In 2020, the nonprofit world flipped on its head with the cancellation of all events. Event managers had to think swiftly to recover funds that otherwise would have come from galas, walks, and other thriving fundraisers, and virtual events saved the day.
Now that many nonprofits are moving back toward hosting in-person events with fewer limitations, it can be easy to cast aside the idea of a virtual event. But why not get the best of both worlds and conduct a hybrid event, inviting guests to participate virtually and in person? Having a hybrid event will give your supporters flexibility and expand your donor base, potentially allowing you to raise more money.
This guide will discuss tips that can make your hybrid event — especially your hybrid auction — a great one.
1. Make sure your fundraiser is mobile-friendly.
You’ll want to have an entirely mobile-friendly auction platform. Here are a few reasons why:
When you engage two audiences during your auction, you’ll need to ensure they’re all on the same auction system to ensure the process goes smoothly and there is no confusion about the winner. In a hybrid auction scenario, you won’t want paper bid sheets because they will exclude the audience at home from bidding on items.
The at-home audience can join your event and view your auction from computers, tablets, or their choice of device. However, your in-person audience is limited to joining via mobile phone. Ensure that all guests can bid with ease. The easier it is for them, the more money you’ll raise for your cause. Including mobile bidding and a convenient donation box will improve the success of your fundraiser.
Some features to look for that can optimize a mobile experience for all of your guests:
- One-click bidding – making it easy to keep up with the auction
- Push notifications – to alert attendees when they’re being outbid
- Collect payment information upfront because it will make checkout easier
We’ve all been part of an auction where the winning bidder’s name is smudged or illegible, there’s drama over stolen bid sheets, or people pushing one another out of the way to make sure they’re the winning bidder. For in-person opportunities, you can avoid these auction woes by having a completely mobile bidding system. Perhaps one of the most useful things about having mobile bidding for your guests is that your in-person audience will be able to continue networking and participating in the auction easily without the interruption of getting up to check bid sheets.
For hybrid events, mobile bidding is more than an opportunity to prevent common auction event woes. It’s an essential aspect of a successful event because it organizes bidding for both your in-person and at-home audiences.
2. Promote your event on multiple platforms.
Because your event is in two different settings (in person and online), you should also use multiple marketing channels to promote your event. This will help your organization meet people where they’re at no matter if they prefer interacting with your organization online or in person. For example, consider leveraging marketing channels like:
- Email: Promote your event directly to your supporters by sending personalized messages to their inboxes.
- Social media: Use Facebook groups, posts, and ads on social media to draw new and existing audiences.
- Flyers: Flyers in local coffee shops or around town are a great way to get more in-person attendees for your event. One of the most effective uses of flyers these days is in the bathroom stalls of restaurants, breweries and other local stops!
- Direct mail: This platform works really well when combined with digital strategies. In fact, when organizations combine digital and direct mail strategies, one resource claims they tend to see a 40% increase in conversion rates and a 60% increase in ROI for the campaign.
You can include direct links to your registration pages from your digital marketing platforms. Use QR codes and written URLs on direct mail, flyers, and other physical media to make it easy to access registration or ticketing pages.
3. Use registration data to plan event activities.
When you use a mobile bidding platform, you can make it a micro CRM of sorts. Although it will not replace your current CRM, online registration features will help you collect important data about your event attendees that will help you plan your various event activities effectively.
Here are some of the data points you might choose to collect and examples of how you can use that information:
- Food preferences and restrictions: if you’re catering the event in person, you should understand these restrictions to make sure you have options for everyone.
- If they plan to attend in-person or virtually: this will dictate the space you need in-person, the amount of food you need, etc.
- The total number of attendees: This will help you determine the number of auction items you’ll need to make the event a success.
Be careful, though. You don’t want to ask unnecessary questions on your registration page, as it can become too lengthy and difficult to fill out. If there are optional data that you want to collect (like how they found out about the event), you might consider sending a survey after the registration page has been completed.
Getting additional information after the registration process could be a useful tool in your future marketing campaigns as well. For example, if you ask about how your attendees found out about your event, you’ll be able to see which of your marketing sources are most and least effective.
4. Establish your auction rules ahead of time.
It may seem like a total buzz kill to have “rules” at your auction, but setting the guidelines and expectations will help your event run smoothly. Some of the auction rules you might communicate include:
- Bidding rules (what to do with canceled bids, incorrect bid increments, etc.)
- Seller guidelines (those who provide items for your auction should provide accurate descriptions, establish a Fair Market Value, etc.)
- Checkout rules (require attendees to have a credit card on file, require an item be paid in full before it’s provided )
- Opening and closing times (set ahead of time)
Make sure you communicate these rules ahead of time and also at the event itself so that expectations are perfectly clear to your supporters before they start bidding.
5. Use live streaming to engage at-home audiences.
Your auction event needs to have more than an auction to engage your audience. You’ll also want to have speakers, musicians, and other activities for supporters to participate in. This is where live streaming comes into play.
Live streaming will help your supporters at home to feel included in the event, thus keeping their attention on your event instead of getting distracted by life happening around them. Some people prefer participating in events in their pajamas from the comfort of their own homes, but the last thing you want is for a remote supporter to fall asleep during your event!
Tips to make sure everything goes smoothly with your live stream:
- Test your live streaming software hours or days before the event to make sure everything works well.
- Have tech volunteers trained and ready during the event to help quickly resolve any problems that emerge.
- Use a combination of live and pre-recorded engagement opportunities for your at-home audiences.
In addition to live stream videos, use other live tools to engage your at-home supporters, such as fundraising thermometers and leaderboards. This adds a level of friendly competition, driving fundraising revenue higher at the event.
While a few extra steps are involved in planning a hybrid auction, following these best practices will expand your support base, engage all of your event guests, and make your event and your organization more visible and accessible in your community. Best of luck with your efforts!