National Potluck: a virtual event in action | npENGAGE

National Potluck: a virtual event in action

By on Oct 29, 2009

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Thanksgiving is a beloved holiday, but it’s usually over way too fast.  The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) has come up with a way to let us all extend the holiday – as well as to celebrate their anniversaries and two decades of accomplishments.


NMAI is asking supporters to host a potluck on or around November 28, 2009 (the 20th anniversary of President George H. W. Bush’s signing of legislation to establish NMAI as part of the Smithsonian Institution).  Potluck hosts can join a team or host as individuals, and they agree to raise money from family and friends to help fund education, public programs, and other activities.


The best part is that you don’t have to host a real-life potluck, especially if you simply don’t have the time right after the Thanksgiving holiday.  You can create a page and invite your friends and family to participate virtually. 


Virtual events are a great way for organizations who don’t necessarily have a singular, recurring annual event like a walk, run, or triathalon to participate in peer-to-peer fundraising events.  It’s also a win if the organization doesn’t have the resources or infrastructure to support a large in-person event, which usually take hundreds if not thousands of volunteers to put together.  Not to mention that your supporters don’t have to travel to a central location to participate – anyone across the country, or in other countries, is eligible to participate.


Coaching is an important part of any constituent-led fundraising event, and for virtual events, this is especially important.  NMAI has created a list of resources to empower their constituents with ideas for their potlucks, as well as the all-important fundraising coaching page.  Creating a page is only half the battle, and often people who are new to this type of fundraising can be shy about asking their friends and familiy to donate money.  Of course, everyone knows that I’m a big fan of using social networks to support this type of fundraising, as well, and NMAI has made sure to remind participants of all the channels available to them to get the word out.


My favorite coaching tip:  “For those who are hosting a potluck but don’t want to cook – have everyone bring their Thanksgiving leftovers!”


I’d be interested in hearing from other groups who have organized virtual peer-to-peer fundraising events.  How did it go?  What kinds of resources did you provide to your supporters, and what worked well?

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