The Alzheimer’s Association The Longest DayTM was launched in 2012 and is a “virtual” or independent peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising event. This event encourages participants to fundraise in connection with a personalized program of activities that fills the 16 hours of daylight on the longest day of the year, which falls about June 20th in the Northern Hemisphere. In its inaugural year, The Longest Day raised $236,000 and attracted more than 635 participants on 200 teams.

I had the great pleasure of speaking with Lynn DeHoyos, Director, Constituent Events, at Alzheimer’s Association about this event, and got some great insight into the process of how this event was developed.

The Longest Day Tips on Launching a New Virtual Event: 

  • Map out a plan.
    It was tempting to move really fast to establish the new event, but we decided to pilot the event in 2011, which we called Year Zero. We used this time to vet the concept and learn how to engage the supporter community to make sure it would work. Ultimately the individual activities will all be designed by supporters, so we needed a lot of input from them on what they needed. In Year Zero we surveyed our Walk participants and did a lot of listening to make sure we remained constituent focused. We refined The Longest Day concept based on all of this input.
  • Keep the event true to your mission
    Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease for people living with it and caregivers. The caregiving experience is often referred to as “the 36 hour day.” Getting together with friends and relatives on the longest day of the year to participate in a personalized 16-hour endurance event evokes the strength and resilience of each family’s personal journey.
  • Bring all tools and interactions together in one place.
    We used our website, alz.org/thelongestday, to create a central point where all the online P2P tools and social interactions converged.  So, while people posted updates to Facebook and Twitter and blogged about their day, this activity was captured in one central place. While participants were geographically spread out, an online virtual community was created through social sharing.
  • Above all, stay constituent focused, listen, and make the right decisions for the constituents.
    We wanted to provide our constituents with an experience that they could own and  would get excited about. To do this, we needed to make sure that the event supported the sentiment of the mission as well as raising money. (Read about the creativity of many of the teams on The Longest Day blog)

In a future post, we’ll take a look at some more ways that careful planning, a pilot project, mission relevance, community building, and two-way communication can help ensure the successful establishment of a new virtual fundraising program. You may also want to take a look at how the Salvation Army took its iconic holiday fundraiser online through the Virtual Red Kettle in Bringing in the Season.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kathryn Hall began developing web-based applications in 1996, and in this capacity has worked with leading international nonprofits as well as Fortune 500 ecommerce and telecommunications companies. As a web producer and consultant at Blackbaud, she has managed fundraising website implementations and technical support for several major international charities. In her current role as a senior client success manager, she works principally with top peer-to-peer clients, helping them optimize their use of software, analyze their results, and incorporate best practice strategies into their events programs. When not working, Kathryn spends a lot of time tending her “animal farm” with two dogs and two cats, long-distance bicycle training, and finalizing for publication a book entitled “Touching History: Four Centuries of Indian-White Relations”.

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