Virtual Event Case Study: The National Organization of Italian American Women

Case Study: Virtual Event – Planning, Production, and Management 

Overview/Situation for Virtual Event:

Transferring a beloved, high-end, luncheon gala to a virtual event came with many associated risks for The National Association of Italian American Women (NOIAW).  Located in New York City, this national membership organization was founded in 1980 by Dr. Aileen Sirey and the late Honorable Geraldine Ferraro. NOIAW provides a global community for women of Italian descent to connect and become inspired and empowered.

Each year the organization hosts a  Luncheon Gala at the St Regis Hotel, attended by over 200 of its members and their guests, along with celebrities and influential Italian Americans from across the world. The event supplies almost half of the organization’s operating funds for the year.

In 2020 the organization’s gala was to have been a momentous 40th Anniversary celebration, honoring three celebrities, offering entertainment, and other high profile speakers. Due to the pandemic, the anniversary event was postponed to 2021.

When it became clear that 2021 was not going to allow for in-person events, NOIAW turned to Harvest for direction on how to proceed in salvaging this annual event and the valuable support it provides the nonprofit.

Challenge/Tactic of Virtual Event:

We met with NOIAW’s chairwoman to discuss the concept of a virtual gathering. There was plenty of concern for the risks such a move might impose upon the event, the organization, and its members:

  • For a majority of the organization’s members, technology is not a tool that has widespread expertise or experience
  • The event has consistently been a very high profile and luxurious event, and there was concern about how to translate that into a ‘zoom meeting’
  • The reputation of the organization needed to be preserved by delivering on quality production with high entertainment value
  • The coordination of no less than six celebrities to participate in the virtual event
  • Translating a value proposition to those sponsors and early ticket buyers who had purchased tables and sponsorships in 2019 at a premium, anticipating an in-person soiree
  • Invitations already extended to entertainers to participate in the event for which their ‘production’ might not translate successfully to a virtual setting
  • Capturing sufficient audience participants to solicit for membership renewals and new member acquisition
  • The revenue the high-end gala generated, which filled much-needed funding gaps for the organization

Solution/Action:

We began our work in developing the Virtual Gathering through our Design Concept session, a four-hour team strategy, and planning session with stakeholders who may have influence or be impacted by the event. From the session,  a strategy and plan were developed with proposal, goals, and run of show schedule.  We built the event website and registration framework and technology, the event format and technology needs, event production strategy and schedule, as well as marketing and communications strategy, planning, and production.

To meet their budget, we used virtual recording– instead of an onsite videographer– to capture the segments of all presenters and celebrities. We wrote speaking points and finished all recordings post-production to fit the theme and graphics of the event.

We created premium value to existing ticket holders, as well as to top-level new ticket buyers, through the addition of a post-event networking room with celebrity participation for no more than 60 people.

We increased fundraising to the organization by designing “The Next 40 Years Fund”, a special donor investment fund coinciding with the 40th Anniversary. We created a case for support for the fund and incorporated Qgiv, a text to give platform, for donations during and post-event. We also transitioned their Ad Journal to a video journal, used in the event reel and on their website.

On the night of the event, we hosted the virtual gathering on our conferencing software, bypassing the share screen tool and hardwiring into broadband sufficient for the multimedia video feed.

Outcome/Result:

The event attracted over 300 registrants, five major sponsors, and netted more income for the client than any of the previous gala’s hosted at the St Regis. The feedback received by NOIAW was overwhelmingly positive.  The event recording is being used in whole and in part in their marketing and fundraising, while acting as an extended viewing option on their website until Dec 31, 2021.

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