In this video, three leaders from MAGFest share how they created a side-splitting telethon on Givebutter. Short for "Music And Gaming Festival," MAGFest is typically a four-day event dedicated to the appreciation of video game music, gaming of all types, and the gaming community. For the first time in 18 years, they had to cancel their largest in-person event due to COVID-19. Emily, Faith, and Dac join me to share how they transformed their event into the MAGTelethon—a virtual event full of fundraising shenanigans, special guests, and ridiculous programming! They also share:

  • How they customized their Givebutter campaign to drive supporter engagement
  • What made their campaign so successful (Hint: leveraging the Supporter Feed!)
  • Tips, tricks, and lessons learned for Livestream fundraising on Givebutter
“That was one of the ways that we used Givebutter too. We changed the story, we changed the teams, and changed multiple things on the page as the day went on to match the content of what we were doing. It was very quick to do, and it was really cool being able to just swap it out so that people could donate to something else. It was really fun.”

Discover new ways to be successful with Givebutter Livestream—and how to have a blast doing it!

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Full video script

Rachel: What's up everybody? Rachel here with Givebutter. Thanks for joining for another Success Story from the Givbutter community. Today, our team is super, super excited to be featuring MAGFest. Givebutter’s Co-founder and CEO, Max, attended their music and gaming conference last year in DC. He is a huge superfan, so he is really geeking out over this campaign. Recently, MAGFest raised over $112,000 with an engaging and hilarious telethon. I think you're going to have a lot of fun hearing about this one. I have three of their talented leaders here with me to share how MAGFest raised funds for its movement. They're also going to tell us why they turned to Givebutter, as well as tips, tricks, and lessons learned along the way. Thanks so much for joining us andsharing your success with the entire Butter Fam!

Dac: Cool! Yeah, thanks for having us.

Faith: It’s great to be here!

Rachel: If we could just start by going around and everybody share your name and how you're connected with MAGFest.

Emily: Sure—I’m sorry Dac! I'm Emily. I'm the Director of Business Operations.

Faith: I'm going to go! I'm Faith. I'm the Director of Volunteer Infrastructure.

Dac: And I'm Dac. I'm the Communications Director.

Rachel: Thank you guys so much for joining! Cannot wait to dig in. I know many, many, many that are watching are obviously going to be familiar with who you are and what you do, but could you just give a quick overview? Who is MAGFest?

Dac: MAGFest is a nonprofit organization. Our mission is—in a general way—we want to make the world a better place through video games and music. What we do is we put on events throughout the year. Our big one is usually in January, which is around 24,000 people. It features things like concerts, a lot of gaming, a lot of educational panels. It's a big giant even; a lot of people just say it's like the biggest party they've ever been to. We do that ultimately to spread the love and joy of video game music and the culture—spread that across our community.

Rachel: Beautiful. I know you, like so many other nonprofits, have been hit hard by COVID-19 and the way that you accelerate your mission. Walk us back several months ago when COVID-19 first hit: what were the conversations your team was having about “What are we going to do?” and how that related to fundraising.

Emily: It was a very challenging time for quite a while. We ended up creating a task force of a lot of high-level individuals—called it the contagion-cy task force. We just continually monitored the situation with COVID with respect to how it's spreading, how different states are reacting, different regulations being put into place. Since we have multiple events that happen throughout the year, we were eyeing them as they happened. Although Super, which is our flagship event that happens in January, is our biggest revenue driver. That was the biggest concern for all of us. We were hopeful that maybe things would calm down which wasn't really the case. We were really looking at the horizon as the months rolled by and had to make decisions based on local regulations and whether it was really even safe or responsible to have an event. That was kind of a big driver for some of these conversations with how COVID affected us.

Rachel: Yeah. So Dac, what was your inspiration with the telethon? Because you were the one where the gears were turning and you were thinking about this concept, right?

