04.09.2020 Culture, Community, and Business

So, Your Event Has Been Cancelled: How Do You Communicate Impact?

Empty event space with chairs

There’s nothing quite like an annual gala or event to bring your community together and communicate the year’s impact to funders. With everyone who drives your organization forward together in one room, the undercurrent of excited energy that pulses through a well-executed event amplifies the impact of every side-conversation and dramatic request for gifts. And of course, there’s nothing like the end of the night, when staff are as exhausted as they are exhilarated by connections made and funding secured. Annual events can feel like everything to an organization, and this year, many are delayed for the foreseeable future or cancelled for the year altogether.

But all is not lost! We’ll be the first to recognize the importance of in-person connections to generating major gifts—annual events can be true alchemy. That said, we’ll also be the first to dig into the “Why” behind the magic of those in-person connections so that we might replicate their efficacy in the digital world. When we asked “What makes in-person fundraising events uniquely compelling to donors and staff alike?” Here’s where we landed:

Events are special because they help audiences

  1. Provide a moment for all of us to feel seen, reflect on the recent past, and celebrate individuals who went above and beyond.
  2. Connect with each other over a predictable, pleasurable experience that is fueled by simple things like food, beverages, and music.
  3. Revel in the power of the collective feeling that philanthropic giving creates.
  4. Empathize with the human-centered stories of change that generosity can impact.
  5. Build momentum off of each other’s generosity and enthusiasm to fuel future work.

So of course, as an agency that serves organizations at the forefront of social, political, and environmental change—those who rely deeply on the momentum and funding of in-person events—ThinkShout set out to make a set of recommendations for how these 5 unique characteristics can be realized through digital experiences.

Here’s our list:

  1. Feel seen and communicate commitment.
    Hosting a Google Hangout or Zoom event (with a custom background for attendees to choose from!), combined with interactive tools like Menti that allow for real-time idea-sharing, can really bring out the community feeling of a digital event. Asking folks to participate by sharing their thoughts and feelings is fun and as importantly, the results can be easily customized to communicate the look and feel of your organization’s mission.

  2. Connect over a predictable, pleasurable experience.
    Phased online events where food and drink packages are promoted, delivered, and then enjoyed simultaneously—you could even text folks with the appetizer and cocktail menu and let staff respond in real time using platforms like Hustle or SimpleTexting. Coupled with online games that are collaborative and generative of both creativity using platforms like Kahoot or FlipGrid, and positive energy, for the cause, these experiences are simple and impactful.

  3. Revel in the collective power of giving.
    Real-time fundraising visualization. Most peer-to-peer giving software offers public-facing donation tracking that can show the impact of donor gifts in real-time. Developing these real-time giving tools on your site is relatively straightforward, but many out-of-the-box giving platforms already offer them. You’ll want to check out options like Greater Giving or GiveLively.

  4. Empathize with real-life impact.
    Meals on Wheels is holding virtual trainings almost every day, across the country, and providing opportunity for people to keep their video on, even with hundreds on the call. They are showing the collective coverage of the huge influx of volunteers in a way that makes you really understand how delivering a meal can save someone’s life. “It’s not just food, it could be the only welfare check in they receive.”

  5. Build momentum off of peer generosity.
    Blanchet House, right here in Portland, is doing an amazing job of promoting need, but also highlighting almost every individual who shares an image or takes a photo, or tags their organization in anything. This allows donors to feel seen and has been blowing up the local news.

If we can’t all be together in person, we might as well be as thoughtful, playful, and connected as possible using digital tools as our sandbox. As you might expect, our team is actively working on a number of digital replacements to the annual events we all rely on and love, so if you’re looking for a boost or partner in problem-solving at your organization, give us a ring. We’re only a zoom call away.

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