[GUEST POST] 4 Creative Engagement Ideas for Hybrid Fundraising

As a nonprofit professional, you know that fundraising best practices continue to evolve as new technologies are developed to better meet nonprofit needs. One of the most significant fundraising trends that we’ve seen growing throughout 2020 and into 2021 is hybrid fundraising.

Hybrid fundraising events incorporate elements of traditional in-person engagements as well as virtual experiences to provide a convenient, accessible, and entertaining event for anyone who wants to join. But just like with any fundraising event, it’s important to have a plan in place to maximize revenue and engagement.

According to research from OneCause on recent giving trends, these four engagement ideas are likely to grab and retain your audience’s attention, leading to an overall positive event experience. If you’re looking to pull off a hybrid fundraising event, consider the following best practices:

  1. Choose an event theme.
  2. Prioritize live entertainment.
  3. Encourage guests to interact with each other.
  4. Demonstrate donation impact.

Keeping your audiences engaged is critical during a hybrid event. With so many alternative avenues vying for your supporters’ attention, it’s important that you provide them with an event experience that will keep them on board until the very end. Let’s dive in!

1. Choose an event theme.

Setting a theme for your fundraiser is a great way to drive excitement prior to the event as well as engagement during. 

Some organizations choose themes that are related to their core mission. For example, an ocean conservation-based nonprofit might host an “under the sea” themed event, while a wildlife sanctuary could opt for a jungle-themed event.

On the other hand, a more elegant theme for your fundraiser that encourages guests to get dressed up in black tie attire can elevate your event experience and contributions to your cause.

For a hybrid fundraiser, be sure to consider your organization’s target audience and choose a theme that appeals to them. Then, incorporate elements of the theme throughout your event planning, including in marketing as well as both your in-person and virtual experiences.

2. Prioritize live entertainment.

When considering entertainment options for your event (such as music, speakers, testimonies, etc.), studies show that live options are typically the better decision.

In fact, live in-person elements and live-streamed content both rank highly (58% and 52% of attendees rating them as “very engaging,” respectively). On the other hand, pre-recorded content falls significantly lower on the engagement scale at only 42%.

So what does this mean? Regardless of your choice in entertainment, offer it live whenever possible. If you want past beneficiaries to share how they were impacted by your organization, invite them to join you at the event to tell their stories and broadcast the content to virtual viewers in real time.

3. Encourage guests to interact with each other.

A favorite engagement method among fundraisers and attendees is encouraging your supporters to interact with one another. In hybrid events, this can happen in a few different ways:

  • In-person: Allot times for guests to network and connect with other supporters. You can even encourage this by providing social activities or time in your event for casual networking and connection.
  • Online: Incorporate time into your virtual experience to facilitate group discussions. You can separate guests into smaller breakout rooms based on existing segmentation strategies (i.e., donor type, engagement history) so that your event attendees can meet and mingle with like-minded individuals. Throughout the event, make sure to offer online chat functions, encouraging attendees to interact with other guests that way as well.

Being intentional and fostering guest interaction will take your hybrid event to a new level. It will deepen the experience and make people feel connected not just to the fundraising, but to the cause and each other. According to our research, people want to feel connected to the mission, the impact, and to something greater than themselves (Social Donor Study, 2018 and The Giving Experience Study, 2021).

4. Demonstrate donation impact.

Event participants attend your fundraisers because they care about your cause. Perhaps you have an existing relationship with them, or maybe your upcoming hybrid event will be their first engagement opportunity. Either way, sharing exactly how their dollars are being used is critical.

After all, it’s not likely that people will give to your organization if they don’t see anything that’s being accomplished. So tell your nonprofit’s story! Include impactful photographs taken of beneficiaries (with their permission, of course). Describe specific programs that have been funded through donor dollars in the past few months. Or, even better, invite program participants to put a real-life face to your mission.

We mentioned bringing in constituents to share their testimonials, and that’s because it’s one of the most effective ways to communicate donation impact in real, concrete terms. And luckily, it’s something that can be done just as easily virtually as it can in person.

Our hybrid fundraiser planning guide recommends that you communicate fundraising impact both during your event and afterward during your follow-up. For example, you might bring Suzie, mother of three, on stage at your event to share how grateful she is to your organization for helping her put food on the table for her children. Then, in your event attendee thank-you message, you can remind donors that thanks to their generosity, families like Suzie’s are being served.

Not only do impact-sharing strategies like these build trust in your organization, they also provide an extremely engaging event experience (ranked as the number one most engaging element at 59%) and encourage donors to give more.

The best part is that you’re not confined to just one idea to engage your audiences. By incorporating a variety of top strategies, you can create a comprehensive event plan that will grip your donors’ attention from start to finish.

But remember, you can’t host a hybrid fundraising event without the right technology! Be sure to compare your software needs with your existing fundraising toolkit, explore new options, and make your decisions accordingly.

Karrie Wozniak

Karrie has spent more than a decade bringing innovative technology and fundraising strategies to the nonprofit industry. As one of the first executives at OneCause, Karrie combines her 20 years of experience in marketing with her passion for helping nonprofits expand their reach, leading industry research, marketing strategy, and fundraising consulting initiatives. She is also an active speaker on donor and fundraising trends, and has been featured on Forbes.com, Philanthropy Journal, and Nonprofit Hub.

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