Committed to advancing cystic fibrosis (CF) research and addressing the needs of the CF community, The Boomer Esiason Foundation was created to make a difference here and now in the lives of those with CF, their families, and their caregivers. Through financial aid programs like transplant grants and scholarships, educational resources, research support, and more, the Foundation works to positively impact the CF community and raise awareness for CF, a chronic condition that affects the lungs and digestive system.
So what is Team Boomer? Team Boomer is the athletic branch of the Foundation which works to encourage people with cystic fibrosis to live active, healthy lifestyles. In a typical year, Team Boomer holds an event called Run to Breathe, a 5k taking place in Central Park with over 7,000 participants. The event helps Team Boomer establish and maintain relationships within the CF community – an essential component for the Foundation.
But in the midst of a global pandemic, holding such a large event simply wasn’t an option.
With the event hosting much of the CF community, Arley Sarner, Senior Manager of Team Boomer, said they didn’t feel comfortable having individuals with this serious lung disease coming into the city and running. Nonetheless, there was still a strong need for Team Boomer to bring the community together to fundraise and raise awareness for their cause. The challenge was to find a way to do so in a safe and engaging way.
“There needs to be a way to still have this sense of community and fundraising but make it online,” said Sarner.
With the upheaval of live events and large gatherings due to COVID-19, Team Boomer decided to go virtual with their Run to Breathe 5k.
But how could they find the right fit for their event’s needs? Would enough people sign up for a virtual fundraising event? What would the process even look like? Team Boomer confronted these questions and considered multiple partners offering virtual event solutions. Ultimately, the team landed on OneCause.
With efforts already being directed towards creating the best and most interactive experience possible, Team Boomer sought a high-quality solution in order to maximize their fundraising efforts. Although the Run to Breathe 5k would be virtual, Team Boomer hoped to maintain the integrity of the event, an occasion which the community had grown to love.
Compared to companies offering other solutions, OneCause helped keep the experience true to past years, instead of trying to change and reinvent the whole event, thereby losing its identity.
Opting for a virtual run came with a number of unexpected benefits:
It expanded the accessibility of participation beyond those in the Tri-state area, with people all across the country and (even internationally!) completing the Run to Breathe 5k.
How a participant completed the 5k wasn’t important. The beauty in a virtual event is that you can run, walk, bike, hike, or do any physical activity to complete the distance and participate right where you live. What was important was getting their supporters to sign up, engage with the mission, and begin fundraising – and OneCause provided the tools and support to get the event off the ground and running.
“I worked with the design team to make sure the page looked clean and easy to navigate. They did a fantastic job and really brought our mission and event to life on the site,” said Michelle Pelini, Director for the Boomer Esiason Foundation.
Choosing the right partner to help kick off an event, especially in this trying time, is an essential, yet daunting task. Having a roadmap and trusted advice can make the whole process smoother.
“OneCause has a great support team. Their helpfulness was essential to our event’s success, and we had peace of mind knowing they were one call, email, or chat away,” said Pelini.
Team Boomer’s Four keys to success in choosing to pursue a virtual run include:
Even though a virtual event means there isn’t in-person interaction, it doesn’t mean all contact is lost! Finding ways to personally contact with participants ensures the community-feel remains intact and each individual feels appreciated.
You too can increase interpersonal connection by:
Having a tangible item makes a huge difference. Team Boomer mailed t-shirts and printable bibs with a signed note to help create that interpersonal connection. Small touches that make the participant feel important help to continue to foster an integrative bonding experience.
In today’s digital age, social media is king. What better way to interact and connect with your audience than through online engagement on social media! Online engagement provides another way to bring in new donations, attract new supports, and spread your mission to a wider audience. Sharing stories of participants can make your cause even more personal and alluring.
Here are our top best practices to follow:
A recent study conducted by OneCause analyzed the giving behaviors of 1,026 self-reported social donors to learn how nonprofits can move to improve fundraising events as we emerge from the pandemic. Ease was determined to the number one most important factor in Social Donors determining whether or not they want to participate in a run, walk, or ride.
When your organization is such a pro already, It’s easy to forget that participants might feel overwhelmed or uncertain of how to fundraise using Peer-to-Peer. Uncertainty is the thief of increased engagement. Encourage participants to fundraise by breaking down the barriers, offering support, and keeping things simple. Social Donors want their giving to be easy, so it’s time to examine your traditional and technology-based giving opportunities to ensure a seamless experience.
To foster the sense of community and further the excitement surrounding fundraising, Team Boomer added elements of fun competition to their event. For example, raising different amounts of money enabled Run to Breathe participants and their teams to be entered for a chance to Zoom with Boomer Esiason himself!
If you’re thinking of adding an element of competition, get creative with incentives and fun:
All work and no play, does not an engaging fundraiser make! Stoke the competitive fire and drive engagement with some of the ideas above. Fundraising can and should be a fun experience for all.
Team Boomer didn’t quite know what to expect for their first virtual event. The original goal was to raise 30, maybe 50 thousand dollars and register 250 people. They met and surpassed both!
The race officially launched in April and by the end of the first week alone, there were already 200 people registered for the virtual 5k.
The final numbers speak for themselves:
“We raised a lot of money, and our cost was very low… We exceeded all of our expectations and goals,” said Pelini.
Team Boomer’s message to other organizations thinking about holding a virtual event is – virtual works!
“We’re just really proud. Truly it exceeded every expectation we had. And we put the work in, but I’m really grateful for the community we have. And I don’t think this will be our last virtual event like this,” said Sarner.
To learn more about the Boomer Esiason Foundation and donate to their cause, please visit their website.