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How One Virtual Fundraiser Increased Donations by 40%

The Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health '2020 Leaders for Mental Health Breakfast Fundraiser': October 7, 2020


The Virtual Event

  • 16+ presenters
  • 6 celebrity guests
  • 1 sponsor

The Success

  • $1M+ raised
  • 1,300+ unique registrations
  • 5,400+ page views and counting

The challenge

Hosting the biggest fundraising breakfast of the year—but with no pancakes, thanks to the pandemic.

The solution

A custom-branded platform that engaged both eyeballs and heartstrings of donors and patients.

The impact

Blasting to 40% over the fundraising goal, with standing ovations from attendees and an expanded global reach.

Omelettes online: Pivoting to virtual for a fundraising breakfast

The Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health raises funds to support outstanding patient care and leading-edge research at three of Ottawa’s leading mental health care facilities. Their biggest fundraising event is the annual Leaders for Mental Health Breakfast, featuring patient testimonials and interviews, donor stories, and celebrity appearances.

But 2020 raised a burning question: how could they sit down to breakfast with all those patients, families, doctors, and doners when an in-person event wasn’t an option?

Brandlive comes to the breakfast table

The foundation knew a virtual version of their event had to be memorable. They secured celebrity appearances by Juno and Grammy award winner Alanis Morissette, comedian Derek Seguin, CTV Ottawa News anchor Matt Skube, and more.

But they still needed a platform that could put the spotlight on the important cause behind the presentation—and bring doners to the table. Kelly Meincke, Manager of Special Events, said that Brandlive stole the show with its engagement features. “We liked that there’s so much to look at on the event page: speaker bios and photos, company, sponsor and partner logos, our event’s slides, and links to other sites.”

Another crucial consideration was making the audience feel truly connected. “We really liked the chat feature; we wanted people to be able to interact during the video event, so that was important to us,” Meincke said. “And the whole live feature—we liked that the audience was all watching together, in real time.”

The biggest thing for charities like ours who are doing virtual and hybrid events is the actual tech support—it’s the key. Brandlive tech support was really great.

-Kelly Meincke, Manager of Special Events, The Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health

Challenges solved

  1. Major emotional impact.

    Raising money calls for deep emotional engagement—and an experience that helps attendees truly feel the importance of the cause. “At our usual in-person event, we have interviews with patients at the breakfast, and it really makes an emotional impact on our audience,” Meincke explained. “Before the virtual event, we were worried that we’d raise less, that the emotion wouldn’t come across.”

    The team was delighted to discover that meeting in person isn’t the only way to resonate in people’s hearts. “It’s such a value that our Brandlive event was live. Live is king. If people know your event is live, they love it,” Meincke said. 

    Going live online created an authentic connection with the audience. “During our event, we were talking about the weather outside that very day, as well as mental health issues as they relate to the pandemic,” Meincke reflected. “We did live interviews with clients, doctors, and celebrities—and that was impactful for the audience. By pivoting to these live interviews, we were able to exceed our fundraising goals.”

  2. Extended engagement and education.

    Beyond raising money, the virtual event allowed the foundation to further its mission and its reach. “We liked Brandlive’s playback feature. When the event was over, we were able to add the on-demand video to our site,” Meincke said. “It’s valuable because people in our community will log on to watch mental health education events even after the live event has passed.”

  3. Above-and-beyond support.

    “The biggest thing for charities like ours who are doing virtual and hybrid events is the actual tech support—it’s the key,” Meincke emphasized. “Support has to be there when we need them. In the past, that’s been a challenge—but Brandlive tech support was really great.”

    Of course, Brandlive is more than a platform: it’s all about real partnership. Meincke described how important that support was: “Our team wasn’t sure how to put up the on-demand link because it was our first time. When the event finished at 8:30 a.m., we wanted to promote the on-demand playback on local radio. We couldn’t figure out how to do it, so I called Ian [at Brandlive]. It was 5:30 a.m. his time, and he made sure the event went up without a glitch.” 

Big wins

  1. More attendees, lower costs.

    The more the merrier when it comes to fundraising events! A digital platform made more room at the table for doners. “The advantage of doing the fundraiser virtually was that we weren’t bound by one dining hall. It allowed us to expand outside Ottawa,” Meincke observed. Instead of eight people at a table, the foundation could fill limitless seats. 

    The lower cost of an online event also boosted the foundation’s fundraising success. “There was no stage set-up and no catering expenses. Since it was virtual, we reached a broader range of donors, and the result was close to double our goal.”

  2. Complete customization for an amazing experience.

    With an entirely customizable platform, the foundation gave guests the royal treatment. “Visually, everything looked really great—we customized with our own logo and branding,” Meincke said. “Plus, the event’s sound and video quality was fantastic—there was no lag.”

    The foundation also used Brandlive’s features to make the audience experience engaging from start to finish. Meincke reflected, “Our guests said it was easy to log on and watch the event. The Brandlive registration process was nice because guests were able to add the event to their calendar. People said they were happy there was more to look at on the site than just the video.” 

  3. Meaningful metrics and insights.

    Before going virtual, Meincke said, they didn’t have anywhere near the level of data on event performance. “It was helpful to have those stats, like how many eyeballs are on the event, the registration data, what they were clicking on, when they logged on and off.” 

    Those insights helped the foundation key in to what was most engaging for attendees. “It was cool to see where they were joining us from around the globe and how they interacted with different widgets on the page.”

  4. Broader reach, bigger impact.

    With a line-up of compelling presenters, the right platform features, and a team of Brandlive experts on deck, the foundation launched its first virtual event with a goal of raising $700,000—and wound up raising over a million dollars! 

    Since that first rousing success, the foundation has embraced the opportunities of the digital stage, hosting six more hybrid and virtual events to date—leveraging Brandlive’s Events and Greenroom products to continue exceeding its fundraising goals and expand its mission across the globe.

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