May 2021 Features Virtual & In-Person Giving Days: Midlands Gives, Give Local York, Give Local 757
Chris Strub, right, produced the Give Local York livestreams from PeoplesBank Park in York, PA on May 7, 2021, with host Philip Given and Give Local York organizer Meagan Given.
The first week of May has become the busiest of the year for community-based giving days around the U.S., and 2021 was no exception.
For the 'Giving Day Guy,' that is becoming an annual rite of passage that, this year, had me producing live-streams for three giving days, in three states, in an exhausting eight-day span:
Because of the rapid succession of these events, and the ways I tried to immediately adjust from one day to the next, I'm compiling insights into one lengthy blog post -- but if you want to skip to the details of any one of the three, you can simply click on the links above.
As you'll read below, though you may notice some visual consistencies to my production style, these three days are about as different as can be.
And to make this reading as meaningful as possible for you, I'm including three sets of three distinctive takeaways that you can apply to your upcoming giving day or other live event production.
Off the bat: I am actively looking for more giving days, into the late summer/fall 2021 and into spring 2022, to assist with live-streaming video production. My calendar is already filling up, so don't hesitate to reach out via email -- chrisstrub < at > gmail.
This is a really long blog post -- it took me over a week to finally finish, and I love to write -- so you may want to grab a glass of iced tea or something. Stretch your legs. Deep breath. And save the bookmark so you can come back later if need be. Here we go ...
Let's get into it.
The Tight Television-Style Approach:
Midlands Gives 2021 - May 4, 2021 - Columbia, SC
The Central Carolina Community Foundation hosted the eighth annual Midlands Gives on May 4, 2021, choosing for the second straight year to go with a 100% virtual approach, streaming live from their office space at Segra Park.
Planning for the day's live-streaming activities falls to CCCF's multi-talented Strategic Initiatives Associate, Elizabeth Houck, who brings valuable experience in theater and film production. In establishing the gameplan for the day, Houck combines that directorial background with the broad multitude of community relationships that she and the CCCF team have built during the year to create a fast-paced, unique and immensely watchable social video experience.
Playing into a platform-agnostic, initiative-wide theme of #SupportSupporters, the run of show centered around seven daisy-chain-style interview videos, featuring a whopping 51 planned remote appearances from nonprofit guests. An eighth video in the same theme featured a small handful of pre-recorded videos from interested nonprofits, but the clear preference was live interactivity.
Valuable takeaway #1: The beauty of Midlands Gives was in the details. Unlike other giving days I've produced, here, the nonprofits are given down-to-the-exact-minute direction as to when to log in to the Switcher Studio green room, and are instructed specifically that their appearance would last exactly 3 to 4 minutes. This specificity serves a triple benefit: it keeps the nonprofits laser focused on getting their message across, as if they are on TV; it minimizes the burden on the nonprofit's staff members, who are as busy as can be during the giving day; AND it benefits the viewer, who can digest a multitude of guests in a shorter amount of time.
While the nonprofits were the stars of the show throughout the day, there were other critical creative elements that made the day's live content a big success. One major component that CCCF has managed more effectively than most other giving days is incorporate the voices of its sponsors. As the day's Presenting Partner, Dominion Energy had a significant presence woven into the livestream schedule -- they were featured in the first few videos of the day, including a major announcement of additional surprise prizes.
Stephanie Jones from Dominion Energy joined the livestream to make the announcement, joined by the CCCF's morning live host Michelle Hardy and CEO JoAnn Turnquist. The enthusiasm in Jones' demeanor is clear, and as she explains in the video, the 12 surprise prizes would soon be rewarded equitably.
Later in the afternoon, representatives from Dominion Energy returned to the stream to announce winners of the 12 surprise prizes, and because of the flexibility of our system and our schedule, one of the winning nonprofits was able to join live to talk about the impact of the award and of their nonprofit on the community. It led to some very meaningful interactivity between Dominion Energy's charismatic President of Electrical Operations, Keller Kissam, and the award-winning The Big Red Barn Retreat.
Dominion wasn't the only major sponsor to appear throughout the day; as was the case in 2020, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina and Truist each had live representatives join the stream for live interactivity, while Nephron Pharmaceuticals had pre-recorded an entertaining set of 'Elected Officials Challenge' videos that rolled later in the day.
Valuable takeaway #2: The Central Carolina Community Foundation has mastered the art of featuring major sponsors in their live-stream strategy, with an extra tier of on-screen prominence for its Presenting Sponsor, which provides additional, tangible and visible value to each sponsorship. Every giving day should work to similarly identify and incorporate voices of its sponsors into a live-stream strategy -- and grow to include these opportunities as part of the year-round sales process.
A third hugely successful element to Midlands Gives' live-stream strategy was an hour of trivia, hosted by beloved local celebrity journalist Judi Gatson. Gatson is an extremely vocal supporter of Midlands Gives and the local nonprofit community, and for a second straight year she raised her hand to assist with CCCF's live approach.
The trivia questions were sorted into three rounds: Nonprofits; Giving; and the Midlands. Each question was built onto a pre-designed Canva graphic, and using Switcher Studio, I was able to juggle five important visual elements into four spaces on the screen:
1, the question graphic; 2, Judi Gatson; 3, a 60-second countdown clock with dramatic gameshow-style music; 4; the scoreboard (a whiteboard in the office), capably manned by Houck and Turnquist; and 5, Facebook comments with the first correct answer.
In terms of Facebook interactivity, this video was completely off the charts. When the dust settled, more than 2,500 live comments were left as nonprofits' supporters fervently tried their best to win one of three prizes: two $500 prizes for second and third place, and a $1,000 prize for first place.
There were a number of key elements that made this Trivia experiment an enormous success:
Gatson's wit and charisma. As perhaps the most visible on-air personality in the region, the audience's familiarity and trust for Gatson brought a tremendously enthusiastic crowd.
The prep work. The CCCF team came up with about two dozen highly relevant, locally based questions that really inspired a lot of fun conversation in the comments.
The "let's-try-it-and-have-fun" approach. The CCCF team hadn't tried a giving day trivia hour before -- in fact, most haven't -- but their willingness to step in and attempt something that'd be fun for the viewers paid off.
The prizes. While it's always fun to play for fun, Dominion Energy's generosity in providing $2,000 split among three prizes meant that people were clearing their calendars and looking forward to trivia all day.
Switcher Studio. Manning the iPad to produce trivia with this many people participating felt kind of like a Jurassic Park "hold on to your butts" moment, but the ability to juggle the different visual elements using Switcher was simple and after a couple of questions, all parties involved had the hang of it.
Valuable takeaway #3: Don't be shy about creating a live-streamed experience that is tailored specifically to drive engagement amongst nonprofit supporters. Combine the five elements listed above -- charismatic local influencer; carefully constructed, locally relevant topics; an 'it's-going-to-be-okay' attitude; sponsored cash prizes if you can; and a production platform like Switcher Studio -- to stir up a memorable and valuable experience that stands out from everything else you'll create on your giving day.
In addition to the 2,500+ Facebook Live comments during Light It Up Trivia, there were a number of encouraging data points gathered about our livestreaming efforts that demonstrated the significant attention spike that we created on May 4. And while the trivia hour drew the most total viewers, impressions and cumulative view time, the post-giving day data report discovered that another video actually had a higher average watch time.
For each giving day that I partner with, I create a detailed data report that details the number of impressions, views, average view time and more for each video we create. The data is delivered promptly to each client within a week of the giving day. If you run a giving day and would like to see the full report from Midlands Gives 2021, or any other giving days that I've worked with and written about, send me an email -- chrisstrub <at > gmail <dot> com -- and I'll be happy to get you the report.
The In-Studio Hybrid Approach:
Give Local York 2021 - May 7, 2021 - York, PA
No, the date is not a misprint -- after wrapping up Midlands Gives in the very, very early hours of May 5 in Columbia, SC, I was on an airplane to Harrisburg, PA for Give Local York 2021, taking place as always on the First Friday of May -- this year, May 7, at PeoplesBank Park in downtown York.
In 2020, I produced Give Local York's live-streaming strategy from home -- a last-minute adaptation as all in-person activities were canceled due to the pandemic. It was Give Local York that introduced me to the 100%-virtual giving day model, a game-changing example from which our societal return-to-'normal' will gradually evolve, creating this new in-person hybrid model.
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Thankfully I was paired during Give Local York with Philip Given, who has served in a variety of public-facing official roles with the City of York over the years, and currently as the mayor's Chief of Staff. In addition to his bureaucratic responsibilities that make him an ideal and familiar host for the local audience, Given also brings experience in professional photography. With the help of Cody Bannon and the team at the York Revolution, and using a combination of the lighter tech that I travel with and some heavier pieces (lightboxes, etc.) from Philip's collection, the two of us were able to quickly construct a fully functional, makeshift live-streaming studio inside the 1741 Club.
Planning content for the Give Local York live-streams was an experiment in modern sociology; some nonprofits are not yet comfortable interacting in person; most seemed to be okay with either virtual or in-person interactivity; and a smaller segment expressed strong enthusiasm to join us at the stadium during the giving day.
And as any television producer will tell you, the biggest logistical challenge isn't planning for in-person or virtual interaction -- it's the concept of being able to switch back and forth between the two. Pictured below is Philip's vantagepoint, with a camera stationed above a monitor that showed his view of the program feed and remote guests.
(This is one of my favorite photos from Give Local York because it looks like Philip is interviewing a dog.)
With all of these technical variables in play, we took a bold approach to the plan -- I mean, is there any other way? We had roughly 40 nonprofits express interest in participating in our live-stream approach, and rather than sculpt out an arbitrary figure from there, I thought it best to accommodate every organization that wanted to take place. (Side note: this has been a sticking point for other giving days I've talked to in the past -- how do you choose which nonprofits you'll feature during the giving day? The best possible response: feature every single one who wants to be in. I'm extremely proud to say we've been able to do so with all four giving days I've partnered with in 2021.) I used to think that anything more than 20-25 guests during a daylong effort would be too much, but in all sincerity, and with the capabilities of Switcher Studio, I think the upper limit could be closer to 100+ or more.
Valuable takeaway #4: If at all possible, go above and beyond to include every nonprofit that wants to be individually featured in your giving day. My course, 'How to Live-Stream Your Giving Day,' details my exact process of securing this voluntary buy-in from participating nonprofits, and this tried-and-true process couldn't have worked any more perfectly with Give Local York 2021.
With 40 nonprofits to shuffle around, we settled on ~4 nonprofits per hour: 3 virtual and 1 in-person, with content blocks at 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 2 (yes, lunch break in there!), 3, 4 and 5. With this skeleton in place, we then stacked on in-person visits from the long list of sponsors, including lead sponsor Giant and the CEO of PeoplesBank, among numerous others. With 10 hours of content on our hands, we had immediately created 10 'sponsored hour' opportunities, an idea each sponsor seemed to embrace. And in addition to those individual appearances, the entire livestream package was sponsored by the newly re-branded Traditions Bank, whose CEO also stopped in for an afternoon interview. (Also: you haven't truly lived until you're sitting across from a bank CEO and have to pick the right button to play his bank's commercial, and not the *other* bank's commercial in the queue ...)
(It's worth noting, also, that our 10 hours of live interview content was simply the opening act, followed by a two-hour 'Nonprofit Showcase' in the stadium's concourse area that again straddled that endlessly awkward spring 2021 line of 'can we do things in-person?' vs. 'mandated social distancing;' followed by a three-hour concourse-based 'concertilla,' masterfully produced by local video production company AssortedStudios.)
Our daylong livestream coverage went as well as I could've possibly hoped. With just a couple of exceptions, every guest we'd lined up showed up, was on time and was well-prepared for the conversation. (Plug: want your virtual live guests to feel similarly well-prepared? Offer them this video.) The nonprofits loved being featured in this way, and with the on-site integration provided by GiveGab, their appearances were featured simultaneously both on Facebook and on YouTube.
Gene Draganosky, President and CEO of Traditions Bank, was accompanied by Kristen Dempwolf, the bank's Community Engagement Coordinator, during our early afternoon Give Local York livestream.
And while the focus, as it should be, was on the nonprofits all day long, the integrations with the sponsors were handled tremendously well. While the community is contributing to celebrate and support the efforts of the nonprofits, the biggest reason this day in particular is ideal for donations is the opportunity to earn additional cash through prizes (and matches) -- and without the sponsors, there are no prizes. Having a sponsor appear each hour to voice their support was the perfect blend of exposure with the nonprofit content.
Traditions Bank served as the day's official Livestream Sponsor. With this designation, I built their new logo onto all of the content I created in advance of the giving day, including the title slides for each hour and each iteration of the frame that was on screen constantly during the content.
I don't have ultra-advanced analytics on this bit, but it's safe to say that in addition to dozens of voiced mentions from Philip, the multiple times we played their promotional videos and the in-person appearance by their team, Traditions Bank was featured on at least 90% of the 10 hours of video content we created throughout the day. This hyper-local visibility on social media was particularly valuable for the Traditions Bank team as they recently finalized a full rebrand.
Valuable takeaway #5: Have an official livestream sponsor for your giving day, and use a design tool like Canva to creatively emphasize their presence across different elements of each stream. You can have a full-day sponsor and/or sell blocks of hours. Offer supporting data that details impressions.
The other major visual element that we were able to successfully integrate this year was the running 'ticker.' Using Switcher Studio I was able to embed the live tally, of donors, gifts, total dollars and nonprofits, which was visible to both Philip and each live guest as the day went on.
The first huge milestone of Give Local York day came at 10:30am, right as Philip was wrapping up a virtual conversation with the team at Communities in Schools. The video clip in my embedded Tweet here shows the versatility of Switcher Studio to create a memorable lasting moment from this magical few seconds -- the core GLY team, surrounding Meagan with a celebratory bottle of champagne at the ready, with Philip on the microphone and the CIS group standing ready to add applause and positive energy -- all while you can see the moment happening in real-time on that website ticker.
You'll also notice in that clip that shortly after the $1M mark was reached, I played a brief video clip of a gentleman yelling 'Woo!' That man is local philanthropist and Give Local York founder Bob Pullo, an endlessly energetic octogenarian who has never slept a single minute during the 24-hour GLY events. That 'woo' has become a permanent part of the culture of Give Local York -- and dozens of times throughout the day, I interrupted Philip with the happy news that another $100K had been raised for participating nonprofits by pressing what we ended up calling the 'Woo' button.
While a million words could be written -- and will be written -- about the impact that Pullo has had on the York community by initiating the Give Local York campaign, I'll focus today specifically on the 'woo' element: that split-second of video provided exactly the sort of light-hearted, monotony-breaking jumpstart that these lengthy live-streams needed to stand out, and it helped formulate dozens of memorable clips that helped supporters visualize the momentum that was taking place while they were watching live. Watch how Philip perfectly segues to the big moment and gives an unexpected in-studio guest, Courtney (who's standing at my side of the room, behind the iPad) a magical moment to share with her close friends at the Rainbow Rose Center:
Now, the execution on this clip isn't perfect -- there's a bit of echo because my open mic was picking up Philip's voice, and I didn't get the Rainbow Rose Center back on screen immediately -- but this clip might offer the best giving day live-stream takeaway yet.
Valuable takeaway #6: Capture serendipitous special moments and important experiences on your live-streams by making a big deal out of fundraising and/or donor count milestones as they happen. Let the guests be a part of the experience by having them 'press the button,' or ask for a drumroll, or join in the celebration virtually.
Maybe your giving day has someone special on board like Bob who can provide a repetitive memorable video clip to play. An alternative idea would be to have your sponsors pre-record clips announcing the major milestones -- $250K, $500K, $1M, or whatever dollar levels make sense for the scope of your day. Whatever you do, being live when these moments happen allows you to capture the excitement and preserve it forever. By the way, I'll have more related to this topic in the discussion of Give Local 757 below.
But importantly, remember that all the people watching these livestreams are right there along with you, watching the numbers climb and waiting to celebrate these big moments. In many ways, your livestream strategy should probably be designed in ways that ensure that you'll capture these milestone figures. So, what's your 'woo button?'
For each giving day that I partner with, I create a detailed data report that details the number of impressions, views, average view time and more for each video we create. The data is delivered promptly to each client within a week of the giving day. If you run a giving day and would like to see the full report from Give Local York 2021, or any other giving days that I've worked with and written about, send me an email -- chrisstrub <at > gmail <dot> com -- and I'll be happy to get you the report.
The 100%-From-Home Approach:
Give Local 757 2021 - May 11, 2021 - Hampton Roads region, VA
It's not often that producing 10 livestreams in 13 hours, featuring 40 live guests, feels like a breath of fresh air -- but after two on-location giving days, it was a big relief to sleep in my own bed before virtually producing and hosting Give Local 757 -- Hampton Roads region, Virginia -- on May 11.
Above, you can see my tech setup from this giving day, all at eye level: iPad Pro; ring light; TV screen connected via HDMI to my MacBook Pro; Panasonic Lumix G95 patched into my laptop via CamLink 4K. (Just out of frame is my microphone: a mounted Audio-Technica AT2005 USB, which comes with a headset.)
All of my live-streaming gear -- the home set-up and the mobile package, across which there is a lot of overlap -- is available at strubstuff.com -- and if you use that link to purchase anything, it does help me out, so thank you in advance.
Because I wasn't traveling to Virginia for this particular giving day (although I did roadtrip to Roanoke for RV Gives in March), we approached the livestream gameplan for this day in a more formulaic fashion. This is an extremely repeatable, tried and tested formula that I outline from top to bottom in my course, How to Live-Stream Your Giving Day. If you run a giving day, I'd love to chat about partnering with you, but if we don't work together, I am confident that you can follow the exact formula to produce a similarly successful livestream approach on your own.
We ended up with exactly 40 -- just under 20% -- of the participating nonprofits wanting to be featured virtually on the livestreams. From there, as I detail in the course, we did some back-of-the-napkin math and ended up with 10 livestreams, on the hour, with 4 guests apiece. Had we had more nonprofits raise their hands -- let's say, 60 -- we could've accommodated by either adding more organizations to each hour, adding more hours and/or breaking the streams from hourly to twice hourly. I will say that, although we had great success with six per hour in Roanoke earlier this year, I think four is a perfect number for what we're going for.
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While I appeared just momentarily on camera at the very end of Midlands Gives, and occasionally in the producer's role during Give Local York, the script was flipped this time as I was also tasked to serve as the host. It's obviously a very different dynamic and mindset you need to adapt when producing and hosting, but that's the fun part about building a brand as the giving day guy -- while it's always challenging, it certainly is a relief to rely on your prior experiences.
Our ten Give Local 757 live-streams were scheduled to begin on the hour at 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 1, 3, 4, 6 and 7. I've never been granted access to specific hourly website traffic data by the platform provider, so I drew up this schedule based on what I've seen historically from the giving days I've produced video for: that there might be a small spike right at midnight, when the site goes live, but there simply isn't much web traffic in those early overnight hours. I also, to the best of my ability, try and ensure going into a full set of livestreams with a proper night's sleep -- while I salute all the giving day staffers who take pride in not sleeping, I simply don't have that sort of mental makeup.
I also look at producing live video from a pilot's mentality: that you almost have to mandate yourself proper rest, or you're putting yourself at risk of making *big* mistakes. And when you're producing and hosting, you can make simple mistakes -- for example, during Give Local 757, I referred to a nonprofit named "Walk In It, Inc." as "Walk It In, Inc." That's what I'd consider a simple mistake -- but it'd be very easy to make a very major mistake, like selecting the wrong broadcast channels; forgetting to unmute your own mic (which I've done -- see below) or that of the guest (that, too); or even forgetting to actually hit the 'Go Live' button. Yikes.
With all that in mind, from a production perspective, I settled on a safer, simpler approach for the interviews, bringing each nonprofit in one at a time in a consistent frame on screen. I did try to start each broadcast with a splashy live introduction of sorts, bringing all four live guests on with me using a new Switcher Studio multiview template. By 'sandwiching' each major realignment of the screen with a bumper video, I was able to mostly avoid the awkwardness of maneuvering the multiviews while on camera.
Valuable takeaway #7: Use video assets as a mechanism to break up the monotony of your host and guests during your livestream. Promotional edited videos with great sound are the perfect way to juice up the energy in your livestreams and set the tone for your hosts and guests, while giving your video producer a moment to breathe.
We offered each guest about six to seven minutes, so with a brief introduction, message from the sponsor (Switcher Studio), the guest appearances, and then some closing remarks, each video came to around 32-35 minutes, give or take. Roughly half the live guests also had pre-produced videos that we could play as part of their appearance, which provided some outstanding visuals that I could ask them about in real-time.
Having recurring elements like the splashy introduction and bumper videos gave the streams a great sense of consistency, but the one piece that every giving day should really take away was our 'Prize Time with Jen Brambley' concept. Jen works with the Community Foundation and helps manage the selection of all of the Give Local 757 prizes -- and so we lined her up to appear briefly at the start of (almost) each hour to make those prize announcements.
One of the most memorable moments of this all-virtual giving day came at the top of our 6pm broadcast, when Southeastern Virginia Golden Retriever Rescue was set to come on for a live interview -- right after Brambley's 'Prize Time' segment:
Giving days are built around their prize structure, and as you can see in the Tweet above, your giving day live-stream strategy should be no different.
Valuable takeaway #8: Line up a staff member who is manning the prize board for the day to announce hourly prizes on your live broadcast. Use graphics with intentionality to emphasize the importance and value of all the prizes. Plan for specific surprise-and-delight moments if you can. If you can, use clips from the live-streams as the prize announcements on your other social media channels as well, as these videos are much more interesting than static all-text announcements.
The single biggest challenge for me in hosting the Give Local 757 livestreams was not having much experience in the Hampton Roads region. Although I have been to Norfolk before -- and been on Good Morning America in the process! -- I was to serve as the remote host without having much personal familiarity with the nonprofits themselves.
This is exactly where having a sharply refined process helped the most. In the approach that I describe in full detail in my course, one of the most important steps is to specifically ask the nonprofits what exactly they would like to talk about during the giving day. While some provided vague responses, most organizations outlined specific initiatives, projects or examples that they hoped to highlight. So when their turn came up to be in the spotlight, they were already fully prepared to answer the exact question -- that they had provided to me weeks in advance. In the clip below, I ask Rebecca Kleinhample, Executive Director of the Virginia Living Museum, about "Sarge" -- because she'd told me to ...
Before the giving day began, I had printed out the schedule -- sounds simple, but I've done virtual days in the past where I hadn't! -- along with, essentially, an entire rundown of what I'd be asking each nonprofit all day long. With this sharply refined process that has the nonprofits basically writing their own promotional questions, almost anyone could step in and play the host's role. The power of experience and repetition!
Valuable takeaway #9: The single biggest hesitation that all nonprofits have about appearing on a live stream is, understandably, "what are we going to talk about?" Turn that question on its head by allowing them to give you the answer, and save them the stress of wondering about it -- and yourself the work of having to figure it out. Print out your cheat sheet, keep it nearby and you've got yourself a giving day livestream strategy in no time.
I'm not saying that hosting a giving day livestream is easy -- not at all -- but when you pair the experience of having done more than a dozen across the country, with the life hack of knowing the nonprofits' talking points before you ask the questions, it takes a lot of the stress out of it.
... aaaand speaking of taking the stress out of it, one last note: all three giving days mentioned were live-streamed through Switcher Studio, which is the app I've used to stream giving days around the country since 2017. Switcher is an iOS-based application that allows me, as the producer, to create sophisticated live video content from my iPad Pro. Switcher makes it easy for me to shuffle around live guests with customized transitions, place the guests in customized backgrounds, add lower thirds and other dynamic graphics in app, play music and sound effects, mute and un-mute everyone's microphones (when I remember to :D), play pre-recorded videos and much more. If you want to get started with Switcher Studio today, you can get a free 30-day trial using my referral link here.
For each giving day that I partner with, I create a detailed data report that details the number of impressions, views, average view time and more for each video we create. The data is delivered promptly to each client within a week of the giving day. If you run a giving day and would like to see the full report from Give Local 757 2021, or any other giving days that I've worked with and written about, send me an email -- chrisstrub <at > gmail <dot> com -- and I'll be happy to get you the report.
Chris Strub is the 'Giving Day Guy,' partnering with giving days around the U.S. to help them use live video to connect nonprofits with supporters. Contact Chris via email at chrisstrub < at> gmail <dot> com, and follow him on Instagram and Twitter @ChrisStrub.
P.S.: Want to improve your virtual guest abilities? The video above is sent to all participating nonprofits in our live-streams and they've loved it.