In this video, I’m joined by Carla, CEO of Family Reach. Family Reach is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to eradicating the financial barriers that accompany a cancer diagnosis. Things really started to heat up in their latest fundraising event! They raised over $373k though their Cooking Live Executive Challenge: a friendly, impactful competition featuring executives from across the country. Contestants put their cooking skills to the test—with their team fundraisers cheering them on—to provide critical financial support to cancer patients. Carla also dishes on:

  • Why they chose to host one of their largest fundraising events on Givebutter Livestream
  • How they created an engaging atmosphere and at-home experience for virtual event attendees
  • Tips, tricks, and lessons learned for hosting a virtual event that’s completely live
“We had so much fun on Givebutter. It was the perfect platform for us. What I loved about [the Givebutter platform] is we were all together and we could interact with the audience which is what we were really missing on Instagram. We're all about impact and transparency, so the fact that you could see how much we were raising together really made a difference for us. We were able to interact and people could see how they themselves were moving the needle.”

Keep reading to learn more.

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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 Family Reach. They have raised over $373,000 through a Cooking Live Executive Challenge all in an effort to raise critical funds to support cancer patients in need. I have Carla here with me who is going to dish on how they pulled off a Livestream with a little bit of friendly competition. She's also going to tell us what made them turn to Givebutter, as well as tips, tricks, and lessons learned, so all of you who are following along right now can give better with Givebutter. Carla, thank you so much for joining us today.

Carla: Thank you for having me!

Rachel: Why don't you go ahead and start by introducing yourself and what your mission is.

Carla: Sure. My name is Carla Tardif, and I'm the CEO of Family Reach. We are a national nonprofit organization that addresses a side of cancer that so many people don't think about or talk about. Everybody knows cancer. We know the incredible leaps and bounds we've made in cancer research and all the incredible cancer care facilities. But, the harsh reality for so many people who have cancer is that they literally cannot—they hit these financial barriers and they cannot make ends meet. It really makes sense because when cancer strikes, work is missed. If a child has cancer, one parent stops working to care for that child. If it's the adult that has cancer, they miss a tremendous amount of work because they're in treatment, they’re sick. Their income is cut dramatically. If you have a single parent household, it's cut by 100%. They have all of these added out-of-pocket expenses to access care: traveling to the hospital, parking, meals...and then the cost of care: insurance deductibles, co-pays… Families with cancer really quickly and all too often get into financial trouble that actually affects their ability to access care and adhere to treatment. That's the really unique niche where Family Reach lives: the financial crisis of cancer.

Rachel: Yeah. What a beautiful mission. Thank you for sharing that. Diving right in, tell us about your fully live stream fundraiser that you used Givebutter for.

Carla: Yeah! We had so much fun on Givebutter. It was the perfect platform for us. We have a lot of big personalities and it starts with our celebrity chef, Ming Tsai, who has been by my side for 10 years. He's on my board, he's devoted to this mission, and he does a lot of big celebrity chef events for us throughout the year. When COVID hit, we thought, “Oh my gosh, this is going to be about a million dollar loss for our organization,” because these two big celebrity chef events were going to go away. So we—like so many in this crazy year—turned to a virtual event, but we knew we had to make it entertaining. We knew we had to make it different. We're all on Zoom all day long. How are we going to get people to tune in and stay? So we did a live event with executives, we called it the Cooking Live Executive Challenge. We had seven CEOs, presidents, and executives from a really unique plethora of organizations come together and take on that chef role. Chef Ming did his demos and showed them what they were going to do. We sent all the ingredients in advance. We started with a fun cocktail. I just sat back and co-emceed with Ming, watching these executives cook. Some of them, fantastic. Some of them, just great sports, but it was really entertaining. Then, we encouraged folks to cook along. We had people watching from their kitchen and also cooking along with Chef Ming and all the executives. It was a blast.

Rachel: It does sound so fun! I did get to take a peek at some of the live stream fundraiser. Let me go ahead and share my screen, so people can see your beautiful campaign. You even get a sneak peek—everyone who's following along—right here, you can see just how engaging. I mean, there you are with hands up, totally engaged, having fun. You can see that your people definitely enjoyed themselves. Was this your first live stream fundraiser? Was this new to your organization, and if so, how did you process and strategize how to pull off a live stream event?

Carla: This was the second one. We went live in May on Instagram, and it was a different setup. We had Chef Ming cooking and then every half hour he had a different celebrity come on and cook with him live on Instagram. We had Reese Witherspoon. We had Paris Hilton. We had José Andres. We had about eight different celebrities come on and cook. What I loved about this is we were all together and we could interact with the audience which is what we were really missing on Instagram. They could also see—we're all about impact and transparency, so the fact that you could see how much we were raising together really made a difference for us. So as fundraisers, these events are fun to do, but the point is to raise money and to raise awareness. We were able to interact and people could see how they themselves were moving the needle. It also set up some really nice, friendly competition with the executives. Those that were lagging behind had to shout out to some friends to say, “Don't make me look bad.” So as fundraisers, we really liked that.

