The coronavirus pandemic changed the event industry — possibly forever. The number of organizations planning a virtual event in 2020 doubled from the year before. With a vaccine available, many event planners are wondering, "What comes next?"
While the coronavirus pandemic taught us to expect the unexpected, many event organizers believe the event industry will transition to hybrid events.
Hybrid events have both in-person and virtual components. If you're planning a hybrid event campaign, your challenge is to engage supporters both at home and face-to-face. To help you out, we're sharing ideas for technology, engagement, and fundraising to make your hybrid event a success.
Please note: When planning your hybrid event, reference current CDC guidelines to ensure you're planning a safe event where social distancing can be enforced if needed.
What's a hybrid event?
A hybrid event includes live and digital components. These events can be anything — a fundraising campaign, trade show, or conference — with face-to-face and virtual attendees. Supporters have the option to attend in-person or online.
A successful hybrid event engages both groups. Networking, attending breakout sessions, and educational resources are available to all guests, regardless of which option they choose.
Unsurprisingly, this is also any event organizer's greatest challenge. How do you make virtual attendees feel as though they're attending in person? How do you field questions from the live audience while responding to the online chat?
Serving in-person and virtual attendees equally in real-time requires planning, technology, and a platform that serves both groups.
Why transition to a hybrid event?
Hybrid events offer a number of advantages. If the thought of planning a campaign with two distinct audiences feels overwhelming, keep these benefits in mind.
1. It may help you hit your fundraising goal 🎯
Increased attendance is one of the biggest advantages of a hybrid event. With increased attendance comes increased giving.
Those who don't have the availability to travel can still participate in the comfort of their home, and those fatigued by Zoom meetings can engage in person.
Two audiences = more supporters = more money raised.
2. It can increase engagement 🎉
When pivoting to online events, organizers listed engagement as their largest challenge. Fortunately, hybrid campaigns offer a solution.
A hybrid event can (and should!) allow in-person supporters to download education resources and submit questions, just like virtual attendees. The event can also offer collaboration and networking for virtual attendees, which is often lacking in online-only campaigns.
By increasing engagement, you increase your donor retention rate. Over time, this contributes to the success of future campaigns.
3. It can increase exposure for sponsors 🏆
Sponsorships help fund upfront costs associated with any campaign (like advertising costs, rentals, and signage). In exchange, exhibitors and sponsors ask for exposure to your attendees.
When you have both online and offline groups, there’s more exposure.
Plus, combining in-person and virtual experiences doubles the ways your supports can interact with sponsors. For example, virtual attendees can watch a demo of sponsors' products online, while in-person supporters can witness a live demo at the sponsors' booths.
How to engage two audiences at one event
To make the most of your hybrid event, you need to find ways to engage both audiences. Use these strategies and tools to make your hybrid campaign a success.
1. Articulate each ticket offering 🎫
Virtual and in-person attendees will have different experiences — even if you plan a flawless event. Set expectations early on, ensuring each group knows what the event entails.
On your event platform, set different ticket options for your in-person and virtual audience. Include a description to differentiate between each option, writing what’s included in the cost, where it’s located or the platform it’s hosted on, and other necessary information.
2. Plan for safety with capacity limits 🎪
The events industry switched to online gatherings during COVID-19 to ensure public safety. As restrictions lift, continue to enforce social distancing and other safety measures when possible.
On Givebutter, you can try the event capacity feature to set limits for different ticket types as well as your entire event. Registrants will be able to see how much space is left for in-person tickets so they can grab a spot.
During the pandemic, the Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.) transformed their annual gala to a virtual campaign. After raising $86,000 to support foster care and community adoption, event organizers noted they would never hit such targets with an in-person event.
They received roughly 1,200 supporters through their virtual gala, where their in-person galas can only hold 330 guests.
If they move to a hybrid model in the future, C.A.S.E can use capacity limits to set a cap of in-person tickets sold. That way, they take advantage of attracting a wider virtual audience while still holding an onsite gala.
3. Chat with supporters in real time ⏰
In-person supporters shouldn't be the only ones engaging with volunteers, speakers, or event organizers. Those participating at home should feel as though they're part of the live event.
Engagement from virtual supports was one of the main concerns of the Children of Armenia Fund (COAF). When COVID forced the organization to move their biggest campaign of the year online, they searched for a way to interact with supporters at home. Event organizers engaged with their community through the supporter feed on the donation page. By the close of the campaign, COAF raised $4.5 million for Armenian youth.
4. Take advantage of live streaming 🎥
Live streaming is a vital component of any virtual event platform.
With a live stream, you bridge the gap between your virtual and in-person audience.
When THE PLACE sought to raise money for youth experiencing homelessness, they looked for a way to engage virtual supporters. The live stream helped them connect with their community, particularly after throwing together a campaign on short notice. Through the all-in-one Livestream feature on Givebutter, they successfully raised $30,000.
5. Allow supporters to connect offline 👯
Networking opportunities are one of the main reasons people attend in-person conferences and breakout sessions. Frankly, the camaraderie and personal connections can be hard to duplicate in a virtual event experience.
A hybrid model allows your community to connect offline. Teton Adaptive Sports used in-person and online fundraising efforts during COVID-19 to raise more money than any past campaign (over $50,000!). Their hybrid model consisted of an online raffle through Givebutter, then a partnership with local restaurants and other businesses for prizes. Supporters picked up gift bags and other prizes in person, allowing for quick conversation and connection.
6. Rally peer-to-peer fundraising to hit your target ✌
Team fundraising is one of the most efficient ways to reach a wider audience. Team members can invite friends to share the campaign with trackable links, and a little healthy competition can help you reach your fundraising goal.
PEER Services used team fundraising to raise $53,000 in their virtual Step Up for Recovery event. When the pandemic cancelled their annual campaign (where people physically climb stairs to reduce the stigma around addiction) they sought ways to grow their community offline. In past years, supporters invited friends to climb stairs with them, so they used team fundraising to ignite the same camaraderie in a virtual event. If they move to hybrid event strategy, they can use both tools to grow their supporter base.
A hybrid event format can help you hit your campaign goal
A hybrid event offers the safety measures and wider audience associated with a virtual campaign, combined with the networking of an in-person event. To launch a successful hybrid event, you need to find ways to engage both your in-person and virtual audience.
Givebutter offers 70+ features to rally supporters at home and in-person. Plus, with the lowest platform fees in the industry, Givebutter can help you reach your goal faster. To get started planning your hybrid campaign, try Givebutter for free today.
Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.