As we navigate through a world impacted by COVID-19, nonprofits are going to need to stay flexible (so it’s good thing you’re pros by now!). Some of your supporters may be ready for in-person events now that they’re vaccinated, while some guests are still going to love the flexibility that comes with virtual events.
One way to manage different supporters’ expectations is with various options for participating in your event. This might mean you offer multiple venues for smaller crowd sizes, or it could mean offering both a physical venue and a virtual venue. The most important thing is to make sure your guests can support you in a way that makes them the most comfortable.
Happy guests = a successful fundraiser!
If you’re ready to make your event a rollicking success, take a look at these tips on how to organize a fundraising event with multiple venues!
Finding Your Venues
The first question you’ll have to ask yourself is whether your event is going to be strictly in person, strictly virtual, or a hybrid event.
If your event is going to be strictly virtual and is more entertainment-based, you may only need one room with great acoustics and lighting in order to set the stage for your virtual extravaganza. However, if you’re having a full band as entertainment, you’ll still need a venue with a stage, or an area that can be turned into a stage. Other than that, your only other venue is the virtual one!
If your event is more recreation-based (think 5Ks, bowl-a-thons, etc.), you still may need to come up with a list of spaces your attendees can use to compete in your event, whether that’s a trail to complete a 5K, or a selection of golf courses attendees can use to participate in a golf-a-thon.
If your event is hybrid or in person, you’ll have more concerns to consider. First, if your event is hybrid, are you capping attendance because your event will be indoors? If so, how many in-person attendees will there be? That will help determine the size of the venue you’ll need.
From there, you’ll also need to consider the activities involved at your event. Are you planning a gala that involves a gourmet dinner? Or is this a pet-friendly 5K where you may need to provide multiple venues guests can use to participate? If you’re having an awards banquet after your event, do you then need another venue for your banquet?
Of course, the same considerations you’ll need to take into account for a hybrid event will also need to be considered for an in-person event. Check out our venue management guide for more tips to help you pick the perfect venues!
Multi-Venue Management for Peer-to-Peer Fundraisers
Peer-to-peer fundraising events enable your existing supporters to get further involved with your nonprofit and help raise funds! Which is helpful for organizations playing catch-up after 2020, as the mean peer-to-peer donation amount increased from $87.46 in 2019 to $108.62 in 2020. However, peer-to-peer is one of the most common types of events that you may need multiple venues for.
Now, some venues will take more coordination than others. For example, if your organization is hosting a 5K and your city has a ton of publicly accessible trails, it may be sufficient to provide your attendees with a list of trails in your area and an app they can use to track their distance. Some apps you can use are:
You can include a note for out-of-area participants to let them know that they are more than welcome to participate using a trail in their area.
If you’re hosting an event that requires the use of a course, court, or venue, you’ll want to reach out to each venue and make arrangements for your attendees. After all, your guests are likely to be very frustrated if they arrive at an alley to participate in your bowl-a-thon and find out the alley doesn’t have any lanes available.
After you’ve made arrangements for each event, you’ll add each location and its instructions to the event registration page. You could also add a custom field to your form that asks attendees which location they’d like to participate from.
You can use this data to help you pick the most popular location for your attendees once social distancing is no longer required, and it will come in handy if you’re limited in the number of attendees that can participate in any location.
After your attendees have registered, make sure you include the instructions for participation in the confirmation email attendees will receive. Clear instructions will help make sure your participants have a consistent experience no matter which peer-to-peer location they choose.
You can also help guests have a consistent experience by providing a recommended app that guests use for scoring. There are several for running (far more than what I’ve listed above), but did you know there are also apps for everything from golf to scavenger hunts?
One final tip is to have one staff point-of-contact where participants can take part at their own pace, such as participating in a 5K over a week. If your guests are participating at the same time—but just at different locations—make sure each event has a volunteer or staff member on hand to answer questions.
