Young Life Lite

All Systems Go.

Imagine your annual fundraising banquet, after months of planning, is literally hours away. Now imagine you have to cancel the event because of the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing …

This was the exact predicament one Young Life area found themselves in on Friday, March 13, 2020.

That morning, Makenzie Hield, area director of East Boulder County, Colorado, along with her committee chair, Lauren Bocci, faced the decision of what to do next.

“Looking at having to cancel our banquet on ‘the day of’ because of the social restrictions being put in place was scary,” Makenzie confessed. “We were looking at potentially going into deficit in April if we didn’t have any money come in from our banquet in March.”

Because of the uncertainty surrounding the virus, Makenzie and the team didn’t know when they could reschedule their in-person event. The immediate challenge, then, was to try and raise funds to keep the area moving for the next few months.

Undeterred, Makenzie, Lauren and the rest of their committee, began thinking outside the box.

They wondered aloud, “What if we could have a virtual banquet?”

Lauren said, “Well, maybe we have a captive audience!”

Makenzie agreed. “We had a full registrant list of people who had planned their schedules to be with us that night, so we thought, why not try and put together the content we were going to do from up front at the banquet into the virtual platform, and still have a contact point with people?

“At that point people were starting to stay at home and not have much to do — it was a good touch point for us to still share about the mission of Young Life with our community and raise money to help us through the next few months.”

The team could also have natural follow-up calls after the virtual banquet. “It would be easier to have more one-on-one conversations with donors because we just had an event,” Makenzie said, “rather than just calling them up out of the blue.”

Another positive — the team knew they had content that translated rather easily into the virtual realm — so they decided to go for it ... at 11 a.m. From that moment on, it was “go time.”

T-Minus 8.5 Hours

The team quickly emailed all the night’s guests, Makenzie said, informing them of the change. “We let them know, ‘We’re going virtual tonight through a Zoom call — come with us!’ We then gave them instructions on how to use Zoom.”

At 4 p.m. the “up front” part of the banquet team, consisting of an adult panel, a kid panel, speakers and musicians, jumped online for a practice call to run through the event. They worked through factors like technology, the proper distance to sit from their web cams, how to run promo videos, what it means to be on and off camera, and many other details until they felt fairly comfortable with the results. We have liftoff ...

At 7:30 p.m., guests began “checking in” and for the next 40 minutes experienced the humor, energy, inspiration and excellence found at a more traditional banquet. Sitting in the comfort of their own homes, the guests heard from adults and kids about the need for Young Life in today’s world.

One of the highlights, Lauren said, came when the kids shared. “The panel was so cool because the kids were calling in from their own houses. At that moment you’re getting to see them in their environment — at their kitchen table or in their bedroom, rather than up on a stage.

“It really brought home that this is a real kid, telling their real story with whatever posters are behind them. That part worked so beautifully in this format and provided a level of intimacy.”

... and Touchdown!

When it was all said and done, this was no virtual success — it was the real thing! What had ​appeared potentially impossible at the start of the day, pulling off an online banquet, not only “happened,” but was a tremendous victory.

“According to the number count at the peak of the banquet,” Makenzie reported, “80% of people who were registered to attend in person watched the virtual event.”

If pressed, would they do it again?

“It was definitely worth our time to do the virtual event,” Makenzie said. “I’m thankful we had the opportunity to tell people about the mission and get kids in front of them.”

So the next time you’re tempted to scrub the mission, you might want to embrace the world of technology. You just might end up over the moon.