COVID-19 has delivered a hard hit to businesses and organizations across the globe. Cancelled events, closed offices - we all know the stories. But for many nonprofits, COVID-19 has not only affected their daily operations, but also their ability to raise essential funds. Boston Partners in Education was facing the cancellation of their annual fundraising gala, the Big Cheese Reads Gala, which typically raises 50 per cent of their annual budget.
Founded in 1966, Boston Partners in Education’s core mission is to give the children who are struggling in school the tools necessary to become better learners. They achieve this by mobilizing community members to serve as volunteer academic mentors to K-12 students in Boston Public Schools.
When in-person fundraising isn’t an option
With no clear path to take their gala virtual, the team at Boston Partners in Education were concerned about how they would raise the critical funds to support students in need as well as celebrate and recognize the sponsors who had contributed already.
“COVID-19 has hit us hard,” said Andy Kall, Development Manager at Boston Partners in Education. “All classrooms are closed for the remainder of the year and a cancelled gala could have been devastating to our operations.”
Boston Partners in Education currently operates in 50+ schools with over 3,500 students in their program, however, Andy says there are thousands more children in need of mentoring.
“According to the most recent Boston Public Schools survey, over 4,000 students in Boston Public Schools reported that they never felt like they had an adult — outside of their teacher — to talk with about school or the problems they might be having."
Andy Kall, Development Manager, Boston Partners in Education
There’s an ever-increasing need for mentoring, and at the end of the day, more funds mean that Boston Partners can provide more of these students that have access to the support they need.
Traction Gather: a virtual event solution
In mid-April, three weeks ahead of their scheduled Big Cheese Reads Gala, Andy connected with Traction on Demand to see if Traction Gather, our virtual event platform, could provide a solution.
“To be honest, I was feeling completely burnt out when we were first introduced to the Traction Gather team. We’d been trying to deal with the possibility of a cancelled event, but as soon as we met the team I knew we were in the right place.”
Boston Partners in Education were looking for a platform that would not only drive donations but also create a sense of community and connection for their constituents. After reviewing multiple options, Chris Cotrone, Director of Marketing at Boston Partners in Education, said Traction Gather was the only platform that came close to delivering the look and feel they envisioned.
“We wanted an event solution that would feel like a celebration, not just a glorified Zoom call,” said Chris. “We looked at a few options and they just felt like extensions of a webinar or conference call. None really offered the feeling of an in-person gala. Traction Gather made us and our guests feel like it was some sort of event to celebrate and that you were actually at a ballroom setting — just virtually.”
Traction Gather is built on the Salesforce Communities platform and supports any organization or business looking to transition their events to a virtual platform. Its customizable and scalable nature means projects can be delivered rapidly using 100% remote delivery.
“It’s more than a virtual event solution, it’s a community engagement venue; a blank event canvas that is only limited by our creativity,” said Linda Wong, Events Manager at Traction Gather. “It enables event managers to quickly pivot their face-to-face events to a virtual event, and build a memorable experience with each event’s guest list. For Boston Partners, the entire project took less than three weeks to deliver, from our first meeting to hosting the event.”
The Night in Review: Virtual Big Cheese Reads Gala
From keynote speakers and entertainment to silent auctions, Traction Gather recreated all the elements guests come to expect from a successful in-person gala. Choosing to mix both live and pre-recorded video, Boston Partners in Education were able to create a unique and engaging event, driving donations and recognizing those that make their mission possible.
"Typically, our in-person gala raises 50 per cent of our annual budget. With Traction Gather we actually surpassed our fundraising goal for the night and we’re getting close to achieving our net fundraising goals of almost $500,000. We couldn’t be happier."
Andy Kall, Development Manager, Boston Partners in Education
“One of my personal highlights was when we broadcasted a pre-recorded video from prominent city leaders and figureheads to Boston Public School students”, said Andy. “I received countless texts and emails from guests, saying how touching and emotional the video was. Even more so when heard from their own homes.”
“The live performances and presentations really made people feel engaged. It made you feel like you were actually in the room with the presenters. One of the biggest pieces of feedback I’ve received is that while we were in a virtual setting, people truly felt connected.”
Boston Partners in Education had over 250 guests register for the event, with almost 200 attending on the night of the gala. The result: Boston Partners in Education raised over $475,000 from donors and sponsors for its first-ever virtual event, almost matching their pre-COVID fundraising goal, something that Andy never anticipated could happen.
“We were blown away with the response,'” said Andy. “We didn't really know what to expect, but having a virtual event actually appealed to a new demographic; it created the opportunity for many guests who may not have been able to attend our in-person gala.”
Re-thinking the Future of Events
Although Traction Gather was originally built with the nonprofit gala in mind, its potential is far-reaching; suitable for customer, constituent and employee events alike, with no limitations on attendee numbers. The options are endless and include conferences, training sessions, round table discussions, year-end presentations, company town halls and Q&A sessions, happy hours and many more.
“Moving forward, I can see us incorporating a virtual event element into our regular in-person gala,” said Andy. “While there’s no replacing in-person events, this certainly added an element of interaction and inclusiveness that we'd like to see more of in the future.”
“I think the virtual event was a testament to the power of that connection, not only for students, but for Boston Partners in Education as well,” said Erin McGrath, Executive Director of Boston Partners in Education. “When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we had a series of difficult decisions to make – trying to reschedule an in-person event or pivoting to an asking campaign were also on the table."
"In the end, moving to a virtual format, while challenging, was the best choice for maintaining our connections with our community.”
Erin McGrath, Executive Director, Boston Partners in Education
Traction on Demand is committed to supporting our community of customers, partners and friends through this current global crisis. If you’re currently experiencing cancelled events or have a short term need that we can support through people, process and technology, reach out and let’s start the conversation.