The pandemic fundamentally changed the way nonprofits fundraise—inspiring new opportunities and strategies for success. Instead of sitting on the sidelines and waiting for the world to return to normal, nonprofits quickly adapted to reach donors through diverse and innovative channels.
One of the ways nonprofits kept up with the changing giving landscape was by hosting hybrid fundraising events. Fundraising with a virtual and in-person component grew in popularity because it was convenient, flexible, and engaging, even when we weren’t all physically together.
As we put the pandemic in our rear-view mirror, it’s clear that hybrid fundraising is here to stay. Hybrid fundraising combines the benefits of both in-person and online events, allowing you to raise even more revenue for your cause.
To build on lessons from the pandemic and plan successful fundraising events in the post-COVID era, use these best practices:
- Build a strong event committee
- Embrace hybrid formats
- Use the right technology
- Leverage corporate sponsorships
- Collaborate with ambassadors
Armed with the support of your team and the right strategies and tools, you can take your fundraising events to the next level. Let’s begin!
Build a Strong Event Committee
Engaging events like fundraising galas, walk-a-thons, and golf fundraisers can be fairly complex fundraisers, regardless of their size or scope. That’s why having an event committee is key. Form a planning team comprised of these core areas:
- Marketing and promotions
- Ticket sales or registration
- Volunteer management
- Major donor involvement
- Venue setup
- Auction item procurement
- Hybrid programming & engagement
- Event follow-up
Additionally, you might want to recruit volunteer ambassadors or social fundraisers to support your marketing efforts. We’ll cover this in the sections below.
The main idea is to clearly separate and delegate crucial event tasks. This will ensure nothing falls through the cracks as your event comes together.
Embrace Hybrid Formats
One of the biggest takeaways from the pandemic is that donors appreciate flexibility when it comes to engaging with nonprofits.
According to the 2023 OneCause Giving Experience Study, social donors continue to flock to in-person experiences, with 78% saying their last social giving experience took place in person—an increase of 29 points since 2021.
Hybrid events continue to gain momentum as a way to bring fundraising events to both live and virtual audiences. Think of hybrid fundraising as the “best of both worlds,” blending fundraising best practices and technology to create seamless giving experiences—anytime, anywhere.
Hybrid events remain incredibly valuable, allowing nonprofits to cater to different preferences, expand their donor base, and reach donors both in-person and at home. When creating a hybrid event, focus on fostering connections with your donors before, during, and after.
- Before: Promote your upcoming hybrid event extensively with a strong multichannel marketing plan. With enough registrants, you can propel your nonprofit above and beyond its fundraising goals and build strong donor relationships.
- During: Once your hybrid fundraising event has officially been launched, optimize your donor communication in-person and online for the best engagement. Leverage different forms of storytelling, from engaging videos to blog posts, to educate and connect donors to your mission.
- After: After your hybrid event concludes, recognize your stand-out donors for the key role they played in making it a success! A personalized note or phone call can go a long way.
You can always adapt the hybrid format to meet your nonprofit’s specific needs and goals. For example, if hosting a smaller in-person gathering over a large-scale event is more your speed, consider inviting only your major donors to the in-person component of your event and inviting the rest of your supporters to participate remotely.
Use the Right Technology
Your fundraising software will be the central location for your event, so choose wisely! To get the most from your software and your fundraising, there are several key components to look for. Make sure your fundraising solution has these top fundraising features:
- Cloud-based: Being able to access all of your tools and data from anywhere at any time is crucial. Cloud-based software also makes it much easier for your team to stay organized remotely.
- Flexible design: Choose a platform that lets you customize your fundraising site and individual participant fundraising pages to fit your brand and needs.
- Item management: If you’re planning to host auctions, make sure your software enables you to track, manage, and automate your auction procurement. Even better if it has the functionality to easily group related items and allow donors to add/upload their items.
- Payment and registration: Your online fundraising site should serve as a central hub to register guests online for bidding/donating and processing payments. Make sure your software is PCI-compliant with built-in security functionality.
- Reporting and analytics: Any tool you use should make it easy to gather and analyze your fundraising data. Virtual and online fundraising software should have built-in analytics tools and reporting so you can assess your fundraising progress.
Do your research to find a fundraising solution that will meet your needs and grow with your organization.
Leverage Corporate Sponsors
A corporate partnership can help your nonprofit secure funding for your event so you can drive more profits. Plus, the right corporate partner can help expose your nonprofit to a whole new audience, bringing more donors to your cause.
Research companies with similar values and write a corporate sponsorship letter that reflects your needs and how you’ll create a mutually beneficial relationship. When writing your letter, keep these top tips in mind:
- List out your fundraising needs: Be direct and clearly explain what you’re looking for, whether it’s direct financial support, in-kind donations, or another type of support.
- State your fundraising goal: Let your prospective partner know what you’re working toward or how their support will help.
- Make your case about the impact your cause has created: Use statistics that highlight what you’ve done with your donations so far and how you’ve made a difference.
- Make your ask “human”: Use storytelling elements to explain where the funds from your event will go.
If you’re not sure how to reach a prospective partner, Double the Donation’s guide to corporate sponsorships recommends asking board members or other high-ranking members of your organization if they have any connections or contacts at a particular company. If so, ask if they can facilitate an introduction.
Collaborate with Ambassadors
Ambassadors are the social butterflies of the fundraising world. With their connections and large personal networks, ambassadors can help to get the word out about your campaigns, such as through posting on social media. Look for ambassadors among your:
- Board members
- Event committee
- Sponsor connections
You can also ask influencers who are passionate about your cause to lend a hand with marketing your event.
Ambassadors can also help to peer-to-peer fundraise before your big event and share their campaigns widely across social media. Equip them with the tools and best practices they need to succeed, including how to build an individual fundraising page and develop a marketing plan.
Don’t leave guests hanging after event doors close; follow up and thank your attendees for their support! Your hybrid event may be over, but your work is not.
Promptly send thank-you notes to everyone who was involved with your event, including sponsors, guests, and volunteers. Don’t forget to update your supporters on your progress, too. They’ll want to know how this fundraising event impacted your cause, so be as detailed as possible.
Featured Photo: Unleash the Leader in a Girl by The Mariposa DR Foundation