12 Steps to Create a Virtual Peer-to-Peer Event
If 2020 was the stay-at-home year, 2021 is our hybrid year. People are going back to the office, socializing in person and returning to normal routines. However, a large group of people are forging a new path and creating new ways to work, socialize and support their favorite causes. Instead of telecommuting every day, they go to the office some days and work from home others. The same goes for fundraising. Supporters are expecting multiple options- virtual, in-person, or both- for events.
Keep reading to learn how Shriners Hospitals for Children took their Wonder Race virtual in 2021 and the steps they took to ensure the race’s future success- whether it’s virtual, in-person or a hybrid model.
Shriners Hospitals for Children – Canada – The Wonder Race
Seven years ago, a new generation of fundraising leaders came together to make a compelling difference in the world of health care. They created The Wonder Race. The race’s objective is to bring together teams of young professionals in a competitive environment, where they compete in an Amazing Race-style series of challenges that test not only their physical abilities, but also their intelligence and general common knowledge.
In its first five years- 2015-2019- this peer-to-peer fundraiser netted over $250,000. Proceeds from The Wonder Race help Shriners Hospitals for Children – Canada change lives through innovative pediatric specialty care, world-class research and outstanding medical education.
In 2020 the team cancelled their event. In 2021 they decided to take their Wonder Race completely virtual.
Keep reading to learn how they transitioned to a virtual event and built elements that will easily transition to a hybrid event in 2022.
Do Something Unique.
Most nonprofits host walks, runs or rides. These are tried and true event models and are still around for a reason. They’re easy to pull off, provide great community awareness and get results. However, there does come a point where the market becomes saturated with 5K walks, runs and rides that you may need to get creative to stand out.
In 2015, the founder of the Wonder Race, Nathalie Kamel, found a way to do just that. They brought together a group of young professionals to help create The Wonder Race. Instead of a typical walk or run, they planned a Race where participants completed Amazing Race-style challenges. The challenges started with a clue to solve and then an activity that challenged you physically or mentally- or both!
When they moved the event to be completely virtual in 2021, they kept the team format- with teams of 4 made up of family members, colleagues and friends and reduced the number of challenges from 10 to 8 to make it more manageable. Participants explored a virtual track with virtual challenges that tested the teams’ physical abilities and knowledge.
Photos from 2021 Wonder Race Challenges
Make it Easy- for Everyone!
The team at Shriners made sure to keep things simple and easily accessible. Participants had a full week to complete the challenges, which meant that most participants didn’t need to take time off work.
They kept their event website active with clear calls to donate, sponsor and register, and all actions were clearly marked and easy to find. A great website and event page are essential elements for any fundraising event or campaign, regardless of how you structure your event in the future- virtual, in-person only or a hybrid model.
If you’re hosting a virtual event now and plan to transition to an in-person or hybrid event next year, survey some of your key participants and ask them what they liked and where you can improve in the future.
Don't Forget about Fundraising.
The Wonder Race generates a lot of excitement around the challenges and seeing who the winners are, but it is, at its core, a fundraiser.
To make sure the fundraising portion was front and center, the Shriners team sent emails to remind registrants about their fundraising goals. These emails included tips and tricks to help kickstart their fundraising. They also made personal calls to teams that were low on fundraising and needed some coaching.
If your event is virtual or a hybrid, you should still create a timeline for fundraising. In-person events usually give people a hard deadline for fundraising, but if your campaign is a week or a month long, encourage your teams to ask for donations before, during and after the event. If your event includes a minimum fundraising level like The Wonder Race, ensure that you communicate any deadlines so participants can stay on track.
Keep Your Branding Consistent.
The Wonder Race already had a great marketing page to advertise the event, so the team made sure to incorporate aspects of that page’s branding in their Panorama fundraising event pages. The event page is where participants go to register a team, donate or check the scoreboard to see top fundraisers.
With the Panorama event builder, they were able to brand a theme that incorporated their logo, colors, imagery, and add video content.
Keeping the branding consistent between your regular website and your event page is key to ensuring donors feel secure when making donations online. Every step in the process, from registering to donating should feel consistent and highlight your organization, mission and branding.
Even if your event is completely in-person, you’ll want to ensure the user experience for donors who choose to donate online is consistent and matches your organization's branding. In fact, 60% of donors prefer to donate online- so make sure it’s easy!
Create Compelling Digital Content.
The team at Shriners Hospitals for Children – Canada is especially talented at creating digital content that inspires emotion and action. In our previous blog post, Turning Lemons into Virtual Lemonade, we explored some of the great content they created for their virtual lemonade stand.
And they didn’t disappoint with the content for The Wonder Race this year! They used the tagline, “Join Us. Join the Movement.” everywhere, including videos, social media, email, and more.
They created an inspiring video to talk about the event, explain the changes for 2021 and tied everything back to their mission.
By creating a video, they were able to explain why going virtual was a great option for 2021. They also covered the small changes to expect for the actual race.
