Hybrid Fusion Fundraising Events: The Fundraiser’s Comprehensive Guide
Hello, Hybrid Events.
Virtual was all the rage in 2020. That’s because the world was buttoned up tight and virtual was pretty much the only fundraising option at hand. Now we’re embracing an emerging and constantly EVOLVING trend, combining the best of both virtual and in-person worlds into what we call hybrid or fusion fundraising events. Let’s define hybrid fundraising events, explore your options and the advantages hybrid affords you, and get you on the road to planning a successful hybrid fusion fundraiser – right now!
Hybrid & Virtual Fundraising Events – What are they?
What exactly IS a hybrid fundraising event? In essence, it’s the marriage of a virtual and an in-person event. That’s the simple definition. But then it gets complicated – in a good way – because there are SO MANY WAYS you can execute one! What’s best for you, your donors and guests? How can you cater to both the introverts and the extroverts in your crowd? How do you optimize the experience for both your in-person and your at-home supporters? It’s a balancing act but it can be done with great success, provided you have a rock-solid plan and the right team to execute it.
Why host one?
Another simple answer: They are most certainly the present and for sure the future of fundraising. Trust us, they’re not going anywhere. Gathering restrictions are constantly changing, and may be for months or years to come. Who knows? But we DO know, hybrid fusion fundraising events are here to stay. They are defined by inclusivity. Thanks to their expanded reach, they’re a marketer’s dream! Anyone with a device and an internet connection can view the show, from wherever they may be. Just think of the possibilities. Use savvy marketing to get the word out about your event and watch your fan base grow and grow. Some people may never be comfortable gathering in large groups again. Thanks to hybrid fusion events, they don’t have to be or feel left out. Some folks ARE comfortable getting together in-person, but maybe their partners aren’t. Or maybe they don’t have child care. Or perhaps sweatpants and slippers sound better than formal attire and heels. On the other hand, people who ARE hungry for in-person social connection can get out and attend an event in-person, just like the good ol’ days. Fact: Hybrid fusion events offer something for everyone.
So what are your options when it comes to planning a hybrid fundraiser? Let’s detail some of the types we’ve executed, so you can decide what’s best for you and your org.
Hybrid & Virtual Fundraising Event Examples
In this variation, you can offer an in-person stage show with your dynamic duo (auctioneer and emcee) that folks present are watching, while you live stream to folks at home, simultaneously. Here’s how it works: You have a group in a venue – a ballroom, or an outdoor venue as examples, who is watching a stage show live. That stage show is being live streamed to folks at home, who are watching on their computers or Smart TVs. Both groups are seeing the same show, at the same time. There’s another way to pull this off that just might send you down Nostalgia Lane. Remember drive-in movies? That’s another variation of the simulcast hybrid event. The folks attending in person are watching the live stage show from their cars, while that same show is being simulcast to folks at home. Naturally, you’ll need to check your local restrictions and regulations, before you send out invitations to your donors and supporters who are comfortable gathering in groups. A third option? You can also opt to broadcast from a livestream studio. Did you know? We have our very own livestream studio and can be your one-stop shop when it comes to virtual events!
You can record a live program, make strategic edits and broadcast your hybrid virtual event at a later date of your choosing. This is effective because it allows you to target yet another demographic of supporters. Your recorded show will have its own unique giving strategy and social and marketing campaigns. And you’re in the driver’s seat! You have a lot more control when it’s recorded, as opposed to simulcasted. So how do you want it to look? Will you include edited videos, PPTs or other vivacious visuals, to tailor its content for the viewers you’re targeting? And speaking of targeting, whom is this recorded show for? The same supporters who watched your simulcast? An entirely new base? Both? What revenue streams will be included as part of the recorded program, as opposed to your live program? How long should it be? What type of content works best? Consider all the details and logistics from every angle. The answers could completely alter the revenue and engagement strategies you’ve relied on for years. And THAT, friends, is the very definition of innovation!
