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In 2020, fundraising looked a little different. Much of this was due to necessity as the COVID-19 pandemic forced many donors and supporters to stay home. Unable to continue raising support through traditional in-person gatherings, charities and nonprofits turned to virtual fundraising platforms. 

This enabled many organizations to discover the benefits of online fundraising, including lower overhead costs and more attendees. According to the Blackbaud Institute’s annual report, online charitable gifts grew 21 percent over 2019 in 2020. This increase was particularly beneficial for mid-sized nonprofits, which saw their online fundraising increase by almost 25 percent. Meanwhile, small nonprofit organizations raised their online fundraising by 22.3 percent.

In 2021, these benefits have been poised to increase with the advent of hybrid fundraising. A mix of traditional in-person fundraising and virtual galas, hybrid fundraisers offer the best of both worlds for nonprofits, allowing charities to raise even more money. While adapting to the new hybrid fundraising platform is challenging, it is also necessary given the massive changes to nonprofit fundraising in just the last two years.

Let’s take a closer look at how virtual fundraising events changed the way nonprofits raised money in 2020 and how the fundraising benefits of online galas can be sustained in the hybrid fundraising era.     

Changes in fundraising in 2021

How did virtual fundraising change how nonprofits raise money?

Even before the pandemic, nonprofits and charities were using virtual giving to fund their programs. Thanks to the internet and the massive increase in smart device usage, people are now very comfortable donating online. Nonprofits offering mobile-friendly websites can now expect their supporters to make regular donations with a few quick clicks on their smartphones.

Once the pandemic prevented in-person gatherings in 2020, however, nonprofits and charities needed to take virtual fundraising to a new level. Companies like PayBee began offering online fundraising platforms for nonprofits. These platforms not only collect donations but also offer a variety of virtual events and activities for fundraiser attendees.

These events include:

Virtual Auctions

Charity auctions have been a mainstay in fundraisers for years. While nothing can replace the immediacy of an in-person auction, virtual fundraising platforms support some very successful live and silent auctions. Thanks to livestreaming, professional auctioneers can present items through broadcasted video and have attendees place their bids via mobile apps. The convenience extends to silent auctions that can be held days before the actual fundraiser, providing an additional source of revenue.  

Virtual Dinners

In-person social gatherings had to be put on hold for most of 2020, but virtual fundraisers enabled charity fundraising dinners to continue in a more economical manner. Fundraising attendees can now place orders by purchasing online tickets that offer meal options (including vegan meals and dinners for people with dietary restrictions). And by partnering with restaurants and catering companies, nonprofits can have meals delivered directly to their supporters’ homes. During an event like this, livestreaming enables attendees to talk and network with each other as they eat. While this doesn’t offer the same level of ambience as an in-person gathering, it proved an acceptable substitute in 2020.

Virtual Concerts

Virtual fundraisers also offer a diverse array of entertainment. In addition to auctions and raffles, many organizations held virtual concerts in 2020 featuring popular bands. Performances take place through livestream or recorded video and band members can even invite attendees “backstage” for a virtual meet-and-greet. Due to the event’s virtual nature, audiences get to enjoy the concert from angles and positions most could not experience if they went to a live in-person concert. Given the desire for escapism and entertainment in 2020, virtual concerts—along with virtual comedy acts, costume parties, and seminars—provided a welcome diversion. 

What advantages do nonprofits enjoy with virtual fundraisers?

With so many types of virtual fundraisers in 2020, nonprofits quickly discovered this form of fundraising had many benefits. These include:

  • Low cost: Without the need for a physical venue, rental and staff fees could be reduced or even eliminated.
  • Larger audiences: The unlimited meeting space offered by virtual fundraising platforms enabled nonprofits to accommodate audiences with hundreds or even thousands of donors.
  • Better outreach: Virtual fundraisers can be attended from any location with an Internet connection, enabling nonprofits to attract support from other states or countries.
  • Higher revenue: Lower overhead costs coupled with larger audiences willing to donate results in more funding for a nonprofit’s programs.

Thanks to these advantages, nonprofits enjoyed a consistent and even increased source of funding by holding virtual galas. That said, virtual fundraisers do have unique requirements and costs. Specifically, one requirement is the need for a tech support staff to monitor the event and handle any issues that arise from livestream broadcasting.

How is hybrid fundraising changing traditional and online fundraising?

As 2020 wore on, people became less enthused by virtual events. The necessity of office Zoom meetings, working online, and reduced mobility led to “virtual fatigue” or weariness from being exposed to too much online stimulation. This made virtual fundraising problematic since potential attendees could overlook or ignore invitations to virtual galas.

