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Should We Host a Hybrid Fundraiser or Not? (That is the Question)

More than anything right now, we want to be TOGETHER. We want to rub elbows, grab a nibble or a drink, have an unexpected conversation and get settled in for a great night at a table full of friends. I know you want this as much as I do!

So, it’s not surprising that many organizations are working hard to dream up the perfect way to host a hybrid event: one that brings together a small group of donors (up to the maximum allowable for your area), with many other donors joining virtually. Trust me, I get it. This is a perfectly reasonable idea! Especially given everything we need to consider right now.

But I’m here to tell you that for the majority of organizations, I don’t think we’re there yet. With today’s pandemic mandates, especially in most cities, hybrid events are cost prohibitive. You still pay for your venue and other sunk costs while also investing in the tools to make the live-streamed event feel professional and special. This is a mighty tall order! If you broadcast your event to donors at home, you’re inviting them to watch others have the fun they’re not having! Which could push your community farther apart instead of bringing them closer together. Plus, what if some of your in-person audience doesn’t social distance like they should? Nobody wants to drag those optics (which could be tough to control) through their biggest night of fundraising.

With this said, we’ve seen organizations meet this challenge using great strategy to great effect. With partners Swaim Strategies and The AV Department, on Saturday, July 18th we helped Clackamas Women’s Services put on a fun and festive Screentime Drive-In Gala, a hybrid event that featured a night at the drive-in! This clever concept kept everyone safe while highlighting togetherness and out-of-the-house fun, all to show survivors they are not alone. Hosting 40 cars on an empty lot with a professionally created screen, there were hand-delivered concessions, fun activities to get the cars “talking” to each other and a successful in-person event that didn’t alienate the at-home audience. Best of all, they raised lots of money!

This fall, we’ll help host a fundraiser for The Boys and Girls Club in the Willamette Valley, where larger crowds are able to gather. Since the organization has two spaces that can host 100 people, we’ll broadcast a live feed to each location as well as to guests at home. Since everyone will be watching the same thing – and we won’t be broadcasting in-person from the event space – we won’t be fracturing their audience. So, if you happen to have free access to spaces and live in a location where larger, social-distanced crowds are okay, this could provide just the solution you’re looking for.

No matter what, your community of donors should come first in your ideating and planning. I suspect, once there’s a vaccine and we’re gathering in person, many of our events will use a hybrid model. Because of course there will always be some of us who can’t be there! For now, though, I think sticking with streaming events will be the most successful and cost effective for most organizations. Trust me, you can still make it special. And I know you will!



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