In this video, I’m joined by Matt from Amate House. Amate House’s mission is to develop young adult leaders into life-long social justice advocates who serve their communities while deepening their faith. More than 850 Amate House Fellows have provided 1.4 million hours of service valued at over $35 million to many of Chicago’s most vulnerable communities! Discover how this incredible organization was able to raise over $117k during its first-ever virtual gala, which featured live entertainment, video tributes, raffles, silent auctions, and more! Matt explains:

  • Why they chose Givebutter for their first-ever live stream event
  • What made this event so successful
  • Tips, tricks, and lessons learned for designing an engaging virtual event and fundraising page
“Givebutter has whatever tool you need in a very simple, user-friendly way. It was the perfect tool for us because we didn't want to pivot to something that had a million bells and whistles and too many options or something that was going to be a little more too complicated for our audience to really understand or navigate.”

Follow along to discover the magic behind this successful fundraiser!

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Full video script

Rachel: Hey everybody! Rachel here with Givebutter. Thanks for joining for another Success Story from the Givebutter community. Today, we are featuring Chicago's own Amate House. Recently, this organization's 37th Annual Gala went live stream and raised over $125,000 on  Givebutter. If you're looking for a successful fundraiser example that used live stream, live entertainment, video tributes, raffles, silent auctions, teams, or a virtual gala format—any or all the above—this one is for you. I have Matt here with me to share how they made this event so successful as well as tips, tricks, and lessons learned like always. Matt, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your success today.

Matt: Yeah, thanks Rachel!

Rachel: To start, why don't we kick things off by having you introduce yourself and a little bit more about your incredible organization.

Matt: My name is Matt, and I work for Amate House here in Chicago. It's a 37-year-old postgraduate service program. It was founded here in the city by two late missionaries and has since seen over close to 900 college students come through our program where we place them at different sites throughout the city, which include anything from schools to various nonprofits in the city, in the medical space, or working with refugees. It can be a number of things, but we've had over 200 site partners here in the city of Chicago. We are super excited to be working with this year's current cohort of fellows. In combination with the service that they're doing full time, we house them and also run a leadership social justice development program. After they come home from a day of full-time work. They're able to unpack their experiences—both in a formal and informal setting—with their housemates and our program staff. It's kind of a full year of leadership formation and service.

Rachel: Wow, that must be so life changing and so many lives have been changed over the last 37 years.

Matt: Yeah! I'm also a proud alumni of the program.

Rachel: Oh, amazing!

Matt: Several years back, but that's why it's near and dear to me. I'm very happy to be back in a role that I can support the program.

Rachel: Yeah, that's incredible! We're all inspired; we're all on board Amate House. Tell us more about how you're raising funds, most recently, for the work that you do. I mentioned that you kind of did it all in your live stream event. Can you just start with step one: what was your goal? When did you start fundraising? It used to be an in-person event, so how did you make that decision? All about getting started—how did you start?

Matt: Oh my gosh—it was daunting! If anyone's listening to this, you're probably like, “Hey, they were in a position like I was!” I’m looking at testimonials and I'm reading up on things and I've been tasked by our Executive Director and our Board to think of how are we going to pivot in a virtual setting? Last year, our gala was always in March or April-ish. At the beginning of 2020, the gala was all planned to be in person and had to pivot last second. Of course, people were willing to jump onto a last-minute Zoom event. The committee did a great job, but I think with Zoom and video conferencing being more novel at the time and people being a little more accepting of that, we were able to still have the event but without all the in-person stuff. People were very gracious and generous as well. As we're coming into 2021, we knew we weren't going to be in a position where a lot of our supporters we're going to be able to feel comfortable coming to a hybrid event. Plus, we just didn't really know how to forecast that months in advance. We were like, “It's going to have to be virtual. We're going to have to do our best to make it enticing.” That was step one: how do we make this an event that's enticing? We thought we’re in Chicago. Comedy has always been a big part of the city. It’s The Second City. I guess way back in Amate House’s past, there's been an in-person gala that started out almost as a comedy experience—sometimes in partnership with The Second City, sometimes with local comedians. We're talking about 20-something years ago. We thought that might be a fun thing to dust off and really try again. You've got all kinds of comedians who are listening for that kind of work as well, so it worked out. That was step one.

Rachel: Okay, got it. It was pivoting to how do we go virtual again and how do we take it to the next level? How do we do that in a way that makes sense to our audience? So, then what? How did you get the ball rolling?

