Planning a Virtual or Hybrid Event: A Framework to Ensure Your Success

Planning a virtual or hybrid event: Here’s the framework to ensure your success.

Nonprofit organizations have been changing the way they operate to keep up with the ever-changing times these days. When a lot of businesses were being shut down for months, Virtual operations took over for many people.

We know you may be wondering how a Hybrid for Virtual event differs from an in-person gala — not to worry, we’re here to help you navigate through how to plan one of these events. This is a guide to help your organization host a Virtual or Hybrid Fundraising event. While you may be overwhelmed by all the options and capabilities of the new Virtual or Hybrid format, we’re here to provide some guidance and best practices we’ve learned over the past 7+ months producing Virtual and Hybrid fundraising events for organizations all over the country.


What’s the Difference Between Hybrid and Virtual?

Hybrid events are a combination of both Virtual and in-person, providing an online experience for those that cannot attend and providing an in-person Gala environment for those that can. Hybrid events extend your reach and your ability to fundraise to a group of people who either don’t want to attend, are worried about attending, or that are geographically unable to attend.

The major fact about pivoting to a Virtual or Hybrid event is that your audience will undoubtedly change from your typical live event. People who do not enjoy going to big parties or Galas may tune in. People from different areas around the state, country, or world may tune in. Your audience may double in size. And appealing to all of these people and making this a highly accessible event to anyone and everyone is important.


Where Do I Begin With My Hybrid or Virtual Gala?

When preparing for a Hybrid Gala with a Virtual component or an event that is completely Virtual, planning might be a bit different than you’re used to. Your run of show needs some tweaking to ensure your program is succinct and deliberate while also being informative, inspiring and engaging. You’ll want to ensure that your Hybrid events run no longer than two hours, and your Virtual event, including any virtual programming during your Hybrid event, is 60 minutes or less – timing is an important factor of being successful. Matter of fact, we’ve had a 98% retention rate for Virtual attendees at our Virtual and Hybrid event productions. A shortened run of show for Virtual attendees will allow viewers to stay engaged and avoid burnout from a lengthy screen time.

Another thing to start prepping for is your landing page for your event. Consider utilizing a local (or national!) celebrity who could record a short video on your behalf inviting people to your event! This can help with future attendance since people spend their days sharing and reposting links. Utilize social media to your advantage when planning a Hybrid or Virtual event. Someone may share one of your links to their network of 2,000+ friends. With each share, at the very least, you potentially gain exposure in many new markets. Your online presence, branding, and, most importantly, your communication matters more now than ever. We’ll help you structure a communication sequence to your attendees and prospective attendees to make the Virtual or Hybrid process incredibly easy to understand and navigate. Even those that are technologically challenged will be nodding their heads in agreement as our team will help make this process so simple!


Managing Registration for Hybrid or Virtual Event

When you host a Virtual or Hybrid Gala, registration is important to track. Having a platform to register for bidding, such as Greater Giving helps to create a live bidding experience seamlessly for both Hybrid and Virtual guests. All stress is removed from your planning when you have guests register in this way. Once donors are registered through GreaterGiving, they’ll subsequently receive a text message and an email with their unique streaming link with instructions on how to join the live future broadcast. If you’re planning for a Hybrid experience, those attending in-person will receive information and directions to the venue. Utopia will help you manage registrations by providing post-event data analysis on not only who joined the live stream portion of the event, but also time your attendees spent viewing as well. This is so important! Data is power.

New Opportunities With Hybrid and Virtual Events

The donors you’ve had along the way remain your core primary target. Hybrid and Virtual events provide an opportunity to reach a new donor base. A Hybrid or Virtual Fundraiser may engage people who may be unfamiliar with your nonprofit organization or your mission, but have decided to register for your event simply because they saw a link shared on Facebook, or Instagram. Shouldn’t these new donors become a part of your target audience?! Why not! We will help you cater to them by keeping them engaged through incredibly professional programming. Once your new donors register, your mobile bidding provider, Greater Giving, will capture important data and information over the life of your donors.

