How Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington Engaged Donors with a 3 Day Virtual Event



With 15 sites spanning a territory of 75 miles, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington (BGCGW) serves as a safe haven for their members. The clubs are open when schools are not, and provide a safe, comfortable, and fun alternative for youth who would otherwise be home alone or on the street. This mission has stayed the same for the national organization since 1860.

What hasn’t been the same since in 1860 is the increased level of impact which Boys & Girls Club as grown to and the way they fundraise—especially now with the impact of COVID-19 on today’s current environment. BGCGW’s mission is needed.

And they knew this. That’s why the development team started gathering information on the current landscape of virtual fundraising events.

We were doing our research on what other nonprofits were doing, and we were trying to find the right virtual fit for our organization. There’s so much virtual content out there, and we wanted to stand out and do this thing right,” said Terri Johnson, Director of Special Events.

With an in-person event planned for the spring, they started walking through the steps of how to move their ‘Blue Fest’ fundraising campaign virtual.





Over the years, BGCGW has partnered with OneCause and used the mobile bidding platform for their gala/auction event. With the switch to virtual, they were looking at their mobile bidding solution in a whole new way.

Like many nonprofits, they were looking to adapt their silent auction, live appeal, and program to a virtual setting. They wanted to differentiate themselves in a nonprofit world full of virtual events to engage donors with their mission, even if it was from home.

The pieces started coming together. We knew we could craft this idea in our own unique way that fits our culture and engage donors,” said Johnson.





By utilizing the OneCause Mobile Bidding product, they were easily able to put their virtual fundraising plan into action with not a one-day event, but a THREE-day event.

The very fact everything was a one-stop shop was huge for us. Participants could bid on items, submit sponsorships, buy tickets, contribute to the Fund-A-Need, and engage with new media and entertainment all on the OneCause mobile bidding site. Our donors loved the ease and clarity that came with that,” said Johnson.

For each day of the event, BGCGW structured their OneCause Giving Center to have a custom page for each day:

  • Day 1: Cocktail reception
  • Day 2: Be a Kid for a Day (Brought the Boys & Girls Club ‘home’ via social media)
  • Day 3: Live Zoom Event with catered dinner


    Custom Pages on Mobile Bidding Site

Mission Focus in a Virtual World

While planning the event, BGCGW knew that they wanted to keep the mission at the forefront of the virtual event. Their in-person event does this very well, so they wanted to get creative to center their mission around the programming of their virtual event.


“ClubHouse @ YourHouse”: Mission Focused Programming

Participants and donors could see their mission from the homepage of their OneCause Giving Center site to the virtual event live programming, and everything in between. They even made day 2 of their event focus on their own club giving Blue Fest participants insight into BGCGW’s virtual summer programming, “Clubhouse at Your House.”

They brought the club ‘home’ so donors could see the impact BGCGW has on kids in their community, day in and day out.

If you can make it easy to donate and make your mission very clear as to where donors’ funds are going, virtual fundraising is a homerun,” said Johnson.

Pre-event Engagement

Boys-and-Girls-Club-of-Greater-Washington-Social Media

#BlueFest2020 Social Promotion

From doing their research and knowing what other nonprofits had been doing in the virtual realm, BGCGW wanted to differentiate themselves while also staying true to their mission.

A big part of differentiating their event was their pre-event engagement tactics.

First and foremost, they optimized donor communication and messaging on social and email. They:

  • Utilized promotional videos
  • Communicated event updates via social & email
  • Gave shout outs to top donors on Facebook
  • Highlighted sponsors
  • Used an event hashtag #BlueFest2020

Once they established their presence on social and email, they executed another successful engagement tactic for all registered guests.

This number one engagement strategy was the “Blue Box.” Before the event started, they shipped each participant a “Blue Box” with goodies to use during the event on each day. For day 1, BGCGW included a “quarantini” recipe with ingredients & a candle in each box.


Day 1 Blue Box Items: Step-by-Step


The “Blue Box,” effective messaging, a catered dinner on event night, and the anticipation of the livestream program were what kept their participants engaged and motivated before and during the three days.

BGCGW gave them something to look forward to each day with the grand finale being day 3—livestream night!

Livestream Night

With the site ready, auction items secured, and the momentum of the first two days of their event behind them, BGCGW was ready to have their livestream run-of-show become a reality.

Within the 45-minute program, they included:

  • Fund-a-Need
  • Silent Auction
  • Live Appeal
  • Event Emcee

VIRTUAL TIP: Keep video production genuine without over-producing content. Stay true to your mission.

Outbid notifications and texting reminders engaged remote bidders and got attendees engaged early on. The ability to bid via phone created:

Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington Blue Fest - OneCause

BGCGW Supporter enjoying the Blue Fest virtual event

  • Instant bidding from anywhere
  • Gamification
  • Streamlined fundraising

With their live appeal, they decided to create a push at the end to reach their goal. They announced to all livestream guests that an added incentive for the last $100 donor would win a gift card to a 5-star restaurant in town. The donations came rolling in.

With updates and reminders from the emcee, the auction and live appeal went off without a hitch.

For the BCGGW team, the switch from in-person to virtual was so seamless because of the fundraising resources and support OneCause provides its customers.

I was able to learn from my customer success manager, reach the support line or chat them whenever I needed to, and read all the resources provided on the OneCause Virtual Fundraising Resource Center. I did my research so I knew how BGCGW could add our own story to the narrative of virtual fundraising,” said Johnson.

But—just how successful was Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington? Let’s find out.





The big night came and went and BGCGW wasn’t expecting this kind of success.

  • 500+ Livestream Attendees
  • 110% of Silent Auction Value
  • 6.1 Bids per Item
  • 173% to Live Appeal Goal
  • $150,896 total raised

With such great feedback and results, BGCGW has decided to go virtual for the rest of the year.

We’re excited about virtual fundraising this year. Going forward, our guests are onboard with virtual giving, making the registration and follow-up easy for us,” said Johnson.

Connect with a Cause

Want to learn more about Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington? Check out their website here.

Wrapping Up!

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