In this video, Tamara from the Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.) shares how they deepened donor roots in their Branching Out Gala & Silent Auction on Givebutter. In total, they raised $86.5k in this inspiring virtual event—which is $36.5k OVER their original fundraising goal! All funds raised support C.A.S.E.’s mission to nurture, empower, and inspire the foster care and adoption community. Join the party to learn:

  • Why they chose Givebutter for their first-ever live stream event
  • What made their campaign so successful (Hint: Lead with video!)
  • Tips, tricks, and lessons learned for creating an engaging virtual event experience
“The fact that Givebutter allowed you to watch the live stream and click on the donate button and see the feedback in the live feed at the same time—we really liked that interaction. That was a key element that led us to choose Givebutter: the fact that you could have the live stream and people didn't have to leave the platform to give in the moment...I love that Givebutter had different live streaming options.”

I don’t want to leave you hanging—keep reading to get the full story!

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Full video script

Rachel: Hey everybody! Rachel here with Givebutter. Thanks for joining for another Success Story from the Givebutter community. Today, we are featuring the Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.). More than a month out, this nonprofit raised so much, and in the end, raised $86,000. That's $25,000 over their goal! All in an effort to help families cover the cost of therapy. I have Tamara here with me to share how they were able to create such an engaging event and auction. She's also going to share what made them turn to Givebutter as well as—you know ‘em, you love ‘em—tps, tricks, and lessons learned along the way, so we can all give better with Givebutter. Tamara, thank you so much for joining us today.

Tamara: Thank you so much for having me. I'm thrilled to share what we learned and appreciate the Givebutter team and their technical support.

Rachel: Thank you! To start, why don't you introduce yourself and what C.A.S.E. does.

Tamara: C.A.S.E. focuses on the mental health of children who've been adopted or in foster care and their families. We support them through individual and family therapy, through case management, as well as education. Then, we take that clinical experience and we've packaged it into training for mental health and child welfare professionals. Part of how we reach beyond the Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia area is by training professionals across the country, so they can better meet the unique needs of these children and their families.

Rachel: That's beautiful. So diving right into your fundraiser, walk us through—what was the theme? What was the goal? When did you start planning? Big picture. Tell us about this fundraising event.

Tamara: Every year, it's our largest fundraiser—our annual gala and silent auction—and we were all set to have it on March 21st. Then, the pandemic happened, and we switched everything that we were doing to tele-health and to virtual work. We made the decision that week to let all of our attendees and sponsors know that we were going to reschedule the event. We were able to find another date at the same venue for Friday, October 16th. Of course we all assumed we'd be back and at it and ready to have an in-person event in October. Let me just say, I think we kept hoping perhaps a little too long that we'd be able to do an in-person event. The pandemic really hit Montgomery County, Maryland—where our headquarters is—pretty hard. We realized even if we were allowed to have—typically we have 330 guests and then 40 or so staff and volunteers at an in-person event—that even if we were ready to do that, probably our audience wasn't. By the time we were getting closer, we weren't allowed to have in-person gatherings of more than 50 people. So that's what we quickly decided, “Okay, we're having it October 16th, but it's got to be a virtual event.” That's where we started looking for what would be the best way to do that. A key piece of what is so critical to this event is our “Fund a Family,” as we call it. It's where we do bidding during the night of the auction. People raise a paddle to support our financial assistance fund. We have a sliding fee scale, and we never want to turn away any family who needs therapy. Of course, with the pandemic, it really put the mental health needs of our families through the roof. I mean, these are children, right? Who've been—maybe they were adopted from an orphanage overseas. Maybe they were adopted from foster care. They've already experienced a tremendous amount of loss and grief in losing their birth family, and the pandemic just heightened the anxiety and the worries about losing someone else in their family. As the needs went through the roof, we realized, “Oh no, we can't not do this. We really have to raise these critical funds for families in need.”

Rachel: When you made the call to shift to virtual—walk us through that process. What were you thinking as you were making decisions about choosing where you would do it, what kind of format you would do...all of those logistics of the new world of virtual events. Also, I'm wondering had you done a live stream event before, or was this totally new ground for you?

