It’s been just over two years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and our world, including the nonprofit industry, is still adjusting to the new challenges we face. As fundraisers, many of us have questions about how to plan a successful fundraising event in 2022 and beyond.
News around the pandemic has shifted unpredictably over the past two years. So, we get why you may have hesitations about your next event. And of course, you still need to keep up with and abide by any local mandates or restrictions on gatherings.
But, if you leave room to pivot, you can start looking forward to and building a plan for your fundraising events in 2022 and beyond! Hosting hybrid events with strong online offerings that get virtual attendees as excited and engaged as in-person guests is the key.
So, let’s get back to basics. Remember what made your events so amazing before the pandemic. Then apply what we learned during COVID to be flexible and improve your event offerings and activities!
Be clear in your communications.
There’s no way around it. Your audience is going to have questions about your next fundraising event. This may be the first time many of your guests attend a large gathering since the pandemic began.
And yes, you will need to take the time to address your supporters’ concerns and answer questions directly. But you can save everyone a little time and worry by making sure there is no ambiguity about your event, its offerings, or how you’re addressing public health concerns.
First, be very clear if your event is in person, virtual, or a hybrid in your direct mail invitations, emails, and social media posts. You also need to provide details about how attendees can access any virtual offerings tied to an in-person or hybrid event.
Attendees shouldn’t miss out on the full experience because you didn’t make all your offerings obvious enough!
You should consider building a dedicated section on your website with all the health and safety information your guests will want to know. Your event registration page is a great place to share these details.
Do attendees need to show proof of vaccination? Or produce a negative test result? Do you need to cap the event at a certain number of attendees to meet local guidelines? Will masks be required?
You can then direct attendees to this page if they reach out with questions, rather than answer individually each time.
Embrace hybrid events.
As they say, “necessity is the mother of invention.” And some of the ways nonprofits adjusted their events for a virtual world during the worst days of the pandemic can enhance your fundraising events in 2022 and beyond!
There are many benefits to hosting a hybrid event or working in some virtual offerings at your next in-person event. You may not even want to rule out hosting another virtual fundraising event in 2022!
After all, you open giving opportunities for more people when you feature both in-person and virtual event elements. They’re only so many seats available at your next gala. But you can broadcast your honorary guest’s speech on your website or go live on social media and reach more people with their inspiring message.
Hybrid events also allow you to accommodate your donors’ preferences better. Some audience members may be eager to get back to an in-person fundraising event in 2022. But others still may feel safer joining in from home.
And virtual and hybrid events generally have lower associated costs than large in-person gatherings.
After all, you don’t need to book a venue or hire on-site staff for virtual events. And these costs may be reduced for a hybrid event with significant online offerings. That’s money you can save and put right back into your mission!
READ MORE: Shifting to a digital-first fundraising strategy.
How to go hybrid.
The creativity and ingenuity we see from nonprofit professionals never ceases to amaze us. And that has never been truer than in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was truly inspirational to watch (and help) organizations shift to a digital-first approach, not just with their communications, but in all their activities!
Who would have thought we’d find ways to make a 5k run into a virtual event? Or make a community concert an online only occasion?
But as someone who works at a nonprofit, you know your work is never done. So, we all need to continue thinking of creative ways to augment in-person fundraising events in 2022 with virtual elements!
Can you initiate a peer-to-peer fundraising challenge as a lead up to your event, work in text-to-give opportunities, or find a new way to add online offerings at your next in-person event?
Focus on growing your social media following by encouraging event attendees to post an event selfie on Instagram and tag your organization.
You might set up a photo booth featuring your event’s brand and some fun props to encourage attendees to participate! And don’t forget to come up with a creative hashtag your guests can include in their tweets and other posts.
Or, consider announcing the winner of a raffle on social media before an official announcement is made at your event. Let your guests know when a winner has been determined. But tell them your social media followers will be the first to know and encourage them to follow you.
There’s no shortage of ways to feature more online offerings at your next event. Even if you just move the raffle at your bowl-a-thon to your website! So, get creative, ask your team for ideas, and don’t be afraid to collaborate with other nonprofit professionals!
A new digital divide.
Hosting a hybrid fundraising event in 2022 comes with one important caveat.
Your online offerings cannot feel like an afterthought you tacked on to an existing event strategy. The purpose of hosting a hybrid event is to make it easier for everyone to get involved and build relationships with your guests.
And you will struggle to make connections and retain donors if your virtual offerings leave much to be desired.
So, consider assigning someone to host the virtual portion of your event. They can serve as a “play-by-play announcer” for your event’s live stream. Or keep online attendees engaged by recording special messages to make transitioning between sections more exciting.
You can mail registered virtual attendees a small charcuterie board so they feel like they are participating in the cocktail hour. Or send any party favors in-person attendees could have grabbed on their way out the door!
Fundraising events in 2022 should strive to make the online experience just as memorable as your in person one. So make sure your virtual attendees feel as important as those who came in person!