If you know the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” then you know the song from Act 2, “The Room Where It Happens.” Since the show arrived at Greensboro’s fabulous Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts, the soundtrack has been on repeat in my car — along with plenty of references to being “in the room.” These lyrics have been rolling ahead in my head as I reflect on the pandemic. Over the last couple of years, so much of our work focused on helping our clients shift as the world shifted.
During the height of the pandemic, one of our best clients faced a potential fundraising crisis common for nonprofits who depend on live, in-person events: All of a sudden, no one could be in the room where it happens. Not the same room anyway.
Pre-pandemic, this is how we helped our clients raise hundreds of thousands of dollars at a live, in-person event:
- Meet months ahead of the event to brainstorm the most compelling storytelling opportunities — those that show the most impact and move donors to give.
- Coordinate and execute a documentary-style video project that blends b-roll and raw, in-the-moment interviews to create an evocative, true-to-life narrative arc showing the profound difference our client has made in a life and a community.
- Support our clients with fundraising communications building up to the big day.
- Prep the person featured in our video with talking points for the live event.
- Show a screening of the video the day-of, bring the story subject on stage for a short speech, and rally the audience of donors to make a gift, then and there, via text-to-give.
Effective. Authentic. Pride-inducing. And — in person, where the emotion and energy in the room is palpable and catching.
But when the pandemic hit, it meant no one would be in the room. There was no room, only individual homes and offices separated by doors, masks and miles. Still, on the bright side, the prospect of a virtual event was appealing. Was it possible that by going virtual, we could garner attendees far beyond the previous event location — maybe even nationwide? And what if we could actually help our clients raise MORE money than in years past, despite the obstacles they were facing at this challenging time?
Just as the stories we tell are constantly evolving, our methods of storytelling evolve with them. The pandemic threw our clients curveballs almost daily. It also brought the chance to try something new. So when one client began to question the likelihood of having an event, we got to work and provided a solution — going virtual and managing storytelling and fundraising event planning from afar.
300 miles away in Washington, D.C., the College Success Foundation-DC works tirelessly to address the critically low college graduation rates in the District, primarily in Wards 7 and 8 — the least resourced and most impoverished communities. Their mission is to ensure high-potential, first-generation students finish high school on time, earn a college degree, graduate from college with minimal debt, and become successful professionals and role models.
There was no way we were going to let a pandemic and social distancing deliver them a fundraising blow.
Our relationship with CSF-DC began with just a single photoshoot and has grown to include documentary-style videos, annual reports, social media campaigns, holiday cards, and marketing and branding support for their annual fundraising event. We knew we would have to help them pivot significantly to yield the kind of success they had seen in previous years. So we pulled the team together to create the virtual event — and we met our goal of raising more money for the foundation than ever before: more than $700k over their million-dollar goal!
During the pandemic, this is how we shifted to help CSF-DC exceed their fundraising goals:
- Planned a dynamic, engaging program that brought together features from in-person and virtual events. Content — and the CSF-DC brand — extended to the “waiting room” for guests who logged on early. Inspiring stories were paired with a call-to-action for support via an easy text-to-give platform.
- Researched the best way to record remote interviews around the country — then made it happen. We mailed video kits directly to our event speakers with everything they needed (camera, microphone, light), and provided a tutorial to help them become familiar with the equipment.
- Traveled to DC to capture interviews in person with COVID-19 safety protocols in place.
- Communicated the change in event format to new and existing audiences with email campaigns and ready-to-post social content.
- Collaborated with the College Success Foundation marketing team to ensure online registration on the CSF-DC website was user-friendly and that the event would launch without a hitch.
- Coordinated a pre-recorded live stream event and partnered with a digital specialist to stream the event so CSF-DC didn’t have to worry about technical issues.
This job encompassed all of our fundraising and content creation expertise, from messaging, to video production, the design visuals, photography and donor relations. Each of us rolled up our sleeves and committed to learning a new way to go about reaching audiences.
In addition to helping CSF-DC far exceed their fundraising goal, we loved knowing our client felt confident going into the event. When she saw our plan for pushing through the pandemic, she let us know she was no longer worried about their ability to raise the critical dollars that transform their scholars’ lives.
“I don’t worry when we’re working with Tigermoth. You’ve never disappointed us and your work beautifully portrays our students!” — Norma Barfield, College Success Foundation-DC