Tamara: It was pretty new ground. We had a little bit of a taste for it and realized we didn't know what we didn't know. Part of what we'd had planned throughout the summer was a number of our board members and our campaign committee members were going to be having in-person Friendraisers at their home as part of our campaign. We had a brave campaign committee member say, “Let's try and do it virtually.” We did that in the summer and we did it using Zoom. We just did it ourselves, but we knew there was only going to be 30—our goal was 50 people. We knew it was going to be relatively small. We got some outside assistance to help technically be sure we had all the settings because we did feature some live music. But, I think we learned from that experience the quality of the recording afterwards was not what we wanted, some of the features of Zoom that we used were not ideal. While we used Zoom meetings and we loved that we could see people, we knew for the gala that having a much larger audience was going to be distracting. We also know that we wanted people to stay focused on the event and not have to be looking at their phone or clicking somewhere else. The fact that Givebutter allowed you to be watching the Livestream and click on the donate button and see the feedback in the live feed at the same time, we really liked that interaction. That was a key element that led us to choose Givebutter, was that fact that you could have the live stream and people didn't have to leave the platform to give in the moment.

Rachel: You took a smaller-scale digital experience and then thought, “Okay, how do we mass produce this to the level of what our big annual event normally is?” And you realized it's time to step up production value. How was your experience using Givebutter for this live event and what are some tips and tricks that you could share with others that you did to make your event as amazing and beautiful as it was?

Tamara: One of the things we also learned from our earlier, little bit more do-it-yourself, experience was that we really wanted the quality of the video at the end. Knowing that not everybody—at whatever time you set, whatever convenient time you make—not everybody's going to be able to log in and watch at that moment. We knew we wanted really quality video segments that we could use on social media and that we could use to encourage more people to learn about our mission and to get engaged in helping these vulnerable children. We started looking and talking to firms who could help us. One of the first firms we talked to, it was clear we were going to be pretty much on our own on the video production side. Get an Amazon ring light and hook up a video camera to sit in front of people. It became quite clear that for the quality of the production we wanted, we needed a company who really had better production services. So shout out to Elite Production Services! They're based in Baltimore, Maryland, but they can provide support virtually anywhere. They had a crew that came. Five people were here. We live streamed from our offices. They were able to do a little videotape incorporated in the program that showed our offices, so people could have that feel of where we deliver and provide therapy to families. That gave us the beautiful production quality. They had teleprompters set up, so the team doing the live segments could feel confident and be more natural, knowing that they were supported. It also meant we didn't have any glitches of switching from somebody speaking live—like you do sometimes on Zoom and then the video won't start up. When you're trying to do it yourself and that's not your forte...we learned! So it's so worth the investment in getting people to help you with the technical quality of the video production. Because you don't really know what you don't know and having people onsite who do know and who can advise you, means, at the end of the night, you have all of these video segments that are just beautiful and we will have to share.

Rachel: Let me share my screen because you have listed out on your campaign page a lot of these segments.

Tamara: Oh, right! Exactly. And then it was perfect too. I love that Givebutter—and I know that Elite Production Services was also happy—that Givebutter had different live streaming options. They really felt—and again, as the experts advised us—that using Vimeo is going to give you much more stability than Zoom. You weren't going to have that out of sync as much, potentially.   The beautiful imagery and using the theme—we already had our theme created because we were supposed to host this back in March. The graphic designer updated the colors to a more fall feel with some deeper colors. Then, Elite Production Services were able to animate the graphics and do a great job. The other beautiful thing, too, was the fact that—I loved that Givebutter—the interaction that the audience watching could have. That is one tip that I think is really important. We really prepped both our staff and our board members to understand that we wanted that interaction, to think ahead, think about what photo—if you don't like taking a selfie of yourself because you don't like the way you look then pick the beautiful family photo you want to share, whatever it is. Be ready to go because we want our other supporters to see how you can engage. That is a definitely important tip. Yeah, I think as you scroll—or maybe it compresses them. As you scroll further down, you'll see that people were sending photos, including photos of their family, choosing some of the GIFs that were great. I loved the fun ones. That, I guess, would be another tip too. Because we used a different platform for registration, we had a number of gifts that came in prior to the event. I wanted those to show on the thermometer up towards reaching our goal. I was able to add those throughout the one-hour live event and kind of have my list of what I was going to be programming. Some I added before the event started, and some just to again, create that dynamic. Pretty soon, it took off on its own, and I didn't even need to “prime the pump,” so to speak. We have wanted people to see that there were already people supporting this great cause.

