The EventBuzz Podcast: Hosting Virtual School Events and Fundraisers Online

Podcast speakers: Savannah McIntosh, the Purplepass Marketing Director and the Performing Arts Service Coordinator at Arcadia High School, Brittany Noriega. Jump to links and video notes below. 

The EventBuzz podcast: Arcadia Performing Arts Center

presented by Purplepass

 

Podcast Transcript: Purplepass + Arcadia Performing Arts Center

 

Savannah (Purplepass):  

Okay, welcome back on today’s episode, we’re going to be talking about how the school’s Performing Arts Center has been keeping their students engaged during the pandemic with virtual dance days online performances and fundraising opportunities.

Brittany, thanks for joining us. How are you doing today?

 

Brittany (Arcadia High School): 

Good. Thanks for having me.

 

Savannah: 

Yeah, we’re super excited to kind of break down what you guys have been doing. So let’s just start with you telling our listeners more about your school and the Art Center as well as about yourself and the role you have within within the district.

 

Brittany:

Yeah, so our venue, the Arcadia Performing Arts Center is a 1200 seat venue at a high school, and which is actually used as a classroom for the high school, believe it or not, but we also use it as a professional venue that we can rent out to people for dance shows, singing performances, we even hosted Miss California USA there.

So a lot of big events have happened in there. But initially, I was hired to implement a ticketing system for the Performing Arts Center at the high school for the rentals. So for anybody that came in, that wasn’t during a classroom time that we would rent to them. And from there, it kind of just exploded, it was very successful using Purplepass. And we thought, why don’t we, you know, include our arts programs and start taking their events within the Performing Arts Center, we did that it was completely successful.

The teachers loved it, because they didn’t have to focus on you know, selling tickets in order to get students. So it took a huge weight off their back. So I was able to take over ticketing for all of the Performing Arts Center, which is great.

Yeah, so my job kind of morphed from just taking rentals to, you know, ticketing, the whole Performing Arts Center and before the pandemic, I did registration, though, job is definitely morphed into a lot more than I initially got hired for, and initially what I expected, but it’s totally been worth it. And I definitely could not have done it without purple path as a platform to do this, especially during the pandemic. So it’s been really, really rewarding.

 

Savannah:

Yay, I’m glad I mean, like you said, it’s definitely morphed for us too, because we were we do events, and then now we’re doing registration for schools, which we originally would never even think about doing. And now it’s such a demand. So I mean, yeah, I feel like everyone’s had to adapt during this pandemic. But I mean, there’s definitely been some good outcomes through it. So, one of the big, like, the main reasons I reached out to you is because I saw that virtual hip hop class that you guys are putting on.

And then I came across a fundraiser for the dance department. And I just really liked the entire page for the fundraiser as well as like the class and just how you guys have been handling everything. And so I wanted to kind of touch on that and see if you have any more like upcoming events or future plans to put on more of these virtual activities for students and their families, which is, I thought it was amazing what you’re doing anyway, to keep them engaged.

 

Brittany:

You know, it’s been really hard during the pandemic to figure out the best way to continue these programs, you know, we can’t do the same thing as we used to do, obviously, but we’re trying to just, you know, keep things going as best that we can.

So we do have, hopefully, soon a battle of the bands, which is kind of cool. It’s scary, I guess, you know, all these bands from all over are going to be coming together. But this time, we’re going to be doing it virtually. So they’re all going to piece together their video clips, and be able to show off what the kids have been working so hard for and hope to get some donations to keep the program’s going strong.

So that’s going to be a huge thing that we’re going to do with using Purplepass for the virtual live stream. And we’re also going to be doing the virtual dance day coming up with the dance department at the end of the year, which I’m really excited to host online this year, because normally they have to cap the tickets at 100 because there’s only so many instructors that they can have, you know, with the kids. Now with having everything virtual, we kind of have an endless stream of revenue because we can host an endless amount of kids doing it online. So those 30 to 40 kids every year that end up on a waitlist for dance day. Now, they don’t have to be on a waitlist, and we can host as many kids as we want.

So between the Battle of Bands and a virtual dance day for the kids, we do have a couple more things coming out. So we’re really excited about it.

