A few years ago, a group of friends started talking on Twitter about organizing a Christmas party to help Toronto’s hungry; within less than a month, HoHoTO, a huge party and fundraising event, went from idea to incredibly successful execution. Using Twitter, Facebook and email, the organizers kicked off a process that brought together more than 600 people from the local tech, media, digital marketing, social media and PR communities and which raised $25,000 in the first year alone.

“In 2008, organizations were cancelling Christmas parties, so we thought, why not throw together a gigantic party for everyone. HoHoTO came together very organically, out of a tweet that led to a meeting, and then to a fantastic event in support of Toronto’s startup and tech scene and Daily Bread,” explains Elena Yunusov, co-organizer. “We remain thrilled to have worked with Daily Bread and glad they were open to our way of doing HoHoTO.”

Daily Bread Food Bank is a Toronto nonprofit, fighting hunger by supporting neighbourhood food banks and meal programs in over 170 member agencies. The organization relies on community support, including third party events, to provide their programs and services. In fact, Daily Bread benefits from the support of hundreds of third party events each year, which is why they had the process in place to immediately support the HoHoTO organizers when the 2008 event came together so quickly.

Protecting the organization’s brand

“One of the challenges an organization faces when working with third party organizers, from a marketing perspective, is protection of our brand identity,” explains Sarah Anderson, Senior Manager, Communications and Marketing at Daily Bread. “We have a registration process for community organizers and as part of that process we provide our third party event logo and messaging information including boilerplate copy. We also provide basic statistics and information about Daily Bread and about hunger in Toronto to help organizers make the linkage to the cause.”

Anderson explains that Daily Bread’s approach when working with third party event organizers is to support them with tools that will help them succeed, while protecting the Daily Bread brand – a process that worked well for HoHoTO: “Daily Bread was, and continues to be very open to working with us and has provided logos, materials, etc. It really feels like a collaborative effort,” says Yunusov.

A stepwise approach

To effectively deploy limited resources, Daily Bread has a somewhat stepwise approach to third party events. According to Anderson, the first years are treated as an incubation period where basic tools and information are provided, and Daily Bread staff are otherwise ‘hands-off’, allowing organizers to work through their objectives and planning. If an event proves to be successful, Daily Bread will put additional available resources into supporting the growth of the event – while always being mindful that staff need to be available for the organization’s own activities.

“In HoHoTO’s first year, it all came together so quickly and Daily Bread happened to be the grateful beneficiary. It was a perfect storm of influential people on social media building buzz, leveraging online collaboration tools and creating an event that speaks to both their audience and corporate sponsors,” says Anderson. “Now an annual event, HoHoTO has regularly been one of Daily Bread’s most successful third-party events, placing in our Top 10 lists for three years in a row and raising more than $225,000 since 2008. ”

“In addition to raising funds and food for local families, HoHoTO has helped to raise awareness of hunger as a problem in Toronto; the organizers are great about doing this during the event. HoHoTO has also brought a new group of supporters into the mix for Daily Bread, including younger donors and new corporate sponsors that support the event. Usually, we don’t hear from those supporters who have volunteered for us during high school until about ten years later when they are more established in their careers. Some of the HoHoTO crowd comes from within that gap and our challenge is to engage with them and inspire them to continue to support the organization and continue to reach out to younger, or more tech-savvy donors, by growing our online presence.”

Advice from both sides

There is a certain amount of trust involved in third party events, according to Anderson, a need to put processes in place, while being able to let go: “With any third-party event, we have to balance our ‘hands-off’ approach with the need for accountability so that all supporters can be assured that their donations are being used effectively and for their intended purpose. However, third party events are meant to support the organization while allowing our team to focus on our own efforts. The HoHoTO team is strong on pretty much everything, making it easier for us to do just that. We really appreciate all of the hard work these very busy people are putting into organizing such a huge event.”

As an organizer, Yunusov has advice for nonprofits, “Be open to working with community organizers. Do your due diligence, but don’t make us jump through hoops. Clear the way for amazing things to happen.”

Marlene Oliveira

Marlene Oliveira

Communications advisor and copywriter at moflow
Marlene Oliveira is communications consultant and copywriter at moflow and founder of the Nonprofit MarCommunity blog. Having worked in the nonprofit sector since 1999, Marlene specializes in working with capacity building and grant-making organizations, advising on communications strategy, and writing stories and other content.
Marlene Oliveira
Marlene Oliveira