Every(Re)Action | 7 Tips for Great Nonprofit Hybrid Events

January 25, 2022 | Grace Duginski
Every(Re)Action | 7 Tips for Great Nonprofit Hybrid Events

Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, “many groups want to throw their doors open wide and welcome donors back to in-person events,” reports the Chronicle of Philanthropy. However, for many nonprofits to meet donors where they are and meet their revenue goals at the same time, organizations are creating hybrid event experiences for supporters—and technology has the ability to give social good organizations the boost they need to make the most of these fundraising events.

Why choose a hybrid fundraising event model?

It’s easy to assume no virtual event can beat the energy and connection opportunities of an in-person model, but as the Chronicle points out, there are plenty of upsides to fully- or partially-virtual events. As many organizations have discovered or re-discovered over the past two years, you can engage more supporters around their love for your mission, and make it accessible to them no matter where they live—one interviewee told the Chronicle about an event that brought in attendees from 18 countries!

Not only can your event cross international borders, but donors can show their support from the comfort of their homes without needing to navigate guidance and requirements for COVID safety across different states and regions. Ultimately, when you give donors the ability to support you from anywhere, you stand a much better chance of retaining them for the long run—and advancing your mission that much more.

Tips for effective nonprofit hybrid events

The Chronicle interviewed “several fundraising and event-planning experts who shared tips for creating a hybrid event that entertains donors, maximizes giving, and keeps staff and supporters safe.” Here are some of our favorite tips—plus ways to take them to the next level with the right technology.

1. Start virtual and stay flexible about in-person activities.

“Start with what you know is possible now[…] a virtual event,” and commit to flexibility around the in-person portion. Monitoring your local COVID situation in order to make that kind of judgment call can require extra effort, so automating other tasks like email reminders can help balance your staff’s workload.

2. Program design is everything.

Visual and storytelling elements can help you keep guests engaged, whether they’re attending in person or virtually. After the event is over, keep that cohesive programmatic feel going with beautifully designed, on-brand emails that remind attendees how much they enjoyed themselves—and how much their support matters to your mission.

3. Tailor the event to your different audiences, since they’re different experiences.

Plan your virtual and in-person event experiences so that they flow together seamlessly and neither audience feels left behind. A unified CRM can help you make sure your data on who attended and which method they used is accurate and actionable, so you can automatically send the right in-event and follow-up messages and steward those connections into the future.

4. Ensure both virtual and in-person audiences are included in time-bound events like auctions.

To get the best results, one expert interviewed by the Chronicle recommends using a system like the newest addition to our platform, Network for Good, that enables people to donate to your auction event by texting. This will reassure them that you value their support and want them to stay engaged in time-sensitive activities, no matter how they choose to attend.

5. Use texting before, during, and after to capture the moment.

Few channels capture supporter attention like SMS does—M+R found in their 2021 Benchmarks that mobile fundraising messages had a clickthrough rate of over 6%, compared to a clickthrough rate of under 2% for email fundraising messages. The Chronicle says that texting can be an effective way to “remind online attendees to tune in, get their attention during key points in the program, share ways to give, and highlight auction items.”

6. Capture gifts in real time and celebrate with your guests.

Functionalities like giving thermometers that show a running total of the amount raised, along with donor names, can help you keep your fundraising momentum going all event long. One expert described this technique to the Chronicle as “a huge win in being able to do that level of donor cultivation, recognition, and stewardship in real time.”

7. Enlist donors’ help with distributed hosting and expand your event’s reach even more.

The Chronicle points out that some of your more dedicated supporters or Board members may be open to hosting viewing parties for smaller groups of friends and family at their own homes. With a little logistical support from your organization, like a piece of screening equipment or appetizers, this model of distributed hosting and fundraising can help you expand your reach. We know, for example, that more than 20 percent of supporters who have taken action through our Mobilize network have come from one of our bring-a-friend features—don’t underestimate your donors’ desire to share the event experience with their loved ones.

Our take

Creating a welcoming, engaging, and effective hybrid event is all about speaking to the right audience segment, with the right messages, in the right channels, at the right times. Even when your event is happening in multiple spaces simultaneously, you don’t want to leave money on the table or lose an opportunity to deepen a supporter’s bond with your mission. The ability to see all your donor data in one centralized, reliable place means you can be sure every message you send feels authentic and appropriate to your supporters’ unique journeys with you—talk to us to learn more.