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How to Host a Hybrid Fundraising Event

How to Host a Hybrid Fundraising Event

Starting a fundraising event is both exciting and effective, and as of today, charity events remain one of the most effective methods we can rely on to support a cause.

While fundraising events are traditionally hosted as in-person events, in recent years, many event planners and non-profit organizations have also explored the idea of virtual fundraising events, especially to get away from the social distancing and quarantine policies throughout the pandemic period.

Yet, soon enough, both organizers and donors realized how this virtual format does offer its perks. For instance, it’s easier for donors to attend the event from anywhere, even from the confines of their homes, and making their contributions online has never been easier and more secure. 

However, despite these unique benefits, the virtual event format has one glaring weakness: the inability to replicate face-to-face interactions. After all, many donors attend fundraising events not only to support a cause but also to network with fellow donors and, let’s admit it, to show off.

This is where the hybrid fundraising event format comes in, giving the best of both worlds, and in this guide, we will discuss all you need to know about hosting a hybrid fundraising event in 2022.

In this guide, we will learn about:

  • The hybrid event format
  • Hybrid fundraising event: unique facts, benefits, and challenges
  • How to establish a comprehensive event budget for your hybrid fundraising event
  • How to maximize attendance and reach your fundraising goal

And more.

Let’s start this guide by discussing the basics: what is a hybrid event, and what is a fundraising event?

What is a Hybrid Fundraising Event?

What actually is a hybrid event? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the term “hybrid’ (hy·​brid | \ ˈhī-brəd) means “a thing that is made by combining two different elements.”

In the case of a hybrid event, it is an event that is made by combining an in-person and a virtual event. 

The basic form of a hybrid event is an event that is hosted at a physical venue with in-person attendees, which is then broadcasted to online attendees over a live streaming platform (or a dedicated virtual event platform.)

However, a true hybrid event should strive to give the same level (at least similar) level of experiences to both types of attendees, which is not an easy feat to do.

So, what is a hybrid fundraising event?

A fundraising event is an event planned and hosted with the objective of raising awareness and support for a specific cause. Fundraising events are not a specific type of event since most types of events (i.e., seminars, conferences, expos, music concerts) can be turned into a fundraiser. Yet, a fundraising event is differentiated from traditional events by its objective: raising money for a cause.

Simply put, a hybrid fundraising event is a fundraiser delivered to both online and in-person attendees simultaneously.

Why Host a Hybrid Fundraising Event?

We’ve mentioned that the hybrid event format essentially gives you the best of both worlds: you get the advantages while avoiding the weaknesses of both formats.

A traditional (in-person) fundraising event offers a massive advantage in the form of face-to-face interactions and the fact that you can engage attendees (potential donors) while stimulating all senses: serving great foods, thumping bass from the background music, immersive decorations, etc. 

On the other hand, a virtual event offers versatility and affordability. It’s more affordable and simpler to host a virtual event, and attendees (as well as exhibitors, speakers, entertainers, etc.) from halfway across the world can attend the event without having to worry about travel and accommodation costs.

Another unique advantage of the virtual format that is often overlooked is the fact that we can leverage various analytics and reporting technologies to collect more in-depth data regarding the event’s performance against its objectives.

With that being said, in a hybrid fundraising event, attendees and organizers can gain the following benefits:

1. Amplified reach

In a hybrid event, we can attract both types of attendees: in-person and virtual, which ultimately translates into the ability to get more donors to attend the event and, hopefully, make contributions to your cause.

There are still those who are not yet comfortable attending packed in-person events, and by turning your fundraiser into a hybrid event, you can accommodate this audience.

Obviously, in a hybrid event, you can invite prospective donors from other cities and event countries to join online, so you don’t have to worry about travel and accommodation costs.

2. More control over your expenses

A virtual event is, as mentioned, typically more affordable than an in-person event of a comparable size/complexity.

In a hybrid event, on the other hand, you have more versatility in controlling your budget as you see fit.