 

Savannah:

And I wanted to ask two how your Virtual Hip Hop class wit and that was last week, right?

 

Brittany:

Yeah, you know it the Virtual Hip Hop, excuse me, I’m sorry, the class is great. The kids that attended have so much fun. And this year was the first one that was specifically choreographed for the level at the middle schools. I would say because our market was smaller than dance day, which has kids from, you know, kindergarten to, I think seniors, it goes as far as up to seniors in high school, I would focus more on marketing advertising for them.

I told the director next time, you know, we need to send out an email blast to the parents directly, instead of the teachers announcing it during class, I would even tap into the middle schools outside of our district in local dance studios.

So overall, I would just say that more and more advertising, since our capacity is literally endless. But overall, the class went really well. But I definitely next I want to increase sales and visibility also helps our program too, getting kids to look forward to you know, going to high school and being a part of the dance team.

 

Savannah:

Yeah, was that your first, um, virtual event?

 

Brittany: 

Yeah, it was, yeah, it was a little bit scary, you know, hosting. If you’ve never done it before, you kind of don’t know how it’s gonna end up. But it went great.

They actually had a really good time. And like I said, we could have an endless capacity, so able to fundraise, and it is a fundraiser for the dance department. So being able to fundraise as much as we can is, is really helpful, so it might be scary at first, but it’s totally worth it. And the kids love it.

 

Savannah:

So like you said, since it’s your first time, the next time around, you’re probably going to focus more on the marketing aspect and really pushing it out to the parents. Right?

 

Brittany:

Yeah. From the teachers just announcing it in class, like, “Hey, kids, if you want to do hip hop, you know, here’s a flyer to take home”, you know, sometimes it doesn’t always work. So I think what’s great with Purplepass, because we’re able to collect so much data, as far as email addresses and stuff. So we can send out you know, an email blast here and there, when we have events, I think next time, that’ll really help us increase our sales and visibility.

 

Savannah:

And I wanted to ask you to what software are you guys using? Because I know you mentioned too the battle of the bands, which I’m curious how that’s gonna work, because that’s a lot of people that you have to like stream in. So what software do you guys use for that?

 

Brittany:

So previously, for the hip hop, we didn’t have like a YouTube or Vimeo or anything like that yet, through the punches, so they use the Zoom link for that, which we sent on the receipt. But for the Battle of Bands, one, we’re actually looking into using YouTube to stream that and add advertisements and sponsors and stuff like that. And then use Purplepass to manage the links and the sales and stuff.

So we’re still in the process of finding the perfect streaming platform because there’s so many options and stuff. And we want something that really will work well with Purplepass and what we need it for. So we’re still looking, but right now it looks like we’re going towards YouTube.

 

Savannah:

Yeah, I always like to ask that question. Just because I know, there are so many options out there. And everyone is, we’re all in the same boat. We’re trying to switch to online and no one knows what’s happening. I just like to include that because everyone uses different software’s, and they all have different benefits.

 

Brittany:

Right, right,

 

Savannah:

It’s crazy. We’re all figuring it out. And we’re all doing a great job, but there’s so many things out there that you can consider.

 

Brittany:

That’s true, that’s very true.

 

Savannah:

And so I mean, you’ve done the first virtual event and now you’re getting ready to plan these upcoming ones. What has been so far your overall experience with going from coordinating and planning in person events to hosting and handling everything online now?

 

Brittany:

I will say as much as I miss the excitement of being in person and you know, managing our team and making sure our clients are happy and you know, focusing on guest experience in the venue. These shows and events online has been super easy you know, and it’s a plus that I can work on more events at once you know. At in person events I’m focusing on one client one event four hours in a day when it’s virtual, I can host multiple events and get a jumpstart on reconciling the funds as soon as the ticket sales are over.

And so you know, as soon as the show begins I can just you know start with the finances and get the get everything started so it’s definitely a plus to have it virtual. But you know that in person experience is always fun, and I do miss I do miss it. But I do get a lot more work done when things are virtual.

