Jul 28, 2020

Hybrid fundraisers: Q+A with MM Event Group

virtual event

We hosted a webinar, Hybrid Fundraisers, to discuss how future fundraisers will blend in-person and virtual elements. Our guest speaker, Marilyn Moss, President of NYC-based MM Event Group, weighs in on further questions:

How did you handle sponsors/donors or prove the virtual event’s worth when they were expecting an in-person event originally, and now want to withdraw sponsorship because the event had to change to a virtual one? Any feedback or did you experience this? Thanks!
There has been a wonderful amount of generosity and commitment during COVID-19. The events that transitioned from in-person to virtual have found that a large majority of their sponsors are fulfilling their original promises. There are always a few exceptions, and some sponsors/corporations are experiencing financial hardship. If you experience any hesitancy with acquiring your sponsorships, consider asking your donor to come in at a lower level this year. 

What’s the best way you find as the most successful way to ‘invite people to an event via zoom’? A basic Email? A particular website?  An Invitation emailed? An actual invitation mailed? Facebook isn’t always the way we have found.
In our experience invitations to virtual events retain many of the characteristics of an in-person event – invitations and outreach remain fundamental. We have had great success with our email invitations. Most importantly though in email campaigns is the data and tracking to see which guests have opened and clicked the outreach to be able to send out follow up communications accordingly. 
Read: How to attract an audience to your virtual event

With an in-person event, people’s tickets cover food and other benefits. How do you convince people to buy tickets for something that will be streamed?
There is some debate as to best practices for the price of a virtual ticket. What is important to remember is with virtual events, your audience has the potential to be larger than it has ever been before – so capitalize on that. There are your return donors who are committed to your cause who will buy a ticket, you can also entice them by including perks (ie. name listed on the ticker tape, a virtual swag kit, sponsorship benefits). Moving past that audience, you have the opportunity to provide a free ticket and get new bodies through the proverbial door. While planning your run of show, place a heavy emphasis on storytelling then follow that up with an opportunity to give (through GiveSmart, a text-to-donate software or an active donate button). 

What are your thoughts on the best live streaming platform?
This is a difficult question! We have used quite a few different platforms at this point, and there are countless others we have not explored. My best advice would be to start by creating a list of your priorities for the event then searching for the platform that meets these needs. Some examples of details you might want to consider: 

  • Can the platform include both live stream and pre-recorded content?
  • Will your event include a live ask moment? How can the platform implement this?
  • Does your event include a chat or interaction element (ie. polling or audience interaction)
  • What are the sponsor benefits you are looking to provide?
  • Are you hosting breakout rooms or simultaneous webcasts? 

Once you have your list, start your research, request demos, and ask a lot of questions! 

We have had a problem with people logging on at a certain time for a live event.  Any advice?  We had our gala auction, and it was successful online, but it was spread over several days.
We understand that people now have a lot on their calendar or that by the end of the day, they are experiencing Zoom fatigue. To get your audience to tune in live to your virtual event, accessibility is key. Make sure you are emailing out the relevant links, have a landing page on your website, and an event page on social media. You want your attendees to have the instant ability to join and explore all your virtual event offerings regardless of what source of information they rely on most. 

What we have found interesting with virtual events is that we are less limited by time. For a few of our clients, they have been continuing to receive event-based donations weeks after their event because it remains live.  

Our key advice, and something we have to keep reminding ourselves, is to remain flexible. Virtual events are different, but you have the opportunity now to tell your giving story to a larger audience than ever before. Focus on making a story-driven event and you can receive long-term benefits from it.  

You can also entice people to tune-in by a specific time by running a raffle for the first few hundred people that log-on. 

Marilyn, youmentioned a Virtual Table – can you provide a link to the company who provides this service? And can you please explain more?
Reach out to us at info@mmeventgroup.com and we will be happy to discuss Virtual Tables further with you! This explanation really requires a demo that we’d be able to set up for you as soon as possible.  It’s a fantastic way for your sponsors to be in a private room with the guests they would typically be sharing a table with and watching the show.  