Week of Giving
Maximize momentum with a Week of Giving. In this variation, you stretch your event out over an entire week with clearly defined “start” and “finish” events. So you bookend your Week of Giving with an event or activity on either side. For instance, let’s say your first day is specifically focused on an in-person event. It will look like a traditional one, but on a smaller scale. You’ll rely more on in-person speeches, revenue streams, and games. You can do all of the fun things we used to do in person. INCLUDING HUG! As usual, you’ll charge these folks admission, so add value by offering entertainment, dinner and maybe swag bags. You’ll want to have multiple cameras at this event, to document all of the fun from many different angles. Then, after the night is over, your video editor can use that content for your virtual event. In the Week of Giving variation, your virtual event will be a week or so after the in-person one. The days in between are filled with online fundraising fun and games, peer-to-peer campaigns, trivia, social media contests, whatever you can come up with! Think of them as tiny little mini-events, designed to tie the entire Week of Giving together. It’s going to be a whirlwind of a week, but that’s how you maximize the momentum! You’re staying in people’s hearts and minds for longer. You’ll expand your reach, because the folks who were at the in-person event will definitely want to watch the edited-down version, too. And wouldn’t it be fun to watch as a group? You can make it happen by organizing a formal or informal watch party.
Watch parties bring together a small (or not so small, if you have the space and can do so safely) group of people – typically those who already know each other – to tune into the virtual or live event. It may be from the comfort of their own homes, or another private venue. It’s an intimate yet powerful format for guests who prefer smaller, more intimate groups. Plus, it’s a great choice for folks who enjoy VIP experiences and those who enjoy socializing as much as they love supporting your great cause. Watch parties provide opportunities for giving, as well. You might invite folks to pool their resources and donate a large gift as a group. Then that gift can be announced, and subsequently CELEBRATED, during the main event. If you EVER have a chance to harness group energy, grab it with both hands! Harnessing group energy is fun, inspiring, community-building and can be quite lucrative for your nonprofit. And since giving begets giving, you may also be able to capitalize on competition. How? By challenging others to step up and donate!
Pro Tip: Incentivize watch parties by offering any number of fun upgrades or experiences like a VIP appearance or celebrity chef at next year’s watch party, for the group that raises the most money. Healthy, good-natured competition is a fundraiser’s secret weapon! How’s this for a fantastic auction item: Offer up a watch party a year from now – at your home, or the home of one of your VIP donors – with your dynamic duo present. That way, everyone has something to look forward to!
Take this show on the road! Broadcast from a dedicated livestream studio or a watch party. You can broadcast from most anywhere you can think of. Get outside, weather permitting! Outdoor venues are preferable, in the current climate. So plan an outside event and have some fun. Are you raising money for a school? Get those kids out there singing, dancing, performing and doing cute kid stuff! Are you raising money for an animal shelter? Cute animals are your adorable, camera-ready props. Those watch parties we just mentioned – might one of your long-term donors host one in their backyard? Then you can go live from their home! Help them decorate with your colors, your logo, your sponsors’ logos, props that align with your event’s theme. What are you raising money for? Pick a location that’s relevant to your cause and we’ll help you make it happen.
Peer-to-peer fundraising involves creating personal fundraising pages on behalf of your cause. You encourage your friends to do so as well – expanding the reach of the fundraising endeavor, while educating folks about what you do. You can enlist your favorite software company to help you set up and run one concurrently with your hybrid event. As mentioned above, team fundraising is a fantastic way to encourage healthy competition, which in turn is great for your cause. The popularity of peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns has skyrocketed in this new world. Take advantage! Need software company recommendations? We’ve got ‘em – reach out!
Serving Both At-Home + In-Person Crowds
This is undoubtedly one of your biggest challenges with regard to hybrid fusion events – serving both the at-home and in-person crowds. You need emcees and auctioneers who are familiar with both in-person AND virtual events, along with all of their attendant strategies. Not only fundraising strategies, but tricks and hacks to keep both crowds occupied, engaged and participating.
