Donation Appeals in Hybrid Events: 4 Steps to Engage In-person AND Virtual Donors

As the lines between in-person and virtual continue to blur, we’re looking at new hybrid strategies that can be a solution for nonprofits looking to blend an in-person and virtual approach.

The mission video, inspiring speaker, and a raised paddle (or donation button on a device) are all familiar elements for the in-person event.

The social media campaign, appealing video in a live-streaming event, and strategies to bring in more donors at lower amounts are all familiar for the virtual event.

How do we combine them to engage both in-person and virtual donors? Let’s dive into it below and leave you with some creative ideas to bring to your hybrid event.

Connect With Your Sponsors and Major Donors From Past Events.

Craft your communication & recruitment plan to include specific outreach to sponsors and major donors from past events. Make sure there is no confusion about your hybrid event and the benefits to their participation!

Once you have their commitment, plan out how you are going to show gratitude to major donors and highlight sponsors before and during your hybrid event.

  • Add logos to your fundraising site (Giving Center for OneCause customers). These will appear and scroll on attendees’ phones and devices, providing digital visibility to your sponsors.
  • Create social media promotion plan to share sponsor love online.
  • Share sponsor videos or graphics highlight their brands, and thanks them for their support.
  • Announce sponsors live during your hybrid event welcome, and throughout your program.
  • Add logos to fundraising scoreboards during your event.

Even take it one step further! Take advantage of your network of partners and sponsors. Businesses and other organizations can help broadcast your event to their audiences, and sponsors can provide reach to strengthen your hybrid promotional strategies.

Try This!

A recent live-streamed appeal included not just one matching gift, but a matching gift at EACH donation level.

They focused on a number of donations, and as the dollar amount went down, the number of donors needed increased. They blew past their goal and generated significant numbers of new donors.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.

With two audiences and a new hybrid setting, naturally more questions will come from your supporters. This is an important reason to communicate, communicate, communicate, MORE!

Make sure to:

  1. Map out a communication plan that blends the old-school newsletter and email blasts with digital engagement strategies of social media and your fundraising site.
  2. While most communication is relevant to both audiences, your plan should include targeted text messaging to virtual and in-person attendees.
  3. Share the ways virtual supporters can donate through their mobile device or a pledge posted in your streaming chat.
  4. Don’t forget the importance of the personal thank you call, text or email post event. Your virtual attendees will particularly appreciate the follow-up.

Try This!

To appeal to both audiences, a OneCause customer posted a collage of pictures of past and present donors up on a screen behind the emcee, and the emcee called out certain people. It really added a personal touch because supporters could see faces of donors, not just names on a screen.

This same organization brought out a paddle onstage as a visual reminder to at-home supporters how important the paddle raise is to their success.

Determine When and How to Hold Your Mission Moment.

Don’t wait too long in your program – your virtual attendees may log off! Whatever time you choose, make sure that your tug at the heartstrings with a mission-driven video or speaker that leads directly into the ask.

Also make sure to have mission messaging and humanize your brand with images on your fundraising site—especially for those virtual viewers at home. You can:

  • Share impact statements
  • Host videos about your mission
  • Post mission-focused content on social media

And watch your cause and event come to life.

Once the appeal closes and your event is wrapping up, thank every participant, at-home and in the room with you. Donors love hearing how their support translates into concrete impact for your mission.

Try This!

We’ve found that about 20-25 minutes into a virtual program (assuming 30-45 minutes of content) works well for the donation appeal.

One recent hybrid customer solved their timing differences by hosting their virtual attendees for only the key moments in the program. The virtual emcee provided a lead-in to the speakers and then thanked supporters when the virtual program ended.

Build in the Fun!

While the donation appeal moment draws everyone’s attention to your cause, gamification can keep them there.

This means in-person engagement and off-screen engagement for those not in the room.

  • Look for breaks in the program, and how you can keep remote supporters’ attention. The pull is high in the virtual world for people to hop off or get distracted. You will need to find ways to keep them engaged and tuning in.
  • This could be done through built-in video breaks, social challenges, trivia, live shoutouts, and more.

Fundraising thermometers, auction leaderboards, ambassador contests, matching gifts, themes, and award ceremonies can all boost your event’s energy and drive stronger fundraising results. Fundraising software can make this all a lot easier too!

Try This!

We couldn’t decide on just one idea, so here’s a sample of the creative approaches.

  1. Prizes – Offer a prize to the donor who gets you to your goal. Other opportunities include a prize drawing for all pre-event donors or for those who donate during a certain time period.
  2. A dessert dash – usually a donation competition between tables, but you can add your watch parties to the mix as a “table.” We recommend moving the dessert dash earlier in the program to have time for dessert delivery if the watch party “team” wins.
  3. Last Man Standing – not a new idea, but with a twist: using a scoreboard showing the bidders, both virtual and in-person, can drive up donations to the climax.

Key Takeaways!

Hybrid fundraising has gained momentum as a way to bring fundraising events to both live and virtual audiences, but a key hesitation nonprofits experience is if their donation appeal will perform as well as it did in person.

Don’t let it be a barrier! Think of it as the “best of both worlds,” blending fundraising best practices and technology to create seamless giving experiences – anytime, anywhere.

We’re here to help guide you through the world of hybrid fundraising. Check our comprehensive hybrid fundraising guide here.


Guest Author:

Laura Thomson

Laura Thomson
Consulting Manager

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