Virtual events dominated 2020, and for a good reason. With social distancing guidelines and a global pandemic, keeping (almost) normal donor engagement strategies and comprehensive fundraising events online was the only viable option.
As we dive deeper into 2021 and start looking into the future, it’s clear that these virtual elements are here to stay, but likely in a more hybrid format.
For one thing, virtual events have increased convenience for participants. Now, you can attend events from the comfort of your own home (no one has to know you’re wearing pajama pants).
Additionally, these digital offerings grow the audience for your event. You’re not limited to just the folks in your geographical area. These benefits, on top of the option of in-person engagement, mean that hybrid events offer the best of both worlds!
One area where we see hybrid events becoming more popular is crowdfunding. Crowdfunding has consistently been a high-revenue fundraising effort that both organizations and individuals can take advantage of. Often, they also coincide with an in-person event to encourage more donations during the campaign or on its last day. Now, nonprofits can pivot that experience to a hybrid format. But how do you do it?
Just follow these basic steps:
- Set up your crowdfunding campaign
- Choose a crowdfunding platform
- Figure out which aspects of the event will be virtual versus in-person
- Determine who is going to be on site
- Test out virtual equipment
- Send a thank-you email
Interested to learn more? Let’s dive into the specifics of each of these steps.
1. Set up your crowdfunding campaign.
The first thing you’ll need to do is set up your crowdfunding campaign. What is your organization raising money for? How much do you want to raise? These questions and more should be answered before you even think about launching your hybrid event.
Historically, crowdfunding is a popular campaign method for raising a lot of money in a short amount of time. For instance, nonprofits often start crowdfunding campaigns for Giving Tuesday.
So, what do you need to set up your crowdfunding campaign effectively? Use this list for guidance:
- Set a concrete fundraising revenue goal
- Establish your campaign’s story and what you plan to do with the funds
- Set a deadline date or range
- Start promoting your campaign on your website, social media, and email newsletters
- Make sure to have the tools to track your campaign progress
Once you have the basic components of your campaign determined, you’ll need to choose the crowdfunding platform and figure out the type of event you might want to host. The good thing is that a lot of different event types can work alongside a crowdfunding fundraiser. Some traditionally successful options include walkathons, silent auctions, movie nights, and charity concerts. We’ll talk more about this later. First, we’ll discuss how to choose the best platform.
2. Choose a crowdfunding platform.
According to Fundly’s crowdfunding statistic page, there were almost 6.5 million crowdfunding campaigns hosted globally last year. All of these campaigns were likely hosted using a dedicated crowdfunding platform. But which platform is right for you.
Generally, you should find a platform that is intuitive to use and can easily set up your campaign without any extra HTML or CSS coding knowledge. In particular, here’s what you should look for in a crowdfunding platform:
- The ability to customize your donation page
- A fundraising thermometer to track your goals in real time
- Quick social media connections so that supporters can share the campaign
- Acceptance of all payment types
- Mobile-optimization so that people can give while on the go
- Integrations with your nonprofit constituent relationship management (CRM) system and other software
On top of the above, you need to consider cost. Many platforms will let you create campaigns for free, but might take a percentage of the funds given. Weigh your best options and consider your budget before picking the right platform for you.
3. Figure out which aspects of the event will be virtual versus in-person.
Remember those event ideas we briefly touched on earlier? Well, now it’s time to actually choose one and then figure out which components will be virtual versus in person. Because this is a hybrid offering, both types of engagements are critical to the success of the event.
Once you decide on the event you want to host, you’ll have to consider the following questions:
- What aspects are held in person?
- What aspects can be held virtually?
- What aspects are available for both experiences?
Because you’re hosting your event alongside a crowdfunding campaign, you know that donations will inherently be completed online. However, you might also encourage in-person donating at the event itself, whether it’s with text giving or through a giving kiosk.