For example, if you don’t want to spend too much on venue rental and other venue-related expenses, you can adjust the event so that there will be more virtual attendees than in-person attendees, so you can get away with renting a smaller venue.

3. Improving engagement

In a hybrid format, you can enable interactions between in-person and virtual attendees, which can be effective in improving the engagement of both types of attendees. 

For example, you can run live Q&A sessions in which both types of attendees can participate, encouraging conversations between both types of attendees.

4. Easier monitoring of event performance

Again, one of the key disadvantages of a traditional, offline event is the difficulty of measuring certain intangible metrics, so measuring the event’s performance can be challenging.

In a hybrid event, organizers can leverage the analytics and reporting technologies available to collect data from both the virtual and in-person aspects of the event, allowing the organizer to collect data that an exclusively in-person event normally cannot collect like engagement-related metrics and behavioral patterns (i.e., via heat maps.)

5. More flexibility in inviting talents

Not only in a hybrid event you can expand your reach in inviting attendees, but you can technically invite speakers, exhibitors, and entertainers, among others, from halfway across the world without needing to take accommodation and travel costs into account.

You can, for example, allow speakers to participate in the event virtually, which may also lower the costs of this particular speaker.

Key Challenges to Consider When Hosting a Hybrid Fundraising Event

Despite all the benefits offered by the hybrid event format, it is not perfect, and there are some challenges you’ll potentially face when planning and hosting a hybrid fundraising event:

1. Different time zones and cultural/language barriers

While the key advantage of hosting a hybrid event is the fact that you can invite attendees and talents from all around the world, it can be a double-edged sword. 

It’s plainly impossible to find the perfect time to host the event while taking the different time zones of your attendees into account. Also, language and cultural barriers can be major issues when developing your event’s content. 

2. Reliance on technology

It’s virtually impossible to host a hybrid event without leveraging technology, but this technological reliance can also be a major issue. 

What if your internet connectivity suddenly drops during the event? What if your live streaming equipment suddenly fails? 

It’s very important to plan for redundancy when planning a hybrid fundraising event. Prepare plan Bs and even plan Cs for every technology equipment and solution. Also, meticulously test everything before the event. 

3. Venue selection

When hosting a hybrid fundraising event, it’s crucial to choose an appropriate physical venue that is capable of accommodating the needs of both the in-person and virtual aspects of the event.

For instance, not all venues may offer adequate internet connectivity, as well as a space to store and set up additional A/V and live streaming equipment needed to facilitate the virtual aspect of the event.

It’s important to first make sure you understand the event’s unique needs: how many in-person attendees you’d want in the physical venue? Which pieces of equipment would need to be stored within the venue? And so on.

4. Accessibility requirements

Ensuring accessibility and inclusiveness can be a major challenge for any event. Yet, in a hybrid event, you’ll need to consider the accessibility requirements of both types of attendees, essentially doubling the trouble.

For virtual attendees, some key accessibility considerations include:

  • Providing content in different languages
  • On-screen interpreter
  • Closed captioning and subtitle
  • Dark modes/magnification accessibility tools
  • Adjustable font sizes

On the other hand, for in-person attendees, you’ll need to consider these accessibility requirements:

  • Accessibility for wheelchairs
  • Unisex toilets
  • Ramp access
  • Priority seating
  • Accessible parking options and public transportation availability
  • Assisted listening and/or interpreter

Organizers should carefully evaluate whether the chosen venue can provide the above’s accessibility requirements and take enough measures to ensure accessibility.

Step-by-Step Guide to Planning a Winning Hybrid Fundraising Event

To ensure success, organizers must consider the challenges we’ve discussed above while at the same time leveraging the unique benefits of the hybrid format when planning the hybrid fundraising event.

Obviously, in practice, this can be easier said than done, especially if you want to maintain a similar level of experience between both types of attendees.

