How EventStream helped The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia move ahead with their annual gala.
The pandemic has certainly changed fundraising in 2020. For The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia (CFNV) this was no different. The annual gala would need to be taken online due to gathering limitations. Despite being a virtual venue this year, the presentation needed to produce significant participation and giving.
In June of 2020, ClickBid released the EventStream service. EventStream allows a ClickBid event the ability to broadcast live or pre-recorded video directly into the bidding site. This gives the charity the opportunity to painlessly engage bidders and donors while they are bidding. In addition, ClickBid offers less than one second delay, allowing auctioneers to conduct real-time live auctions and paddle raise events.
CFNV was able to plan and produce an hour long program to their constituents without the concerns for a live or mixed source event. This required a video production company that could provide cameras, lights, microphones and editing services to put the final piece together. CFNV worked with CoCreate Studios in Arlington, VA.
“I cannot emphasize enough how much the production company supported our event. They helped us take a very rough outline for stories to share about our work and turn it into a 1 hour event. Their expertise made our pre-recorded segments feel “live”, helped ensure that we used music and graphics the right way to help with our storyline, and helped make the “asks” feel authentic in a way we could never have done ourselves.” – Tara Nadel (Vice President of Marketing and Events)
There are benefits to making a single finished program to play start-to-finish. When it’s time to broadcast, you do not juggle mixed sources such as a live spokesperson, auctioneer, interviews, etc. Using a freely available broadcasting tool such as OBS is very straightforward and easy to use with EventStream.
The downside to this approach is that without careful planning, you can create a video that can feel very staged and less entertaining, because it’s clear the video is not live. A key driver of attracting viewers comes from the promise of a live or one-time time only event that creates a fear of missing out.
To reduce the feeling of staged, pre-recorded video, CFNV added a local news personality to be edited into the program. He introduced the program, dropped in a few times to add interesting facts and gave the video a professional and live feeling. It felt as if he was “standing by” to guide us and keep us going while we watched.
Another piece that was smartly added to the program were two specific calls to give and bid. An employee of CFNV came on and announced that for the next five minutes, anyone who placed a bid would be entered into a giveaway. This created two additional five minute windows to show sponsor logos, share facts about the charity and engage bidders. Since the video was pre-recorded, CFNV used the mass messaging service to text the winners of the giveaways, further adding to the “live” feeling.
Mixed into the news anchor’s commentary and the giveaways were real stories from recipients of CFNV. They told stories about how they have continued to operate during COVID and how, without the support of CFNV, their missions would have suffered.
Closing the piece was a thank you from the local news anchor and the charity. From start to finish the program ran roughly an hour. It’s important to note that when you broadcast online, you do not need to adhere to a time length. Your program should only be as long as it needs to be. If you find yourself trying to fill space, resist. CFNV knew this and maintained a very well paced program. The result was more viewers staying on to the end of the program versus falling off before the finish.
The keys to their success were the planning of the video elements, a focus on keeping people’s attention and executing the plan with a final video as the goal. Another way to look at it is to say that just because CFNV didn’t need to book a venue, cater a meal or secure floral arrangements, valet, etc. they understood that their focus had to shift and put the same energy into building an online experience.
“Instead of organizing job duties for close to 50 volunteers and staff members for an in-person event, our team of 10 staff members was assigned tasks that provided meaningful engagement even though our event was fully pre-recorded. This included managing a Google Voice tech support line, sending texts to all guests, using the chat function, engaging on social media, and participating in “Zoom Bombs” for virtual watch parties. Needless to say, the event prep the week of the event was significantly easier than for an in-person event.”
When it was over, the organization needed to evaluate the success of conducting this type of event based on monies raised. Was it worth the effort? Did it raise enough? Should we consider this format again?
“We would. We were able to take what is normally a 30% revenue to expense ratio fundraiser and turn it into an 8% expense ratio – all going to support our general operations at this most uncertain time. That success is something that we would happily look to replicate again.”
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