7 Key Tips for Planning the Perfect Hybrid Fundraising Event | LuxGive

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What is a Hybrid Fundraiser?

Hybrid fundraising events combine two common fundraising strategies: the in-person and the virtual benefit event. In other words, your nonprofit will welcome donors to a physical venue as well as host them online. 

With an online auction component, hybrid fundraising events also require tech solutions, ranging from apps to online auction sites, software, and streaming platforms.  

There is no single way to run a hybrid fundraiser. Some nonprofits will choose to simultaneously broadcast their live auction to online viewers. Others will pre-record media to stream exclusively to their virtual audience. 

One thing all hybrid fundraising events have in common? 

These auctions allow attendees to donate in-person and online, capitalizing on both mediums to raise funds. 

Benefits of a Hybrid Fundraiser

With the return of in-person events, are hybrid events fizzling out? Not according to the data! In fact, nearly 60% of respondents plan to host the same number of hybrid events in 2023 as they did in 2022. Here's why:

Raise More: Hybrid events offer an innovative way to diversify your fundraising pipeline. By opening the door to in-person and virtual events, you can raise significantly more funds from a single benefit event

Global Reach: Many donors are now globally based and unable to attend local events. By offering remote participation, you acknowledge an important donor base and open donations up to a broader audience. 

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Flexibility: Hybrid fundraising events offer more flexibility against unforeseen events. If you have to cancel your in-person charity fundraiser, you won’t lose the entire evening – and all the hard work and valuable resources that went into planning it! 

Accessibility: Physical limitations, caretaker responsibilities, and other concerns can make it difficult for some donors to leave home. Offering guests the option to attend online provides a more equitable and inclusive experience for all donors. 

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Tip 1: Start Virtual

First things first – when it comes to planning a successful hybrid event, start with your virtual component. 

It may be tempting to focus on your in-person fundraising gala and build the rest of the benefit event around that. However, experts suggest that your online portion is a safer and more sensible place to start. 

According to the Experts

Start with what you know is possible now, which is a virtual program. Then add an in-person component later if you can. That way you can begin planning certain things right away — the date, con­tent, and corporate sponsorships, for exam­ple — while avoiding having to cancel and start over later. 

Samantha Swain - Fundraising Event Consultant & Founder of Swaim Strategies (Chronicle of Philanthropy)

Planning your virtual component first guarantees your donors a fundraising event regardless of external factors, such as location, potential health restrictions, or venue changes or cancellations. This safeguards you from having to start both portions again from scratch. 

Tip 2: Assemble Your Team

Hybrid fundraising events have many complex moving parts and require different areas of expertise. Create a hybrid task force by dividing your team into different categories, each with its own responsibilities.

Hybrid Event Categories

Dividing your team into clearly defined roles ensures all bases of your hybrid fundraising event are properly covered and no aspect is overlooked. It also means each team is focusing on their area of expertise for a more elevated and seamless auction experience. 

Tip 3: Think Tech

Virtual auctions require specific tech solutions, such as online auction sites, software, or streaming platforms to raise funds. Sourcing and securing the right tech solutions for your hybrid event takes time and consideration. 

Questions to consider

  • Can your auction software host in-person and virtual events?
  • Does your auction software provide both mobile and online bidding? 
  • Does your auction software offer a "buy now" option or let you sell raffle tickets?
  • Does your auction software provide event data analytics and metrics?  
  • Is the auction software easy for nonprofits or donors to use and navigate?  

Thinking tech now allows you to find the best software solution for your nonprofit's benefit auction needs, budget, and fundraising goals, so you're not scrambling for a solution last minute. 

