[GUEST POST] Hybrid Event Engagement: Crash Course for Nonprofits
Hybrid events have gained momentum among nonprofits of all sizes to bring fundraising to both live and virtual audiences. This dual approach to fundraising creates a seamless giving experience for all supporters and gives organizations flexibility in their event planning process.
To ensure a positive hybrid event experience for your entire audience, your nonprofit should intentionally and strategically drive engagement that will keep donors inspired and keep your revenue goals in sight.
But here’s the tricky part: How do you engage with supporters and keep them donating when half are in the room and half are at home?
In order to address hybrid engagement, your nonprofit should take the time to understand the dual structure of hybrid events and focus on these top engagement tips that will help make your next event a success.
The Dual Nature of Hybrid Events
Simply put, hybrid events allow for fundraisers to meet donors where they are, both in-person and remote. These fundraisers typically consist of an in-person event on a smaller scale combined with a live stream and various interactive elements and activities for virtual attendees.
When approaching the planning process for a hybrid event, there are two main pitfalls to avoid:
- Planning two separate events for your virtual and in-person audiences. You might be tempted to approach the planning process as if you were hosting a different event for each audience. However, this separation will only create a more disjointed and less engaging donor experience. Try to incorporate both audiences throughout your entire planning process to ensure a unified and considerate event experience for all!
- Neglecting the remote audience completely. If you only focus on creating an engaging in-person event, your virtual audience will lack the incentive or desire to participate, engage, and give. Try to create unified experiences for both live and remote audiences to ensure virtual supporters feel like active participants, even when not physically in the room.
If either of these mistakes is made, it can drastically affect the success of your event and limit your attendee engagement. Focus your hybrid event planning process on creating a single event that consists of two different but overlapping experiences. This approach helps ensure careful consideration is put into both audiences’ event experiences, how they might differ, and the engagement factors needed for each.
Tips for Driving Engagement
Now that you understand the importance of planning a unified hybrid event, it’s time to dive into tips to drive event engagement. Here are our top five recommended engagement tips for your next hybrid event:
1. Personalize your donor engagement.
Tailor your event approach and the specifics of your in-person/remote experiences to your donors to drive more engagement. This best practice applies to any event you might host, but it’s especially useful to keep in mind for hybrid events since you’ll need to engage and excite two audiences at once.
For example, if you’re hosting a hybrid year-end gala and auction, be intentional with who you invite to attend in person. This guest list would likely consist of a fairly small segment of your most important donors, and everyone else could be able to join your virtual experience and place mobile bids.
This approach would make it much easier to give your event experiences a level of focus that drives stronger results. For your hybrid gala and auction, this principle could be applied to the items you put on offer:
- Including big-ticket items and expensive trip experiences for your in-person guests
- Having fixed-price items and a fuller range of mid-priced items that only appear for virtual participants
- Changing auction items based on donor registrations
2. Keep your main program fairly short.
No one enjoys having to sit through a long presentation! Programming, though important for sharing your mission and goals, leads to limited time for your donors to actually engage with your mission and feel called to give.
Keeping the speaker portion or main program of your event purposeful but short allows for your donors to get back to bidding, giving, and growing closer to your cause. For a typical gala-style event, the program of speakers and prerecorded video should run around 20-30 minutes or less.
3. Use virtual event software that includes engagement features.
An easy way to get both audiences to participate is to invest in virtual event software with engagement functionality. This software allows your audiences to bid, donate, and chat all in one place. No need to run different programs for different audiences! Having virtual event technology allows for a connected giving experience for your donors and creates an easy, singular place for all to participate.
Types of virtual engagement functionality include:
- Gamification: Have clues hidden around your event site to increase competition among guests, but also provide attendees a chance to win prizes.
- Interactive program: Have polls or questions throughout the event program so that both audience types can stay engaged by casting their vote or testing their knowledge.
- Chat rooms: Allow participants to chat on the site while donating, bidding, or watching the live stream.
If virtual event tools aren’t yet a part of your toolkit, make them a priority in your tech plans. Hybrid events are only increasing in popularity as donors come to expect a new level of convenience and online-first options.
4. Leverage social media.
Social media is an easy way to keep an audience connected and engaged. Social media allows for your supporters, both live and remote, to share about their experiences and engage with your cause online.
To start the conversation, create an event hashtag or social media contest and get attendees to share the event with their personal networks. This will instantly increase the buzz around your event.
5. Recruit ambassadors to host watch parties.
Have ambassadors for your nonprofit host watch parties where smaller groups can attend your event remotely.
These watch parties allow virtual attendees to feel more united with your cause and increase their likelihood to donate. Having small groups gather together for your mission will create a community unique to your event!
Hybrid events allow for both donor and organization flexibility; however, it can be challenging to know how to manage and engage with both audience types. Knowing how to plan a successful and engaging hybrid event will be a surefire way to make your next fundraising event a success.
By Kelly Velasquez-Hague, Director of Content Marketing, OneCause
Kelly Velasquez-Hague brings over 20 years of fundraising, nonprofit management, and sales/marketing experience to her role as the Director of Content Marketing for OneCause. As a member of the OneCause sales and marketing team, Kelly manages all of the company’s content strategy and execution. She is passionate about empowering great missions and loves that her current role allows her to continue to help nonprofits reach new donors raise more funds for their cause.