At the very start of the pandemic, The Dougy Center seized virtual fundraising by the horns and held their very first online-only event.
The development team learned and grew a lot over the last year, and now they’ve done it again: their second virtual event, the 2021 Reflection Benefit, was a week-long festival of activities that inspired incredible generosity and reached new audiences everywhere.
As a result, The Dougy Center—a nonprofit organization based in Portland, Oregon that helps children dealing with grief and loss—raised enough money to support their programs for another year, and saw participation from donors around the US, North America, and across the globe.
Let Guests Give and They’ll Give
With the pandemic still in full swing, The Dougy Center knew they had to get creative if they wanted to really engage their existing donors and reach new people. The event team had learned incredible flexibility from a year full of endless changes, and they were willing to adapt and try out new ideas to make it happen.
Their big gambit? Make the event accessible to everyone, whether a longtime donor or a casual new acquaintance and provide easy opportunities to give with just the touch of a button. They already knew they could reach their local supporter base—now they saw their virtual event as a unique chance to reach a broader audience than ever before.
The Dougy Center prioritized putting up their event website and selling tickets as early as possible so guests had plenty of time to sign up and spread the word. The team also made sure to include a donate option right there on the event page for anyone who couldn’t attend.
And it worked! Nearly 600 people (300 households) watched their live stream. The fundraising team also utilized Greater Giving’s “Text to Donate” feature, so anyone could give at any time from their mobile device—from anywhere in the world. The Dougy Center reported new donors from all over the world.
Feel the FOMO!
In the past, guests at The Dougy Center’s annual benefit typically spent the evening meeting children served by the organization and bidding on their artwork in the silent auction. That direct, personal connection to the cause helped drive generosity throughout the evening. So how could the development team replicate that connection, even while the event was virtual?
We know online fundraising events can’t completely replace live, in-person events; but many of the ingredients that draw guests to charity galas for an entire evening of socializing, fun, and food can transform an online event into such a destination that people will not want to miss out on.
To simulate this familiarity and connection, The Dougy Center opened their online auction of children’s art a week before the live stream of the event, so bidders had plenty of time to browse the auction and make their initial bids. Then participants received automatic reminders when they were outbid on an item, bringing them back to the auction over and over during the week. By the time the event rolled around, bidders were invested and excited for the live stream to start.
This year, the live stream wasn’t the only place that new donors found The Dougy Center. With the help of a partner, the 2021 Reflection Benefit appeared live on a TV channel, so anyone who tuned in learned about The Dougy Center’s mission to serve grieving children and their families.
And thanks to Text to Donate, even a channel surfer could simply text the phone number to give to the cause! The TV spot generated an incredible amount of exposure, and the virtual event was a massive success.