Hybrid vs. Virtual Fundraising

In 2020, virtual events became the new normal. In the face of fundraising adversity, nonprofits were forced to find new ways to keep fundraising and connect with donors online. As we emerge from the pandemic, having alternatives is key in this changing fundraising landscape.

Hybrid and virtual events provide great fundraising options that accommodate the evolution of online and in-person interaction. Nonprofits need to determine which event type is right for your cause. This includes exploring what format best helps you reach your supporters, connect them to your mission, and keep on fundraising.

But to do so effectively, we’re helping you answer these important questions:

Before we get started, it’s important to know the main difference between a hybrid and a virtual event. It all comes down to where your supporters are located.

If you want the option to have a physical and online event, you’ll be hosting a hybrid event. If want your donors to support your mission entirely online with no physical event, you’ll be hosting a virtual event.

We’re here to guide you through hybrid and virtual events and how to choose which strategy fits best with your mission. Ready to dive in?

What is hybrid fundraising?

What is a Hybrid Fundraising Event?

A hybrid fundraising event takes place both online and in-person. There are two audiences engaged in your fundraising, at the same time, just from different locations.

You can reach those who want to engage in-person and include those who cannot or do not wish to gather in groups, by connecting them to your events through a virtual livestream.

And because the fundraising takes place simultaneously, you can leverage virtual fundraising technology to engage and execute all your fundraising activities. Delivering a “dual experience” is key – so you need to find the right technology to make fundraising easy and engaging for both audiences.

Virtual fundraising software and mobile bidding help you easily engage your in-person and online attendees, and boost revenue via live and remote engagement strategies. Everyone can participate and donate by:

  • Tuning into your event’s livestream
  • Bidding on silent & live auction items
  • Participating on social media
  • Making real-time donations
  • Purchasing raffles or fixed price items

It doesn’t matter where they are or what they are doing – attendees can participate anytime from anywhere! All you need to do is send them a link to your charity auction or event, and they are off.

Before you get started on a hybrid event, there are a few questions to explore to know whether or not hybrid fundraising is right for you:

Hybrid Fundraising FAQs

What is a hybrid fundraising event?Hybrid fundraising is a fundraising event that takes place both online and in-person, allowing supporters to engage with your cause from anywhere. These remote donors used to make up a smaller percentage of attendees, but during the pandemic there was a reversal. The majority of your attendees may actually be remote!
How do they work?When you create a hybrid event, some of your supporters attend your event in-person while others attend online via livestream. Hybrid fundraisers come in many shapes and sizes – so the sky’s the limit in what your nonprofit can spin-up and execute. The hybrid format is highly flexible and can be used to adapt events of all shapes, sizes, and budgets.
What are the benefits of hybrid fundraising?The ability to engage in-person and online donors simultaneously is a major benefit for nonprofits. With hybrid fundraising, you can offer fundraising choices to your donors, allowing them to support your mission in ways that are comfortable to them. It also allows you to expand your reach, engaging remote donors regardless of geographical location.
What do you need to host a hybrid event?You'll need mobile bidding software and a clear communication plan for connecting donors to your fundraising activities before, during, and after your event. You'll also need livestreaming tools to broadcast your programming in real-time.
Who can host a hybrid fundraising event?Any nonprofit can host a hybrid event! The extent to which you engage your remote audience in live programming, may be dependent on your budget. However, there are many strategies to make hybrid fundraising accessible to all, with a wide range of workarounds available for organizations of all sizes.

Pros and cons of a hybrid event

Pros and Cons of Hosting A Hybrid Event

To determine whether or not a hybrid event is the right strategy for you and your mission, let’s examine some pros and cons.

