As event fundraisers have the option to go back to in-person events the first question the auction team needs to answer is, “is an in-person event going to net more money?”. If the answer is not so clear perhaps you may want to take a step-up approach and test before making the very large investment in venue food and efforts. Virtual hybrid may be an option. Here’s how gEvents guided Hope Chinese Charter School for their 2023 fundraiser.
- March 2020 was the very last in person event before the halt due to COVID and brought in just over $100K. The net income was significantly less as it was reduced by expenses for the gala venue, decorations, food and beverage..
- March 2021 the fundraising event fundraiser began its virtual journey, with an online auction and culminating with a livestream featuring the live auction and paddle raise. The net results improved over 2020 based on the significant reduction in expenses.
- March 2022 the event returned to the virtual format with a no-cost watch party organized at the last minute at a local tap house. The net results exceed $125,000.
- March 2023 the auction team feared the audience was not quite ready to go back to an all in person fundraising event however some of the audience members did want to gather. Hence the watch party was formalized a bit with a hosted buffet while attendees enjoyed the livestream on monitors throughout the taproom. The event continued to grow with over 100 attendees in person at the taproom enjoying the fellowship and fundraising action!
There are so many other expenses that go into making an event fundraiser. Patrick Siver of gEvents llc has been the emcee and auctioneer for hundreds of events his simple observation, “fancy centerpieces have never had a direct impact on higher bids or paddles raised.”
Hybrid is a really vague term and defined by each person and group in a unique way. Silver defines hybrid as “taking the best practices of pre-covid, and combining them with the best practices we learned through covid, to create a unique event specific to the nonprofit.”
Hybrid for Hope
When choosing to go in person or not, the Hope Chinese Charter School wanted to avoid the rising cost of food, venue rental, and risk of contracting with suppliers 8-12 months in advance of the event. Having successfully completed virtual events the prior two years, evolving to a combined format of virtual and in person was a natural fit. This meant setting up the auction and event fundraiser with virtual and scaled down in-person components.
The key components to the virtual hybrid event:
- Pre-event kickoff livestream
- Skilled professionals for the event and auction
- Easy bidding, donating & viewing
- Direct feed to the Taproom of the livestream
Pre Event Kickoff and Livestream
Before every fundraising event gEvents does a kick off livestream event. The format is simple yet effective. Patrick is hosts and the executive director and or the auction chair persons join in from gEvents’ StreamYard virtual studio broadcasting to all applicable social media channels. The 30 minute kickoff takes a live tour of the auction and event website, takes you step-by-step how to register and if bidding is online, how to place a bid. Most times there is a give-away during the kickoff to encourage attendance and thank one lucky viewer with a gift.
The kickoff video serves three purposes.
- It reaches the majority of the nonprofits’ fans on their social media channels and directs them to the event website to take action.
- Pushes the live video to the top of every social media platform during the live. Those that have notifications turned on will get an alert. Those that are just casually scrolling will see it at the top of the screen.
- After the live concludes it will remain on the feed for the organization. This is a great way to catch the attention of supporters even after the live kickoff concludes.
gEvents also embeds the livestream, and subsequent replay, front and center on the main event website. It is a welcoming visual for your supporters to learn what is expected of them and see your enthusiasm for the upcoming event fundraiser.
Skilled professionals do the job effectively and efficiently. Your nonprofit organization is good at advancing your mission, you live and breathe these activities daily. For fundraising you may have one large event a year with a few smaller events in between. If you are depending on that major event for money and engaging or expanding your donor base, then collaborating with specialists in the areas of fundraising auctioneer services and audio/visual equipment and technicians are best to be outsourced.
Benefit Auction Specialists (B.A.S) are members of the National Association of Auctioneers that have completed extensive training on the principles of fundraising and event planning to enhance your gala or benefit auction event. They provide expert guidance on fundraising techniques, including run-of-show, auction methodology, storytelling, developing and implementing an effective fund-a-need campaign. Additionally, they (should) have experience using the software for the auction fundraiser to take advantage of all the features to make the most of your time with your supporters.
You probably don’t have the audio/visual equipment in house and no desire to purchase for a single use. In addition it costs time to set-up and technical skills to get the best production. It’s more than hardware. It’s the actual production, streaming, and blending of the messaging, stage, testimonials and live action to create a show that is tuned in and not turned off. This is not negotiable. Your supporters need clear audio and visuals of the show.