This is why in this section, we will break down how you should plan and run the hybrid fundraising event in a step-by-step guide, and without further ado, let’s start with step 1:

Step 1: Gather information about the cause you are supporting

Since this is a fundraising event, it’s very important to really understand the cause you are supporting inside out as the basis of the whole event planning process.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the cause actually valid? How can you communicate its validity to potential donors?
  • Who specifically are you raising money for?
  • How will you use the money?

Really understanding the cause you are supporting will ultimately help you in setting up the foundations of the hybrid fundraising event:

  1. The potential donors who are likely to also support this cause
  2. Creating an event that aligns well with the supported cause while also attracting potential donors
  3. Developing content that can attract the donors you are targeting while effectively elaborating the cause
  4. Creating a comprehensive marketing plan to effectively attract the target donors and/or attendees

So, do the homework and try to understand the cause you are supporting inside out.

Step 2: Define your fundraising event’s objectives

For a fundraising event, the main goal of the event should be fairly clear: raising money to support the cause.

Yet, you’ll need to consider two things:

  1. The specifics of this fundraising goal: how much money you specifically want to raise and what for
  2. Are there other potential objectives you can pursue?

Determine the specifics of your fundraising goals by taking the purpose of this fundraising into account:

  • What specifically are you planning to use the money for? 
  • How much will you actually need?
  • How will this task or item you are funding affect the cause?

It’s typically safe to set your main fundraising goal around 30% more than what you need to fund this item or task. If this number is too big or unattainable, consider pursuing other tasks to fund instead.

Also, if you are planning to invite high-profile donors, you may also want to set different goals for individual donors.

Besides your main financial goal, you can also consider defining other objectives, for example:

  • Building a lasting relationship with a specific high-profile donor
  • Getting contact information of 100 prospective donors
  • Building relationships with three non-profit organizations you haven’t interacted with

Step 3: Identifying potential donors

Now that you’ve identified your fundraising goals and the event’s supporting objectives, the next step is to identify the potential donors to invite/attract in order to achieve these goals.

If you’ve run a successful fundraiser in the past, then probably your job is a bit easier. You can start by inviting donors who have contributed to your previous events and go from there. 

However, you might not be able to use this approach if you are supporting a totally different cause than your previous event (with a different target donor profile.) 

If that’s the case, or if this is your very first hybrid fundraising event, then you can try approaching other non-profit organizations in the area or those supporting the cause you are sponsoring to try to identify donor candidates who have made contributions to other fundraising or have been involved in any philanthropist activities recently.

There are also various technology solutions like donor prospect generator tools that can help you in your search for prospective donors, and you might want to leverage these tools. 

Also, keep in mind that since this is a hybrid event, you can invite potential donors from outside your geographic location to attend virtually.

Identifying and understanding who your event’s prospective donors are will help your planning process in the next steps.

Step 4: Create an event master plan

Now that you’ve identified your fundraising event’s objectives and the target attendees (donors) of your event, you can start developing a master plan for the event.

Start by deciding on the type of fundraising event you are going to host. As mentioned, virtually all types of events can be converted into fundraising events, but we also need to consider whether this specific type can fit the hybrid format.

Here are some key factors to consider when choosing between different event types:

  • The cause. Some causes may have specific demographics. For example, if your event is going to support a cause related to children, consider choosing a family-friendly event type.
  • Date/time. If, for example, you are going to host this event during the summer, you might want to choose an indoor event instead.
  • Donor’s preferences. Analyze your target donors’ demographics and behavioral data, and try to understand their preferences and expectations.

The event master plan doesn’t need to be fixed from the get-go, and you can always revise and update it later.

However, it’s recommended to plan the high-level details of the fundraising event as early as possible. Besides the type of the event, decide on these critical factors as early as you can:

  • Create a shortlist for the potential venues (or lock in a venue if you can)
  • Select an ideal date and time. At least decide on a rough timeline of the event (i.e., six months away)
  • Create a comprehensive list of potential donors you’d invite
  • Create a comprehensive marketing plan and donor outreach plan. 