Pros

Think of hybrid events as the “best of both worlds,” blending fundraising best practices and technology to create seamless giving experiences – anytime, anywhere. Here are some of the pros of executing a hybrid event:

  • In-person and virtual attendance: Hybrid fundraising allows you to expand your reach and engage donors regardless of geographical location. By engaging donors in-person and online, you maximize your attendees.
  • Safety and convenience for guests (virtual): Going hybrid allows you to offer fundraising choices to your donors, allowing them to support your mission in ways that are comfortable to them.
  • Personal connection (in-person): Gathering a small group of donors to attend your fundraising event in-person deepens their connection to the mission while still keeping people safe and comfortable.
  • Flexibility for you and your donors: Hybrid fundraising gives you the flexibility of event planning and gives your donors the ability to attend in-person, from the office, in the kitchen, or on the couch!

Cons

Hybrid events are a balancing act between in-person and virtual attendees, and therefore, you must balance both experiences. Here are some drawbacks to account for before planning a hybrid event:

  • A less personal touch than in-person events: It’s more difficult (but not impossible) to create powerful mission moments on screen rather than in-person – where you can feel and feed off of the energy in the room.
  • Harder to keep supporters actively engaged: Peoples’ attention spans are getting smaller and smaller. While your in-person attendees may enjoy a 2-4 hour evening, your remote supporters will most likely not stay engaged for that long.
  • Complexity of planning for dual audiences: You need a 2-prong strategy to maximize engagement (and giving) for both in-person and virtual attendees. While it doesn’t double the work, it definitely adds an element of complexity to the event.
  • Possible increased expenses for AV and programming: Pulling off a hybrid event may require some assistance in the AV and programming department, adding increased expenses to your event budget that don’t typically come with a fully in-person event.

What is a Virtual Fundraising Event?

What is a Virtual Fundraising Event?

A virtual fundraiser is a campaign or event that takes place entirely online and allows supporters to engage with your cause from anywhere. Because the fundraising takes place entirely online, nonprofits use technology to promote, engage, and execute their fundraising activities.

As virtual events are well, virtual, they can be executed quickly and opened up to a wide audience. Virtual events can absolutely increase your nonprofit’s reach. Virtual fundraisers are also highly flexible – so the options are limitless for what your nonprofit can spin-up and execute.

From custom virtual programs, to live-streamed galas, virtual golf outings, online challenges, endurance events, and online auctions – the ideas are endless.

A few of our favorite virtual ideas include:

  • Virtual Gala
  • Virtual Run, Walk, Ride
  • Viewing Parties
  • Online Awareness Campaigns
  • Telethon Live-Streams

Want more ideas? Explore our 29 Creative Fundraising Ideas guide for what’s hot in the world of virtual fundraising.

Virtual fundraising became especially important amid the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing guidelines. If your organization is new to the concept of virtual fundraising, here are a few commonly asked questions:

Virtual Fundraising FAQs

What are virtual fundraising events?Virtual fundraising events are any type of online, interactive opportunity to engage with donors and solicit online donations. Virtual events can take many forms and be adapted for all kinds of missions and goals. Hybrid virtual events are also becoming increasingly popular.
How do they work?Exactly how your virtual fundraising event works will depend on its specific purpose and goals. However, all virtual fundraising events rely on virtual fundraising software to facilitate interactions, accept donations, and present live-streamed video feeds.
What are the benefits of virtual fundraising?Virtual fundraising events are effective because they offer a high level of flexibility for nonprofits to suit their mission, goals, and community. They're also generally easier and less expensive to plan than major in-person events. Plus, they open up your fundraising event to large audiences that can join in from anywhere!
What do you need to host a virtual event?In order to successfully pull off a virtual fundraising event, your team may need a virtual fundraising software, livestreaming software, mobile bidding tools, event planning software, and a database or CRM platform. To grab and keep your donors' attention, you'll also need a strong communication plan and entertaining program.
How can host a virtual fundraising event?Any nonprofit can host a virtual fundraising event! Developments in virtual fundraising tech have made online-only events more accessible for nonprofits of all sizes. Plus, virtual events are naturally flexible, making it easy to adapt your plans to the proper scale for your audience and budget.

pros and cons of a virtual event

Pros and Cons of Hosting A Virtual Event

Your nonprofit’s exact circumstances will determine whether or not a virtual event is the right move for your fundraising. Let’s dive into the pros and cons!

