Q&A with Lighthouse’s Russ Russell: Planning a Virtual Fundraising Concert

This a follow-up Q&A with Russ Russell, Chief Development Office of Lighthouse from the webinar entitled, Engaging Corporate Sponsors in Virtual Fundraising Events. It provides a deeper dive into the event logistics that we didn’t have time to cover in the original panel conversation. To view the original discussion, click here.

Rachel: Please briefly share what format your event took, whether it was completely new or replaced an established event, what your results were in terms of attendance and funds raised?

Russ: Lighthouse LIVE was a completely new event for Lighthouse. We were looking for a way to host a fundraiser that would be fun and engaging for our audience and give us a chance to drive donations for the work we are doing for the current crisis. A live-streaming concert seemed like the best way to accomplish that virtually.

We worked hard to find artists that were popular in Michigan and had their own following and we spread the word on our own Facebook page and by sending out press releases and creating promo videos. We had a team led by Entertainment Attorney Howard Hertz with assistance in recruitment by several members of the committee.

In the end, the event was a huge success, with thousands of viewers between our Facebook and YouTube feeds. We live-streamed for 12 full hours and were able to raise more than $150,313 that week between #GivingTuesdayNow and Lighthouse LIVE which ended at 2pm the following Sunday.

Rachel: How did you come to the decision to use Facebook Live?

Russ: We decided to use Facebook Live because we already have a large Facebook following (over 43,000 followers) and we liked how engaged the audience usually is on Facebook live videos. Our audience was very engaged as well, liking and commenting throughout the broadcast. We were also able to send updates to all of our followers that we had started a live video and create a Facebook event to keep people updated that were marked as "going" or "interested."

We decided to stream simultaneously on YouTube as well, for any audience member that did not have access to Facebook.

Rachel: What was the biggest challenge you encountered in executing and/or planning your event?

Russ: We moved fast and actually put on the event in less than one month recruiting over 70 artists, hosts and special guests. We wanted a few A-list artists and that was not so easy to accomplish with a short window. Without a marketing budget, we had to rely on the artist and their promotion of the event to their audience and while it was effective, if we had more time and focus working with the artists, we could have tripled the audience.

Also, and maybe the most difficult, is livestreaming on social pages, as you always need to be ready when you go live to reboot as you get bounced off. When that happens, the only thing you can do is reboot and get back up - but you need to provide good directions to people that when it happens [they need to] go here for the link to get back on (as the link must change and you need your audience to find you when it happens) and it will happen.

Rachel:  Thank you for sharing more about your efforts, Russ. It’s clear that Lighthouse has been quick to respond and take resourceful action in order to create a completely new fundraiser to drive donations to support the current crisis. You and your organization are doing amazing work amidst these uncertain times.

To learn more about Lighthouse, its mission and services, visit www.lighthousemi.org.

About Rachel M. Decker

Having spent nearly 20 years in the nonprofit sector as an effective and strategic fundraising and foundation executive, Detroit Philanthropy Founder and President, Rachel Decker is passionate about helping others, making meaningful connections, solving problems and, most importantly, creating impact in our community. With the founding of Detroit Philanthropy, she turned that passion into a commitment to champion philanthropy throughout metro Detroit as a philanthropic advisor, fundraising consultant and speaker.

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