Dac: Yeah. I think the idea of a telethon probably was a group effort. We started with a lot of our content at MAGFest. Probably not surprisingly, a lot of it starts as a bit of a joke that we might lean into. So at one point we were just like, “Yeah, what if we went straight PBS-style telethon?” Before we knew it we were designing sets that had glittery things and phones that didn't even work and pieces of content that were bizarre that we wanted to fit in wherever we could to to make things as entertaining as possible. It was really unique because not only had we never done a fundraiser before, but we'd never done a digital event like this before. There was a huge learning curve. Not only in trying to capitalize on the fundraising incentives, but trying to make it entertaining for an audience that was predominantly online—well entirely online. It consisted of a lot of our community, but it also consisted of regular viewers of Twitch and Twitch content. Trying to create that balancing act, especially in the few weeks that we had to put it all together, was a huge challenge. I really think our strategy was to throw as many ideas at the wall and then assess what we thought would stick. That's sort of the beauty of MAGFest. The people who watched it, they gravitated towards the cool stuff and the stupid stuff because I think they knew that's how we were forming the telethon.

Rachel: Yeah, for sure.

Faith: It's always really important in our communication with our audience to be very frank and joke-y. Something that people often say about MAGFest is that it has a very authentic feel, so it doesn't feel like a corporate-con or anything like that. It feels very home brewed. We wanted our communication around our event cancellation and subsequent fundraising to be in that same vein of how we talk to people, how we’re always very frank and authentic. The telethon was the same way, right? We're doing it live—we're literally doing it live—but also we're making a lot of stuff as we go along and adjusting based on what people seem to be into.

Rachel: Right, yeah. You can tell that you guys were enjoying putting it together. You provided so much comic relief in your content that you are providing. 2020, right? We all need a good laugh, and you provided that space for people to just forget about everything else for a day, participate, show up, have fun, and see new and exciting things. Let me go ahead and share my screen, so people can see your beautiful campaign. One thing that I want to point out that I thought was so interesting that you did was your use of the Supporter Feed on Givebutter. If you're looking for some entertainment and you're watching this right now, please—this will be linked in their story—please look at their supporter feed and have a great laugh. Also, this is still available on their fundraising page. If you're looking for a fun way to do a telethon, you can also check out this inspiration. I'm just going to play a really short clip of how you incorporated the Supporter Feed into your telethon.

Audio from video: . . . We have $100 from Parker, “Long live MAGFest;” $100 from Jesse/SmashRiot, “Pancakes are totally legal and very delicious;” and finally $100 from Logan, “Good luck MAGFest.”

Rachel: I just thought that was so smart. If you can believe it, of the many, many, many telethons that we've seen this year, I haven't seen anyone else do that exactly. I thought that Is a great source of inspiration for people who are watching. There are so many ways that you can incorporate that supporter interaction to build community throughout. Kudos to you and your team; I thought that was really smart. You kept your story and copy so simple which is really, really effective for getting people to have their eyes drawn to the “Donate” button—which is what you want during the telethon. Don’t distract; get them right to the button. Three steps and you're done, right? What are other things that stand out to you when you look at your Givebutter fundraiser? Other strategies or things you guys were thinking about as you were setting it up or choosing Givebutter?

Dac: So there were definitely—we learned a lot about the Givebutter platform in real time. We were not super clear internally about what we wanted our content to be or how we wanted our donations to drive the content. We worked a little bit backwards; we built our content first and then we tried to plug it into Givebutter. One of the more unique ways I think that we did that was by creating donation incentives and utilizing the teams in Givebutter to basically be those donation incentives and those current goals. I think if you scroll down—well actually I don't think we have any live at the moment. The Givebutter team was even able to change some of the static copy from, I think it was “team members” or whatever to “current goals.” That helped our messaging a little bit. But because we were re-tooling the Givebutter system for a purpose that it probably had never seen before, we did encounter some challenges. I think we overcame those not only by figuring out the path of least resistance for people who were donating, but we also made sure to mention it during the stream many times—how to donate. If you haven't seen it, one of our content producers, Josh, made a full video on how to donate in Givebutter.

Faith: It’s hilarious. It’s so good. He’s so funny.

Dac: If you haven’t seen that, I’ll have to send that to you because it’s fantastic.

Faith: We also utilized . . . Something that Dac does is he designs our badges and our lanyards and all the art assets that—not all, but many—go with our events. We encourage people to donate and then include in that Supporter Feed a drawing or a picture or a meme or something that they just thought was funny. Then we also had a volunteer who in real time was saving all of them somewhere so that Dac could then create a banner that was crowdsourced, right? That was something that we just made up because Givebutter had the opportunity to include up a personalized thing.