Hosted Watch Parties During Your Virtual or Hybrid Event

Watch parties, whether you choose a Virtual or Hybrid platform, present exciting new opportunities. Consider offering a sponsorship level for hosted watch parties. For a $1500-$2500 sponsorship, your volunteers deliver a food & beverage ‘care package’ to your host homes for up to 10. Short recorded clips of watch parties taking place during your event can be shown during your program to capture enthusiasm and emotion. Watch parties help your organization create social interaction on a smaller scale that participants miss from large social gatherings.

Planning A Hybrid Event With Ease

Your biggest opportunity when hosting a Hybrid Event is ensuring a smooth transition throughout the timeline and keeping your Virtual guests engaged. As you can see below, a Hybrid Fundraising event, if structured properly, will allow in-person donors to enjoy time to mingle and eat prior to streaming the program to Virtual attendees. This also helps you create an ‘exclusive’ environment for those that chose to attend in-person. The below run of show allows for everyone to have a good time in an efficient manner, catering to both types of attendees.

 Here is an example of a timeline for a Hybrid Fundraising Gala:

6:00pm – In-Person guests arrive

6:00pm – 645pm – Cocktail Hour (soft music plays/sponsor logos looping on screens)

6:50pm – Live Broadcasting begins –  Welcome Virtual Attendees 

6:52pm – Discuss Housekeeping Items and Explain Mobile Bidding Once More

7:00pm – Begin Program

7:05pm – Auctioneer / Emcee to welcome guests and introduce themselves!

7:10pm – Special Appeal / Paddle Raise / Fund A Need Video 

7:15pm – Paddle Raise/ Special Appeal Ask – Led by Auctioneer

7:25pm – Transitional Video – Donor purpose video, testimonial, awardee video etc.

7:30pm – Live Auction Begins! 

A great auction team will have multiple ringmen, otherwise known as spotters or bid callers. If you’re working with Utopia, we’ll make your Virtual attendees feel as if they’re actually in-person by incorporating multiple camera angles and roaming cameras during the live auction. They’ll feel as if they’re a part of a studio audience!

7:45pm – Closing Remarks / Thank you – Emcee and Auctioneer or Executive Director

7:50pm – Say Goodbye to Virtual Attendees!

7:55pm – 8:30pm – Cocktails and Entertainment for In-Person Guests

Planning A Virtual Event With Ease

Your events will all differ in context and length, but it is important to keep things running as if it were a TV show. This means that everything is in short, quick segments to keep a good flow for the event and prevent burnout. Pre Recording various segments is going to help you tremendously with coordination and flow for your timeline. It can help eliminate the potential for unexpected technical difficulties as well. Minimize risk. Minimize liability. Maximize results.

645pm – Cocktail Hour Pre Show

Guests log in and the preshow program begins. Sponsorship slides and / or short video commercials of sponsors. Explanation of how the night will work, what devices guests need to use. Includes a run through of mobile bidding.

7:00pm -Program Begins – Pre-Recorded Video Executive Director Speaks – Pre-Recorded


7:05pm – Donor Video – Connect To Purpose – Pre Recorded


7:07pm – Auctioneer / Emcee Introduction – Introduce the evening – Pre Recorded


7:10pm – Special Appeal / Paddle Raise / Fund A Need Video – Pre-Recorded


7:15pm – Paddle Raise/ Special Appeal Ask – Led by Auctioneer

7:25pm – Transitional Video – Donor purpose video, testimonial, awardee video etc. 


7:27pm – Live Auction Begins  

7:45pm – Closing Remarks / Thank You’s by Emcee / Auctioneer

7:50pm – Closing Remarks by CEO / Executive Director 


7:55pm – Program Concludes // Optional Entertainment Begins

What Else Should I Know About Running A Virtual or Hybrid Fundraising Event? 

Another key factor to hosting a successful Virtual or Hybrid event is to have a special code for attendees to use when accessing the event. We all want to avoid people who can potentially interrupt or hijack our events, so keeping a secure server for attendees will help to alleviate the chances of any unexpected traffic.

 Hiring a professional company to plan with you, consult with you, educate and inform you, then handle filming, production, and behind the scenes execution is critical. Just as critical is partnering with a mobile bidding platform that understands your objectives. Utopia and Greater Giving in partnership with one another will help facilitate your event and keep it running smoothly – we have the expertise and experience to keep even the most complicated Hybrid or Virtual events on track and making money.

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