By Molly Fast

Continuing our Collaboration Drives Innovation series, which looks at ways we can reinvent what we do in light of the current climate, we took a look at how we are working to create engaging digital experiences. In particular, today we’re examining our efforts to bring the Susan G. Komen 3-Day community together virtually.

One of the most special aspects of working on the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® series is the close-knit community. The event itself is a 60-mile walk over three unforgettable and magical days where you live in a world you wished existed year-round. It’s kinder. It’s more hopeful. It can be sad and emotional, yes, but ultimately, it’s filled with hope and joy.

Like many long-standing fundraising event series, the Komen 3-Day has seen many highs and lows, and it’s now in the process of weathering an unpredictable storm that’s sidelined the entire events business. Although the word “pivot” is overused these days, that’s exactly what we knew we had to do to ensure we can keep this community together as we look at a year without in-person events.

Here are some ways we’re doing that:

  • In an effort to build community and create connections, we’ve created online social gatherings via Zoom. We know many organizations are doing this and seeing a huge benefit in providing opportunities for people to come together wherever they are. This is one of the positive “pivots” post-COVID-19. With our client, Susan G. Komen, we’ve hosted a handful of these over the past few months for Komen 3-Day participants, and attendance has been between 60 – 120 people, with high engagement. This is a time to check out from the stress and anxiety of the real world and escape into the affection and positive energy of this amazing community. We lighten the mood by including a game of This or That (Text or phone call? Sweater or sweatshirt? Tennis shoes or sneakers?) at the beginning of every call. We’ve played BINGO twice and 3-Day trivia once, and we’ve used this as an opportunity to get to know other participants and teams and learn why they’re inspired to be part of this amazing event community.
  • In addition to the online social gatherings, we’ve created some fun virtual walks. Using the start of Spring and Summer as our jumping off points, we wanted to simply go for a walk while engaging with our 3-Day participants. Despite not having events to train for in 2020, we know people are walking and used this an opportunity to bring our community together. Relying heavily on Facebook Live and Instagram stories, we set a date and time and went for a walk together while following local guidelines on social distancing. During our live segments on social media, we asked questions of our participants to find out where they were and how far they were walking. It was great for everyone to see how far and widespread our participant base was. Two hours later, we came back together to see how everyone’s walk was and to see how far they went. One participant in Ohio thanked us at the end, saying “Thank you, thank you, thank you. I would not have gotten out without your encouragement!” Another former participant who saw the recorded video after the fact wanted to know when the next one was so she could join the fun! As we look towards the rest of the year, we’ll be sharing monthly Saturday strolls with our 3-Day family. If you’re going to be out there walking anyway (or if you need a reason to get outside), who better to do it with?
  • We’re all about those hashtags and have created one, #3DayTogether, so participants can easily share all the ways in which they’re staying together — not just on the social hours or fun walks but everything else they’re doing. Everyday 3-Day participants are coming together in their own unique ways to keep the spirit of the community alive. Whether it’s a healthcare worker on the front lines remaining connected by wearing her 3-Day swag as a face covering or a longtime walker singing off her balcony every morning, a quick look at the #3DayTogether hashtag reminds you that we’re connected in so many ways. If you scroll through #3DayTogether, it will bring a smile to your face as you see how united we are in the desire to remain close and connected.

While there’s no replacing the experience of connecting in person, we’ve found meaningful ways to come together at a time when many of us are craving social interaction. Can you think of the ways in which your event is truly unique? How can you tap into those key experiences and emotions and bring them to life outside of the in-person event? What makes your participant community special? How can you bring them together? Finding ways to do that during this time will strengthen the bonds that already exist and make your participants even more excited for when your event brings them together in real life.

Molly Fast leads the company’s local operations for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day series and is privileged to work with Event 360’s participant-facing team. For over 15 years, Molly has been fortunate enough to combine her love of fundraising with the ability to make a difference in the work she does focusing on exceeding expectations and delighting participants along the way. When not roaming around Ireland, Molly can be found taking photos, exploring hidden stair cases or talking to strangers in Santa Monica where she lives with her husband. You can find Molly on  TwitterLinkedIn and her favorite social media tool, Instagram.

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