Matt: The committee got together and we said, “Okay, this is what we want to do.” Let's start figuring out the theme. We're thinking late night, kind of talk show style or late night comedy club vibe. Almost a made-for-TV experience, right? Because people, ideally, weren't going to be Zooming into this. They would be clicking a link and sitting in their living room watching a show and being able to enjoy it from that sense. That meant it had to be well planned out and have good personalities up there and be something enticing to watch. The committee got to work looking for local comedians and individuals in the city who both aligned with our organization's values, but at the same time had some prominence in the city and in their field and were funny and great people. We were able to work with our host, Michael Isaac, who is a comedian here from the south side of Chicago who's been doing a lot of work at Zanies, which is a big company club here in the city. Michael was awesome. If you're watching this, you should look up Mike Isaac. He was an amazing host. He's a hilarious guy. He's so great, and we really hope we get him in person for next year and bridge him over. We started working with him and he connected us with Pat McGann. Who is a bit bigger name comedian here in Chicago, also from the south side. Pat’s career has taken off. We went with this host and headliner. We were going to have this comedic, fun, energetic host basically run our program and make it really engaging throughout for 45 minutes to an hour. Then the last half an hour, he was going to turn it over to Pat McGann for a 30-minute comedy show all live streamed into your living room. Once we were able to figure out that setup and kind of get those contacts made, we were like, “Okay, we’re in business! Let’s design a logo and let's start to build out this program and think about ways we can raise funds and promote this event for Amate House.” That was the start.

Rachel: Once you nailed the format, is that what sort of led you to the path of Givebutter then?

Matt: Yeah! I think that was kind of like, “Okay, we're going to be live streaming this event. How do we do it in a way where people can engage and give and still just feel connected to what's going on in the event in a way that is still fun and enticing?” I think Givebutter just has whatever tool you need in a very simple, user-friendly way. It was the perfect tool for us because we didn't want to pivot to something that had a million bells and whistles and too many options or something that was going to be a little more too complicated for our audience to really understand or navigate. Givebutter was great. Here's the page, we're going to drop our live stream into this spot, and as an audience member you can watch donations come in and our progress bar go up. Our folks can give people shoutouts in real time. It was great! Not to mention the GIFs and the pictures and things that people could put on there. That stuff was all like a cherry on top.

Rachel: Yeah, that's amazing. So that live, interactive feature was really important and a tool that was simple to use, which makes a lot of sense when you're combining so many different features into your event. You want a place that keeps it simple. I'm going to go ahead and share my screen here for people who I know are on the edge of their seats right now. What does it look like? Show us! Here it is everyone. This is, of course, going to be linked below so that you can rewatch the entire show if you're looking to see exactly how the format and run of show went down. You can look at the entire format, including teams, event bio, beautiful graphics that are perfectly sized and formatted, and info for raffles, sponsors, fun videos, and more info. Of course, like you said, lots of people loving all the GIFs and comments in the live supporter feed. I think this page was just so beautifully put together. What are some of your tips, tricks, and lessons learned as we look at this page?

Matt: I love the fact that, I think at the bottom of the page, it's just a blank canvas where you can input videos and images and text. I basically did most of the design work. We had a designer come up with our logo early on for our Save The Date, which we decided to go with a postcard this year. Once they sent us the color scheme and the aesthetic, I took it and just went to Canva. Canva is free for anyone. I just started playing around with the content and decided, “Oh, look. I can actually make these powerpoints in Canva.” I just used our aesthetic and our fonts and our color scheme, and then I downloaded images of each so that I could actually just plop them into Givebutter. They would look like this professionally designed page as I scroll down. And then, of course, we had a couple of videos we released ahead of time before the event. We had an alumni who is a barista and on top of making cocktails. As a bartender at some point, she made a cocktail for the event. Then Michael Isaac, our host, we actually had him come to a community night with our volunteers and with our fellows. He hosted a newlywed-style game with the housemates because they all live together. He's asking them questions like “Who's the cleanest one in the house?” That was kind of a fun way to get people to learn about who our host was. Then, down here was all we sold advertisements and we posted our advertisements on our social media pages: Facebook and Instagram and our LinkedIn profile. Then we also posted them all on our Givebutter page. In addition to that, when the sponsorships went live on our Givebutter page on the sidebar somewhere, they also have the image there as well because you can attach an image to your donation. We just loved the blank slate.

Rachel: I have to say, these are probably my favorite ads i've ever seen on Givebutter because normally it's just sponsor logos that maybe link somewhere. I just thought it was really sweet seeing the personalized messages, “We're so proud to support you!” Have a wonderful night!” etc. I just thought it made it more interesting and made me want to read the ads and want to engage and learn about these businesses, which is a win for them and a win for you. I just wanted to give a special shout out to your ad section and sponsorships. It looks so good!