You want to create a seamless experience for viewers.
Easy Bidding, Donating & Viewing
Bidders and supporters need clear instructions on how to bid, donate and participate. See paragraph above regarding kick-off. Prior to the live stream it’s worth replaying an excerpt of the registration process. During the livestream use QR codes and short urls when directing viewers to bid, view, donate.
Let’s break down the virtual event replay of Hope Charter’s Xi Wang Gala.
The Preshow thanks the sponsors, teases the live auction but most importantly tells viewers how to participate.
A warm welcome from a friendly face. Christina Lu, Xi Wang Gala Chair, sets the tone that this is a fundraising event and all proceeds directly benefit the students at Hope Chinese Charter School. Watch her welcome at the 13:40 mark.
She then ‘throws’ it to the live studio with Co-host, and Parent Corrie Tin Villatoro and auctioneer Patrick Siver.
There was an initial check in at the Taproom and few live shots from there throughout the broadcast. The live shots were short and fast, because viewers don’t necessarily want to watch people watching a show!
As the bidding for live auction items commenced, bidders were instructed how to live bid on the items from their mobile device. There were five live auction packages.
- Mystery Bag, described as: We have stuffed this beautiful cream-colored Kate Spade bag with all kinds of amazing surprises and cash just waiting for you to explore. Make the winning bid and see what awesome and unique gifts are waiting for you!
- Oregon Summer Beach House Retreat at Big Blue, described as: This is the coveted HCCS Family owned Manzanita Beach house we've all loved to bid on in past Gala Auctions. Located on the Oregon coast in the town of Manzanita.
- Reserved School Parking Spot, described as: Trouble finding a parking spot during drop-off or pick-up? Worry no longer! Eliminate the hassle of finding a parking space and always know you have a spot.
- Family Beach Vacation in Surf Pines, described as: stay at a private vacation house in the gated community of Surf Pines, Oregon near Gearheart.
- Night Stay in Twin Palms Estates Vacation, Palm Springs, described as: Stunning designer home in the Twin Palms neighborhood in South Palm Springs. In the perfect location, close to everything, you can walk to the world-renowned Palm Canyon Drive, then return to your private, resort-style oasis.
Guiding viewers to the Live Auction page on the event website gEvents’ used Auctria’s Live Auction Controller to bring up each live auction item individually, focusing the attention on each item including the paddle raise with multiple donation option buttons. Bidders made bids from their device and Patrick watched Auctria’s Bid Monitor and called the auction from a teleprompter on the stage. The bidding and show were synchronized and smooth.
Check out the bidding for the reserved parking spot. It ended up closing at $10,200. Watch the video starting at 55:26 mark.
(Almost) Live feed to the Nebulous Taproom
This is a hybrid event, so there were about 100 viewers that took over the Taproom for a viewing party. Because it was a Taproom each patron purchased drinks on their own and a small buffet was provided for a small ticket price. The ticket was only $30 so this provided lots of room for donation and bidding. It also was low barrier to entry allowing more families to participate than the typical $100 per ticket gala. Those dollars will be used by the school instead of using the dollars to plan fancy venues and meals. Board member and school parent, Calvin Tchiang was on the stage live at the Taproom with a two-person camera crew and during the event they went live to the Tap Room showcasing the energy in the room.
Here are some behind the scenes from the studio and the Taproom.
What’s Next Year?
Not sure. It seemed like there is some potential to move to a larger venue to include more live viewers and move back to a traditional staged event. What will follow will be some lessons learned.
- Be flexible and open minded about new ideas
- Do a livestream kick off
- Use experts to invest in the event to get further, faster
Watch the full HCCS Xi Wang Gala replay here:
Hope Chinese Charter School 2023 Xi Wang Gala from Patrick Siver on Vimeo.
Hope Chinese Charter School’s (HCCS) goal is educating students for global fluency. HCCS is a public charter school that provides a Mandarin Chinese immersion education to elementary and middle school students. HCCS, located in the Beaverton School District, offers grades Kindergarten – 8th.
Patrick Siver, BAS is the President of gEventsllc. Event fundraising and production is taken to the next level for your golf tournaments and auctions. gEvents can help you raise more money.
Special thanks to The A/V Department for sharing the replays and behind the scenes photos. “With every event, live stream, and video we produce, we strive to make a difference to our clients and ultimately inspire results.”