Emily: The other thing that we did was, we reacted in real time. We made changes in the moment. The last hour of the telethon was completely improvised; we didn't plan that. We threw three teams up there: Bean Sonic, Bean Mario, and Bean Deb. People donated to dump beans on people and mascots. It was very MAGFest, just how it happened. Also, I think a lot of the viewers loved it; how impromptu and how funny and just odd it was. It was really cool that we could do that immediately in real time.

Faith: Being able to make teams, being able to customize the story, stuff like that was very helpful. I’ve been joking the last couple days, but I literally went to the bathroom and the subtitle had gone from the “Big-Ass Big Ask” to the “Bean-Ass Bean Ask.” I was like, “I didn’t approve this!”

Emily: I did not.

Faith: No, I loved it! I literally had just gone to the restroom and come back, and content had changed and that was totally fine.

Emily: That was one of the ways that we used Givebutter too. We changed the story, we changed the teams, and changed multiple things on the page as the day went to match the content of what we were doing. It was very quick to do. We had—a couple times, where I had to tell Dac, “No, it's not ready yet. Hold on.” It was just a minute or two. It was really cool being able to just swap it out so that people could donate to something else. It was really fun.

Dac: Speaking of that, if you actually want to refresh the page, I'll show you right now exactly how quick and swiftly we were able to do that. If you take a look, we now have the internet video of how to actually use Givebutter which you can watch on your own whenever you want. But if you scroll down, we now have the three goals. Now, they don't have any money in them obviously, because I just created them, but this was how we were able to utilize what donation incentives were active at the time. Then, in addition to that, one thing that we learned very late on was that we could inject HTML into the story—also, by the way, into the location which I'm not sure if you guys were aware that you could do that. I found out that you could.

Rachel: Yes! You’re one of two people who's ever tried it.

Dac: If you take a look at the story, we also had some graphics done up so that people would know our schedule and our donation incentives. We were constantly refreshing the story in real time so that people knew what their donations were affecting and how it was changing the content.

Rachel: Yes! Thank you so much for doing that in real time—that's just to show people, in real time, we can be changing and updating our fundraisers. That's fun, exciting, and engaging for the people who are participating in the event. Kudos to you guys for stepping out there. Not only is this your first fundraiser, but it was extremely successful and a lot of fun for your attendees. You can tell that they had a great time. Not only on your Givebutter fundraising page, but also Twitter—another place to look for entertainment. If you're looking for how their participants engaged, they were very, very engaged on social for them. Lots of examples and inspiration that people can be looking for there. Speaking of this being your first fundraiser, if you could go back and give yourself any word of advice on having a Givebutter fundraiser, what would it be? What would you tell yourself?

Dac: I think trying to define how we were going to use the platform earlier on would have been pretty helpful. We were really pushing the platform to its limit, and that's both a good and a struggling kind of thing. Being able to define that earlier on probably would have helped us tune the content around that. But to Givebutter’s credit, we ended up having a meeting—I think it was a week before the telethon—diving into basically all of our tech asks: what could or could not be done. Some of the changes you guys were able to accommodate, like changing the team goals or whatever to current goals—just some of the copy so that it was a little more clear how we were utilizing that. Other than that, honestly just more time for our actual telethon production. Givebutter was great for how we used it. I'm sure we all have plenty of requests; we're going to definitely hit that request sheet hard.

Rachel: Good! Yeah, you should.

Emily: Yeah, I think the usability was great. How we use it, it worked really well. It was user-friendly. I was updating in real time, and it was not hard to do.

Faith: Yeah, I absolutely agree. I think that the requests that we made at the 11th hour, some of which were probably doable . . . but if we had known we wanted them done might have been something that you could toggle on or off. We couldn't see that in the UI, but it's probably not impossible. It might be something other companies or individuals are interested in doing for their fundraisers. We all plan to submit ideas to that.

Rachel: Good. Yes, please do! We love innovating and changing and learning how the products can be better and better for fundraisers like you who are changing the world. Thank you so much for sharing your success with the entire Butter Fam today. Everybody who's watching along, thank you for joining for another Success Story. Please remember to like, comment, and subscribe. Leave any questions below that we didn't get to today that you would love to see MAGFest answer; we will try to get to as many as we can. We will see you again next week for another Success Story. Bye everybody!

View campaign: MAGTelethon

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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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