In-Person and Virtual Event Attendees Are Nearly Equally Likely to Donate, New Report Says

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Click here to read on The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

By Emily Haynes

Virtual attendees and in-person attendees are nearly equal in saying they would donate more than $100 during an event, according to a new survey of 1,000 adults who attended a fundraising event. Twenty-one percent of virtual attendees said they would kick in $100 or more on top of event registration fees while 19 percent of in-person attendees said the same. The survey sought to uncover what elements of an event make attendees feel engaged, safe, and motivated to give. It was conducted online on February 4 and sponsored by the fundraising technology firm Classy.

More than a quarter of respondents said the bulk of the fundraising events they attended between January 2020 and February 2022 were completely in-person events. Nearly 20 percent said they chose to attend the majority of fundraising events during that time in person, even though the events offered online options. A nearly equal share, however, said they mostly attended events online during that period because the events did not offer in-person options.

People who physically went to an event tended to be less satisfied. Ninety-six percent of virtual event attendees described their event experience as good or excellent, but only 87 percent of in-person event attendees gave the same rating to their experience.

One reason for that divide is that virtual and in-person attendees said they prioritized different factors. Virtual attendees, for example, tended to give events top marks if the format was enjoyable and easy to navigate. For their part, in-person attendees prized clear communication from the host organization ahead of the event as well as opportunities to network and feel a sense of camaraderie. But there was some agreement. Virtual and in-person attendees both said they valued event content that was thoughtful and relevant, as well as a simple registration process.

When asked why they attended an event virtually, the highest share of respondents — 42 percent — said it was because they preferred participating in an online auction or other digital activity “from the comfort of my home.” Another 24 percent said they wanted to show their support of a charity that they didn’t live near.

Looking ahead, survey respondents showed similar levels of enthusiasm for attending a range of events in person and virtually. Forty-three percent of respondents said they would participate in a charity walk or race in person, and 32 percent said they’d attend virtually. Comedy shows, concerts, and other live events inspired 38 percent of respondents to say they’d attend in person, while 31 percent said they’d attend virtually.

Among the other findings:

  • Some reasons that in-person event attendees said they’d give low marks to an event were if it had either too many Covid-19 safety protocols or didn’t follow them well enough.
  • Virtual event attendees rated events poorly if they had difficulty registering for the event online or the event didn’t use a mobile app, among other reasons.
  • Thirty-five percent of survey respondents said they had attended a hybrid event where attendees could choose whether they participated virtually or in person.
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