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6 tips for organizing effective nonprofit hybrid events

January 17, 2021
Two nonprofit professionals sit at a desk in front of a monitor and coffee mugs to begin organizing a nonprofit hybrid event.

Many nonprofit organizations are creating hybrid event experiences to meet donors where they are and meet their revenue goals at the same time. Technology has given nonprofits the boost they need to make the most out of their hybrid events.

Why choose a hybrid fundraising event model?

Virtual events allow you to engage supporters all around the world. Aside from helping you cross international borders, hybrid nonprofit events allow donors to show their support from the comfort of their homes, offices, or even in the car driving home. This will accommodate your supporters with busy schedules and those who are just more comfortable staying home.

Furthermore, hybrid events cut a lot of overhead costs that usually come with hosting an event, such as venue rental fees. These costs tend to be a major challenge for nonprofit organizations, which makes the hybrid event model ideal.

Ultimately, when you give donors the ability to support you from anywhere, you stand a much better chance of retaining them in the long run and advancing your purpose that much more.

Tips for effective nonprofit hybrid events

If you haven’t hosted a virtual or hybrid nonprofit event before, it can be challenging knowing which software to use, which events to host, and how you’ll monetize the event. But, as long as you focus on entertaining donors, maximizing giving, and accommodating staff and supporters, everything else will fall into place. 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.

When you begin planning your event, start with a virtual format and commit to flexibility around the in-person portion. Automating other tasks like email reminders can help balance your staff’s workload. If you need to cancel your in-person event, let supporters know as soon as possible so they can plan accordingly. 

2. Graphic design is everything.

Visual elements that help tell your story can keep guests engaged at your nonprofit hybrid event, 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 purpose.

3. Tailor the event to your different audiences.

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. Use your CRM for your nonprofit hybrid event by setting up automatic events and follow-up messages and stewarding those connections into the future.

Additionally, ensure both your virtual and in-person audiences are included in time-bound events like auctions. To get the best results, use a system like Bonterra Donor Engagement’s Guided Fundraising solution (formerly Network for Good), which enables people to donate to your auction event by texting. This will reassure donors that you value their support and want them to stay engaged in time-sensitive activities, no matter how they choose to attend.

4. Incorporate texting in your nonprofit hybrid event.

Few channels capture supporter attention like SMS does—mobile fundraising messages had a clickthrough rate of over 6%, compared to a clickthrough rate of under 2% for email fundraising messages. Texting can be an effective way to remind attendees that the event is starting, get your audience’s attention during important moments, and share your donation methods.

You can use texting before, during, and after your nonprofit hybrid event. Before the event, send supporters texts promoting your event and encouraging them to attend. During the event, remind online attendees to tune in and remind in-person attendees of the event location. After the event, send all attendees a thank-you text. You can even include a survey so they may leave feedback on your event.

5. 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. Make sure to synchronize your fundraising thermometers for in-person and online attendees, so that it’s an accurate reflection of the gifts you’ve received at your nonprofit hybrid event. Whenever you hit a milestone on your thermometer, make sure to call attention to it and celebrate with your attendees.

6. Enlist donors’ help with distributed hosting.

Some of your more dedicated supporters or board members may be open to hosting viewing parties for smaller groups at their own homes. More than 20 percent of supporters who have taken action through Bonterra’s Mobilize network have come from one of our bring-a-friend features.

Since donors are excited to share the event experience with their loved ones, consider offering some logistical support, such as sending screening equipment or appetizers to hosts. This model of distributed hosting and fundraising can help you expand your reach.

Strengthening donor relationships with hybrid events

Even when your event is happening in multiple spaces simultaneously, deepening your supporters’ bond with your purpose should be your priority. The most important part of hosting an effective nonprofit hybrid event is connecting with all your attendees, regardless of if they are attending in person or virtually.

Keep in mind that your supporters are interested in your nonprofit for a variety of reasons. Having a robust donor management system will help you keep track of your donor data, and will allow you to create messages that specifically appeal to your donors' unique interests so you can make more engaging events than ever before.

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