Donor Experience for the In-Person Crowd
Your in-person crowd will likely be smaller at a hybrid fusion fundraising event. So your donors experience a more intimate and memorable time. Think of it less like a traditional in-person event, and more like a pre-event VIP reception. Since you have fewer folks to serve, you can upgrade their experience in myriad ways. You can serve better food and wine without breaking your budget. You can go all-out with decorations and centerpieces, since you won’t have as many tables. (And you SHOULD go all-out, because these decorations and centerpieces will help make your virtual program more visually appealing. What a great time to have a theme!) Valet parking upgrades the experience for your in-person crowd. What else can you come up with that would make your donors feel appreciated?
Have you ever had a chance to visit a TV newsroom and studio? It’s pure entertainment to see what goes on behind the scenes of a live virtual program. Your guests are watching the show folks at home are watching, but from a completely different perspective. And they can use their smartphones to engage with guests who are watching from home. You’re texting and/or live chatting with your friends and fellow supporters who are watching the show that’s unfolding right in front of you, while they’re watching from home. Imagine a video chat booth, where you could charge folks to hop in and say hi to the folks watching at home. That could get interesting, right?! The whole experience is more fun for all, when you look for ways to maximize your every environment. What else can YOU come up with?
Donor Experience for the At-Home Crowd
A virtual fundraiser is designed specifically for folks watching from home, so it’s much shorter than your typical in-person live event. First and foremost, it MUST. BE. VISUAL. We have award-winning video production mavens on staff with top-notch skills. They’re well-versed on what works and what doesn’t, to keep viewers engaged and giving. They’re all about trying new things. What can you come up with? After all, we’re living in bizarre times – why not innovate and get a little crazy with your visuals? For example, let’s say you’re selling a package to Hawaii. While your hosts discuss the particulars, what would folks at home rather watch for two minutes – a static PPT slide with some words and a couple of images, or a hilarious looped video of your ED’s face motion-tracked on a deep sea snorkeling expedition? If your org’s recognizable faces are willing to join us in the Virtual Theatre of the Absurd, we can make this whole production a whole lot more fun for everyone. We know not every org wants to be silly – but think of the possibilities here. We are only limited by what you can dream up!
As we just mentioned, we’re also really big fans of the live chat feature and the way in which it enables the at-home crowd to feel like a part of the action. Commenting live as the action unfolds on your device screen is fun for everyone! Folks at home can be heard (in real time) and they definitely feel like part of the event, even from afar, no matter where they are. Although we do miss out on the element of intimacy when we’re not able to gather in person, your enthusiastic chatter from home really does increase the feeling of togetherness. We ARE all in this together, aren’t we?
Hybrid Event Production: Pro AV Tips
When you’re planning a hybrid fusion event, it’s not easy to engage the at-home crowd, while you’re in the presence of the in-person supporters. It’s something you’ll want to discuss in-depth with your AV pros. Here are some valuable tips we’ve learned from our experiences producing hybrid fusion events.
There’s no doubt about it. Having multiple camera angles at your in-person event is the SINGLE BEST WAY to engage your virtual crowd, and make sure they don’t feel left out. Yes, it will cost you more. But it’s worth it for the intimacy and variety it affords your at-home crowd. Ideally, you’ll have at least three cameras, with at least one of them moving, roving and following the action. Set up one as the ‘stage or talent’ cam, one to the side of the crowd that can pan the action, and one that’s moving, following your Dynamic Duo. Your Dynamic Duo should be talking DIRECTLY to this camera – folks at home can’t help but feel included, when you employ this strategy.