 

Savannah:

Yeah, I feel like after talking to people, they’re definitely calling In the middle, because it’s, it’s like, it’s so much easier and you can reach so much more people and you’re doing everything online. But then you do miss those social interactions and connections that in person events have. It’s like a bittersweet thing.

And I know you said, and I saw recently that you use Purplepass for your student registration. And looking through it, you guys didn’t just use it for class signups, but like merchandise sales, Senior shirts, booster clubs, membership signup opportunities. So I was wondering if you could tell me a little more about building your registration and why you chose to include what you did?

 

Brittany:

Yeah, so normally, they have in person registration fees that lasts about a week since they’re like over 3000 kids alone at the high school. And they each have to go from station to station with a checklist and get all the things they need for the start of the year. So basically, I use their checklist from last year, and I figured out how I can use Purplepass as a registration platform.

The game changer for me to host registration was definitely the option use custom questions. If a parent registers more than one student, we had to know who got what items and what shirts belong to what students so the custom questions really helped registration during their distribution process.

And organizing thousands of students to pick up their items through a drive-up is hard enough to coordinate in itself, let alone making sure that we order all the appropriate items from our vendors, and making sure that they get all their appropriate items. So building it was a little bit difficult, because we have multiple organizations with in the high school that use Purplepass for registration.

But overall, everything worked out great. It took a little while to set up but definitely using the custom questions. And the sub questions really eliminated a lot of potential confusion and frustration for distribution. So I know this was the first time we had to do it. And it was kind of a rush, because of the situation that we’ve been in with a pandemic. But next year, when we do registration, it’s going to be a million times easier.

So I’m really looking forward to next year when it’s absolutely seamless, and I’ve got a good grasp on how to make registration better. So yeah, we’re really lucky to have Purplepass for this.

 

Savannah:

Yeah. And like you said, it makes sense. It would take that long or be kind of extensive because your guys’s registration covered everything, which is great, but you have a lot of stuff and I’m glad it worked out how it did.

And then going to the other thing I saw was that you guys are doing the fundraisers for? Was it your dance department?

 

Brittany:

Yeah, we’re doing apparel, one reason for dance right now.

 

Savannah:

And I loved how that was set up. Because you guys, you you got created like a, like an infographic almost. And you guys kind of laid out exactly like the sizes and stuff. I liked how you did that. Um, and I wanted to mention how you guys are doing the fundraisers, because most people don’t really realize when using like Purplepass or any ticketing software, that it can they can get creative and expand it beyond events. And that’s what you guys are doing. You’re using it for donations and to keep your department alive, especially now it is crucial.

And so merchandise sales and donation like opportunities are something your school is something your school has been doing online. So I wanted to just see how that has been going for you guys as well and kind of talk about that, because I know other promoters and schools out there are curious as to how they can also bring in donations.

 

Brittany:

Yeah, you know, it’s kind of a scary time, like you said, with the pandemic and people not really knowing you know which way to go and what’s happening. So this has been a huge opportunity for us. And it’s been absolutely amazing in our district. So most of the time, the students have a lot of fundraising events in person in person, which generates a lot of money for their programs. And being that we’re all virtual right now the departments are still able to do fundraisers with Purplepass, we’re doing a lot of apparel fundraisers, which has been really awesome.

The students are really proud to wear their own merchandise that they can, you know, be proud of, and show off and show what they’re involved in. Selling merchandise online is really cool. And it’s, you know, it’s kind of like each department within the school has their own personal online store, which they really like sharing the link and go to the website. And it’s, the kids actually love it too.

So and the band department is able to sell memberships that are essentially donations to their programs, which our programs are still going to run strong this year through the you know, tragedy of the pandemic and all because Purplepass is not just a ticketing platform for venues, there’s just you kind of got to get used to how the program works and figure out what options will work for you best when you’re selling things other than tickets.

And, you know, I don’t know that we would be able to bring in as much income as we have been able to for our programs without the use of Purplepass for merchandise and fundraising. And it’s so easy. I mean, it’s a little bit overwhelming at first, but once you get into it, it is so easy to set up an event and send out the links and post it to a website.

So we’re really grateful to have an online platform this year.

