As technology and member preferences change, your association might be experimenting with a variety of different event formats.
Whether you’re mainly hosting virtual events or sticking to in-person functions, it can be hard to find the right mix that balances your association’s needs and resources with your members’ individual preferences. How do you align your traditional events and fundraising goals with new members who may only want to attend virtually?
In this article, we’re going to give you tips on how to strike the right balance of hybrid, online, and in-person events that takes everyone at your association into account.
Survey your members often
Your events are for your members, so you should always start by consulting them and asking for their feedback.
Start by sending out post-event surveys to attendees. Then, work in periodic surveys for all of your members. You can include these surveys in your regular newsletter, up to once per quarter.
In these quarterly surveys, ask your members a variety of questions about their general event preferences, such as:
- What was your favorite event last year?
- What events would you like to attend in the future?
- How many virtual and in-person events did you attend this year?
- How can we improve accessibility at our events / make it easier for you to attend?
- Which event format do you prefer most: virtual, hybrid, or in-person?
- What is your objective when you attend our events?
Once you gather this data, you can use it to improve your events and find the right mix of event types to incorporate into your regular schedule. For example, if you’re hosting a charity auction and your guests prefer more hybrid events with the option to attend either in-person or virtually, you can use this data to explore options for mobile bidding software that will allow all guests to bid on items, regardless of their location.
Weigh the benefits of each format
As you plan each individual event, evaluate the pros and cons of different formats, then select the format that will be most effective for that event. Start with a few of the most common benefits:
- In-person: With in-person events, you can build community with members, have face-to-face relationship building, and more easily create an environment where members can make connections with each other.
- Hybrid: Hybrid events add flexibility and accessibility for those who can’t attend in person, and the added virtual elements make events more engaging.
- Virtual: Virtual events will give you a wider reach and allow anyone to attend no matter where they are. These types of events are also less expensive because you need fewer resources to host them.
Again, you will need to decide which types of events will benefit your audience the most. If you have an association full of business owners who are scattered across a large geographic area, virtual events may garner more attendance and engagement. If you need a meeting of the minds to boost creative decision-making, an in-person event may be best.
Create a balanced calendar
Use your members’ preferences as a guide for hosting the right events, then schedule them intentionally to create a balanced calendar.
Space out different types and formats of events throughout the year. For example, maybe you host a hybrid auction in April and schedule an in-person fun run in September, then add in a micro event during the busy holiday season. When scheduling in-person and hybrid events, keep weather and event space availability in mind.
Finally, make sure to align your event calendar with your marketing and fundraising campaign calendars. For example, schedule a celebratory event in person to round out your year-end campaign efforts. You can also host a livestreamed virtual event on Giving Tuesday to garner donations.
Use software to make hosting all events easier
No matter what ratio of in-person to virtual events you decide on for your association, the right technology can improve all of your events.
Here are a few examples of online platforms that can elevate any event:
- Auction software: With the right auction software, you can raise more money, communicate with your guests via text, and even create an event landing page that matches your association’s branding.
- Pledge fundraising platforms: These platforms allow you to easily collect pledges for donations for any type of event. Even if your event is fully in-person, managing pledges online streamlines giving and makes the event more hassle-free for everyone.
- Online donation forms: Simply the donation process for all events with forms that are easy to fill out from a phone or laptop. Embed the form on your association’s website, then link to it in all promotional and follow-up communications for the event.
You can use the advancement of technology and smartphones to increase your event engagement and fundraising participation. Evaluate your association’s needs and budget to determine which software would be most beneficial to invest in, then incorporate it into your overall event strategy to see longstanding results.
The right blend will drive higher event ROI
When using these tips to create a balanced event calendar, keep your budget, resources, and past experiences in mind. Remember that no one format is a silver bullet. Instead, you can use various elements from each one of these tips to create a unique event mix to fit your specific needs—all while still addressing the desires of your members and meeting your association’s goals.