Avoid Using One Static Camera
If you don’t have the budget for multiple cameras, we strongly suggest having a camera operator. Otherwise, you wind up with a static, locked-down camera at the back of the room where all folks see is the backs of guests’ heads. Folks at home can see what’s going on, sort of, but they feel more like a voyeur than a participant. They can see that someone is on stage, speaking, but that’s all they can see. They can’t really see the speaker’s body language and they can’t see facial expressions at all. A great speaker can command a room with a simple head tilt or one artfully emphasized syllable. But that’s not going to come across from a distance. The result? The emotional impact is so watered down, it’s practically nonexistent. Worst of all, folks watching at home can see that the in-person crowd IS feeling all of the feels. So then what you have is an even bigger divide between the in-person and the at-home crowd. That’s the EXACT OPPOSITE of what we’re going for here, folks! If you only have one live camera, make sure there’s a warm body behind it. Have your camera operator move around, getting close-ups of the speakers’ faces AND close-ups of the faces in the crowd. And make sure your camera op has a chance to rehearse at the site, before going live.
Content is king, ESPECIALLY for your virtual crowd. Hopefully you invested in multiple cameras, because if you did, you can have a lot of fun with your Dynamic Duo. It’s a proven, powerful way to make sure the at-home crowd feels included. For instance, have your auctioneer and/or emcee address the at-home crowd from behind the scenes of the in-person event – backstage, perhaps? Then the camera can follow your host (or hosts) onstage, while they address the in-person crowd. This fun little exercise goes a long way towards making your at-home crowd feel like a part of the action. Other ways to motivate and involve your home crowd? Giveaways, raffles, contests, and the live chat are just a few examples of things you can do to make the folks at home NOT feel like an afterthought. It’s not easy, but nor is it impossible, to serve both crowds.
Picture in Picture
Are you old enough to remember when Picture in Picture first came out for televisions at home? It was a huge deal, right?! WOW – the technology was simply MIND-BLOWING! Take this spirit and try it on for size when producing your hybrid fusion event. Have your auctioneer and/or emcee in the lower right corner of the screen, while the big picture shows the crowd waving, the slides of what your auctioneer is selling, shots of your mission in action, incredible entertainment, or show stopping centerpieces. Anything that’s visually pleasing belongs in the big picture!
Just as we’re big fans of a dynamic giving thermometer displayed while fundraising, we’re also big fans of countdown clocks, synced for both the in-person and home crowd. Any opportunity to tie your two crowds together is worth pursuing. Countdown clocks are a lot of fun and they lend a sense of urgency to the event, thus heightening the excitement.
DO NOT – we repeat – DO NOT rely on wifi alone. There are way too many things that can go wrong when you put all of your eggs in one wifi basket. And there’s no Plan B if it fails. Don’t chance it! Even if it doesn’t fail per se, it’s likely not robust enough for your amazing show AND all of its visual bells and whistles. At the very least, it will likely glitch at some point. The at-home viewer’s screen freezes. Or they lose audio. Or the audio/video are not synced – we’ve ALL seen that and we can all agree, can we not, that it’s INCREDIBLY annoying!? Relying solely on wifi is asking for trouble. Hardline at the venue. Please.
Full disclosure: These pro tips will cost more. No question about it – no way around it. Paying for three or four moving cameras – staffed by PROFESSIONALS, using PROFESSIONAL equipment, not interns and/or volunteers running around with phones – is going to be more expensive for you. Sure, you can position one static camera at the back of the room, and send that out to the folks at home. But just think of the final product, which will live in perpetuity online. One boring wide shot, where you can barely see the action? Or a mix of camera angles, capturing close-ups of bidding wars, your Dynamic Duo’s interaction with the folks in the room, games, what have you. Imagine watching the Oscars, without the close-up reaction shots. How dull would that be? You get what you pay for, and in this case, investing in multiple cameras will result in an infinitely more entertaining show for you to keep online for days, weeks, months – yes, even YEARS – after the main event. When viewed through that lens, you can understand and appreciate the value of professional, top-notch AV services.