 

Savannah:

I’m super happy that that’s working for you guys. Do you have any other suggestions for coordinators, doing the same thing as you guys selling merchandise online for the first time, or putting out fundraisers similar to you guys?

 

Brittany:

Um, let’s see two things that I definitely learned of initially figuring out the best way to display the fees, and the fees are so minimal. But when you have a low price item, I would suggest including the fees, up your price, so include the fees and the price of the item. So if you’re, you know, t shirts, or $5, or something selling for $6, include the fee in there, because when you’re paying such a low price, and then you see an addition on top, sometimes in the consumers mind, it’s kind of like why am I being this extra fee.

So for marketing purposes, I would say just included in there.

And for your higher priced items, go ahead and add the fees. Separate from it, you know, we all pay fees for things you know, as far as you know, going to grub, getting Grub Hub and like that. So we’re always paying fees and stuff and being the additional for the convenience. So I would say definitely adjust the fees to what works best for that event, or whatever you’re selling.

And then the last thing just kind of crucial for me, always test your events first. You don’t have to make a purchase on whatever you’re selling. But once you set up the custom questions, make sure you go to the site as if you were a customer, and make sure the questions are populating the way you want them to. I had you know my first time using it, I added to any custom questions, and the customers had to type in all of their information or item instead of per order. So if they bought, you know, five items, they had to type in their first name, their last name.

I know, the first few customers were essentially really annoyed with which I had to call in, you know, tell them that it was a user error on my end, but you know, make sure that it’s a required field for the for the actual order and that your customers are seeing the most convenient way to purchase the items. Otherwise, you might have a couple phone calls. So luckily, somebody called me pretty quick. And I was able to fix it really, really fast. But um, yeah, I would definitely test your events and make sure that your fees make sense to the consumer.

 

Savannah:

That’s a good advice. And I I hope to like all of our consumers and people that are like going to your events or using your registration, hopefully everyone kind of is more relaxed and understanding because we’re all trying to figure it out. And I think I think they are right now. And that’s why I tell people don’t be afraid to kind of like, test out and try virtual events, rather than doing nothing. Because I think people are very understanding right now. And they know that everything’s different. And we’re trying to kind of adapt.

So I wanted to ask my last question. What would be like one thing you would say to someone maybe in your position that is thinking about, they haven’t done it yet, but they’re thinking about doing a virtual event for their students something even a small one, just to kind of boost engagement, what would be like, your one piece of advice for them before they get started?

 

Brittany:

Oh man, I would say just go for it. I mean, you’re gonna learn as you go. Purplepass is one of those things that you set up an event, you know, you get to the end of it, you start, you start setting it up, you figure out what your client or what the event needs. You host a virtual event, it ends you get the reports. And it might be a little bit not what you expected, but you have to do it in order to learn from it.

So if you make mistakes along the way, the program’s really forgiving. And it’s only going to get better and the more familiar you are with a program, it’s going to be so much more efficient for you afterwards.

So I would say trial and error, just go for it. And if you have questions, Purplepass is amazing. As far as their customer service, when I get stuck on something and something’s not populating the way I want. I just call and ask they teach me they run through it. And that’s that, you know, once the event finishes, definitely reflect back on what you’re doing and make it better the next time. Our events are getting more detailed and a lot better, just from the fact that I’m practicing doing it. So just take the chance Just do it. You might make some mistakes along the way. But as long as you have good customer service.

 

Savannah:

Yay, I’m glad our customer service is great. And yeah, you’re right, just go for it. And unfortunately, mistakes are the only way we learn so we got to make them so we can’t be afraid of them but awesome advice. Thanks for talking to me today. I really appreciate it and I hope that your next events coming up goes just as smoothly, if not better.

 

Brittany:

Yes, thank you so much.



Video notes and links

Arcadia Performing Arts Center: 

Arcadia Performing Arts Center (venue)

Arcadia High School

*** Current events on Purplepass

Arcadia High School Orchesis Dance Company

 

Software/Streaming: 

Zoom

Vimeo

 

Purplepass support articles:  

Building your student registration

Using custom questions

Purplepass’ merchandise and advanced selling mode

How to collect donations