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Learnings from Guide Dogs Australia’s first virtual event

‘Thanks to our partner at Pro Bono Australia who ran this article first in our RESET 2020 weekly Column’.

The RESET 2020 live support and advice shows commenced with our first topic “Events in this new world” featuring subject matter specialists from The Xfactor Collective community and a live case study about International Guide Dogs Day being celebrated for the first time via a virtual event.

During the show, organisations shared what their current challenges were with virtual events, with 31 per cent concerned about cutting through the virtual clutter, 25 per cent unsure how or if to monetise events, 25 per cent reporting internal pressure not to run events, and 27 per cent lacking external expertise.

The key messages from events specialist Liliana Sanelli and communications specialist Julie Weldon were not to create an event unless it was aligned with the strategic direction of the organisation, to take the time to experiment and tap the team’s creativity, and to embrace the new dimension of “hybrid” events that allow organisations to take their physical events much further into the future.

This message also came through strongly from Charlie Spendlove, head of marketing and communications for Guide Dogs NSW/VIC/ACT, an organisation that has some of their biggest events in the calendar during March and April. The organisation had just weeks to turn the biggest event in the calendar into a virtual activation, which leveraged the birth of a singleton guide dog who was promptly and cleverly named “Zoom”.

The event which is primarily designed to drive brand awareness and advocacy achieved some great outcomes for the organisation including 8,000 people interested in the event, 2,000 people in attendance online, and 50 new fundraising leads in one state alone.

Watch the case study interview

You can also access the full recording and presentation featuring other case studies including Fight MND’s “The Big Freeze”, Ovarian Cancer Foundation’s “Ovary-Action Power Hour”, Gunning Arts Festival, and Cure Cancer’s ‘Biggest Virtual Barbecure’ here.

  •  Authenticity: “People were engaged for the whole 20 minutes. You don’t have to have such slick content – it has to be authentic”
  • Tapping new audiences: “We wanted to use their love of dogs to help educate them around the work we do with humans.”
  • Leveraging knowledge: “Isolation is in fact the norm for many of the people that we support. We’re experts in understanding connection.”
  • Fundraising ask: “If you’re going to create a really good authentic wholesome event, don’t stuff it up at the other end by putting in a really hard ask. It should be about really educating, engaging and connecting with your audience first and foremost, and then take them on the journey so they can see the impact of your work.”
  • Creativity: “If you want to think outside the box and you’ve been running a hierarchical team structure, where you decide what’s going to be next and you’re putting pressure on your team to come up with ideas, they will never come up with ideas.”

RESET 2020 National Research and Support Program is an initiative of The Xfactor Collective. The free online live shows and case study interviews are responding to the feedback from the research study, and are designed to support organisations in this time of change and transformation.

Julia Keady is the CEO and founder of The Xfactor Collective social impact community.

Need help in your organisation? We run the sector’s first Specialist triage support service (our CONCIERGE) where we can help you find support from a range of services and solutions.


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