Matt: Thank you. We're blessed with some amazing sponsors and partners. Many of the service sites that our fellows work at, their organizations were also willing to purchase an advertisement on behalf of their current fellow.

Rachel: Yeah! Okay, so any other tips, tricks, and lessons learned?

Matt: Yeah, the team stuff was great! One thing I decided to do was actually record my cell phone of myself on teams—excuse me—on our Givebutter page. I recorded how to connect your Facebook account to it. I took that video recording—which was just a screen capture on my iPhone—and I sent that to board members and our Associate Board, which is our Junior Board, and our staff. That really helped in teaching some folks who may not be as tech savvy to learn how do I actually get on this team, and how do I connect to my Facebook. The teams were great. You can see the totals there of what the teams and the staff and the Associate Board were able to raise. It was such a great feature because that's something we would track normally. Givebutter made it way easier for me to see where folks are at and being able to set goals and say, “Can we get our whole entire Board of Directors to get 10 or more supporters before the event?” That was a big help to have that metric visible.

Rachel: You mentioned the Board of Directors, which made me think of—not always, but oftentimes—Board of Directors can be hesitant to jump on to new technology, as well as some of our founding donors or more old school, traditional donors. How did they respond to an event like this? Because it was your first virtual event. Did you have to do some additional walking through or did most of your supporters find it pretty easy to use?

Matt: With the Board, it definitely was a walk. I got the committee for this event made up of a few board members say it definitely helped. But I think even pitching it to them was me almost like a Givebutter rep. Here's the deck. Let me show you. This is how we can use this, and this is how it's going to make the most sense. The event will be here. You can see donations come in and supporters can click on your name as someone who enticed them to give. Honestly, just the visual site itself—and after I started to play around with it a bit and showed it off to them—it kind of sold itself. I think the big thing was being able to play around with tickets and the donation levels. We typically have a paddle raise that happens during the event, and you can see our paddle raise—I was able to actually put all of our levels of the paddle raise as donation options and a brief explanation of what does what. Obviously, during a real paddle raise and during the actual program, we go in more in depth and give each level its own amount or its own broader explanation. It was nice to be able to put that here. What you don't see currently are our tickets. This was actually really interesting. We decided that we were going to do a ritual raffle for everything. Because we have these options here—I've since hid the tickets. When the show went live, we stopped selling the tickets at a certain point. But you were able to actually write in, based on the prizes on our website, how many tickets you wanted to go in what. We were able to find a way to use this tool to make a virtual raffle make sense for us and be super cost effective.

Rachel: Very cool. Interesting to see how you pivoted around that format. Makes a lot of sense. Even after your event, it still makes sense looking at it. So, well done there. I'm wondering just as we close here—and there's so much more we could talk about! I'm wondering what would be your one word of wisdom or encouragement for other fundraisers who are listening to or reading our conversation right now using Givebutter. What would you say to them?

Matt: One: you've definitely made the first biggest correct choice—in my opinion—using Givebutter. I think it's such a great platform from start to finish. I think being willing to be creative, lean into your supporters, lean into the folks who are either on your committees or are volunteering to support the event, and really create those teams. The teams themselves—sharing the event on Facebook, connecting it to people’s social media—we got so many more supporters. I think we had over 100 new people support or donate to our program through this event, which is a lot more than we ever typically would get. Even though we all have to pivot our numbers and change up what this year is going to look like financially, we still take away a big win. We brought in a lot more people to our program because I think it was much more accessible and engaging. Lean on those folks. I'm of course happy to talk to anyone who wants to reach out and chat a little bit more about Amate Magic!

Rachel: Thanks Matt! Where can people find your organization if they want to follow along after watching this?

Matt: Our website is Of course, my email and contact information are there. You can just go to the “Meet The Staff” section. You can also actually see the results of our events on our Amate Magic! website, which is a page within our Amate House website. You can see a lot of the behind-the-scenes photos and some more information on how we kind of linked it. That was one thing I forgot to mention—and I don't want to make this too long—but we love that you can embed the tickets into your website. That ticket sales feature. That made it really easy for people to find our events and purchase tickets for it.

Rachel: Such a good tip! We’ll be sure to link your page below here. Thank you so much again for joining us and sharing your Success Story with us today.

Matt: Yeah! It was a pleasure.

Rachel: Thank you, everyone else, for following along. We will look forward to seeing you next week for another incredible Success Story. Please be sure to like, share, and subscribe below to Givebutter’s YouTube channel. We’ll see you again soon and, until then, happy fundraising! Bye everybody.

View campaign: Amate Magic Live!

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Rachel Mills

Rachel Mills

Givebutter Marketing & Contributing Writer

Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.

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