With hybrid fundraising events looking set to continue due to the advantages they offer for both charities and individuals, here are some tips for running them successfully.
We might be moving away from Covid lockdowns and restrictions but while people are keen to re-embrace the in-person event, they’ve also got used to the convenience and flexibility offered by digital and virtual events.
Answering the demand for both, enter the hybrid fundraising event. Linking an in-person element with an online audience, or offering both in-person and virtual elements, these started to gain more attention as the UK ventured out of the pandemic, offering a way of including those unable or unwilling to step back into the physical environment.
From greater inclusivity, to more flexibility, and wider reach both geographically and demographically, their advantages for both supporters and charities certainly make them appealing.
Chester Mojay Sinclare, Founder & CEO, Enthuse, says:
“Hybrid events shouldn’t be limited to the pandemic. Over the past two years, the virtual element of events has opened up participation geographically and helped make fundraising more inclusive – so why take a step back from that?”
Lee Clark, Founder of GivePenny agrees. He says:
“Now that we can hold in-person events again, there’s a huge opportunity to blend what we’ve learned from the 2 years+ we’ve spent in front of screens instead of out and about. We can continue the evolution of the event fundraising experience. The hybrid fundraising experience is accessible to more people, and much more deeply connected to what participants are going through as they prepare for a marathon, sportive or other challenge worthy of training.”
As well as increasing audience reach, hybrid events also open up elements including speaker and sponsorship opportunities. If you’re not tied to one physical location, you can widen your reach in terms of who you work with to put on an event.
This all means it makes sense to continue providing hybrid events past the pandemic. And in fact, according to Enthuse’s Charity Pulse research, which surveyed decision makers from 204 charities late last year, 42% of charities are planning hybrid events this year, while its latest Donor Pulse shows that 63% of the public are interested in taking part in one.
But having two audiences and environments to manage, potentially simultaneously, is not without its challenges.
So what can charities do to ensure their hybrid events run smoothly?
Here are some key tips.
Have a clear vision of the event you want to plan…
Funraisin’s Senior Digital Partnerships Manager Rachel Marsh and Senior Project Manager Olivia Wreford say:
“This is super important and will help you succeed. Ask yourself: Who is the event for? Who is your target audience and why? When is the event taking place – and what does that mean for your participants? These questions need to be answered for both the physical and virtual event and its participants.”
…then plan it well
Marsh and Wreford also advise:
“Prepare a logistics plan and list out all the tasks that need to be carried out. You’ll also need to set out roles and responsibilities for your team to carry out each task within your logistics plan. Using planning tools like a GANTT Chart or a cloud-based management board will help you keep everything in one place, provide timelines and clearly see what tasks have been completed.”
Don’t leave sorting out the virtual element until the last minute
In terms of mass participation hybrid events, Mojay Sinclare says:
“Charities should be investing in branded solutions that improve charity recall and help ensure virtual attendees feel included. Another way to achieve this is to make sure that supporters taking part virtually can track their progress. This is where integrations like Strava on fundraising pages are vital. Being able to track the distance covered and individual fundraising contribution in one place helps fundraisers feel a part of the campaign. Having leaderboards included is another great way to promote the healthy competition you’d experience at a physical event, along with virtual maps which help bring the occasion to life.”
Where the audience can take part online or in-person, Nikki Bell, Co-founder of Everywhere+ says:
“Both events will have a different audience and requirements for the programme. Plan them separately and adapt your online event to feature shorter sessions and more engaging content to keep their attention. East Anglian Air Ambulance held a successful hybrid roadshow on the Everywhere+ platform and entertained online viewers with a musical thank you whilst in-person attendees shared refreshments.”
Know your audience
Shaf Mansour, Product Manager at The Access Group Not for Profit says:
“My top tip would be for charities to understand the real motivations that will trigger someone to take part in a virtual event and use that to inform their strategy, including content in order to encourage more registrations.”
Knowing your audience is also important for marketing an event, says Elliot Green, CMO at Wonderful.org:
“It’s critical to have a good grasp of who remote participants are, how they interact online, and on which platforms. This way, you can look at directly integrating the virtual elements of your event on specific platforms, or at least promoting your event in a more targeted way. Equally, don’t be afraid to expose your audience to new platforms or technologies if they truly enhance the virtual event experience.”
For events offering an online element, Everywhere+’s Bell advises:
“Be sure to give your online attendees a quality experience by briefing live speakers to make eye contact with the camera or reference at-home viewers, and pre-load presentations to be shared directly through your online event platform rather than relying on the camera to pick up any visuals.”
“Work with professionals: it goes without saying that your hybrid event experience reflects your organisation and a quality event will result in higher engagement. Work with professional AV companies where budget allows, and definitely move away from Zoom and onto more events-focused platforms to give your hybrid the best chance of success.”
And finally, stay nimble – and have a back up plan
GivePenny’s Clark and Head of Marketing Marja Moller have this to add:
“No matter how well a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it. Hybrid events are still a relatively young concept to fundraising teams. It’s crucial to use what you’ve learned over the past couple of years to your advantage. For a start, advertising and promotion is harder than ever, so be prepared to pivot your approach to recruiting participants.”
“Having a backup plan in case technology lets you down, which can happen quite often, is also important. It’s useful to have a plan B in case the internet stops working or a computer slows down, to ensure your online audience doesn’t miss out on the overall experience.”