St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital pivoted when Covid-19 canceled their annual summit and you can too!

On March 9th St. Jude announced that the annual in-person Play Live Summit would need to be replaced with an all new digital experience due to the growing concerns of the novel coronavirus, Covid-19. 

The St. Jude Play Live Summit is a tradition that started in 2015 with 15 individuals (crying and) walking the halls of the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Since then the summit has become a gathering kindred spirits who believe in the mission of St. Jude.

The fist St. Jude Play Live Summit | Spring 2015

That belief in the St. Jude mission and the impact of seeing the work and research done at the hospital has given thousands of influencers the power of authentic story telling and last year in the month of May those same influencers crushed a $2 million community goal.

So with the summit cancelled St. Jude pivoted quickly and created an amazing “summit in a box”.

Inside the box are tools to learn about St. Jude, things to share with your community, and fundraising challenge tools.

St. Jude didn’t need to go as far as providing fundraising challenge tools (incentives/rewards). They could have sent a much smaller box focused on just providing learning materials focused on St. Jude and their mission.

The VR experience showcasing a “no more chemo” party (my personal favorite) and AR patient artwork was more than enough to pull at my heartstrings.

Instead of just asking influencers to fundraise for them, they took the time to set them up for success. You likely have heard me talk about impact statements and St. Jude arms their influencers to the teeth with them.

The summit in a box included all the supplies for influencers to include the fundamental donation incentives. Most seasoned influencers already have these items on hand.

Take aways

It is unrealistic to expect that a “summit in a box” is something your nonprofit will be able to execute on right off the get-go; however, there are key learnings you can take back to your team.

All of the creative ideas you have ever wanted to try are now possible with influencers.

One of the biggest wins you get to experience when it comes to working with influencers is all of the crazy online fundraising ideas you have wanted to try are within reach. This does not mean they will all be a hit success but it opens the door to outside the box programs.

St. Jude created an experience that, while it replaced their in person summit this year, has the ability to be recreated and used in during other influencer fundraising campaigns.

Setting up influencers to succeed is key.

Perhaps one of the most asked questions I get is, “The information is freely available on our website. Why would I need to create separate or additional resources for influencers?”

First – if you do not make it easy for influencers to fundraise for you they are likely to pick another charity who has taken the steps to set them up for success.

Secondly – just like you would create a package of fundraising tools and information for your run/walk or birthday program demographics you would also create a package of tools that would fit the demographics of the influencer.

Influencers know their audience better than you do.

St. Jude took the time to prepare a bunch of tools and information and some influencers will use exactly zero of the tools provided. Maybe it doesn’t fit their style but it is important to provide all the resources for those who might use the tools.

For example, when I work on fundraising campaigns I personally take the time to curate my list of impact statements and build a campaign around them. I am unlikely to use the charity’s logo or even need to communicate with the charity.

In other cases the influencer may want to run everything they do by you even if only to validate their efforts.

Influencers come in all shapes and sizes, their approaches are far and wide but in the end they know their audience better than you do. They built it.

So take a page out of St. Jude’s book and brainstorm ideas how you can take your program to the next level.

If you’re looking to connect with Twitch you can reach out directly using If you’d like to discuss your program in more detail outside of how it works with just Twitch please feel free to reach out to me outside of Twitch.