Just like many other sectors, the fundraising and engagement world is grappling with the challenges posed by the pandemic(s) – medical, economic, and social – over the last 18 months. Fundraisers everywhere are continuously looking at how best to bring together their respective communities in ways that are engaging, welcoming, and above all – safe. If your organization finds itself struggling to land on the right event format for the fall and beyond – you are not alone. Many organizations are looking toward in-person events with equal parts optimism and caution.

Virtual events, in-person events, or a hybrid of both models are the options that many organizations are weighing as they approach navigating the new normal. While a recent report indicates that 40% of organizations may already be meeting with donors and other constituents in person, there is still lots of uncertainty around what this can mean for in-person events.

What remains clear is the nature of the challenge that lies ahead as organizations navigate the next few weeks and months. On a more positive note, I have seen all three of these events – in-person, virtual, and hybrid – carried out exceptionally well and resulting in well thought-out and safe events. It may take some creativity and an honest look at what is or is not possible, but this work is worth it. Here are a few things I have seen work well for many mission-focused organizations:

  1. An outdoor event in a large field where gathered community members can spread out
  2. Small in-person groups with real-time virtual tie-in for remote participants.
  3. Smaller in-person events with digital replay and engagement opportunities for all community members.
  4. Completely virtual events with engaging features for participants using tools such as Padlet and Slido.
  5. In-person events with scheduled groups of participants assigned to attend and leave at staggered, non-overlapping times.
  6. A rotation of participant groups where participants go through various stations at the event, keeping the total number of people at any given station low.

I know that many of us are burnt out, and still looking with uncertainty at the months ahead. Even so, donors are still planning to give! Throughout the challenges of the last year and a half, we have seen donors become even more loyal to mission-driven causes, particularly those that address immediate needs. Your creativity, persistence, and resilience will be well worth it! Do you have any in-person, virtual, or hybrid event tips to share? Comment below!