We planned a series of virtual fitness events over the course of a week. Fitness instructors lead either a strength training class, yoga, or cardo dance class over Zoom. The classes were free to bring awareness to our charity organization. We asked for donations to support our charity organization.
The classes took place on August 9, 2020 through August 17, 2020.
Youth Services of Glenview/Northbrook.
A non-profit focused on providing mental health, crisis intervention, and family support services to children in the Chicagoland area.
Mission: “ to ensure that every child grows up happy, healthy, and hopeful with a vision to be the center of collaborative social-emotional support for children and youth. Most important, Youth Services is proud to have the most generous sliding scale program in the area and many of our programs are offered free-of-charge. No family is ever turned away based on ability to pay.”
The project will be judged based on completeness and how successful we were in raising donations:
- Virtual Fitness Class Participation: 50
- Donation to the Youth Service of Glenview (before the company match): $1,000
- Virtual Fitness Class Participation: 44
- Donation to the Youth Service of Glenview (before the company match): $1,235
- Better communication with stakeholders would make things easier
- Limit project team size, larger teams tend to have time management issues
- Contingency Plans are very important, we quickly needed to pivot when one of the classes was cancelled due to a power outage
- Challenges of planning a virtual event, without being able to meet in person it required additional attention to communicating and tracking project objectives
- Capturing meeting notes with actions items to keep everyone aligned, our first couple meetings were missing this, and it caused a little confusion
- Technology and weather conditions can adversely impact virtual events so we should have a way of communicating to attendees in advance
- Encourage volunteers to commit weeks before the event rather than waiting until the last minute, as we ran into some last–minute scrambles to confirm attendance
- Limiting scope changes, aligning to a simple scope ahead of time makes things easier when complications arise
Advice for Future Teams
When hosting virtual events, it is important to start by building a team with different skillsets so that you can tap into each team member where they can contribute to the success of the project. The teams should start the project planning early in the project. This will help keep you ahead and give you the agility to make changes. Having a well thought out project plan, a detailed risk/issues document will help the team plan well even as uncertainties come up. Engaging all the key stakeholders (organization members, volunteers, team members, professor, etc..) is key. It is better to over communicate when planning a project than to miss critical items that needed to be completed. When picking an event to host, teams should conduct a survey to gauge people’s interest especially when you are in unprecedented times. Understand the need and respond by offering an event where you will see higher interest and participation. Having a contingency plan for every documented risk to the project will keep it from becoming an issue.
Project Title: Virtual Back To School Drive – Supporting Children First Fund
1. Description of the Project
- For our project, we teamed-up with the Children First Fund to support Chicago Public Schools through a virtual back to school drive. Given the implications of COVID-19, our ability to host in-person events or fundraisers were limited, which forced us to think outside of the box. We decided to create a social campaign leveraging the hashtag #throwbacktoschoolfund across multiple social media platforms. We each dug-up school aged pictures of ourselves and posted them, along with a donation link and our hashtag, and encouraged our followers to participate in the campaign by donating and posting their own throw-back picture on their respective social media accounts. Additionally, two group members created a flyer with the important information and their throw-back pictures and sent it via email to their department at work. The other two group members leveraged their work Slack channels to encourage participation within their respective areas. We coordinated with the Children First Fund to create our donation portal (Network for Good), which provided clear and consistent tracking throughout the two weeks our campaign was active. The ultimate goal of our project was to raise funds for Chicago Public Schools, increase awareness of the Children First Fund and all of the incredible work they are doing, and have fun along the way!
2. Description of the Charity
- Children First Fund (childrenfirstfund.org), part of the Chicago Public School Foundation, is an incredible charity seeks to support children within the CPS system in meaningful ways that go far beyond school supplies. They work to secure scholarships in an effort ensure that no student is denied a college education due to lack of financial means. They promote culturally relevant reading by raising funds to put books in the hands of students across the city. They provide district programs such as student wellness, success in career and life, equal access, and academic excellence. And they partner with individuals and corporations all over the world to provide supplies, technology, and other necessities to ensure success in and out of the classroom.