Rachel: I love that. I also just want to point out that your layout of the event was so well done. Very clean, simple, easy-to-read story. Sponsors easily, simply, very clean, laid out at the end. People were very engaged with your supporter feed. Still getting donations last week. When you look at this, what are some other tips, tricks, lessons learned that you might have for other folks that are watching that are considering doing a live stream event?

Carla: I highly recommend Givebutter. I think one part of our success was all of the pre-promotion. We introduced each contestant and told a little bit about them and put it on LinkedIn. There was a buzz going for about two weeks before the event, so people just couldn't wait to tune in. Some of the executives were challenging each other on there. The build-up really helped us hit it home and hit it out of the park. By the time we went live people were pretty excited about it. We also had some special guests, so even our executives were surprised which I think made it fun. We started off with a Maker's Mark cocktail, and we had the president of Maker's Mark join us to show how to really create and stir properly a cocktail, so that was fun. Then, here you have our shot at the end. The bottom two on the right—middle and right—those are our Family Reach founders. At the end I brought our founders on. They both lost their children to cancer 25 years ago, so they came on just to thank everybody and to say how entertaining it was and to show Chef Ming some love and just let everybody know how much we appreciate them coming on board. It was fun. We made fun of people. They were drinking. We were having a great time, but there was heart throughout the whole thing, and it ended with the founders which was really nice.

Rachel: I love that you were finding that perfect balance of making it fun and engaging and interactive—an event people really wanted to be at and stay at—but also heartfelt and mission driven and still centered on your purpose. I have talked to so many fundraisers who are just absolutely terrified of doing a full live stream event. They really only want to do pre-recorded. It's different for everybody, right? Different decisions make sense for different people. But, I'm wondering how did you do that? Did you have a production crew? Did you have any fear about going fully live stream, and if so, how did you get over that?

Carla: That's such a great question. What's funny is I never considered anything else. The thought of pre-recording it never even entered my mind. Ming and I have done this Cooking Live Event—it's cooking live, you have to go live! It's in the name. We do cooking live events. We've done them together for 10 years, and we do them in two or three different cities per year. Obviously, this year being different. Live is what we know. I liked the mistakes. I liked the blunders. It's what makes us human. I think you catch people off guard. As a matter of fact, my team right now is putting together a bloopers reel because we want people to laugh and we want people to feel—I don't know—human and okay! You're going to make mistakes in the kitchen. We have people burning the rice, spilling this, and spilling that, but to me, that's the magic of going live.

Rachel: Absolutely. That has to make your attendees just feel so comfortable being a part of it.

Carla: Yeah! Chef Ming is such a big personality, and there was a couple of guys on here that were participants that knew him well. My gosh, they were dishing it out. I think it did; it made everybody feel comfortable. And Ming was not afraid to dish it back. So yeah, the spontaneity was really, really important to us.

Rachel: Absolutely. Do you have any word of advice or encouragement to other Givebutter fundraisers who are following along right now?

Carla: I think it's—we said it a little bit—but it's...people are on Zoom all day long right now, so doing the virtual events… You have set up such a beautiful platform that checks all the boxes, that makes it really easy for us to still raise money and still raise awareness, and that's what we all, probably more than ever, need to do. So I guess my advice to everyone is have fun with it. I mean, we deal with cancer. We deal with children with cancer. We deal with a very heavy topic, and it's important for us to weave that in but not bring people down. Entertain them. Get them to want to not only stay tuned, but to text you or email you and say, “When are you doing that again?” That was my ultimate goal and we achieved that. But, I guess to answer your question, have fun. People need that right now.

Rachel: Absolutely. I’m wondering what is the future of live stream for your organization? What’s next?

Carla: We loved it. You're able to reach so many more people. Like I said, we do cooking live events throughout the year. We have a ballroom with 150 to 200 people. We like to keep it intimate so that everybody can feel a part of it, some people can cook along. To be able to achieve that but with massive audiences, reaching more donors, raising more awareness. And like I said, the highlight reel is still live. People can still see it. It's on our website. It lasts so long, so we won't stop with the virtual events—even when COVID is behind us—because it's really opened our eyes to the fact that we can reach so many more people virtually.

Rachel: Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you so much for joining today to share your incredibly inspiring and fun success with Givebutter Fam today.

Carla: Thank you! Thanks for having us and thanks for all you do. You really made it so easy for us.

Rachel: Thank you. For everybody who is following along, we are going to link their campaign to this. Please like, share, and subscribe to Givebutter’s YouTube channel, so you never miss a Success Story again. Until then, we'll see you next week fundraisers. Bye everybody.

Carla: Bye! Thank you.

View campaign: Family Reach's Cooking Live Executive Challenge

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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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