This non-profit raised over $80,000 in the middle of the global pandemic. With little time to pivot, and without their staff event planner, the show went on. By keeping a grip on the budget, they successfully lowered expenses, fueling their organization’s mission by saving fundraising dollars.
How did they do it? How can you learn from them? This is their story.
The Arkhoma region team for Ronald McDonald House Charities has been hosting fundraising events for years. They host 2-3 large annual events. They have refined their event-day organization over the years and have things down to a well-oiled machine. Through nearly a year of planning they were all set for this year’s 2020 Red Shoe Soiree when the global pandemic hit. Suddenly they had less than a month to plan, and a blank playbook in front of them. Even worse, they were without their on-staff event planner. The small, scrappy team banded together and still pulled off a successful event. An event even better than anyone expected, thanks to the far reach of Streaming to their audience.
Unanimously, the team prefers in-person events. They can’t wait to get back to the culture they’ve established at their fundraising events of fun, in-person partying. However, in some regards, taking this year’s event virtual made it even better than in-person. The decision to go virtual is happening everywhere out of necessity, but in hindsight, there were a few wins.
Higher Profile Talent
First, they were able to attract a higher level of VIP on-stage talent by being virtual. Their events typically fall in busy seasons on packed Friday nights in the cities they serve. Talent, and good on-stage event talent, is in high demand on these peak April and October nights. By going virtual, they utilized our ability to prerecord segments of their event. In reaching out to talent they offered flexibility in being able to record their pieces during 8am-5pm workweek hours, and secured local stars, with very little scheduling notice. Furthermore, those stars were able to stay safe in the midst of the pandemic by us practicing proper social distancing at their schedule prerecording day and time.
Second, they gained exposure to a further reaching audience base than with their traditional in-person events. Their event spaces are limited to a few hundred, but with streaming, there was suddenly no limit of who could pop in. By streaming on Facebook as a public platform, friends of friends were able to tune in online and hear the mission of their non-profit. This is already reaping benefits beyond the evening itself from them gaining exposure. These audience members have the potential to give outside of the event date. They also are potential ticket buyers for next year’s events, when hopefully their non-profit team is able to host in-person events.
More Money Raised
They raised $80,000 through an event that was less than an hour long. But even for a non-profit, the “profit” is what counts. They approached their sponsors and retained many of their foundational givers despite pivoting to virtual. These companies and individuals give from their hearts, and as long as ROI value can still be attributed, they’re in. Virtual didn’t stop them from receiving praise from the virtual stage for the contributions they made as sponsors.
An event can raise millions, but if it costs millions, is anything gained? By going virtual, it’s less about the top-line revenue, and more about how reduced their event-day expenses were. By going virtual, they were able to reduce all the typical event-day line items to next to zero.
Streaming can get expensive. In the pursuit of making the experience as engaging as possible, the sky is the limit. However, this show didn’t need to be the Grammy’s. We worked with their existing event-day production budget. We reinvented the plan from the ground up. What used to be spent on uplighting went to additional camera angles. Sound budget for speakers went to streaming backup redundancy. Money typically spent on a truck was able to be spent on improving the quality of their creative content and storytelling.
Their First Rodeo, not Ours
These ladies do 2-3 events per year. We do over 100. They had never done anything like a virtual event, we have been doing more and more virtual components of events for years. You can hear Lindsay’s own words in her testimonial about just how at ease they felt knowing it wasn’t our first time. Furthermore, because we’ve done the Soiree with them for a few years, that retention of them treating us like a partner paid off in us already knowing their culture, their sponsors, and the branding of how this event shines best.
Creative Services – Storytelling
Virtual or not, every non-profit has powerful stories to tell. Those stories deserve to be captured and amplified well. Our Creative Services team worked hard to capture the success story of a family their arms of care helped in the region they serve. We worked through the safety parameters of a pandemic to carefully capture their story without endangering the health of the couple or their precious child. These stories deserved more than an iPhone selfie video! Now that we captured them, they’ll be able to use this families powerful story as an evergreen asset in their fundraising appeals gaining sponsors for years to come.
Lastly, we were proud to offer our 2000 sq/ft studio space here under the safety of our own roof to their small team. Through proper social distancing they made themselves at home throughout the event week using our conference room for meeting, our studio space for the virtual stage itself, and most importantly, our beefy streaming-ready internet connection to make sure their event stayed on-air reaching their target audience.
Ready for More
It was an honor to serve them. After the event and it’s success they have not stopped raving to their professional networks about how ecstatic they were in pulling this off. Not just getting it done, but truly thriving with virtual here in the pandemic of 2020. We’ve subsequently served another event from them referring us and at the thought of how financially successful this was for their mission as a non-profit, we’re ready for more!