Step 5: Decide on a date/time

Some causes are obviously time-sensitive. 

For example, if you are planning to support a recent earthquake, you’ll need to host the event as soon as possible. 

Nevertheless, here are some considerations when setting a date and time for your event:

  • Avoid national holidays and major events in your area, as well as major virtual/hybrid events to maximize attendance.
  • Give yourself enough time to plan and prepare the fundraising event. If the cause you are supporting is time-sensitive and you won’t have much preparation time, consider planning a simpler/smaller event instead.
  • Whether it’s possible to host the event on a weekday (lower costs), or must this be a weekend fundraiser?
  • Determine whether this will be a repeating (i.e., annual) event. If it’s the case, remember that you will need to keep the timing relatively similar next year.
  • Since this is a hybrid event, consider different time zones of virtual donors when planning your date/time.

Step 6: Choosing an ideal venue for your hybrid event

While choosing a venue will always be challenging for any event, it’s arguably even more complex for a hybrid event.

The ideal venue for a hybrid event should accommodate the needs of the in-person aspect of the event (i.e., comfortably hold the number of in-person attendees) while at the same time meeting the technological and logistics requirements of the virtual aspect.

Here are some important considerations when choosing a hybrid event venue:

  • Size: not only the venue must be big enough to accommodate your in-person attendees, but you’ll also need adequate space for additional A/V and live-streaming equipment, including storage and installation spaces.
  • Facilities: the venue must include:
    • Storage spaces for additional equipment
    • Enough number of power outlets
    • Reliable internet connection (and preferably, you are allowed to add backup connectivity)
  • Existing A/V equipment: whether the existing A/V equipment in the venue integrates well with your virtual event platform or will you need to rent additional equipment.
  • Location: make sure attendees can easily access the venue and evaluate parking and public transportation availability.
  • Accessibility:  take into account the accessibility needs of both your in-person and virtual attendees.

Step 7: Investing in the right technology solutions

Any hybrid event is reliant on technology, so you’d want to identify the technology needs of your event as soon as possible.

Depending on the type of fundraising event and other factors, you may require different equipment and technology solutions. However, here are some important ones to consider:

  • Virtual event platform: you’ll need the right virtual event platform that can provide a great experience for your virtual attendees. The the general rule of thumb is to choose the most affordable platform that offers all the must-have features you’ll need.
  • Registration/ticketing platform. a reliable software solution that allows you to sell and manage online registrations (ticketing) easily. There are virtual event platforms like Eventifier that also offer built-in registration function. 
  • Engagement solutions: You can incorporate event gamification tools (i.e., live Q&A and live pools), digital swag bags, etc.
  • Collaboration tools: Event/project management software and various other tools to help streamline your team’s collaboration and improve productivity.

Step 8: Marketing your fundraising event

Don’t underestimate the importance of promoting your event, even if this is a fundraising event. Also, don’t underestimate the time and effort needed to properly promote the event.

Make sure to:

  • Develop strong and memorable branding. Make sure to:
    • Have a clear event theme
    • Choose an event name that is easy to pronounce and remember
    • Create a memorable logo that aligns with the event name
    • Establish guidelines for colors, fonts, and other elements. Consistency is key when it comes to strong branding.
  • Choose the right marketing channels and tactics:
    • Launch and optimize your event page/website
    • Leverage flyers, posters, brochures, etc.
    • Optimize social media presence and invest in paid social media ads
    • Direct mail
    • Ads in local newspapers, magazines, and TV broadcasts

Wrapping Up

Voila! You’ve reached the end of this guide, and by now, you should have a better knowledge of how to plan and run a successful hybrid fundraising event.

Last but not least, don’t forget the importance of processing all donations quickly and accurately, and always provide receipts after you’ve confirmed receiving any donation during and after the event to avoid disputes.

While planning and running a hybrid fundraising event can be quite a challenging task, the step-by-step guide we’ve shared above should provide a solid foundation for your next fundraising event

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