- Children First Fund’s mission is to promote the growth and success of Chicago Public Schools through philanthropy and partnerships. We serve as a knowledge hub and liaison between CPS and its community of partners, including businesses, foundations, and individuals. By matching resources provided by external donors and partners with the students, schools, and staff that need them most, CFF maximizes the impact of CPS’ partnerships and advances the CPS Vision.
3. Factual Analysis of Success
- Our success criteria were broken-up into three categories, Donation Value, Awareness, and Education.
- Donation Value: At the end of our campaign, we met our success criteria and raised a total of $1,355 (which includes a later match of $150 provided by our employer) for Children First Fund. Our base success goal was set at $750 and our stretch goal was $1,500.
- Awareness: Our goal was to raise awareness of Children First Fund by reaching at least 500 people. While we were ultimately unable to track our total reach, we are confident that we exceeded this goal when taking into account our social media posts, Slack channel messages, and emails to our departments.
- Education: Our last success criteria was to learn the fundamentals of project management throughout the planning and execution of this fundraising campaign. I can confidently say we achieved this!
4. Lessons Learned
- Communication is Critical: Arguably the #1 most important aspect of Project Management is open, clear, and continuous communication. It is absolutely critical to identify your key stakeholders across all functions of the project and establish reoccurring communication that ensures all stakeholders feel aware of current status. Without this open dialogue, you will inevitably run into issues that could cause delays or larger problems. Assigning a person to be in charge of communication at the start of the project is recommended.
- Time Management: While two months might seem like a long time, it goes by in a blink of an eye. Leveraging sound time management skills is very important to ensure all deliverables and aspects of the project are completed timely. One delay of a critical deliverable may start an avalanche of delays which will increase stress and cause strain on your project. Ensure your team is organized, has established a clear Work Breakdown Structure and Milestone Schedule and works diligently to correct any delays as quickly as possible.
5. Advice for Future Teams
- The first piece of advice we have for future teams is to hold each other accountable for specific deliverables. Everyone is busy juggling many things at once and it can be easy to put off deliverables for this project. By doing this, you’re setting your team up for major stress. Create your Work Breakdown Structure and Milestone Schedule and ensure that everyone is committed to staying on track!
- The second piece of advice is to always think outside of the box. When tasked with a project such as this, it’s easy to land on the first idea that comes to mind. However, there are likely much better options out there if you spend the time and energy brainstorming. Don’t settle for ordinary when you can create something extraordinary!
6. Photos of Project
Orphans of the Storm – Group 2
Final project description:
We hosted a virtual fundraiser to raise money for Orphans of the Storm, an animal shelter. As animal lovers, this cause was near and dear to our hearts, and one of our group members adopted her dog Layla from this organization a few years ago. All proceeds were donated to Orphans of the Storm to help purchase supplies and fund operational costs of the shelter. The event began on August 10th and ended on August 17th. Participants could either donate via Facebook fundraiser, a direct link set up by the organization, or they could purchase items from the Orphans of the Storm Amazon wish list. We primarily used Facebook to market this fundraiser, but also used email and word of mouth to drive awareness and participation.
Brief Description of the Charity:
The mission of Orphans of the Storm is to take responsibility for each and every orphaned, abandoned, abused or neglected dog and cat which reaches their doors; to take them in and shelter them; to provide the best medical and physical care possible for them; to nurture them back to health if need be; and finally to place them into warm, loving, adoptive homes where they can enjoy the lives they deserve. Since its founding, Orphans of the Storm has had a long history of humane service to the community. The vision began with Irene Castle in the 1930s and 1940s, followed by the leadership of animal welfare activist Thelma Zwirner in the 1970s and 1980s and continuing today with Thelma’s son, current volunteer President Richard Zwirner. For literally hundreds of thousands of homeless animals, Orphans has been the refuge of last resort.
