The Promise of Unity Starts on Day One | Virtual Events

Taking Your Event Virtual: A Primer


4 years ago

One of the cornerstones of our business at Avenir is planning and producing events, mostly for nonprofit organizations. In the two-and-a-half years before the start of 2020, we had 15+ events under our belt. We never get cocky here, but we were definitely confident we could put together a great event without even changing out of our PJs. Thank goodness for that.

Very quickly after the initial stay-at-home order in March, it became apparent that planning indoor gatherings of any size would be problematic for at least the rest of 2020. We knew, however, that the organizations were counting on the funds raised at these events. So we assured them that while things would look a bit different this year, virtual events could be planned and produced successfully. Best of all, we could do all the research and design the event from top to bottom for them. Here’s a list of the comprehensive services we provide when planning a virtual event:

  • Plan and coordinate event, including committee meetings
  • Theme + Branding
  • All Graphic Design
  • Digital Marketing Strategy — executed through email marketing, social media marketing, sponsored posts, website landing page if needed
  • Sponsorship Strategy + Materials
  • Marketing Support
  • Virtual Fundraising Management — may include a virtual silent auction, online giving, fund a need, goals donations, etc.)
  • Videography (production of 4 short videos 2-4 minutes each for the event and coming year)
  • Event Production — managing and coordinating all technology necessary
  • Post-event Follow Up

Let’s take a look at how we helped organizations pivot from in-person to virtual events throughout the year.

The Recovery Ride

In January, we were already two months into planning the 5th annual Recovery Ride, a bike ride to support San Diego nonprofit organizations in the areas of recovery from alcohol and drugs, and HIV/AIDS education and treatment. But on March 13 the organizers made the difficult decision to cancel the Ride and go virtual. Once the weekend of the event arrived, we made several of the fundraising incentives available for purchase and blitzed social media with 24 posts in 24 hours. In a time of chaos and uncertainty for pretty much everyone, we were able to raise $55,000 for the beneficiaries of the event. 

The Butterfly Banquet

The first fully virtual event we planned was The Butterfly Banquet for Turning Point Home recovery home. In addition to being their biggest event of the year, this was their 50th anniversary event and months of planning had already gone on at their organization. Fortunately, people love to commemorate landmarks. Using the 50th anniversary as the anchor, we recommended launching a month-long campaign using commemorative items for an online auction and offering others for sale in the online store we built for that purpose. The campaign culminated in a short, 25-minute Facebook Live event.

Just Jazz 2020

Pasta & Jazz, an event to support The Crossroads Foundation presented a branding challenge. How can we promote an event where one of the selling points is dinner? Find a way to rebrand without stripping the event of its identity. In this case we suggested Just Jazz! Not only did it perfectly capture the different nature of this year’s event, it had a familiar and memorable ring to it thanks to pop culture. The event was held on Zoom with a live auction and the jazz performance going on as usual.

Living Out Loud

Living Out Loud, Stepping Stone San Diego’s annual gala, presented possibly the biggest challenge and opportunity. We attacked the issue like we did every year. We started with a theme. Even more than usual, it had to be something that lent itself to social media storytelling. We chose Miami Vibe, with a heavy emphasis on 1980s pop culture. All the social media referenced 80s music, movies and TV. Everyone received a box of 80s-themed swag. We even chose an Emcee whose character was a 1981 Beauty Queen. 

The program for LOL has also always been a challenge. They have a lot to do in a relatively short amount of time — the most important of which is a live fundraising appeal toward the end of the event that can add $10,000 to the fundraising total. In order to ensure they didn’t lose people before that portion of the event, we used pre-recorded video mixed with live streams from various socially distant viewing parties to keep things on schedule and keep people watching and having fun. We also made sure to keep the entire program to one hour. We were able to capture the essence of the in-person gala and broadcast it virtually.

If you’re planning an event in 2021 and need expert advice, reach out to us using the chatbox or email us at