Some nonprofits got creative, incorporating more outside activities into their virtual events. These included virtual fun runs that enabled participants to track their progress with mobile apps from different locations, letting them compete with each other. In 2021, however, relaxed social gathering guidelines during periods of reduced COVID-19 cases allow for the possibility of small get-togethers. Combined with virtual galas, this enables nonprofits to create “hybrid fundraisers” that offer unique benefits for nonprofit fundraising.

Like virtual fundraisers, hybrid fundraising events use virtual fundraising platforms to accommodate the majority of their supporters and donors. Attendees continue to participate in online activities such as auctions, raffles, or virtual concerts and enjoy the convenience of attending a fundraiser virtually. Unlike virtual fundraisers, hybrid events enable small groups of donors and supporters to attend the event in-person. This is usually accomplished by renting a small venue like a restaurant, meeting hall, or concert stage that allows people to meet safely while following proper social distancing protocols.

The challenge with holding hybrid galas is that your nonprofit needs to offer two experiences—virtual and in-person—for the same event. This ensures both audiences have a good experience that encourages them to donate generously. Both audiences also need opportunities to interact with each other and feel involved, which can affect the logistics of your event.    

For nonprofits that can host a successful hybrid fundraiser, the financial rewards are considerable. Hybrid galas offer an excellent way to cater to supporters who are eager to attend in-person events. At the same time, they also sustain the benefits of virtual fundraising. Combined, this results in great profits to nonprofit organizations. 

What does a nonprofit need to be successful with hybrid fundraising?

Hybrid fundraisers require many of the same tools and staff used by virtual fundraisers. These include:

  • A reliable online fundraising platform: Virtual attendees of hybrid events need to have an easy-to-use platform (like PayBee) that allows them to intuitively interact with the event.
  • A tech support staff: A proper support team needs to be well-versed in livestreaming and broadcasting as well as managing video, sound, and virtual activities.
  • Social media marketing team: Regardless of whether they attend virtually or in-person, people learn about events online, meaning your fundraiser should be heavily marketed on social media.
  • Online liaison: Having an experienced online auctioneer or MC to answer questions and engage online attendees is a great way to generate excitement for your virtual experience.

Since your nonprofit will offer an in-person experience, it’s essential to have a separate team handling that experience. Team members for your in-person staff include:

  • Attendee support: Event guests need people to answer questions, direct them to the proper venues, and ensure they comply with social distancing requirements.
  • Manager: Having someone oversee all the volunteers and on-site staff helps better coordinate your efforts.
  • Sponsor coordinator: Assigning a team to find and secure sponsors helps fund your event and secures auction items and raffle prizes donated by sponsors in exchange for promotion.

Once all the responsibilities are properly delegated, your nonprofit will be well-positioned to not only sustain the benefits of virtual fundraising but also gain new hybrid event benefits.

How can nonprofits sustain the benefits of virtual fundraisers with hybrid fundraising?

Like virtual fundraisers, a hybrid fundraiser is a low-cost event. While you do need to include additional rental and staff fees in your budget, the venue and staff required is smaller than a traditional in-person event, resulting in plenty of savings. Since the majority of a hybrid event’s attendees still join the gala virtually, your nonprofit will maintain a large number of supporters and donors at relatively low cost. Many nonprofits also find that if they offer free admission on tickets, online attendees are more willing to donate to show appreciation.

Supporters who attend a hybrid event’s in-person experience offer additional benefits. After a year of not being able to attend gatherings and socialize, in-person attendees will relish the chance to be involved in a more traditional fundraiser, motivating them to donate more to your cause.

For these reasons, it’s very important to have two separate teams managing the virtual and in-person experiences of your hybrid event. Ensuring both experiences work in sync with each other is the main challenge of hosting a hybrid gala. Budget time for your teams to rehearse with each other. As your support staffs become more comfortable working in tandem with each other, the quality of your hybrid event will improve. 

What can your organization use for virtual and hybrid fundraising?

Although hybrid fundraising has been slowed down by the pandemic, projections indicate that hybrid events will inevitably become much more prevalent moving forward.

If your nonprofit is ready to enjoy the benefits of both a virtual and in-person fundraiser, learning more about how to successfully host a hybrid fundraiser is essential. Just as nonprofits struggled to learn how to host virtual fundraisers in 2020, many charities and nonprofit organizations are working out the logistics of hybrid fundraising in 2021.

To increase your own knowledge about hybrid fundraising, read our blog articles at PayBee. You’ll learn more about how both virtual and hybrid fundraising events can be applied to a variety of nonprofit organizations. In addition, you’ll also be able to sign up for a free demonstration of PayBee’s online platform and see how their virtual tools can be used for your online and hybrid galas. You can also reach out to us via email at contact@paybee.io.

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