Ep 7 – Virtual Reality: How One Nonprofit Went Virtual with Its Annual Gala and Raised a Very Real $1.16 Million

By May 2, 2020 No Comments

In response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, nonprofit organizations are having to reimagine fundraising. In this episode, Mary Lyn Schuh, executive director of JDRF Middle & East Tennessee, details her organization’s pandemic pivot of the Chapter’s largest annual event, the 2020 Promise Gala, which was set to take place at Nashville’s Omni Hotel April 25th. Mary Lyn shares how they managed to exceed even their own expectations about what was possible under such circumstances and raise a stunning $1.16 million virtually. She discusses how they literally figured it out on the fly, leveraging some good ole Nashville starpower, some serious civic goodwill, the multiplier effect of digital and social media, and the power of visual storytelling to create a one-of-a-kind virtual experience.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • How to pivot an in-person event to a virtual experience
  • The steps to planning a virtual event and producing a seamless live stream
  • Discovering the power of visual storytelling in fundraising
  • How to leverage social media to fuel awareness and donations
  • Advice for other nonprofit organizations looking to create a virtual event

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Show Notes

( 1:50 ): Kriste asks, “What is the JDRF Promise Gala and what decision were you faced with in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic?”

( 5:06 ): Kriste asks, “Can you walk us through the support you received from JDRF at the national level and how this event played out with the eyes of other chapters looking towards you?”

( 9:00 ): Mary Lyn shares which aspects from the virtual event they would like to keep once the Gala returns to an in-person event. 

( 10:15 ): Kriste asks, “Once the decision was made, how did you go about bringing this Gala to life? 

( 11:30 ): Mary Lyn discusses the first steps in planning the Gala and the mechanics behind the virtual production. 

( 14:41 ): Kriste asks, “Which pieces of the event were live vs pre-recorded?”

( 16:55 ): Mary Lyn speaks on how a virtual live auction exceeded their original expectations.

( 20:50 ): Kriste asks, “What types of things did you do differently to raise awareness and let people know about the virtual gala?”

( 22:56 ): Kriste asks, “Will you as a chapter look at ways to leverage social media differently than you have in the past?”

( 25:00 ): Kriste asks, “What would be your advice for other nonprofits in this environment looking to do this?”

( 28:08 ): Mary Lyn discusses the importance of celebrity talent in fueling visibility for the event. 

( 29:48 ): Kriste asks, “How did the outcome of the event compare to your expectations?”

From This Episode

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