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The last few months have taken the world of events by storm, with some of us bravely adopting for virtual events during lockdown. As restrictions are slowly eased and we start planning to re-open, many are talking about hosting hybrid events going forward.
But what does that event mean and how do you produce a hybrid event exactly?
We answer some common questions to help bring you up to speed.
What is a hybrid event?
A hybrid event is exactly as it sounds, it is a combination of an in-person and virtual experience. There are two channels to the event that includes two audiences: onsite at the venue, and remotely online. The key to successful hybrid events, however, is the engagement between guests. Providing opportunities for your remote audience to interact and participate at the event and with the onsite guests will ensure no one feels like they are getting the short end of the stick. The audience should be able to participate and engage in the event equally, no matter where they are.
Remember, we are entering a new era following a pandemic and while some people are bursting at the seams to gather again, others will need more time to adjust and raise their confidence levels. Hybrid events enable us to safely gather onsite while providing an alternative option for those who want to participate from home. Furthermore, virtual events during lockdown helped many to expand their reach and audience size, so it’s definitely worth maintaining this wider reach to keep everyone engaged and interested.
How can I keep sponsors engaged in a virtual or hybrid event?
It’s important to understand that the virtual component to hybrid events isn’t just a simple video call – it’s a full-blown virtual experience. This means it is full of possibilities to engage sponsors and donors like never before. Consider offering opportunities for brand recognition and acknowledgments during the program and get really creative with sponsored content online and onsite. Despite the current climate, you will be surprised at the level of interest in supporting events in these new formats which have helped brands expand their reach and engage with both online and on-site audiences with detailed statistics.
Data analytics and reporting is gold dust when it comes to sponsorship and if you are reaching record high numbers in audience and engagement, share the stats with potential brands and be sure to include this information in your benefits package.
The best part is: hybrid and virtual events can actually offer more personalized options for sponsors to suit their specific needs. Not to mention, the overall convenience of managing virtual exhibit booths and engagement with attendees, remotely.
That said, there’s no reason why you should skip the traditional swag bags just because your event is virtual or hybrid. Consider mailing out sponsored goodie bags in advance of the event, with some treats to enjoy during the show. Or why not opt for virtual goodie bags? They can include digital coupons, free subscriptions, gift cards, virtual backgrounds and so much more.
Also, allow event sponsors to pitch their products and services during the breaks so that they can make their presence felt. It may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s also worth remembering that this is a tech-enabled event so there is always the potential for something to go wrong, be sure to have sponsor commercials and material on standby for any snags or delays.
Finally, make your sponsors worth remembering by incorporating their brand and name in fun activities. A virtual game like a basic puzzle or scavenger hunt with sponsored names and products can inject so much fun while adding incredible value to the sponsorship.
The good thing is many brands are becoming more and more familiar with virtual and hybrid event formats and therefore know what to expect. The question is: are you prepared for this ‘new normal’ to stay ahead of the game?
How do you price an online event sponsorship?
Set your revenue goals before getting into the fine details of pricing. If you are producing an annual fundraiser, try to beat your previous year’s collections and determine clear targets.
The key to establishing pricing and securing virtual and hybrid event sponsors is by showcasing the overall value the event has to offer and the quality of interactivity with your audience. Healthy stats and data, as mentioned earlier will really help boost the value of your event and therefore provide opportunities to charge a premium for sponsorship.
Branding opportunities are the same at virtual and in-person events but in the case of hybrid, it’s doubled. This is because sponsors have the opportunity to engage with both in-person and online audiences. This again adds incredible value to the sponsorship.
The traditional tiered sponsorship grid is still relevant here and works really well when applied to both virtual and hybrid models. Just remember to get creative and tailor packages to meet the specific needs of your sponsors and always highlight the overall value by listing the available features for both online and onsite opportunities.
To help get you started, we created a sample sponsorship grid, which you can download and use for FREE.
Will it cost more to produce a hybrid event?
It depends. That’s the honest answer.
Yes, you can end up planning and spending on what appears to be two events; however, it’s important to think about all the requirements for your event and the necessary activities that need to take place on-site (including the number of guests and catering etc.) vs the features and interactivity requirements online.
Think about the overall purpose of the event and what your audience is expecting in terms of outcome. This will help filter between the overall scope of what is essential and what is considered a “nice-to-have.”
With various platforms and streaming options available, there are solutions for all types of events that work with various budgets. Allow yourself time to explore the options to make informed decisions about each component that will make up the moving parts of your hybrid experience.
Where do you begin to plan a hybrid event?
Take time to consider your event strategy and select an approach that will work best for your target audience. Determine the ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’ and ‘how’ of the event.
It’s important to understand the overall objective of your event, your demographic and what they like and dislike as well as how motivated they will be to participate online. Also think about the content you plan to deliver. It’s easier to hold attention of guests in-person but a little more challenging online, so keep virtual content short and digestible.
Also, consider where the in-person event will take place and whether or not the same content needs to be shared online at the exact same time. Hybrid allows guests to make the most of the content when and where it suits them – not to mention the convenience of access on-demand.
You also want to pinpoint where your remote audience will be tuning in from. This will help determine the most suitable time for your event across related time zones.
Finally, think about how you want the audience to consume your content. Live programming can be streamed in real-time but you can also make the most of simulive (pre-recorded and streamed live at a scheduled time) and on-demand content as well. There are various possibilities to help develop the ideal program for your audience.
Remember, virtual and hybrid events provide an opportunity to deliver high-quality and engaging content and are truly successful when you focus on boosting engagement and interactivity amongst your guests.
Good luck and happy planning!
Ruby Sohi is Chief Event Organiser at Royal Blue Events Management. She has over 15 years experience in event production and marketing. Actively involved in the industry, she has served as a board member for American Marketing Association (Toronto) and International Live Event Association (Toronto). Ruby has delivered a variety of events across Canada and is experienced in producing all types of events including virtual and hybrid formats.
Part One of Three
This is the first post in a Three-Part Series on Mid-Level Giving for Nonprofits on #WiserWithWisely. This series will serve as your go-to guide to start and grow a mid-level giving program for your nonprofit.
What is mid-level giving?
If you work in fundraising you’ve probably heard the term mid-level giving over the past couple of years and its growing prominence in nonprofits when planning for next year. The growing focus on mid-level giving is due to its ability to maximize donor revenue and give your mid-tier donors a special experience. If you want to start a mid-level giving program at your nonprofit, then you’re in the right place! Mid-level giving is a donor journey and strategy for your nonprofit’s mid-tier donors. Those donors who are giving less than a major gift, but they’re giving more than your typical annual donor. A mid-level giving program includes mass marketing tactics like direct mail and personal touches through relationship management.
Building a mid-level giving program gives you a way to draw these mid-tier donors closer to your organization and get to know them. By drawing this important donor group in more closely, you can identify who has the capacity to make a major gift.
Why do you need a mid-level giving program?
Your nonprofit needs a mid-level giving program as part of your overall fundraising strategy because
- Mid-level giving is a bridge between your annual donors and your major gift donors.
- Mid-level giving allows you to maximize your revenue efficiently.
- Mid-level giving engages this important donor audience to encourage retention and upgrade
What is the threshold for a mid-level gift?
The threshold for a mid-level gift is different depending on organization size, annual revenue, and donor base. In the same way, the threshold for a major gift is different. In fact, your mid-level giving threshold should be relative to the typical size of gifts given in your major gift program.
For larger organizations, a major gift may start at $25,000, so a mid-level gift could be anything above $1,000 and under $24,999. For many smaller organizations, a major gift could start at $5,000 so the mid-level gift could start closer to gifts from $500 up to $4,999.
What does a mid-level giving program look like?
A mid-level giving program is a bit like providing a hotel concierge for your donors. When you stay in a hotel, the concierge can help you pick a nearby restaurant based on your food preferences. But the concierge isn’t going to help you choose a specific meal from the menu!
In quite the same way, a mid-level relationship manager is like a hotel concierge, only there to answer donor questions and give your nonprofit a friendly face. So unlike major gifts, where you put together a very specific proposal for donors, in mid-level giving, you offer some personal touches to your donors but interact mostly through direct mail.
Why should you build a mid-level giving program?
Did you know that up to three-quarters of a nonprofit’s major donors started out giving a smaller gift through a channel like an in-person event or direct mail? This means you could have donors in your annual giving program with the potential to make transformational gifts to your nonprofit. Not only does your mid-level giving program help build a pipeline of major gift donors, it also provides on-going stewardship for past major donors who aren’t ready to give at that level again.
When you look for major gift prospects through wealth screening, you are only uncovering the top 10% of donors, which is usually what you want! But you are missing your mid-level donors, these donors may not be able to afford to make major gifts every few years, but they do have the capacity to make their lifetime gift to your organization. A mid-level giving program helps you re-engage major donors when it’s too soon to ask them to give another major gift, but you still need a way to keep them engaged.
The mass-market communications will keep these donors informed about your organization and the personal touches will maintain a high feeling of engagement with your organization. They will really appreciate the insider feel of the mid-level giving program and the regular stewardship updates.
Coming up in the second part of this series, how to start a mid-level giving program at your nonprofit AND how to define your mid-level audience.
Interested in finding out more about Wisely?
Or find out more on #WiserWithWisely
Wes launched his fundraising career accidentally when he joined the University of Toronto’s Advancement team. While at UofT he helped build the process, operations, and tools that fundraisers needed to be successful with data-backed decision making. Driven to innovate, expanded his reach and worked with some of the leading Canadian charities, managing their donors and data before joining the Sunnybrook Foundation. There he built their recurring giving program, launched new events, and digitized their fundraising campaigns.
Wes then made the jump into tech and hasn’t looked back. He led the Canadian team at Blackbaud and then founded Wisely, an AI-based technology company, designed to help charities raise more, faster. Today Wes and the Wisely team work with all sizes of nonprofits and are certified technology partners of Blackbaud and Silent Partner Software.
Jesse also shares some very important thoughts on the current digital landscape, its rapid growth, where it is leading, and what this all might mean for our sector.
To tantalize your curiosity ahead of #FD2021, listen to the podcast below.