Success with Virtual Events

How KCMA Raised $16,000 Without Gathering In-Person

Success with Virtual Events

Success with Virtual Events

How KCMA Raised $16,000 Without Gathering In-Person

In 2020, many nonprofits ended up canceling fundraising events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kids' Chance of Massachusetts (KCMA) instead chose to transform their silent auction into a virtual event. Their Virtual Cocktail Hour/Silent Auction event raised $16,000 after expenses, engaged their community, and proved that you don't have to meet in person to motivate giving.

What made their event so successful? Cheryl Doucette, Kids' Chance of America (KCOA) Membership Director, interviewed John Wagner of the KCMA Executive Committee, along with KCMA Fundraising Committee Chair, Laurie Parsons, to get the inside story.

Keep the Momentum

For KCMA, board engagement was a high priority, along with fundraising. John explained, “We had just brought on some new board members – after much time was spent in recruiting – and realized that we needed to engage them with our mission now, despite the pandemic.”  With a fresh fundraising committee that was highly motivated to raise money for the next year's scholarships, canceling the event entirely simply wasn't an option.

“Being on a fundraising committee during the middle of a pandemic is a very daunting position to find yourself in,” said Laurie. “But when you consider the situation of so many people during this crisis, it became a matter of how, not if, we would host an event.”

Give Donors an Experience

Since many people are spending their entire workdays on Zoom, the KCMA team knew their event would have to be especially fun to draw participation. They settled on a 90-minute program of alternating activities: highlighting silent auction items, drink recipes demonstrated by a comic bartender, information about referrals and KCMA, student stories, board introductions, and sponsorship infomercials.

“I think it is important to carve out time during the event when you are not asking for money,” Laurie said.

The team at KCMA knew that their event was an opportunity to introduce people to their mission and cultivate referrals. Sue Mellody of Liberty Mutual and Shawn Deane of Ametros created a video featuring a student telling her story, a heartwarming addition to the event.

The combination of activities kept things lively. In all, the event attracted 59 participants. Offering a door prize, announced at the end of the event with a “must be present to win” requirement kept people engaged the entire hour. One attendee told the organizers the event felt like a call-in TV show.

It Takes a Team

Virtual or not, hosting a fundraising event is a lot of work. KCMA got the whole fundraising committee onboard, along with help from executive committee members, and support from their administrative assistant, Rolisa Tutwyler. “We have an excellent team, and everyone has different strengths and ideas. That helped to keep us on our toes and always looking to improve,” says Laurie.

To spread the word about the event, the team reached out to industry professionals, insurer representatives, and businesses that provide services to the workers' compensation industry.  Committee members Buzz Schneider and Vin Tentindo made contact with fellow attorneys. “They sent out email blasts and talked up the event every time they were on the phone,” says Laurie. KCMA also enlisted the help of the Senior Judge Omar Hernandez at the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents to inform others in the industry.

Start Bidding Early and Practice Makes Perfect

An in-person silent auction has natural camaraderie and excitement. KCMA used their bidding platform to build some of that enthusiasm prior to the event. They opened auction bidding ten days before the event, so that donors would be invested in the outcome when the event began.

“You want to begin to create an auction fever, or what the auctioneers describe as the 'endowment effect,'” said John, “When the bidder bids early on an item, they then have a sense of ownership. Then the bidder will more likely bid up the item when the auction is live.”

To maximize the results of the auction fever they'd created, they kept the bidding open for one hour after the event.

The most beneficial piece of preparation KCMA did for the event was having a dress rehearsal a week beforehand. This rehearsal helped the team get used to the technology and solve any issues that arose without the stress of a waiting audience. It also gave them the opportunity to test out their event program. “The worst thing you can do is have dead air, so it was our goal to have every minute accounted for. We decided we would rather run a few minutes over than have silence,” said Laurie.

With all the pieces of their presentation in place, the team could focus on projecting high energy and building fast-paced excitement at the event itself.

Creativity = Resilience

With a successful virtual event accomplished, an energized board, and happy donors, KCMA is ready for whatever comes next.  They're excited for next year and know that they don't have to depend on in-person events to fundraise.

“This was a well-planned and expertly executed virtual event,” said Cheryl. “KCMA is a great example of how to keep going, try something new, and make it fun for everyone.”

Pictured right to left: Martin (Buzz) Schneider, Laurie Parsons, and John Wagner