The Sister District community has always shown incredible creativity in developing ideas for in-person events that attract a variety of people and achieve meaningful results for candidates. In these days of social distancing, our community is showing great resilience as well. The big shift is that our in-person phonebanks, fundraisers, and so on will be moving from in-person events to virtual parties, usually on Zoom. Check out our Virtual Organizing Hub for resources on how to move your party to virtual. Then read on for fun ideas to bring a little pizazz to these virtual events.

This list is just a start, and it’s always growing! Please share your wild ideas with us or tag us on social media, and we’ll keep updating this post.

Virtual Coffee Break, Happy Hour, or Potluck

Have everyone bring their favorite beverage and sip together while hearing from speakers or getting ready to phonebank. You could even send out a cocktail (and complementary mocktail) or snack recipe with your RSVP confirmation and ask everyone to prepare the same thing to enjoy during the event. Keep it simple so people don’t have to make a special effort to get the ingredients. Think mimosas with a sugar cube, or a simple throwback treat like ants on a log. Or make it a potluck and give folks an opportunity to share what they brought to the table. And if all of this is too much, simple wine and cheese also works great!

Set a dress code or theme for the party

Part of the fun of going out can be dressing up. Since we’re not going out these days, consider asking your guests to join in dressy casual, or maybe even cocktail attire, so they can show off their personal style virtually. Or set a theme, like 70’s hippies with flower crowns, sports night with team jerseys, cat ears night (because cats ears are great). The sky is the limit here!

Designate a playlist captain

Your postcard party might get a little quiet at times, or maybe you like a little background music for your phonebanking. Designate a volunteer to be a playlist captain to create a Spotify (or other platform) that can be shared. This could be a great opportunity to get to know the local music of the state you’re working in! Then during the party, folks can all be streaming the same playlist as they work. For this to work, you’ll all want to be on mute most of the time; we don’t advise having one person stream the music for everyone because of the sound quality.

Use fun backgrounds

Zoom lets you set different virtual backgrounds, and you can drop in any photo you like. You could have speakers or trainers set something goofy up in the background, maybe something to match your theme (see above)? However, be aware that these eat up a fair amount of computer processing power, so you’ll want to test this out first to make sure it’s feasible. Alternatively, you could create your own physical background too!

Invite special guests

Who do you know who might be an interesting, energizing speaker? It might be easier to get someone who is typically in high demand to commit to appearing by Zoom rather than in person. And don’t hesitate to call on us—Rita and the other co-founders are happy to be guest speakers via Zoom, and we can tailor our remarks to whatever is best for your group.

Offer an opportunity to learn

Is there someone on your team (or just a friend or other contact) who has a special expertise that people might be interested in? It doesn’t have to be related to politics at all – it could be a skill like painting or drawing, a yoga or other exercise class, a children’s book reading, or any other information session that folks might find entertaining or useful. Participants can always turn off their cameras if they feel too shy to share their happy little trees or personal yoga practice. These make for fantastic fundraisers in-person, and work virtually as well.

For example, our NYC team organized an “Ask Me Anything”-esque event with someone who is an expert in the SATs. Maybe you know an amazing photographer who could offer a class in taking better photos? How about someone with art experience to be a virtual docent for an online museum tour? Instead of a bake sale, you could have a chef run a kids’ cooking class, or teach us how to make a quarantine-ready stew for eating and freezing!

Throw a virtual “tiny desk concert”

Make like NPR and ask your musician friends to offer a performance for your virtual audience. Maybe your kids are in a choir or chamber music group, or you have friends who are professional musicians. It doesn’t have to be perfect—while we’re asked to mostly stay in our homes for safety, folks will be excited for anything entertaining. You’ll need to pay some special attention to AV logistics, but we are here to help! (And if you have particular expertise in this area, don’t be shy—let us know!)

Use icebreakers

It can be a little jarring to just jump right into a virtual gathering without a little small talk. Icebreakers can be a great way to help people settle in, feel a sense of connection with other attendees, and get the conversation going. It can be as simple as, “what brought you here tonight?”

One of our favorite icebreakers is “show us a recent photo.” Ask attendees to share a recent photo from their phones and (briefly) tell the group about it. On Zoom, they can drop it into the chat box. This is a great icebreaker because people tend to take photos about things they find interesting or care about, so it provides a little window into who they are.

Incorporate speed networking

Mingling is an important aspect of in-person events that can be hard to replicate. Consider building some “mingling” into your virtual events by using the breakout rooms feature on Zoom. This allows you to divide a large group into groups of four or fewer people.

For example, you might do this at a fundraiser—after the introductory remarks, but before the main speaker and fundraising ask. You could do two rounds of six minutes each, with three people in each breakout. You’ll likely want to include a discussion prompt or icebreaker (see above). Alternatively, you could do one larger breakout group of eight people for 20 minutes and assign a moderator for each who will ask a question and make sure everyone gets a turn to talk. These are just some ideas—let us know what works for you!

Hold a silent auction

Some of our teams hold silent auctions as part of their in-person events. This could also be paired with a virtual fundraiser or could stand alone as an awesome way to draw engagement from your community by asking for donated items, and also a great way to raise money. The South Bay team created this custom page for silent auctions. If you’re on a Sister District team or affiliate and interested in learning more, they can help you set up a page to be hosted on their website, or if there is someone in your group who knows web design and JavaScript, they could share the code and the web design to build your own site.

We’ll keep updating this post as we figure out ways to refine these ideas, and come up with new ones. Check back often!