Multi-Venue Management for Virtual Fundraisers
Even when COVID is gone, virtual events are here to stay. In fact, only 3.5% of nonprofits are planning to go back to strictly in-person events (another 26.6% aren’t sure). Everyone else is planning to include at least some virtual elements at any future fundraising event. And since any virtual event you have is going to have multiple venues — where you’re hosting from and wherever guests are participating from—being able to manage those virtual venues is very important.
Of course, there are distinct differences between managing multiple venues you’ve chosen and managing venues your guests have chosen.
For example, if you’ve chosen to plan a virtual house party event, you know most people will attend your event in their living room (or any other communal room with a TV). If you’ve planned a fundraising gala with a nice dinner, it’s safe to predict that your guests will participate in their dining room (or their living room, if we’re being honest with ourselves). By knowing (or being able to make an educated guess on) where your guests will be participating, it makes it a little easier to unify the experience.
St. John Center for Homeless Men recently held their virtual house parties fundraiser, which was a huge success!
For a house party, you might send out goodie boxes that include props like fun hats, glasses, feather boas, etc. to help get your guests into the spirit of things. If you’ve encouraged people to dress up or wear costumes, you can even put together a “Get Ready With Us” playlist to get excitement brewing for your event before it starts.
And if it’s a family-friendly event, why not have some costume face masks, hats, or other fun templates parents can print and help their kids decorate to get excited for the event?
On the other hand, if the choice of venue is completely up to your guests, it can be a little more difficult to create a unified experience. However, goodie bags can help make a big difference here too. Even if you’re hosting a 5K and your guests can literally walk around their neighborhood if they want, you can still send t-shirts in advance so that your guests can show off what they’re walking for.
Even better, take this opportunity to encourage your supporters to get other people involved. Many of us have resorted to COVID “pods” to help us have some sort of social contact this year, whether that’s 20-something singles banding together to break the work-from-home/lounge-from-house monotony, to parents working together to get their children through remote learning. Reach new supporters and encourage safe social activity by encourage your supporters to bring their pod along!
Social media is also extremely important when creating engaging virtual fundraisers. Ask your supporters to post pictures or videos of themselves participating in your event on Facebook or Instagram. Use YouTube Live, Facebook Live, or Twitch to livestream your event. Create an X chat related to your event if your supporters like to hang out on X.
The most important thing to know is which social networking channels your supporters use (and look where you currently get the most engagement) and meet them where they are … not where you’d like them to be.
Multi-Venue Management for Hybrid Events
The trickiest part of manageing multiple venues for a hybrid event is making sure your guests have the same experience whether they participate virtually or in-person. If you’re hosting a dinner, the solution for creating a combined experience is simple: hire a caterer or restaurant that can provide the same meal in person and in to-go boxes for your virtual guests.
This can be trickier for an event like a charity fashion show. You’ll have one group of guests getting an up-close look at an exclusive event, and one group watching a livestream at home. However, there are still several ways to unify the experience!
In the lead up to the event, ask your designers to record videos discussing the inspiration behind the design. They won’t show the design in the video (that will be revealed at the show) but posting the videos the day before the big event will help everyone get in the spirit.
If you’ll be handing out awards to your designers (and this works for talent shows and other types of contests as well), you can give out Viewers’ Choice Awards and have one for in-person viewers to hand out, and one for at-home guests to give out.
For other types of events—such as a hybrid class experience—it’s important to have an unbiased moderator who can engage both the people in front of him or her and also keep an eye on any group chats so that your virtual guests’ questions don’t go unanswered!
And of course, the most important engagement tip of them all is to remember why your guests are there: to support your mission! If you want to create a truly engaging experience, don’t forget to communicate the impact of their support throughout your event.
While giving attendees multiple locations can certainly help with social distancing, one of the biggest lessons learned from the COVID-19 outbreak is that giving attendees options can help expand the reach of your fundraiser… which can in turn help your organization raise more to support your mission!
In the meantime, we hope you find these additional resources on how to organize a fundraising event helpful:
- Use Venue Management for Successful Fundraising Events – Qgiv Blog
- eBook: Marketing Your Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Event – Qgiv Success Center
If you’re ready to plan your next virtual or hybrid fundraising event, download your free event planner now. Just choose the right type for your chosen event!