During these unprecedented times, your event strategy may be undergoing unexpected changes. The need to pivot due to COVID-19 is a reality that many of us are facing. We are here to help! We have created this blog to offer some solutions and opportunities for your organization to be successful in this current climate.
A little about us, although we are not experts in COVID-19, we are experts in the event industry. With over 25 years managing events in the Portland Metro area, we have helped raise millions of dollars for the non-profit sector and will continue to assure the prosperity of our non-profits partners and clients as we navigate towards a brighter future.
In this blog post we will cover the following items:
I. Assessing the Situation for Your Organization: Deciding your organization’s next steps.
II. Postponing an Event: How to seamlessly shift the date.
III. Pivot to Virtual: How to turn your in-person event into an engaging online event.
IV. Canceling an Event? What needs to happen now.
V. Retaining your Donors and Sponsors: Communication is key.
We hope that this post will be informative and answer any of those outlying questions you may have. However, if you have any additional questions please feel free to contact Courtney Givens at firstname.lastname@example.org or Kristin Stockton at email@example.com.
I. Assessing the Situation for Your Organization:
Deciding your organization’s next steps.
We understand that every organization is different. You have three options to consider here: postponing the event, pivoting to virtual, or canceling the event all together. In order to evaluate the best solution for your organization at this time here are a few questions you need to ask yourself to help define the perfect pivot.
- Is my event date within the quarantine time frame?
- Identify your top three motivations for this event.
- If postponing, is a viable date available? *Dependent upon venue and vendors.
- Does my team have the capacity to create a virtual event?
- Will my supporters continue to support us during this time?
- Could our organization move forward without this event?
Hopefully your answers have clarified which of these three options is the best choice.
II. Postponing an Event:
How to seamlessly shift the date.
You have made the decision to pivot toward postponing your fundraising event. The first step you need to take is to contact your main vendors and arrange a new date. Make a list of all the vendors you use (i.e. venue, auctioneer/emcee, catering, AV, event production, additional speakers, tech production and support, etc.) Remember these vendors are your partners in fundraising, that although you are looking to reschedule your single event, they are being inundated with requests across the board. A simple reminder to have grace.
Call your venue and let them know that you need to cancel your current date and would like to pivot to a future date. Ask what they might have available and suggest your preferred timeframe. Once your board and vendors have all agreed on a date, it’s time to get the word out. Communication. Communication. Communication. This will be the key in making your new date a big, if not a bigger, success then your previously planned event.
Start with using your already amazing graphics and simply add the new date. Make a bit of a change to make the new date stand out (Bold, different color, different font, larger, etc). Next order of business is to contact your sponsors (see below for more specifics).
Then launch a campaign to get this information out to all of your supporters. This should include adding it to your organization website, your ticket sales website (i.e. Greater Giving), all social media platforms, email/e-blast out to your supporters, etc. This should look like a well thought out communication strategy involving all of your communication platforms and continue until your new event has taken place. Not just a one and done communication.
The final step is to look through your already received donations. Do the certificates expire beforehand? Are you able to contact those donors and ask if they could change the expiration dates? This will need to be done to ensure they will be valid for the new date.
III. Pivot to Virtual: How to turn your in-person
event into an engaging online event.
You have decided to pivot into the virtual world of events! There are four ways to execute an online event and based on your organization’s capacity, one will work best for you. *Note, we typically use Greater Giving with our current clients. We recognize that there are more platforms out there, but the comments below reflect the functionality of Greater Giving.
1.Basic Online Sales. Pivoting your online ticket sales page to feature specific auction packages with a Buy-it-Now option and an appeal campaign. An example of a specific auction package is a multiple party event (40 people can attend the Summer BBQ for $100 per person). This is limited in what you can do because it will not accommodate competitive bidding or lend itself to donor interaction.
2. Standard Online Auction. Think of this as the “eBay” option for those items you have already procured for your previous event. This adds more donor interaction by inserting text to donor, chat features, and graphics that can move in real time (i.e. appeal campaign thermometer). Some additional benefits include Sponsor logos can be inserted in the item showcase, varying auction closing times, and opens your bidder pool to the public.
3. Creating an online virtual auction using pre-recorded videos and messages. Using the same online platform as noted in the Standard Online Auction, we would add videos to elevate the audience experience. With a virtual platform like YouTube, you can create an auction that can engage your audience with pre-recorded messages. We suggest recording the following videos:
- Your Board President welcome
- A variety of explanation videos to tell attendees how this will go
- Intros for each Live Auction items, if applicable
- Your appeal speaker
- A final “We Did It!”, “Cheers!”, “Toast to Us!”