A lot of the video content they created can be re-used for upcoming events with a little editing. Even if they choose to go back to a completely in-person model for The Wonder Race, a lot can be re-used- especially footage showing mission-specific work. If you choose to hire a videographer or video editor, keep this in mind as you may want to keep some of the content you create more general so it can be repurposed in the future.
Engage Supporters and Ambassadors to Help Spread the Word.
The Shriners team knew they needed to mobilize all their supporters to make a virtual race a success. They worked with staff and volunteers to create a comprehensive list of canvassers. These leaders reached out to their own corporate network, friends and family. Having committed advocates to help spread the word about the event ensured that people paid attention and engaged with the event. The staff at Shriners Hospitals for Children – Canada also got involved and led the way for new participants.
As they did with previous events, they also called on some of their patient ambassadors to help get the word out. Carter and Kaleb helped create videos including this awesome thank you video:
Hearing directly from someone that is benefitting from your organization’s work can really inspire more donations and help you reach your fundraising goal. You can share content like Carter and Kaleb’s video on social media, at an in-person event, via email, or in many other ways.
Get Social- Early and Often.
The Shriners team is active on social media and used every channel to get registrants, cheer on participants and thank donors and sponsors. They didn’t wait until right before the event to promote it. They promoted early and often!
They activated the social sharing buttons on their Panorama event page so visitors could easily share the page on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Their Panorama and YouTube channel featured videos about the event:
On Instagram they shared photos from participants, patients, videos and more:
They shared similar content on Facebook including thank you videos and photos:
Regardless of how they structure their participation for the 2022 Wonder Race, the Shriners team can draw on these posts to inspire the content they create for future events.
Create a Virtual Community.
To ensure that participants still felt like part of The Wonder Race community, they encouraged participants to share their race photos on social media and re-posted the pictures on their own social media pages.
Sharing photos is an easy way to enhance any type of event. You can also create places where participants can share their photos directly with each other. This can be done with Facebook groups and other social platforms.
They also used an integration option in Panorama for activity tracking. In addition to tracking activity and creating a virtual challenge map, they encouraged chatter between participants, within teams, and within the entire event to get everyone connected.
Expand Your Audience.
Unlike in-person events, virtual events can be open to anyone, anywhere. If you have a device with internet access you can support and participate. In 2021, going virtual allowed The Wonder Race to expand the number of teams from 50 to unlimited. In previous years the race has sold out months before the actual race, so this opened registration to more people.
2021 was therefore the first year that they were able to go international with the event. Instead of participants being limited to the Montreal area, they had participants from all over the world.
If the staff at Shriners decides to create a hybrid event next year- with virtual and in-person team options, they can build on these international supporters and include them in future invites and communications. Keep in mind, even if they can’t participate in a future event, they can become great supporters and advocates for your mission and continue to donate online to other events and campaigns.
Create Participation Options for All Participants.
The Wonder Race attracts a variety of different types of teams including families, friends, coworkers, companies, and other sponsors. The Wonder Race offers different types of team registration depending on the type of participant.
Families and friends can create teams with a minimum fundraising goal. Everyone on the team can work together and help reach the goal. Sponsors can make a minimum donation and host a team. This is often a great option for companies as they may want to invite employees to participate but don’t want to impose a minimum donation or fundraising amount for those employees.
In addition to family and corporate teams, having a virtual participation option is key to engage all types of supporters. If you’re doing a virtual-only event this year, start thinking now about options for hybrid participation in the future.
Give Supporters More Ways to Fundraise.
When planning any event with online giving, make sure that your donation page is optimized to give donors and participants multiple ways to give.
In addition to a one-time gift, consider turning on options to accept monthly donations and matching gifts. Many companies offer employee giving matching and adding it to your donation page allows donors to see if their company matches gifts. The Wonder Race used Panorama's donation page and included this search field. This makes it easy for donors to maximize their gifts without reaching back into their own pockets. It’s a win-win situation! In fact, 9 out of 10 companies offer matching gift programs with an estimated $2-3 billion donated annually.
Create Timeless Content and Event Elements.
As you create videos, social media posts, emails and other content for your current event, be sure to keep the future in mind. If you’re going virtual this year and plan to go back to in-person or a hybrid model next year, try to consider that when creating new elements for your event.
When your event is over, be sure to sit down with staff, committee members and any other key stakeholders and create a SWOT analysis. What were your strengths this year and where do you see opportunities you can capitalize on in the future? Did you have any elements or processes this year that could be improved? Are there any threats to your event next year? Going through this analysis right after the event ensures that everything is fresh in your mind and helps to ensure that you’ll have a great plan for next year.
Ready to learn how Panorama can help you reach your fundraising goals?
e-Guide: 11 Steps to Hosting a Hybrid Event
Blog Post: Go Hybrid: Successful Peer-to-Peer Events with Virtual Participation