Rachel: So it sounds like it was pretty easy to build momentum. Then, you found ways to take all of this great content that you were building and repurpose it elsewhere for marketing purposes, and that seemed to be really successful.

Tamara: Yes, that's definitely helping. We had—again, when you're working with a video production company—we had some teaser clips of our emerging leaders. These are young adult adoptees who are volunteering and who may serve as future board members. They shared some of their adoption story, and then that little video segment was part of our email outreach campaign to get more people to register and be ready for the link. That sort of dynamic—also interaction with people being able to write their comments, draw a picture, and add a picture—was really great too.

Rachel: Absolutely. For those that are following along right now, we will definitely link this campaign page and would encourage you to check out all the videos. Even if you just watch pieces of them, it will give you inspiration—no matter what your budget is. Whether you're working with a production crew or you're trying to manage what you can in-house, these videos are very creative, powerful storytelling, and I think could be really applicable and helpful for anyone. We know that campaigns that utilize video do raise more funds. Actually, donors are twice as likely to give if there is a video at the top. Video is super important and C.A.S.E. rocked it, so definitely check out all that they did. I'm wondering if you have any other words of wisdom or advice for other fundraisers that are watching right now?

Tamara: I would say one of the other things is when you put that banner image up—initially, because we had a beautiful banner that was more sized for Facebook, it created more of a headline look that was beautiful. But then people weren't visually understanding that the Givebutter page is where they were going to watch the live stream, right? Because the image we had up was at first more of a headline banner image, and then we had board members like, “But, where do I watch the video?”  I do think when we got that feedback, from people who registered earlier or who we shared the link with, then we changed the image. It kind of had more of a border, a static image, so people could visualize, “Oh, I get it! The page, it's all happening here.” That was really helpful. Using Vimeo was helpful. Priming your board members or your lead volunteers or whoever—because you want it to take off, but you're nervous! We set our expectations lower than we thought. We also wanted our regular volunteers to be prepared. Some of them knew how much they wanted to make in a donation for the evening, but they split it up. Like, “I'm going to donate four times so I can add more photos and create that interaction and excitement.”

Rachel: Great idea!

Tamara: That really, I think, helped prepare it. I say the other thing is, look—there were people who were resistant to the idea of virtual and what that's going to be like, but it moved quickly and people enjoyed it. Because with Vimeo, you can really monitor the graphics. We had 1,200 people, and we had more than 1,200 views.

Rachel: Wow.

Tamara: We had 226 people at one time, but over the course of the hour and 15 minutes that we were streaming—1,200 views! I mean, for our actual in-person gala, we can’t imagine having...

Rachel:  You could never have that, yeah!

Tamara: 318 people is as many we can fit in the room where we have it. We're now realizing that we need to have a virtual portion, even if we do it in-person, so that more people can watch. It's all about exposing more people to the importance of the mission and the families that we serve.

Rachel: Absolutely, yes. Those are great words of advice. Thank you so much for using Givebutter for this inspiring event, and thank you for letting us share your Success Story today.

Tamara: It's our pleasure. And of course, C.A.S.E., the Center for Adoption Support and Education at Part of why we held this event is that the requests from our clients for financial assistance has doubled since the pandemic started. We outlay about $10,000 each month, just in helping people cover the cost of therapy. As the pandemic drags on and families are still needing services and the economic situation is still challenging, we see the need continuing. That's why we were so grateful to everyone who joined us that evening and continue to give. That's another tip: leave your Givebutter page up. It looks great. People can scroll through the interaction and keep it open. We've had a lot of donations continue to come in and you might as well take advantage.

Rachel: Absolutely. If you're interested in donating to this campaign, like I said, we'll be linking it.

Tamara: Thank you.

Rachel: Check them out and give them your support. Our team has a lot of love for C.A.S.E., and we're so excited to get to highlight your success today. We are rooting for you and we can't wait to see what is next and what you'll achieve for families. Thank you, everybody who's joining. We will look forward to seeing you next week! Please remember to like, share, and subscribe. Until the next one, bye everybody.

Tamara: Thank you so much!

View campaign: Center for Adoption Support and Education: Branching Out Gala & Silent Auction

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Rachel Mills

Rachel Mills

Givebutter Marketing & Contributing Writer

Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.

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