If you’re a nonprofit leader, 2020 has likely put a wrench in your usual event planning strategy. With a global pandemic keeping most of us indoors, hosting a traditional in-person event is not the best idea.

In order to adapt to this new normal, many nonprofit event planners have been exploring virtual or hybrid alternatives. The entire event takes place online (or part of it) and is experienced without any face-to-face engagement.

To help you prepare, we will ensure you can answer the following:

  1. What are the different types of events you can host?
  2. What tools do you need to plan an event?
  3. What are the best ways to engage event attendees?

Ready to learn more? Let’s begin!

1. What are the different types of events you can host?

In-person events

In-person events are likely what your nonprofit has traditionally done in the past. It’s a great way to meet your supporters, engage them in something meaningful, and raise a good amount of money. Some common examples include:

  • Walkathons
  • Auctions 
  • Talent show
  • Exercise classes
  • Charity concert

At first glance, you might think these types of events are not feasible during this time. After all, how can you conduct an auction if you have to fundraise from home? Let’s move on to the next section to learn more.

Virtual events

To better understand how you can pull off almost any type of event you want online, let’s explore the following examples of virtual fundraising events:

  • Peer-to-peer fundraising. Taking place entirely online, this social media fundraiser is an engaging experience and doesn’t require any face-to-face interaction.
  • Live-streamed experiences. This is great for events such as concerts or even an online class! Sell tickets to your virtual event and provide instructions on how to access the livestream video.
  • Individual remote activities. This is a great way to host a walkathon without having to meet in person. Equip participants with a distance tracking tool and encourage them to post updates on social media!!
  • Online auction. All you need is an online auction platform or mobile bidding app and you can provide a virtual experience that’s just as special as a traditional auction.

This Qgiv article states that virtual events are achievable for everyone— it just requires careful planning and the right tools. 

Hybrid events

Hybrid events are in-person events with virtual elements. But what exactly are the benefits?

For one thing, offering a virtual alternative to an event allows more people to participate. People from all over the world can tune in! And this means more supporters who might give to your cause. 

Hybrid events continue to rise in popularity, especially after this spike in virtual experiences. People will grow accustomed to the convenience, so make sure you flesh out your virtual resources and tools now. This way, you set up the foundation for future event success, no matter which type of event you want to host.

2. What tools do you need to plan an event?

Whether you’re planning an in-person or virtual event, you’ll need a dependable arsenal of event registration and management tools. Consider the following:

  • Event registration tool. The right tool can net you 29% more completed registrations!
  • Integrated payment processor. Make sure you have an integrated payment tool that securely processes purchases and accepts a variety of payments.
  • Email communication tool. It’s important that you communicate with attendees. Find a tool with automated marketing capabilities so that emails are sent in a timely manner. 
  • Reports and data analysis tool. Having a tool that collects event data is a great way to look back at engagements and learn how to make future ones better.
  • Live-streaming or video conferencing tool. This is a great way to engage your attendees in real-time even when you can’t meet face-to-face.

The right virtual fundraising tools can set any event up for success, whether in-person, virtual, or hybrid. Make sure the above solutions are in your own event management toolkit! Even better, find a system that handles all of your needs! For instance, many registration tools will come with an integrated payment processor, assist with email communication, and track key data points.

3. What are the best ways to engage event attendees?

Whether you’re hosting an in-person, virtual, or hybrid event, engaging your attendees is a challenge that you must overcome. Virtual events have their own unique obstacles, like how to keep participants interested without experiencing too much screen fatigue

Let’s review the following engagement best practices:

  • Consistent engagement in the days leading up to the event. Make sure to send emails with event details as well as reminders for any pertinent information. 
  • Engagement during the event. Post a live fundraising thermometer or conduct live surveys! This is a great idea for both virtual and in-person experiences. 
  • Post-event engagement. Send a thank you letter as well as a summary of the event’s impact. For help crafting a thank you letter, check out this resource of free donor thank you letter templates.

Satisfied event attendees are high prospects for long-lasting supporters. Make sure that no matter the event you decide to host, whether in 2020 or beyond, you have a dedicated engagement strategy in place.

Event planning in 2020 is no easy feat, especially if you haven’t dipped your toes into virtual events before. Hopefully, this guide has given you more insight into the differences and benefits of in-person, virtual, and hybrid event planning as well as the necessary tools and strategies you’ll need. Good luck!