Hashing out the above logistics will help determine how you run this hybrid event. To figure out what components will be in person versus virtual for your own event, let’s walk through the examples we discussed earlier:
- For a walkathon or another -athon event, your hybrid event should have in-person participants as well as virtual ones. To keep your virtual attendees engaged you might equip them with a pedometer tool or specific app they can put on their phone to track their distance. You should also encourage them to post their updates as photos or videos online on a dedicated event page. Meanwhile, for your in-person attendees, you might encourage different activities to engage with while participants walk around a track such as yard games or cake walks.
- For an auction you can host in-person attendees but also encourage people to bid on items online. No matter where they are, everyone should use the same auction platform, whether online or through a mobile app, to bid on items. This way, when something is outbid, even by a remote attendee, the item is updated in real time. Ensure that users can browse items, bid on them, receive outbid notifications, and even check out their item all from the auction platform. Your in-person attendees can also have the pleasure of seeing the items in person and engaging with other participants.
- For a movie night or charity concert you can have people gather at the venue as well as livestream it for the people at home. At the in-person event, you might decide to sell popcorn and candy. Meanwhile, you might offer to send a package of movie night snacks to your at-home viewers when they register. If you’re streaming a movie, make sure you have the necessary rights to do so before planning the activities.
You’re planning for your event during the current COVID-19 pandemic, so make sure to actively inform your attendees and crowdfunding participants that the necessary precautions are being taken. This should include wearing masks, cleaning areas frequently, and enforcing the 6-feet social distancing rule.
4. Determine who is going to be on site.
Because your hybrid event is incorporating both virtual and in-person engagements, you’ll need a dedicated team to handle those on-site components as well as one to facilitate the virtual ones.
When assigning your crowdfunding teams, you need to consider your staff members and volunteers, as well as caterers or entertainment. This will depend on the type of event that you host and when you might host it.
List out the people you want on site beforehand and make sure that everyone knows where they’re supposed to be and what they’re doing. If certain precautions must be taken, that should also be effectively advertised beforehand.
5. Test out virtual equipment.
After you figure out who is on site, it’s now time to start planning for your virtual offering.
On top of assigning a dedicated team to this part of your hybrid event, it is critical that you test out all the virtual equipment beforehand.
For instance, if you’re planning on streaming the in-person event live to your online participants, you should anticipate any issues you might run across, then troubleshoot before the event starts. For example, have a backup plan for if the wifi goes out during the event (ethernet cords) or if a camera breaks while streaming (backup video).
Similarly, if the tools that your virtual attendees need to engage are novel and not something they’re fully familiar with, like a mobile app, you should provide the tools that supporters will need to learn more about the technology. For instance, you might put together a one-page explanation about how to set up a mobile bidding app for a hybrid auction event.
Anyone who uses technology knows that it’s not perfect 100% of the time. Technical issues arise even when you’ve double and triple-checked everything beforehand. Make sure to assign a dedicated moderator to your event to watch comments, emails, or direct messages in order to quickly respond to problems and resolve issues when they come up.
6. Send a thank-you email.
Once your hybrid event comes to a close, this is the perfect time to send a thank-you email. As mentioned earlier, crowdfunding is a useful method to attract and meet new supporters. To start new relationships on the right foot, showing your donors appreciation is crucial. Sometimes, not receiving enough recognition is enough to make the donor choose not to give again in the future.
Your thank-you email should address the supporter by name, reference the specific gift amount, and remind them just where these funds are going and how they’ll impact your mission.
For instance, if your crowdfunding campaign is raising money for new supplies for a local elementary school, refer to that in the email as well as calling out the specific gift amount the donor gave.
Along with showing appreciation and confirming the gift, this is also a great opportunity to ask for feedback. Getting insight from your supporters is one of most valuable ways to better your future events. If you want your hybrid events to improve, this is a key method of gaining specific data.
If you’re unsure of how to thank your crowdfunding donors and attendees properly, Qgiv has a dedicated resource of donor thank-you letter templates that you can explore.
With hybrid events likely becoming the future norm, figuring out how to plan a successful one will only help your organization. Specifically, the steps above can prepare you for turning your regular crowdfunding events into both a virtual and in-person experience.
For more insight and specific best practices for planning any type of hybrid experience, your best bet is to explore our own dedicated resource. Check out our Qgiv guide to nonprofit hybrid events here.