You mentioned about surveying your attendees earlier. For a gala, what questions are usually asked to best capture the information needed for planning?
For virtual events, you must capture as much information as possible. The pre-event surveys should include all the expected personal and contact information. 

We have also had great success with surveys providing an opportunity for a degree of attendee participation. Consider including an attendee-voted participation topic portion to your event; this will provide a level of interaction that may be missing from your virtual event and provide an incentive for attendees to tune in live. 

Are you seeing the cost of an auctioneer decrease knowing that it’s going to be a virtual event, and not an in-person paddle raise?
Following through with the theme that “We’re all in this together right now,” I think you can have a discussion with your auctioneer discussing any flexibility they may have with their fee. Perhaps your auctioneer may be interested in a percentagebased fee which could alleviate any fear you may have about not raising as much money but yet needing to pay your auctioneer the same amount. 

My organization is at the point of planning multiple virtual events. How do we differentiate these events from each other?
Begin conceptualizing your storytelling early on to create an overarching theme. These choices can be implemented across all event marketing and implementation including pre-event messaging, graphic design, video design, and speaker choice, as well as overall event script.  

We have a client that traditionally hosts two events, one in the spring and one in the fall, which targets two different donor level demographics. This year, they are planning on taking advantage of the benefit of having overlap from the attendees at both functions resulting in a larger audience number than ever before. 

Let’s say we are planning to stream the event on Facebook. Do you know of a way to make that stream private for the virtual ticket buyers?
Having an event production team or a technical staff to assist with your event is a great way to allow yourself to focus on the event overall, while technology questions are resolved. Ask your experts or reach out to us for more guidance. Also, be sure to explore more of the streaming and virtual event platforms available to find what is perfect for your private stream! 

We had a difficult time getting our attendees to switch over from paper bidding to online bidding in addition to having more help at the event to help those donors that do not embrace technology. How can we encourage them to participate in a virtual event and bid as well? 
Just as you would in a live event, assign a team member the role of “technology expert.” In all your pre-event communication and during the event, provide your attendees with their contact information to answer all potential questions.  

Also, be sure to remember that even the most tech-averse have had to quickly adapt as we all work from home! You may be surprised at how open your attendees are at exploring all your virtual options! 

There’s been mention that expenses are high (NYC), but also in the same conversation, expenses are low.  Please clarify?  Thanks!
Happy to clarify this point. I was referencing that while certain markets have higher expenses than others (NYC and San Francisco specifically) AV costs to produce events at some of the highend venues in these markets can be up to a third of the overall event budget. With virtual events, a lot of the expenses are greatly decreased. We recommend clients consider the cost of a live stream to take the place of the AV costs for an in-person event. In almost all instances we’ve experienced so far, we have been able to live stream for less than the venue AV costs.    


Join us for our next monthly webinar, or
our weekly webinar series, #OutsideTheRoom.


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What our clients say

We needed a platform to make sales online and to track and display ads for our sponsors. GiveSmart was perfect. We ended up making close to $15,000 more than we had hoped for. Definite better ROI than we anticipated. The interface is easy to use and provides plenty of options to get help if needed.

Michelle M.

The Rotary Club of South Whidbey Island

Using GS has created ease in auction bookkeeping, payments, and generating post-event thank you/tax letters. While we were online during COVID, our interactions with our GiveSmart via phone, email, and zoom were seamless. A representative always got back to us within the day. I would recommend GiveSmart to anyone doing a large online event.

Julie G.

MicroFinancing Partners in Africa

GiveSmart is highly flexible - you can use it for [a] simple registration and check-in, to full-scale galas with complex order forms, onsite upsells, live auctions, seating management, and more.

Jamie F.

Hope Chest for Breast Cancer

GiveSmart is easy to use and ideal for virtual events and can be used for in-person events to manage the silent auction, seating charts, and check-in to the event. Being able to use the platform for unlimited events within the contract year is very useful and being able to add other users and volunteers for different levels of access is helpful as well.

Dawn L.

Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County