Factual analysis of success in terms of project objectives:
– Best Case: $800
– Most Likely: $500
– Worst Case: $300
|Yes, we raised over $1300! $1295 raised via monetary donation and $15 in Amazon items donated (plus several company matches, including Allstate)
|If we do not reach out $800 milestone, we are able to collect enough funds to cover 50%+ of the supplies and/or funds needed for the project (will be defined by the organization up front)
||Yes, funds needed for the project were $0 so we had nothing to cover.
|On time delivery of objectives, including communications and posting
||Yes, all objectives were accomplished on time.
|Organization receives funds to purchase and help dogs in need (and potentially has adoption as a result of campaign)
||Yes, they received both money and items for the dogs and cats in need. We were able to promote a special needs adoptable dog who has applicants but no official adoption yet.
|Successfully deliver money / gifts and volunteer our time with the shelter
||Yes, we partnered with Orphans to make sure all money and wish list items were sent directly to them because of COVID. All $ and items were in their hands almost immediately.
||Yes, our team had a blast planning and executing. We found ways to have fun and be competitive with what we were raising to keep us going during a less conventional event.
Two or three lessons learned about managing projects:
- Be flexible. Due to COVID-19, we were unable to host a live event which really constrained our options. However, we turned that into an opportunity and a virtual event meant we could extend the opportunity to friends and family that are not in the area!
- Engage your stakeholders early on. The partners we worked with at Orphans of the Storm were incredible and had a lot of marketing materials already created. If we had waited to engage them, we would have spent time on communications and marketing material when it was already done for us.
- Communication and follow-ups. As with any group project, communication is key, but particularly when you are planning and executing an event. Clear communication standards and frequent touchbases (especially near the event date) are critical.
Advice for future teams doing similar projects:
- Facebook’s fundraising functionality is super easy to use and reaches a wide audience depending on your social media presence. While we supplemented our Facebook posts with emails to target more people, we found that most people used the Facebook functionality to donate because of how easy it was. And it made it easy to remind people as the end date got closer!
- Have a strong purpose. Our group member’s tie to Orphans of the Storm had a huge impact both in how we were able to partner with them, but also people’s willingness to donate due to her story
- Have fun! Our group was constantly texting with updates as we saw the donations roll in and it was fun to have a little friendly competition. After all, it’s all for a good cause!
Final project description
We hosted a virtual 5K run to raise money for the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Multiple group members have fundraised and participated in their events and most team members have loved ones that have been impacted by rare cancers. All proceeds will be donated to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to aid in research for a cure for rare cancers. The event was held over August 3-9, 2020. We set a distance of 5 kilometers for registrants to participate in any way they wanted: walk, run, bike, dance, treadmill, etc. Attendees pre-registered for the event and received an email with event information such as a race-day bib and a great playlist to listen to while they run.
Brief Description of the Charity: We hosted our event through a charity called Cycle for Survival where 100% of funds raised are donated to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) to directly fund clinical trials and research. About 50% of people with cancer have been diagnosed with a rare cancer (all pediatric, brain, pancreatic, ovarian) and Cycle for Survival helps raise awareness and funds for MSK.
Factual analysis of success in terms of project objectives:
- 15 Participants
- $1,000 raised
- Actual Success:
- 24 Participants
- $3,030 raised
Two or three lessons learned about managing projects:
- Be conscious of social and political climate when planning your event. We had the challenge of planning an event during a pandemic and ultimately decided a virtual event was the safest option, though we knew it would likely impact overall turnout and the amount of money we could raise.
- Plan ahead! Most of the work is completed before the project is implemented so you need to make sure you are working on the project before it’s too late to be able to successfully implement.
- Divvy up responsibilities and deliverables so that individual team members understand what they are accountable and responsible for.
Advice for future teams doing similar projects:
- If you work at a corporation, try to find out if there is a company match or grant that you can apply for. Putting in that time and effort to research really paid off for our project!
- If you’re hosting an event during a pandemic, we’d recommend having your project related to helping fight the pandemic. We found it difficult to raise funds for something not related to COVID-19 during these unprecedented times.
- Have fun! At the end of the day, any funds raised are going to a great cause and that’s something to be celebrated!