Pros

  • Relatively quick and easy to plan: Because there’s no need to rent an event space, coordinate vendors, or worry about filling a room, virtual events are relatively easy to plan and can be spun up quickly when you need them!
  • Attendance is easy: Your donors can support you from wherever they feel most comfortable. Not to mention – there’s no last-minute rush of registrations. All your supporters need is a link to your fundraising site and they’re good to go.
  • There’s long-term value: Hosting a virtual (or hybrid) event means you’ll have a recording of your entire program. You can share the entire video or re-purpose the content to create smaller snippets and highlights.
  • Less overhead costs: A venue, decor, food, beverages, and entertainment adds up quickly. A virtual event can be more cost-effective than a hybrid or in-person event because of the reduced or eliminated overhead costs.

Cons

  • Supporters become distracted: When your supporters are at home, the distractions can quickly pile up and you could lose their attention. That’s why it’s important to make your program engaging.
  • Not ideal for longer events: People’s attention spans are getting smaller and smaller. If you’re planning a long program, a virtual event may not be the best option for you. Try keeping it to an hour or less to maximize engagement and fundraising potential.
  • Need to navigate livestream technology: You’ll need to make sure you have or are working with a reputable production team that has the experience and resources to ensure a high-quality production.
  • Less personal connection: It’s much easier to connect with donors face-to-face rather than screen-to-screen. With a virtual event, you lose the ability to interact with your attendees, presenters, and sponsors.

how to choose the right type of fundraising event

How to Choose the Right Type of Fundraising Event

At a time where live events are impossible or limited, how do you choose between a hybrid or virtual fundraising event? Let’s visit the key factors you should consider in order to make your decision.

Safety

The safety of you, your team, and your donors is of upmost importance. The first step in determining whether you should host a hybrid or virtual event is to assess whether or not it would be safe to gather any supporters together in-person.

If yes, a hybrid event may be your answer! Working to effectively incorporate virtual elements into an in-person event can be a successful way for your mission to grow while still ensuring inclusivity and safety.

If your donor base isn’t comfortable meeting in person, going virtual will allow you to do what you can to keep donors happy and healthy while still supporting your mission.

Time

How quickly you need to get your event up and running will have a big impact on whether you’ll choose a hybrid or virtual fundraising event.

If time is of the essence, a virtual event can be spun up quickly and effectively. Roll with it!

If you’re working with a longer timeframe, deepening your supporters’ connection with your mission in an hybrid format (in-person and online) may be worth the extra planning time. We recommend at least a 120 day planning window (4 months), to undertake a hybrid fundraiser.

Budget

While hybrid events provide that invaluable face-to-face interaction, they also come with some overhead costs. The decision between a hybrid event or a virtual event may come down to that.

First, compare your budget to your fundraising goals. Then, compare the benefits of an in-person event element to the added costs. That will help you determine whether or not it is worth it. (It most likely is!)

Technology

No matter if your attendees are with you in-person or virtually, you need powerful fundraising technology to power your mission. You’ll also need the right technology to livestream your event.

For a hybrid event, take a 2-prong strategy to maximize engagement and giving for both audiences. Some experiences will be shared (main program, auction, donation), but some may be different (cocktail hour, live entertainment, VIP experiences, virtual tables). Your fundraising software will be the central location for your hybrid event, so choose wisely!

Bonus content

BONUS CONTENT: The 10 Steps to Hybrid Event Success

If you choose to roll with a hybrid fundraising event, you’ll want to follow these steps to ensure fundraising success.

As you adapt your event into a “dual experience” format, it’s important to think through the size, goals, and fundraising processes for your virtual fundraiser, ensuring both your in-person and remote attendees receive a seamless experience.

Here’s our ten recommended steps for hybrid event success:

Ten steps to hybrid fundraising success

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