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How One Association Saw Fundraising Success and 10x ROI With a Virtual Event in 2020

The Colorado Association of Libraries (CAL) is the common bond, voice, and power for the library community. CAL is united to advocate for quality library services, support access to information, and foster the professional development of their members.

The Colorado Association of Libraries Annual Conference (CALCON) is Colorado’s yearly conference for library staff from libraries of all types throughout Colorado and neighboring states. Attendees learn from one another and hear from current experts in trending fields. Additionally, participants can meet with vendors to check out their latest products and services and attend networking events to create new contacts and strengthen relationships.

Previous CALCON conferences focused primarily on public libraries and so the reason behind the 2020 event was to expand the program so that it’d include something for everyone - public, academic, special and school libraries and their staff.

The challenge was, of course, the global pandemic. Although CAL hoped that the event would take place in-person until the very last minute, the reality was that the venue hired for CALCON 2020 was unable to maintain social distancing rules. The alternative was to split the main event into two smaller conferences to keep distance between attendees or transition to a virtual event.

CALCON 2020 wasn’t CAL’s first time hosting an event online - in fact, a small one-day event happened shortly before the main conference in summer 2020; therefore, the team at Colorado Association of Libraries had their expectations set from day one as to what Map Dynamics virtual experience platform was to help achieve.

“CALCON went super smooth and actually getting the platform ready, the way we wanted it to be ready for the conference, took less than an afternoon for a three-day event. It was amazing.”

CALCON is a fundraising event above all; each year, the conference has a financial goal that must be met during the event to continue CAL’s advocacy efforts and keep the lights on. But it wouldn’t be possible without the reputation CALCON has built amongst professionals; for that reason, it was crucial the virtual event platform can deliver the same level of experience, learning and networking opportunities.

Simple, easy, and seamless are favorite words to describe Map Dynamics.

“Our vendors and exhibitors really appreciated the fact that they were able to advertise, not just on the exhibitor page but also in the sessions that they were sponsoring.”

To engage sponsors and exhibitors, CAL built on their existing relationships and offered time during sessions to advertise, chat through the platform for connections, and an exhibit hall game. They reduced the regular cost of attendance in half to make it more affordable, and the virtual nature made it easier for more attendees to attend and engage. 

CALCON 2020 was a huge success - and not just in terms of achieving CAL’s financial and attendee reach goals. The team at CAL found the platform “simple, easy, and seamless” to work on while creating the event and the help of Map Dynamic’s team members significant. The whole virtual experience, from technical, user experience, and team dynamic felt “phenomenal”.

Keynote speakers also appreciated how easy it was for them to set up their profiles and upload gated content that was only available to attendees that had paid for it. Even looking at the CALCON 2020 from the sponsorship opportunities perspective has left the CAL team with a positive impression.

“Our presenters got more feedback this year than they've ever gotten in years past. We had over, I would say over 600 responses on our 60 sessions!”

But let’s not forget about the attendees and how they felt about the CALCON 2020 virtual experience. Attendees reported the platform to be easy to navigate, very intuitive and simple to find & attend relevant sessions. The post-event feedback speaks for itself.

“People just like the ease of access. It didn't matter what device they were working on, they really just appreciated how easy it was to access everything and how well it integrated with Zoom”

The Colorado Association of Libraries can see their future being more virtual. Moving forward, when the threat of COVID-19 subsides, CAL would love to expand their events to add a hybrid component to amplify their current efforts.

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