Popular Tech Solutions

  • Givebutter - The only free all-in-one online fundraising platform that has powered over $500 million for nonprofits
  • Givergy - An award-winning mobile fundraising solution proven to raise 50% more for nonprofits
  • ClickBid  - An all-in-one fundraising event platform that has raised over $300 million for nonprofits
  • Maestrosoft - A total online auction management software, from virtual events and text bidding to personalized auction websites
  • GivSum - An all-in-one fundraising platform featuring fully customizable online charity auctions
best online silent auction site

Tip 4: Consider Your Venue

Deciding on a physical venue is key to planning a successful hybrid fundraising event. It sets the stage for the in-person portion of the evening by playing host to your donors and communicating the benefit event's theme, tone, and atmosphere.

To avoid any expensive surprises, use the following checklist as a starting point for your in-person venue needs:

Venue Considerations

  • Size of your intended audience
  • Venue location and accessibility 
  • Vendor and staff requirements 
  • Audiovisual and tech capabilities 
  • Food and alcohol options
  • Fundraising event budget 

According to the Experts

Much of the expense of an in-person gath­ering depends on the venue. Many require you to use their vendors, and high-end places tend to work with more costly vendors. To keep expenses in check, choose a cost-effective venue that will let you work with any audiovisual company. 

Gwenn Cagann, Director of Special Events Fundraising, Wingo (Chronicle of Philanthropy)

Tip 5: Capitalize on Consignment

Sourcing exciting auction items can be time-consuming, especially if you have to solicit donations. Skip the extra work by opting for showstopping consignment items, such as LuxGive's luxury vacation packages for auction. 

LuxGive Auction Travel Package Benefits

  • Raise more funds than standard travel packages
  • Ability to sell unlimited trips 
  • An extensive online portfolio of travel experiences 
  • Customizable packages that match your donor profiles
  • Fundraising specialists for expert advice and placement
  • No risk or cost if your package doesn't sell
  • Professional event collateral and marketing media

For more on how LuxGive travel experiences maximize your fundraising revenue, we suggest: 8 Reasons Private Homes Make the Best Auction Travel Packages

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Tip 6: Prep Your Program

Approach your hybrid fundraising event as if you're planning two separate programs: one for in-person and one for virtual. Programming is a crucial opportunity to foster donor relations, so make sure you're connecting meaningfully with both your audiences.

Key Considerations

1. Designing two simultaneous programs is no small task. Fundraising experts suggest starting planning at least 8 - 12 months out. 

2. If you plan to live stream, build in times for your host to address the camera directly so online donors feel acknowledged. Some nonprofits also prioritize whichever medium is hosting their key supporters. 

3.  Avoid broadcasting portions of the evening that online donors can't participate in, such as cocktail receptions or dinners. Instead, use those times to share a video highlighting donor impact, open a virtual-exclusive auction, or offer interactive social challenges. 

4.  When it comes to online programming, less is more. To prevent donors from tuning out, keep virtual programming under 60 minutes.

Keep it Simple

First time planning a hybrid fundraising event? Keep things simple by pre-recording your online programming, then simply broadcast it the night of the event. That way you avoid challenging logistics or tech issues from live streaming. 

Tip 7: Plan to Engage

Increasing donor engagement is crucial to any successful benefit auction. But it’s even more vital when you can't see your entire audience face-to-face. 

For a successful hybrid fundraiser, tailor specific engagement strategies to your in-person and online attendees:

Live Engagement Ideas:

  • Hire professional auctioneers to host your event
  • Generate live auction buzz with one-of-a-kind centerpiece items
  • Use live appeals, such as a Paddle Raise or Fund-A-Need's
  • Showcase dynamic keynote speakers 
  • Weave key programming moments into dinner pauses
  • Engage audiences with raffles and silent auctions

Virtual Engagement Ideas:

  • Use on-screen bidding leaderboards and gamify tactics
  • Display donor names and donations in real time
  • Send call-to-donate texts at pivotal moments in the programming
  • Offer buy-it-now options or matching gift moments  
  • Encourage donors to organize viewing parties at home
  • Recreate the gala experience at home by providing gift baskets, wine, or dinner to key supporters

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