Frequently Asked Questions
Why is an Armchair Telethon so special? There are a variety of things about the nature of an online event, the power of social media, and several other factors (some proprietary), that make the Armchair Telethon incredibly powerful for fundraising and marketing. For example, if you had a local event with 40 or more planning committee members, it would most often be an unproductive nightmare; but a virtual planning committee can be pretty close to unlimited in size and will be extremely effective (because of the lack of meetings, volunteer time flexibility, etc.).
What are customers actually getting? We will plan and produce an 8-hour armchair telethon from beginning to end (this is exactly what it says – we can do everything that needs to be done, virtually) – creating a local advisory committee to help with planning and execution; finding and booking local talent; promoting the event; stage-managing; and following up, as appropriate. Everything will be done with client advice and consent, and as much or as little involvement as they want. Donations will primarily be accepted online, at their donation page (we will likely offer the option to let us process the money, within 2-4 months); those who want to mail a check will be directed to your address.
What is the process? We quickly build an advisory board of the client’s supporters – we ask them to send just one email at the beginning of the process to invite their board and other key supporters to the telethon advisory board – and then we begin building the virtual telethon.
How big will the advisory board be? Unlike a live, in-person board or other group of volunteers, one of the advantages of a virtual advisory board is that it can get as big as it naturally gets. New members will likely be joining right up until the actual telethon, and the more the merrier. Most advisory boards will reach 40-60 members and, as is the case with most endeavors, some of those will be a huge help, some will be good, and some will do nothing of value except lend their name. The nature of doing this virtually is a powerful multiplier.
What do we mean that he can create an event without going to the location or knowing people there? That is exactly what he means. Over the last 30 years, founder Sean Spence has been developing proprietary processes that allow him to create events from scratch in remote locations. With the virtual nature of what we are doing, it is now possible to manage all activities and the actual day of the event, all online and with the occasional phone call.
What is expected of the client? Thanks to our proprietary processes, we need relatively little from the benefitting organization to create a successful armchair telethon. As we often say to advisory committee prospects, “Your responsibility would be to pay attention to e-mail, to help when/if you can, and to not worry about it when you can’t.” We would appreciate the client sending one e-mail, at the beginning, to your board members and other supporters they may choose, to invite them to be on the advisory board. This is not required but can make a big difference in the success of the event (and those who choose to be involved will enjoy it!).
How much input will the client have? Will they have the right to approve/veto decisions? The client will have as much input as they want or do not want. Clients will be kept in the loop with near-daily update emails and it will always be an option to have a Zoom or phone call. We will discuss how much involvement they want at the beginning and pay close attention to how that develops. They will have as much or as little approval as they want.
How are you recruiting the advisory board? We start with one email from the client to their board and other key supporters (optional, but very helpful) and from there we reach into the community (which could mean a city, state, the nation, nonprofit category, or whatever). We will build a large committee quickly and then let it develop on its own from their (with recommendations from current advisory board members, etc.).
What is the format of the telethon? Picture a telethon like any other you have seen on TV, but 100% online – with musicians, other entertainers, and speakers, all joining the event from their homes or wherever they happen to be. The goal is to entertain, inform, raise money, and reach more people in one day than most ever have. It works very well to break the eight hours into 10-minute blocks, but pretty much any schedule works, as long as we think it though and make it clear to everybody.
What sorts of people perform? Most tend to be musicians and we will be open to anyone who entertains or otherwise adds value – spoken word artists, poets, jugglers, clowns, comedians, acrobats, etc. Generally, we can expect the breakdown to be about 60-70% musicians and all the other categories making up the rest.
What about the message of the organization? Our recommendation is to give the first 10 minutes of every hour to a master of ceremonies, with part of their job being to share the organization’s message and the importance of donating. Our second recommendation is to give 10 minutes at the half-hour to someone specifically talking about the organization and what it does. There will also be a variety of ways to leverage social media and the screen people are watching. Virtual telethons are a powerful way to spread an organization’s message.
What does the Master of Ceremonies do? How many? Who? Masters of ceremonies do basically the same thing as with a live event – they keep things moving, provide previews of what is to come, shift focus to the charity, jump in and take over if necessary, stretch for time if there is a time hole to fill, and so on. We recommend that MCs be given the first 10 minutes of each hour, and then be available in the virtual waiting room in case they unexpectedly need to go back on camera (if a performer does not show up or something like that). Our recommendation is to have four MCs, one for each two hours (just because that is plenty of time and it will be more fun for them; and it will provide more opportunities. MCs should be people who will do a good job of entertaining and communicating; they can be anyone the organization chooses – leadership, staff, sponsor representatives, donors, or anybody.
Are performers local? Most performers will be local. We might provide one from somewhere else if they are particularly talented and will add something special to the telethon, or perhaps if it is a celebrity. Logistically, they could join the event from anywhere in the world where they have a decent internet camera.
How do you find performers? We work with people who are helping and we reach out into the community, filling holes with performers from other places if necessary or valuable. It is not difficult.
Are performers paid? No. We do not need to because this is for a good cause, they only need to give us a short time and can do it from anywhere, and they get exposure to new audiences.
Since the internet reaches out everywhere, what is the difference between local, statewide, and national telethons? Aren’t they all national? In a way, it is certainly true that any telethon has the capacity to reach pretty much everywhere in the world. The difference in the three levels, and in the price, is the difference in the way our staff will spend its time, as well as the expectation for the amount of money that can be raised. For local events, we will spend 100% of our effort locally, and so on; and as we spend our time and strategic energy on statewide and national events, the capacity for fundraising increases. Only certain kinds of organizations – those with truly statewide or national reach – make sense for the larger telethons, and we will be sure to offer our advice on what makes more sense for a specific organization. It is in our best interest to help clients make the decision that will give them the most bang for their buck.
Who is Sean Spence? Sean Spence’s career displays particular emphasis on building organizations, marketing, event production, and fundraising (having raised well over $20 million in his career). He has started and run two successful businesses – The Sunrise Agency (a marketing firm) and Community Events (event production) – served on the leadership team of a $700 million e-commerce company and worked in a variety of capacities that give him special understanding and expertise in marketing and organization building. Today, Sean is CEO of online ticketing start-up EveryEventGives and CEO of nonprofit consulting firm Better Nonprofits (parent company of Armchair Telethon).