When I sat down to reimagine our 2020 annual fundraiser, I knew I needed to get creative. Virtual events are so different from physical events and I was having a hard time wrapping my head around what I wanted to do. Usually when planning an event I start with a vibe. I believe guest experience is the single most important component. I enjoy the process and usually have to reign in my ideas to what is possible and within budget. I had ideas swimming through my mind but nothing stuck and there was no concept.
The Texas Campaign is known for hosting a fun annual happy hour. I struggled with the virtual platform, and how to make the event personal and impactful. How could it ever compare?
Talking it over with the Executive Director, it hit me that my reluctance was not from doing something new or starting over from scratch. The problem was I wasn’t sure it was even appropriate to hold a fundraising event in the current economic and social climate. It was hard not to give in to the enormity of the challenges facing our country – and our sector. When I began planning in May, people were not in a celebratory mood, to say the least.
I thought about why I do this work and what makes it personal to me. How access to education and contraception changes the trajectory of young people’s lives. That opportunity can be the single defining indicator of success. I started thinking about what it would mean to a young woman to discover an unplanned pregnancy in the midst of a global pandemic and a period of great violence against Black people by police. In these times of crisis, our work around access to reproductive health is more urgent than ever.
I fell back in love with the work and decided to hold the event.
Philanthropy admittedly has a lot of work to do. A traditionally white space, funders and fundraisers need to be better about listening to and funding the communities who best tell their own stories. (Read more about that here) We need to diversify the field, and examine the relationship between resources and the people with lived experience doing the work. Traditionally, the fundraiser describes a sad story and how the donor can save the day with a small donation of $.67 a day. (The voice of Sarah McLachlan should run through your head as you recall the desperate plight of animals in need of rescue.) We do that with people too, but to their disservice.
The stories I want to tell champion the successes of this work, rather than contributing to the myth of the individual who just needs to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Let’s expose the systems that create barriers faced by people of color, rural communities, youth in care — the folks that have the hardest time accessing education, contraception, and opportunity — and then let’s fix those systems.
Now, excited to plan the event, I focused on my next challenge: how could I avoid making it feel like a Zoom meeting, in the year of Zoom? We could have chosen to do a panel or hire a musical guest, or a comedian. Many others were going the auction route, which we did not have the resources to pull off, and importantly, it felt ingenuous to our live event. Cheers is a party, and I wanted to keep it that way.
It occurred to me that a virtual, live streamed event wasn’t a problem after all. The vehicle is more accessible and less costly. Like a mini-movie, we will live stream into your living room and showcase our own growth by working through the challenges this year presented and spotlight community achievements in the field. We will focus on our success and the next steps to take us forward. This year’s Cheers! won’t be an interactive experience, but it will definitely feel like a party. Guests who register with a donation receive a Party Pack in the mail – one way that we can connect and play along at home during the show. So sit back, relax and enjoy!
You are invited to our party, October 29, at 7:30pm. Register here.
About the author:
Julia Kranzthor is the Development Director for the Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.