Fundraising event and mobile bidding software companies had to master the art of the pivot in 2020, along with so many other industries. It’s a pretty impressive pivot, to boot! They’ve streamlined everything that pertains to raising money. These days, many software companies are offering one-stop-shop platforms, with everything you need for both your in-person and virtual crowds. The bells and whistles on these upgraded platforms are quite impressive! Before the event, you can sell tickets through your mobile bidding software. You can use it at check-in for your in-person guests. And at check-out, naturally. As for your virtual crowd, with that one magical upgraded platform, they can do it all. They can register, watch, bid, and chat live with their fellow guests. All within the same platform! Simplicity. How do they do it? Here’s some great news for those of us who are, shall we say, a bit technologically challenged? You don’t even have to know exactly how they do it! They’ve been producing hybrid fusion events for some time now. They know precisely what you need, and they know how to troubleshoot when things go wrong. Employing a rock-solid mobile bidding software company will save you time and trouble. We partner with some amazing ones and point you in the right direction. Reach out!
In-Studio Staffing Solutions
Think of COMMUNICATION as the “sun” your hybrid event “earth” rotates around. With that in mind, who do you need on your all-star team, while planning a hybrid fusion event? The live environment is not for the faint of heart! You need experts who are specially trained and preferably those who already have experience; they’ll be better able to keep their cool and quickly solve any problems that may arise. In addition to your auctioneer, here’s what you’re going to need to pull off the virtual part of your event.
Mobile Bidding Clerk
A professional mobile bidding clerk’s role is to display giving screens to your fundraising hosts during the live broadcast as needed. They track incentive drawings, gifts, matches. You know when a generous donor offers to match people’s individual donations, up to a certain amount of money? The clerk is one of the behind-the-scenes heroes, who communicates with your hosts while the event is live. They sound the “alarm” when the challenge is met. They are the first to hear about those exciting and unexpected donations when they come in. Your professional event clerk is basically a lifeline between your hosts and your guests, whether they’re in-person or watching virtually.
Your stage manager is also an expert communicator. But instead of dealing with numbers, they’re responsible for the smooth execution of your event script and the staff cues associated with it. In a hybrid format, they’re the glue holding your two teams together; the on-site (in person) one and the in-studio one. Stage managers are expert jugglers; they always have lots of balls in the air!
Script Driver or Teleprompter Operator
Your script driver manages the display of the words on the monitor that your Dynamic Duo is watching, as they talk to viewers at home. Need changes during the show? That’s your script driver’s job. Adding content, if needed, and updating numbers as they come in are also duties your script driver is trained to manage.
A chat cheerleader is yet another link between your onsite team and your viewers at home. They encourage folks at home to participate through games, factoids and trivia questions. They drum up enthusiasm and excitement in the virtual chat. They pass along comments to your Dynamic Duo so they can engage your virtual guests in the moment. They serve as ambassadors for your org, reinforcing mission language, educating viewers and cheerleading when they give. They’re ready to answer any questions your viewers may have. Chat cheerleaders bring the fun and help bridge the gap between the in-person and the at-home crowds.
Hybrid events require all of the above, for your live stream, PLUS additional staffers to handle the onsite work. Your onsite team will be an additional clerk, writing down the numbers old-school, AND bid assistants to communicate with the onsite guests. We leave nothing to chance. Therefore, when you partner with us, you’ll get the best of both worlds; virtual and in-person.
The good news is, no matter what the future holds, we’ve got you covered! Will you and your org want to go back to in-person? Some of you certainly do, and some of you definitely do not – at least not any time soon. Speaking of time, it means something different these days, doesn’t it? It’s still sort of warped and has lost a lot of meaning, as we navigate a world hard hit by a global pandemic.
But whatever you choose, BOOK NOW! While virtual was the new hot thing in 2020, both virtual AND hybrid fusion fundraising events are the new hot thing NOW. Which means your favorite vendors are getting booked as you read this! So get on their calendars before it’s too late.
Need recommendations? We’ve got ‘em! Reach out to schedule your free consultation!