Nonprofit fundraising changed drastically in 2020 with a shift toward virtual galas and a need to raise money online. It shifted again in 2021 as small social gatherings returned, enabling nonprofits to produce hybrid fundraisers that connected them with in-person and online donors.

These changes mean nonprofits need to have an effective fundraising strategy for 2022. Based on current trends, nonprofits will need to adapt their fundraising events to in-person, virtual, and hybrid platforms depending on what is most advantageous for their organization. This can be challenging, but with the right support structure, nonprofits can thrive in this environment.

Let’s take a look at the benefits offered by in-person, virtual, and hybrid fundraising. We’ll also look at how popular fundraising activities can be adapted to these different galas and what online platforms you can use to help build a better fundraising strategy.

Advantages of In-Person, Virtual, and Hybrid Fundraising

Nonprofits know the advantages of in-person traditional fundraising. Holding regular gatherings of supporters and donors helps establish a sense of community within the nonprofit organization. They enable nonprofits to build their brand and inform newcomers of their mission. And they motivate people to give more — either through monetary contributions or volunteering.

Beyond that, in-person fundraisers are appealing social events. There’s something really nice about catching up with fellow donors during a luncheon or participating in a fun run to raise money for a nonprofit.

So, it’s understandable that nonprofit supporters were disappointed when the COVID-19 pandemic put in-person gatherings on hold. Fortunately, thanks to online fundraising platforms like PayBee, nonprofits didn’t have to cancel their fundraising events — although they did have to modify them for a virtual environment.

Once they did though, many nonprofit organizations discovered multiple benefits from holding a virtual fundraiser. These include:

  • Reduced cost: Virtual fundraisers don’t need an on-site staff or physical venue which saves money.
  • Larger audiences: Virtual platforms can accommodate hundreds or even thousands of attendees, increasing the number of potential donors and supporters.
  • Increased donations: The convenience of donating online via mobile app or donor page, coupled with free admission to online events, motivates supporters to give more.
  • Better inclusivity: Anyone with an Internet connection can attend a virtual gala — enabling nonprofits to increase awareness of their mission in other states and countries.

That being said, virtual fundraisers do come with some drawbacks. Since everyone needed to interact through video chat or Zoom calls in 2020, virtual fatigue set in and people became reluctant about attending virtual galas. Talking to people through a computer screen didn’t offer the same intimacy as a face-to-face meet. And then there were some supporters who couldn’t navigate the online platform easily.

So, as 2021 offered opportunities for small gatherings, nonprofit fundraising evolved to incorporate hybrid fundraising. These hybrid events merge aspects of virtual and in-person fundraisers, offering the best of both worlds. With a good online platform and support staff, hybrid galas can offer two experiences — one in-person and one virtual — that come together to form a single profitable event.

Nonprofit organizations that have hosted successful hybrid fundraisers find they enjoy several advantages. These include:

  •  Lower costs: Hybrid events do need an on-site staff and meeting area, but these can be smaller than a traditional in-person fundraiser, keeping costs low.
  • Convenience: Being able to attend a fundraiser online or in-person is very accommodating to supporters, provided that a nonprofit offers good experiences for both groups.
  • Greater demand: After a year of social isolation, demand for attending in-person gatherings is much higher — and people are more willing to accept the costs associated with in-person events.
  •  Profitability: Being able to collect donations from both online and in-person attendees expands a nonprofit’s support network and increases total donations.

Ultimately, virtual and hybrid fundraisers taught nonprofits they could raise money under almost any circumstances. However, this hinged upon adapting a fundraising events strategy that could adapt popular activities and events to online and hybrid venues. While this is definitely possible, it does require some rethinking of traditional fundraising strategies.

Popular Fundraising Activities and How to Adapt Them to Online or Hybrid Galas

Virtually all fundraising activities — from auctions to luncheons to big charity concerts — can be adapted from in-person events to virtual or hybrid events. Let’s take a look at how nonprofits have been successfully updating their fundraisers for an online and virtual/live audience.

Live and Silent Auctions

Auctions have always been a big draw for nonprofit and charity fundraisers. People love the excitement of being able to bid on vacations or gift packages. Then there’s the great feeling they get when they know the money they donated is going to a good cause.

Much of that excitement can be transferred into a virtual setting. Livestreaming auctions with a live auctioneer creates the same heightened excitement for bidders as traditional auctions. Plus, mobile bidding apps make online bidding easier and more convenient. This, coupled with the fact that virtual galas attract more participants, make live virtual auctions a very powerful fundraising activity.

Virtual fundraisers can also take advantage of silent auctions. These online events list auction items on a website and let people bid on them days or even weeks before the actual fundraising event. Since people have more time to raise their bids, silent auctions can also be very lucrative for nonprofits.

