be hosting way fewer people. You’ll save on food, drinks, decor, signage, printed materials, registration costs, valet and AV – even when you take into account quality upgrades. Catering is generally a live event’s greatest expense, but since you’re executing it on a smaller scale, you won’t spend nearly as much. Plus, if it IS indeed a more carefully curated VIP experience, you can consider also upgrading ticket prices to reflect any changes.
The other thing we believe will delight donors is the element of choice. With a Fusion Fundraiser event, all donors can decide – will they get all dolled up and attend the event in person, or will they slip into pajamas, order takeout, kick back and relax at home? Either way, they’re supporting your mission! Bonus – they’re doing it precisely how they PREFER to. From what we know of the Big Five, donors have all sorts of different motivations, preferences and preferred methods of supporting their favorite orgs. Why not cater to even more of them, to better meet them where they are? Because as we all know – happy donors remain donors for longer and give more as a result!
There are so many ways a Fusion Fundraiser could be imagined, introduced and executed. The mere thought of all this innovation got us like… woot woot! WHAT ELSE CAN WE COME UP WITH?! Might a Fusion Fundraiser be right for you and your org? We believe this is the future of fundraising in 2020 and 2021. Contact us! Let’s brainstorm and get to work planning your next event. We are, after all, ALL about trying new things around here.