This route will require your team to be all in. Great photos for all auction items will be required, communication to ensure your attendees are present is key, and a lot of teamwork. Content is paramount. We would even encourage your talent to dress in theme to your event (i.e. if superhero themed—wear a cape, if black tie—wear the gown/tux, etc.) during the filming of these videos.
4. Creating an online virtual auction with live broadcasting. This incorporates all of the information above however, the production value of this will increase exponentially. To create a successful live broadcasted event, you must first gather your team. Who should be on your team?
- AV professionals: to ensure a seamless transition to this virtual world.
- Your auctioneer and/or emcee: to host the event and engage your donors and virtual audience throughout the broadcast.
- Communications lead: helping with pre-event communication strategy and monitor text and chat lines on the day of.
- Auction/data information lead: this is the person is organizing your auction items in the database and coordinating the online bidding platform.
- Speakers/Video: as you would use in a typical auction for the ask.
- Décor/Staging: Transport your audience by setting the scene using backdrops or pipe and drape to create that stage-like feel.
- YOU! Grab your team and assign everyone a role. Including filling the role of the “studio audience” that cheers on the program.
To make this a success, think of this as a live tv show. It will require creating a storyboard that will lead to a script. This will be more detailed than a Run of Show for a typical event. Remember to use the perspective of the person on the other side of the computer. Note try to keep this as close to 30 minutes as possible, but certainly no more than 60. Keep it entertaining. HAVE FUN!
IV. Canceling an Event?
What needs to happen now.
Your organization has made the difficult choice to cancel the event. We understand that this is not a decision that is made lightly. Pivoting to cancelation is a decision that is made because your organization has the resources to forgo an event or does not have the wherewithal to pivot to one of the alternatives. What needs to happen next?
Your first step is to notify all of your vendors (i.e. venue, auctioneer/emcee, catering, AV, event production, additional speakers, tech production and support, etc.). Look for solutions in partnering with your vendors, as this is their livelihood as well. Do you plan on holding an event the following year? Are you able to roll over your contracts or meet their deposits/balances in another format?
The next step is to notify your sponsors. Have the person who is the sponsor contact or has a relationship with the sponsor give them a personal phone call and explain what your next steps are. In an ideal situation the sponsor has an affinity for your organization, not the event specifically, therefore is willing to move forward with the committed funding. Worst case scenario is that you will have an informed conversation, but they request a refund. Throughout this entire conversation communication is key, please see the information below under Retaining your Donors and Sponsors.
Then launch a campaign to inform all of your supporters of the cancelation. This should include adding it to your organization website, your ticket sales website (i.e. Greater Giving), all social media platforms, email/e-blast out to your supporters, etc. This should look like a well thought out communication strategy involving all of your communication platforms. Recognize that some/many attendees may inquire about a refund, it will be important to include what options they have (i.e. converting to a tax-deductible donation, moving the ticket to the next event or giving a refund).
The final step is to look through your already received donations. Are they items you could hold on to for the next event? Do the certificates expire beforehand? Are you able to contact those donors and ask if they could change the expiration dates to next year or if you could pass them on to another non-profit?
Don’t forget you will still need to send thank you letters for those donations and sponsorships.
V. Retaining your Donors and Sponsors:
Communication is key.
No matter which form of pivoting your team decided to go with, your relationship with your donors and sponsors is crucial in moving toward your next steps. Communicating your decision with those who support your organization will be key for the future of continued sponsorships, donations and support. As we stated above, this communication plan should be a well thought out strategic plan. It is important to take the time to create a thorough messaging strategy that fits all of your various platforms, including a timeline of touch points to ensure all supporters are receiving the information. It’s imperative that your team be on the same page.
When preparing the communication plan, it is essential that the messaging itself sound true to your organization and voice. This should be transparent, honest, and address the current situation clearly. Recognize that communication is truly the most important step once you have pivoted. If this is not done well your results will not be what you were hoping for. In our current state of affairs, remember to approach others with grace and kindness. We are all in this together.
Pivoting your event during these times is crucial, know that we are here to help. We would love to hear what your plan is and if you have any additional questions please do not hesitate to contact us. Cheers and happy PIVOTing!