Shriners Hospitals for Children has been providing life-changing care to children from all over the world for 95 years. The hospital hosts an annual event, Walk for Love, which is a celebration of the hospital’s donors and patients. However, this year, the Coronavirus pandemic threatened to cancel their plans.
“At first, we panicked. We spent a couple of weeks debating what to do: move the date, cancel it, or go virtual,” the Shriners admin said. The team saw a demo of the MoveSpring product and decided a virtual event was both feasible and exciting. “The colorful designs were friendly. It was very straightforward and easy-to-use for people with differing abilities and strengths.” Shriners created a custom Virtual Race challenge to replace the in-person walk experience. To continue the fundraising portion of the event, Shriners used MoveSpring’s integration with charity payment processor, FrontStream, to raise nearly $25,000.
“At first, we panicked. We spent a couple of weeks debating what to do: move the date, cancel it, or go virtual. We were sold from the [MoveSpring] demo.”
Shriners used the customizable Virtual Race challenge as an opportunity to make the virtual event feel just like their in-person walk. Participants could select their race difficulty by opting into a 10.5, 20, or 30-mile challenge. Hospital employees and donors were able to join their own separate challenges as well. No matter the option, every race had the same start date and lasted 8 days.
Shriners’ Virtual Race map featured common scenes from a typical in-person event, such as a starting line, a long race track, crowds of cheering fans, and a celebratory finish line.
Along the way, participants unlocked custom milestones. Each milestone featured a video with a Shriners’ hospital staff member who congratulated participants, shared motivational words, and offered a simple health tip. “We were able to make it authentic by including sunny, happy faces from our hospital encouraging and congratulating you.”
Fundraising was a key part of the annual, in-person event. Shriners continued their efforts digitally through MoveSpring’s integration with their payment processor, FrontStream. The integration seamlessly blended fundraising with the virtual race experience.
Shriners included a secondary, daily goal challenge with the event. Participants were encouraged to meet a daily step goal that kept them on pace for their larger Virtual Race challenge. For example, participants that opted for the 30-mile race would also have a daily goal of 7,500 steps, which ensured they would reach 30 miles by event end.
Shriners leveraged our customizable content feature to communicate prize reminders as well as health and wellness tips throughout the event. The admins loved the MoveSpring content library, which had “content that was family-friendly but also appealed to our broad audience of kids, parents, donors, and hospital employees.” Additionally, Shriners used content to present their organization in a new light, tease upcoming campaigns, and educate participants about the hospital’s impact.
“We achieved what we wanted. We sustained an event people love, we engaged with people who wanted to be involved, and we raised money.”
Shriners successfully engaged hundreds of donors and patients, while raising nearly $25,000 for the children’s hospital.
As a virtual charity walk was a new experience for both admins and participants, Shriners purposefully kept their marketing outreach limited. “This was a trial. We didn’t want to create a lot of complication. We kept the virtual experience simple.” They only promoted the challenge to donors as well as families who participated in last year’s event.
Typically, Shriners sees about 1,100 participants for their in-person events. Even with their intentionally limited marketing, the MoveSpring virtual walk attracted roughly 250 participants. To Shriners, this was a huge success.
As one patient family said, “We were so grateful you went virtual and didn’t cancel. We could stay connected.”
Even with 1/4 of the participant turnout and zero sponsors, Shriners was able to generate half of what they normally fundraise. “We thought we’d have some panicked calls from people trying to figure it out, but nope. It just flowed from the beginning. Everyone really enjoyed it and were so happy we did a virtual event. Every other event had been canceled.”
One avid Walk for Love family asked the hospital receptionist to track down the event admins while they were at Shriners for an appointment. The family wanted to express their appreciation: “We do several races every year. We are a race family. We do as many as we can. All of them have been canceled but five. We were so grateful you went virtual and didn’t cancel. We could stay connected.” In addition to families who count on the event every year, the virtual walk was able to attract new participants as well. Many out-of-state individuals were able to participate, when normally they would have missed the in-person event.
Next year, Shriners plans to capitalize on their success. They intend on mass marketing for the event, incorporating sponsors and continuing to “capture additional audiences like out-of-state participants. We can do ongoing, smaller in-person events, then a larger, digital event that everyone can participate in, no matter where they are.”
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