When adapting a charity auction to a virtual setting, it’s important to keep the following in mind:

  • Choose an online platform that supports live auctions: Right now, PayBee is the only platform that allows true virtual live auctions with a live auctioneer.
  • Hire a seasoned live auctioneer with online auction experience: It takes a unique set of skills to build an audience’s enthusiasm through a computer screen. Be sure your auctioneer has experience doing this.
  • Hold silent and live auctions separately: Silent auctions are a great lead-in to an online fundraiser, but they should end before the live auction begins to avoid splitting an audience’s attention.

Virtual auctions have since been upgraded to hybrid auctions that combine the convenience and large audiences of online auctions with the social aspects of an in-person event. To make sure all bidders have a good experience, be sure to:

  • Use an online platform tailored for hybrid auctions: Once again, PayBee’s fundraising platform supports hybrid auctions by seamlessly integrating in-person and virtual bidding.
  • Ensure the mobile apps upload bids quickly: There’s nothing more problematic than a faulty app that prevents an online bidder from placing a bid in time.
  • Enlist a support team: Experienced auctioneers can handle both an in-person and online crowd, but having a volunteer staff on hand to manage both in-person and virtual bids is a good idea.

Charity Luncheons and Dinners

Charity luncheons and fancy dinners may seem like events that should be in-person, but nonprofits hosted many successful virtual dinners in 2020. By partnering with restaurants and caterers, and using video chats to facilitate socializing, virtual luncheons and dinners can be appealing affairs.

When planning a luncheon or dinner for a virtual gala, be sure to:

  •  Create a good online ticketing campaign: Online tickets should make it easy for attendees to sign up and choose from multiple menu options — including options for vegetarians or people with special dietary restrictions.
  • Work out the logistics of food delivery: It should be easy for attendees to pick up meals at restaurants or arrange to have the meals delivered to them.
  • Create a sense of identity for the event: Just because people are eating at home doesn’t mean the dinner has to be overly casual. Guests can dress up, create uniform dining décor, and interact in a formal setting with other online attendees.

Re-establishing a sense of formality and traditional socializing is easier with hybrid luncheons or dinners. To make sure these hybrid galas are successful, make sure to:

  • Consider both audiences: Both virtual and in-person diners need to feel included in the event and interact effectively with each other via an online platform and real-time video chats.
  • Obey social distancing requirements: Small in-person gatherings still need to know about and follow clear safety protocols.
  • Offer activities for both groups: In-person diners can participate in traditional fundraising activities, virtual audiences can engage in online activities, and both can post photos of their fun time on social media to promote the event.

Virtual and Hybrid Concerts

Virtual concerts proved a major draw for nonprofit fundraising events in 2020. By incorporating creative solutions into these online events, attendees enjoyed many advantages including:

  • Excellent picture and sound: An effective online fundraising platform should provide a great livestream broadcast of a concert to provide the feeling of excitement attendees want in a concert.
  •  Virtual meet-and-greets: Since virtual concerts can take concert-goers backstage with cameras and livestreaming, some events offer audiences virtual meet-and-greets with band members that let people get up-close-and-personal with the stars.
  •  Convenience: The ability to simply log on to a website and enjoy a concert eliminates travel costs and parking fees, which can be a big selling point for virtual concerts.

Hybrid concerts help bring back the excitement of a traditional concert while retaining many of the advantages of a virtual concert. To make sure all attendees have a good time, make sure to:

  • Use two separate support teams: Having one team to interact with the online audience while another answers questions and helps direct the in-person group makes it easier to coordinate a hybrid event.
  •  Invest in excellent tech support: Tech support needs to deal with on-site lighting and sound issues as well as the online platform used to create a livestream broadcast for the online audience.
  • Properly communicate social distancing requirements: Managing even a small crowd at a concert still requires temperature checks, seating requirements, and easy access to hand sanitizer and cleaning products.

Incorporating Virtual and Hybrid Events into a Nonprofit Fundraising Strategy

Given the wide range of fundraising activities that can be adapted to a virtual or hybrid gala, even nonprofits that have hosted virtual fundraising events can benefit from learning how to use an online platform to create a successful online or hybrid event.

To start, sign up for a free live demo of PayBee’s online fundraising platform. This demo gives nonprofits and charities a chance to see and participate in a live PayBee auction. Nonprofits will also get a chance to ask questions and gain advice from a support team that has helped host hundreds of virtual and hybrid fundraisers. Sign up today!

About the Author

Kevin Santiago is the Marketing Director at Paybee – an all-in-one charity fundraising platform that specializes in virtual, hybrid, and in-person fundraising events.