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Top Takeaways from 2 Real-World Virtual and Hybrid Fundraisers

Over the last year and a half, we’ve witnessed exceptional innovation in fundraising strategies. Nonprofits have been creating highly effective virtual events that engage supporters in new ways and exceed fundraising goals. Now, hybrid events, which combine the best of live and virtual events, are rising in popularity. Nonprofits of all sizes are looking for ways to boost the effectiveness of their virtual and hybrid fundraising events. In this post, we look at real-world examples of successful virtual and hybrid fundraisers and the insights we can gain from them.

The Shalom Project

The Shalom Project offers programs that challenge the cycle of poverty in the Winston-Salem community. The organization provides a medical clinic, food pantry, clothing closet, and other initiatives to help those in need. Every year, The Shalom Project hosts an event called The Big Chill on National Ice Cream Day at a local park. Volunteers make multiple flavors of ice cream for the event, and attendees can vote on the ones they like the best when they donate. Additionally, local celebrities raise money via peer-to-peer campaigns. 

With the pandemic preventing large gatherings, The Shalom Project needed to shift for their 2020 event. So the team transformed The Big Chill into a hybrid event. Marsha Strauss, Director of Donor Relations and Events, asked the ice cream makers to share a favorite recipe that event participants could make themselves at home. The local celebrities continued their plan to raise money via peer-to-peer campaigns. Local breweries offered special deals on pints at socially-distanced mini-events, and a gelato shop provided a partnership with two gelato flavors.

Swipe These Tactics

Observing how The Shalom Project creatively transformed their traditional event offers us a wealth of insights. 

  • Translate In-Person Components to Virtual — The Shalom Project didn’t simply put a camera on their traditional in-person event. Instead, they got creative in how they adapted the event to ensure it was highly engaging. 
  • Think Small, in Multiples — Because large, in-person gatherings weren’t possible, the team designed small, simultaneous in-person experiences with the breweries. This strategy was highly effective, and it’s one they plan to continue using. 
  • Take Advantage of Peer-to-Peer — Peer-based fundraising is always effective because it benefits all types of events. If you’re not currently using peer-to-peer, consider integrating it into your next event.
  • Put Your Thank-Yous to Work — When Big Chill event participants voted on their favorite recipe with a donation, The Shalom Project used automated thank yous. They sent recipe cards with a message saying, “Let us know if you make it!” and a hashtag to share on social media. This strategy kept the word of mouth going.

The Jacksonville Humane Society

The Jacksonville Humane Society was founded in 1885 as a local, independent non-profit in Jacksonville, FL, and in 2005, the organization officially became a no-kill shelter. Shortly after, a coalition was formed to make Jacksonville a no-kill city, which they achieved in 2014. 

The Jacksonville Humane Society team set out to host an additional large event beyond their regular GivingTuesday event. They were inspired by Austin Pets Alive to do a numbers-based campaign, trying to raise $24,000 in 24 hours by July 24th. This would be the team’s first time doing a fundraiser like this, and they were setting out in a pandemic. They knew it was more important than ever for pets and their owners to get the help they needed. They choose Focus on the Paws-itive as the theme, emphasizing how pets bring positivity to people’s lives. Acknowledging the pandemic also pointed out the demand for the organization’s programs that support pet owners in need with food, vet services, spay/neuter assistance, and more. 

Swipe These Tactics

The Jacksonville Humane Society created a virtual event entirely from scratch, and they achieved exceptional results. Here are four takeaways to apply to your own event.

  • Start Fresh — Start with a clean slate when planning a virtual event rather than simply modifying a traditional in-person event. Part of Jacksonville Humane Society’s success came as a result of planning specifically for the online experience.
  • Get Strategic With Your Theme — The Focus on the Paws-itive theme connected with supporters’ need for something positive at a difficult time and their desire to help pets in need. Consider your audience and how you can tailor your theme to connect with them.
  • Boost Engagement With Video — The Jacksonville Humane Society team used videos to communicate their gratitude to donors. They instantly acknowledged gifts and sent videos of community pets along with the messages. 
  • Share Stories and Encourage Storytelling — On the organization’s social media pages and the fundraising page, the team posted stories and photos of pet owners and their pets. They also encouraged others to share their own stories and photos with the fundraiser hashtag. Plenty of people responded, filling one another’s feeds with heartwarming stories and photos of their pets. Stories travel, and they’re highly motivating.

Today’s Nonprofits Find Success by Reinventing Fundraising

These nonprofits succeeded because they threw out the old playbook and started thinking about their fundraisers from their supporters’ perspective. They considered how to best connect with them, what messages would best resonate, and what content formats would be most effective. The message these success stories have to share is clear: Don’t be afraid to try something new! Take advantage of the tools now available to host an engaging virtual or hybrid event that boosts your fundraising revenue.

Read Virtual and In-Person Events: The Future of Fundraising is Hybrid to learn more about hosting an effective hybrid fundraiser. 

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