Intentionality is the key to creating virtual events that drive results. Without a purpose or defined goal for why you are looking to bring a group together, you may unintentionally put the experience and time investment your nonprofit is making at risk_._ Having these metrics established at the outset will help you identify the right tools and platforms to consider for your virtual engagement.
As retro as it may sound, when in discovery sessions with our clients at Marissa Sams Events, we revert to asking some combination of the following questions:
Once a vision and purpose are in place, you can begin to think about the community being brought together and create a virtual ecosystem that manifests the goals established at the outset. This will ultimately anchor the planning and implementation roadmap. Which, in turn, helps to stay on target with the budget.
By creating a shared sense of purpose and vision, you also help insulate the original intentions set for the event from the natural pivots and shifts that take place when planning across different layers of internal team members, production partners, sponsors, and funders. You will have to check in with that original intention often throughout the planning journey, make adjustments as those shifts happen, but this approach supports protecting the original purpose.
The following are a few examples of thoughtful and brand-aligned uses of virtual engagement.
Impactful and multi-purpose ⚡️
Gifts for the Homeless pivoted from in-person clothing drives and their annual concert friendraiser (Banding Together) by creating a call to action on Zoom. There, they played the musical characteristics of their brand by bringing together the displaced legal fundraising community at the early stages of the pandemic. Participants could either record themselves (detailed specs were shared in advance) to Don't Stop Believin’ by Journey or work with a dedicated tech who guided them through recording the session.
This was then compiled into a piece that the organization has been able to leverage on social media, draw in a record amount of funding with new and existing partners, and help them stay connected to their mission at a time when the homeless community most needed support.
To connect with Gifts for the Homeless and learn more about supporting, visit online or Instagram @gfthdc.
Interactive and immediate engagement 🛫
A local association looking to move economic growth and trade forward needed to find a way to connect their growing small business community and international partners at a time when travel and gathering restrictions were very much still in place. They wanted a platform that allowed for video presentations, remote panels, concurrent breakouts, and individual matchmaking sessions to maximize their busy audiences’ time and financial investment.
Remo was the virtual software they eventually selected after robust research. Working closely with stakeholders across time zones, the agenda was developed and the original vision refined to play into the strengths of the technology. The result was a series of virtual international multi-day convenings that yielded meaningful conversation, dynamic speaker presentations, and made for lasting connections.
Hybrid and long-term approach ⌛️
The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art provides a multidisciplinary laboratory for a diverse and often underrepresented collection of visual artists from around the world. As a non-collecting museum, they create meaningful interactions between creatives and audiences through immersive, socially relevant curatorial experiences.
COVID required the Halsey team to make a quick but thoughtful pivot to adapt their in-person experiences and programming to the virtual setting. The team strategically engaged their advisory board in helping them develop and amplify a series of unique digital experiences that enabled them to continue to showcase collections at a time when spaces were not accessible to the public.
One of the virtual products developed during this time was Artist Talk. A simple but impactful conversation style program where artists virtually engaged with audiences. Director Katie Hirsch curated ‘of the moment’ topics with a featured artist, and the conversation flows from there. Guests were invited to view the art and engage with the artist and the Halsey curatorial team. These experiences offered guests access to the back story and unique perspectives of these underrepresented artists.
In turn, this has expanded audiences, reinforced the Institute as a thought leader in the cultural amplification space, and provided the development team with content to widen the advocacy through the arts community.
What these events share is their connection to purpose, vision, and brand authenticity. None of these experiences were without their challenges. But, by staying connected to the original intention of the 5 W’s and adjusting as necessary, all of these case studies resulted in positive outcomes.
With all the different virtual platforms that exist, like Givebutter, I can not reinforce enough how important it is to pause before planning and establish a shared sense of purpose. This simple time investment will help your team stay on mission and enable you to curate a virtual experience that is in flow with your brand and maximizes engagement.
Givebutter made a $100 donation to Marissa's charity of choice, Gifts for the Homeless, for her guest blog contribution.
After 15 years in the events industry, CEO Marissa Sams recognized there was an underrepresented market of women- and BIPOC-led client organizations and strategic stakeholders. Sams created MSE to serve this overlooked market—and help her clients drive the needle forward on social issues.