Resource Library

Sister District CA Peninsula Case Study: Virtual Fundraiser

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Raising for: Sharon Hirsch
Date: 5/6/20
Time: 7-8pm
Attendees: 48
Total raised: $10,900 ($5,900 to candidate + $5,000 matching funds to Sister District)

What were your steps to put the party together?

  1. The idea: Candidate Interview as a KickOff fundraiser
  2. Find a person to interview the candidate who is known to the members and is warm, knowledgeable speaker
  3. Request the candidate via the Candidate Appearance Request Form so that you can be introduced to your candidate and staff for the purposes of planning the event.
  4. Schedule the event one month out to give you time to promote it
  5. Decide what to charge. We charged $35pp / $20 for people under 30.
  6. Find a matching donor or group of donors who will match some amount for the event.
    • We started soliciting people in January to become matching donors. Some pledge to match $100, others more, all the way up to $15,000. But any match is good for inspiring people to donate.
    • We tell our matching donors that they will double their donations, and that they inspire people to make donations they otherwise wouldn’t make.
    • When we had in person events, the matching donation would be for only donations over the entry donation and all donations from non-attendees. But we were concerned we’d have low attendance for a speaker Zoom event (when we could not offer food and drink and community), so we offered to match up to $5,000 of all donations including entry donations.

How did you recruit for the party?

  • Create an excellent, eye catching Mailchimp invitation including the candidate’s photo which describes it as both fun/interesting and impactful. Link it to a Google rsvp form, and link that to an auto response email which will go to the rsvp’s and provide the Zoom links and the ActBlue link. (The ActBlue link is also in the Mailchimp invite.)
  • Send out the Mailchimp invite 4-5 times over the month before the event, changing the subject line each time (and make sure the subject lines catch people’s attention, especially the first 4 words and make it sound fun)
  • Send the invite to the other Sister District chapters and affiliates supporting the candidate (since it’s via Zoom, anyone can “attend” and this is a great way to connect with other chapters).

How did you confirm/remind RSVPs?

Send a reminder email to the rsvp’s 4-5 days before the event and on the morning of the event, including the Zoom links, so they’re handy, and the ActBlue link with a request that everyone make their donation before the event.

How did you prepare for the party?

  • Prepare a draft outline of the interview and attach it to an email to the candidate/campaign manager and the interviewer introducing them to one another and laying out the purpose of the event, the timing of each section, and the Zoom link. (See email text linked below.)
  • Schedule a Zoom call with the candidate and interviewer a few days before the event so they can meet one another, go over the interview outline draft, and lay out the tech aspects.
  • During this call ask the candidate/campaign manager to think of something specific they could use using the dollar goal you have for the event. (For Sharon Hirsch, the campaign manager said that with $10,000 he could hire a part time Field organizer now, rather than wait to hire in the fall.)
  • FYI – we offer attendees the option to watch our speaker events with the candidate and interviewer together on screen in Gallery view, with all other screens off and hidden. To do this we’ve found it easiest to make the candidates and interviewers “Co-Hosts” so they can adjust their videos and unmute themselves. (We include instructions for attendees to watch the event this way in the reminder emails, and in special instructions in the “Waiting Room”, and in the chat box, and we walk them through it again right before the interview starts.)

How did the party flow? What happened?

  • The event was one hour (we think it’s best to keep Zoom events to an hour, ideally).
  • We use the Waiting Room to gather a group of people before we do a clean start of the event and immediately begin. So when we had 30 in the waiting room, we admitted all of them and disabled the waiting room.
  • We welcomed everyone and did the tech instructions so people could see Sharon and Joe Simitian, the interviewer, together on screen.
  • Then we introduced them both and I turned off my video and muted myself.
  • Joe Simitian, the interviewer, did a 2 minute overview of why he believes SD is so worthwhile and how supporting Sharon Hirsch is a great example of how SD enables all of us to have an impact.
  • Then the interview went forward for about 35 minutes. One captain then came on screen to ask Sharon questions asked in the chat box, for ten minutes.
  • Then I turned on my video and did the “ask”, thanking everyone for the donations they already had made, especially given the pandemic, and asking those with the ability to do so, to donate more, and referencing the matching donation and what the campaign could do with the money if you can reach your goal.
  • Then we shared a screen with the text-to-donate instructions and were silent for about 2 minutes so people could donate using that or the link in the same day reminder.
  • Then we thanked everyone and said good night.

What worked?

It all worked pretty well.

What challenges did you encounter and how did you navigate?

  • We only get about two thirds of rsvp’s to actually attend the event – not sure how to increase that.
  • We hadn’t come up with the idea of making the candidate and interviewer co-hosts in Zoom, so Joe Simitian (the interviewer) muted himself once and couldn’t unmute himself, and it took me a while to figure out what was wrong.

If you do this again, what would you do differently?

  • We are doing it again for Sydney Batch on May 28.
  • The only thing different is that we’ve made the match, $3,000 this time, a TRIPLE match of the first $1,000 of donations by non-attendees and donations over the entry donation by attendees. I wanted to see if we could inspire donations by non-attendees for a virtual event.
  • We promoted the match only one week before the event with the mailchimp subject line “Can’t Make it? Triple your donation.” We got $425 in non-attendee donations that morning, better than we got from non-attendees for the Sharon Hirsch event which had a match on all donations. (Update: we got $1145 in donations from non-attendees over the next few days.)

What suggestions do you have for teams planning and executing similar parties?

  • Make the event sound fun in the mailchimp and the subject line—I can’t emphasize that enough. People want to be involved because they know they should, but if it doesn’t sound fun, they will find a way to ignore the invite.
  • In fact, we try to alternate speaker events (which are harder to sound fun) with truly fun events, i.e. comedian, band or singer, auction, cocktail making or cooking class.

What suggestions do you have for staff in preparing teams to plan/execute similar parties?

Mailchimp invitations can be very effective if they are colorful and inviting, so teams should know how to use it well.

Invitation and reminder communications: