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  • Writer's pictureChris Strub

Live-streamed Roanoke Valley Gives 2021 obliterates fundraising record by 60%

Kaitlyn Van Buskirk, top left, hosted nearly six hours of live-streamed content across 11 different broadcasts on March 10, 2021 during the sixth annual Roanoke Valley Gives.

March 10, 2021 was the sixth annual Roanoke Valley Gives, with a widely publicized goal of raising $900,000 for the roughly 140 participating nonprofits around the Roanoke, Va. area.

But before the 6:00 news could even air, the day's $900,000 goal was in the rearview mirror and the local nonprofit community was speeding towards -- and beyond -- the elusive $1 million mark.

When the clock struck midnight, under the light of the famed Roanoke star, the total fell just a few dollars shy of $1.15 million -- representing a massive 60% YOY increase from the $715,000 raised in 2020.

The champagne was popped at Roanoke Valley Gives headquarters before 6pm -- with more than six hours to go in #RVGives21.

The past couple of years, the Community Foundation Serving Western Virginia has had to deal with obstacles during their giving day. In 2019, an hours-long Facebook outage kept RV Gives a mostly offline affair. And in 2020, their giving day fell on March 18 -- and was the last day the community foundation staff would work together in their office since.

This year -- with Facebook fully functional, thank goodness -- I partnered with the Community Foundation Serving Western Virginia to plan and execute a day-long Facebook Live strategy, highlighting dozens of nonprofits via virtual live video.

[[ COVID disclaimer: After weighing the risks, we made the decision early on that I would travel to Roanoke for the giving day and work with select members of their team in their office. As coronavirus cases gradually declined from peak levels in the U.S. in January and early February, we decided I would drive, not fly, to Roanoke -- about 300 miles northeast of Greenville. I quarantined for several days, and tested negative the day before departing -- as I have each week since mid-October 2020. ]]

As I have preached with each giving day I've partnered with since 2017, my message to CFSWVA (is that an acronym they use? I don't think so, but here we are) was "you can't over-do it." We had only just over one month to plan our live-streaming strategy, but that turned out to be ample time to piece together a very successful plan.

Me in my element in the Community Foundation Serving Western Virginia offices.

Because CFSWVA didn't have its own comprehensive live-streaming strategy in place, we followed my standard formula for 'How to Live-Stream a Giving Day' pretty much to a T. (Note: I explain the entire formula from top to bottom, and show all the forms and images, etc., in great detail in this online course designed for giving day leaders.) We were able to get 43 nonprofits -- representing nearly 1/3 of all the participating organizations -- to express interest in participating on the big day.

  • Check out all of the Facebook videos that we live-streamed on the Community Foundation Serving Western Virginia Facebook page here, and 'like' my Facebook page, Chris Strub - #TeamStrub, where I simulcast giving day videos whenever possible.

Each of the 43 nonprofits was given a 5-minute timeslot, assigned based on their availability and preference. By following my formula, only one nonprofit asked to switch its timeslot, which we were quickly able to accommodate.

So with 43 respondents each getting 5 minutes apiece -- that's how we landed on 7 hours of live-streaming: 7am, 8am, 9am, 11am, 2pm, 3pm and 5pm. We would still be in the office through midnight, and left the evening hours open for serendipitous live-streaming as our time and energy allowed. (We did stream several more times after dinner, too.)

I have found historically that the morning hours are generally best for giving day live-streaming as that leaves more time and opportunity for nonprofits to share the video out with their networks. I also prefer live-streaming outside of peak work times -- even during a pandemic with people working from home, most giving days fall on a work day, so early afternoon times can be particularly challenging to draw an audience. Thus, the bulk of our streaming came between 7am and 9:30am.

Overall, the nonprofits appeared to all have a very smooth experience connecting into the Switcher Studio 'green room.' We were approaching the upper limits of Switcher's current live guest limitations -- but it made for some awesome, fast-moving content with guests streaming in from a variety of locations all around the region. Occasionally, I was able to bring all the guests on stream simultaneously, which made for a really cool look -- although this time, we didn't try and foster any real 'group' interactions among the nonprofits in the live environment.

While I ran the live-streams from a few feet away, Kaitlyn Van Buskirk was hosting, chatting live with dozens of nonprofits in a revolving 'green room' environment.

The macro thought process behind building a strategy like this is really the sum of 43 micro thought processes: that we could feature *your* favorite nonprofit on a professional-looking Facebook Live broadcast during the day. Other than me, I suspect that no one will have seen all 5 hours and 58 minutes of video that we created that day -- but that's never the point. The goal is to get as many people as possible to watch some portion of the production -- most likely, the segment that features their favorite organization. If they like what they see, they can keep watching and learn more about other nonprofits.

The second part of the thought process is this: that by creating a massive amount of content on social media, we can inspire and encourage nonprofits to also create their own significant servings of content on their own channels. Numerous nonprofits used their five minutes on air with Kaitlyn to talk about their own live-streaming efforts during the day. And with the connectivity, picture and sound all figured out already, each nonprofit that joined us during RV Gives was just one button away from streaming their own set of live content at their own discretion.

Our day-long live-stream strategy allowed Kaitlyn from the community foundation to chat live with nearly 1/3 of all the participating nonprofits in the sixth annual Roanoke Valley Gives Day.

The data I pulled from our efforts showed that our efforts were successful. Even though RV Gives is statistically the "smallest" giving day I've worked nationally so far, the cumulative data about watch time was right in line with other giving days like Louisville. Our 9AM broadcast had the most total watch time, with 851 minutes viewed. The average view was over 67 seconds long (!), second only to the 11AM broadcast, which yielded a 68.26-second average watch time. Overall, the average watch time of the 11 live-streams we created during the day was more than 46 seconds (!!!), which was more than twice the average of all the other giving days I've worked in prior years. In fact, according to -- an average watch time of 10 seconds per video is good, and "if you can get it up to 15 seconds or above, then you are on a different level of Facebook video marketing." At 46.2 seconds per average view, the RV Gives streams set a new bar!

The average watch time of the 11 live-streams we created during #RVGives21 Day was more than 46 seconds.

The morning broadcasts each performed strongly, but it was the 3PM broadcast that ended up with the most total impressions (1100+). Interestingly, the most unique viewers we had on our 11 broadcasts was on a video that only featured one nonprofit -- ARCH Services. We had a technical issue with that nonprofit during our 8AM broadcast and solved the problem by going live just with the guest, Rachel, individually, for several minutes.

If you work with a giving day and are interested in seeing the full data report from #RVGives21, data reports from other giving days that I've worked, and a full overview of all the data from the various giving days I've worked, email me at chrisstrub < at > gmail < dot > com.

As I look ahead to future giving days, that statistical outlier has me re-considering if it makes more sense to stream videos individually with each nonprofit, or to stick with the 'group' model that efficiently puts 5, 6, 7 or more nonprofits into a single time-themed video.

Working with Switcher Studio was so simple that I was able to snag a quick #SwitcherSelfie while we were live on the big day.

My efforts with Roanoke Valley Gives 2021 were sponsored by Switcher Studio -- my first sponsored giving day live-streams. Switcher Studio is the platform that I've used now for years to facilitate these sophisticated-looking live broadcasts, all done exclusively through iOS devices -- if you've been reading this blog for years, you know that I started with just an iPhone, and have progressed as the platform has grown to using an iPad Pro, with several iPhones as inputs. And in the midst of a pandemic where we all continue to work from home here in the first half of 2021, the simplicity of the live guest feature -- which was simple enough for 43 Virginia-based nonprofits to navigate with just a simple quick training call -- has made Switcher a versatile tool that allows me as a producer to create something that looks so much more visually appealing than live-streaming a Zoom room.

Switcher Studio offers a standard 14-day free trial but if you use my discount code GIVE30 when signing up, they'll extend it to a 30-day free trial of their Essentials plan. (Switcher Studio runs on iOS devices, but live guests can appear on any device with a webcam and microphone, without installing the app.)

If you have questions about Switcher Studio you can always ping me Twitter or Instagram (@ChrisStrub), or email me -- chrisstrub < at > gmail. And if you like my work with giving days, please know that signing up for your trial using that code -- GIVE30 -- and/or using my referral link is quite helpful to me -- so, thanks in advance.


Chris Strub is the Giving Day Guy. He has worked with giving days in 7 U.S. states and produced the 2020 live-stream efforts for GivingTuesday, with host Mario Armstrong. Chris is always looking for more giving days around the U.S. to partner with. Email him at chrisstrub <at > gmail < dot > com for more information and to set up a call.

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