The Future of Fundraising Events

publication date: Nov 24, 2021
author/source: Rebecca Alfred, summarized by Ann Rosenfield

Based on data collected from hundreds of fundraising professionals, industry experts, influencers, and donors, this Congress 2021 session shared key trends, insights, and strategies to help event managers get ahead, by raising funds and engaging  donors in 2022.

Based on feedback from more than 200 virtual, hybrid and in-person events, charities are doing A LOT to increase fundraising potential and donor engagement. Now is a great time to plan and discuss what it takes to be an organization that is leading the way with online fundraising. 

A recent survey found that 92% of fundraisers think that fundraising events will continue to have virtual elements in the future. As a result, it is important to think about the advantages of both in-person and virtual events when planning for the upcoming year.

Virtual events present valuable opportunities

Organizations that used virtual events, hit their targets in 2020. Moving into 2021 and beyond, charities that had virtual events are interested in growing that success.

Advantages of virtual events

  • Average of 50% cost and time saved
  • Ease of execution
  • Increased geographical reach
  • Cost savings for donor
  • Less human resources required
  • Virtual fundraising elements

Why donors are loving virtual events

  • Events are more affordable
  • Get to participate from home
  • Able to monitor silent auction activity easily
  • Ability to see speakers they normally wouldn't

In-person events provide a different experience from virtual ones

In-person events were the hallmark of traditional fundraising events until recently. In-person events have many great aspects.

Why donors also love in-person

  • Peer pressure from donors
  • Engagement with attendees
  • Connection with donors
  • Networking opportunities

Reinventing in-person events while keeping the benefits of virtual ones

Since charities have already successfully adapted to online, the future is bright for continuing to have virtual elements in your event mix. Below are four possible models for you to consider.

In-person with virtual fundraising

  • Can open silent auction in early
  • Donors can buy raffle tickets to buy their auction tickets via QR code
  • Inviting donors to vote on song requests for the evening
  • You can open the auction, fund-a-need, and other fundraising to more audiences including those who are not present at the event

In-person with livestream audience

This is perfect approach for and organization which has a lot of donors who are out-of-town.

  • Multiple ticket types
  • A livestream camera recording the event
  • Virtual guests see "red carpet" pre show
  • QR code on table for live auction
  • Livestream attendees can bid from home
  • Photo content displayed to both audiences

VIP in-person with remote virtual

In this method, the charity runs two events simultaneously - one in-person and one virtual. This has particular appeals to a wider donor base.

  • In person has drinks in person while virtual attendees are making cocktails at home with a bartender giving a real time tutorial
  • Mystery item live auction
  • Sponsor drives to virtual attendees house with gift
  • In-person VIP after party

Purely virtual

For some charities, purely virtual events are here to stay, particularly if your charity is in a large geographic area. In this format, you want a mix of pre-recorded and live videos throughout your event. Borrowing from the past, the classic thermometer can be used to show how close you are to hitting your goals.

In this approach, your event needs to be more than just a Zoom call. Element can include

  • Take home gift boxes
  • Engaging sponsor challenges
  • Have guests donate any amount easily through the one-click buy experience
  • Encourage watch parties

What does it take to succeed today?

As we move into the next stage of re-opening, it is remains important to create a seamless donor experience. In considering your next event, you should think about giving your donors virtual and in-person options. By maximizing the benefits of both, you can build a better experience for your donors.

How to plan successful fundraising events in 2022 and beyond.

How to enhance donor engagement with your fundraising events.


Rebecca Alfred is the Charity Relationships Lead at Trellis Social Enterprise Inc. supports charities, hospital foundations, non-profits, and other organizations to find new online approaches to raising funds for the causes they care about. Rebecca’s supported hundreds of in-person, virtual, and hybrid events through her time at Trellis. She also holds specialized expertise in creating a seamless donor experience for signature events that allows organizations to raise more funds, engage donors, and save time while they’re doing it.

Cover photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

Session summary by Ann Rosenfield who thanks AFP for the media pass for Congress 2021.

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