How The Salvation Army Took Its Mission Digital
The show must go on — digitally — for a loved 50-year tradition
For the past 150 years, The Salvation Army (TSA) has stood by the side of the poor and destitute around the world. This faith-based organization, established in London and now present in 131 countries, brings a sense of hope and dignity to families. With a small nonprofit feel, TSA offers programs ranging from social work to homeless shelters, drug rehabilitation, and seminary education. Programs for children, such as summer camps and events are a core focus for the organization. These programs are staples for children that could not otherwise afford these luxuries.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, TSA made the decision to cancel or postpone the majority of its events. These included seminary graduations, team conferences, and other community meetups. But the organization was reluctant to pause opportunities for young adults and children who are in their most formative years.
For the past 50 years, TSA has been running two back-to-back week long events, the Territory Music Institute and Youth Institute, which have both become staples in young peoples’ lives.
“These events have a long history,” says Dave Haas, digital asset manager at The Salvation Army. “They offer a lot of really cool learning opportunities for youth that they may not otherwise get. Our programs equalize everybody. There’s no status based on how much money someone makes or what their current situation in life might be. The Territory Music Institute and Youth Institute bring together young adults from different backgrounds from all different cities and countries.”
Going digital was a first for this event series and for The Salvation Army in general. Pandemic or not; however, the show needed to go on — this event has been a staple for countless children’s lives.
Replicate a real-world experience in a digital environment
Young people love The Territory Music Institute and Youth Institute because of its immersive experience. One of The Salvation Army’s goals with these two digital events was to replicate what was possible in a real life setting.
TSA, which already used Attendify for in-person events around the Southeast of the US, turned to the platform’s virtual app as a solution. The event planning team, consisting of 30 people from different sites, pre-recorded all sessions and then hosted several live ones.
TSA connected the Attendify app with branded social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to increase engagement. In addition, the TSA event planning team relied on the following features to host the event with success:
- Zoom integrations. Participants joined live workshops using Zoom, embedded within the Attendify app.
- Activity feed. Throughout the event, attendees could share photos, respond to announcements, and engage with others.
- Surveys. This feature enabled a real-time feedback loop between attendees and the TSA team.
- Notifications. The TSA team could send notifications and directly communicate with everyone in a simple way.
- Personalization. Attendees could personalize their experiences to organize tracks, filter through the schedule, and stay on top of sessions.
Haas, who holds a technical role, elaborates that Attendify’s core technology helped make the event possible.
“It’s nice that there were different security measures for how to access each event,” he says. “We could customize access permissions for each attendee, which was especially important since we were working with so many children. During the registration process, for instance, participants under 18 needed to get permission for varying levels of access — to use Zoom, for instance.”
The outcome was a well-orchestrated and smooth experience that young people around the world could enjoy.
Expand access to creative education
In total, over 600+ attendees participated in the two events.
“It felt just as busy as an in-person experience,” says Haas. “Speakers gave private lessons throughout the day, and main sessions were busy. The kids had a really easy time using the app, and we were happy to see them having fun.”
Before deciding to use Attendify, the TSA events team debated whether to host the two events at all. But constraints pushed for heightened creativity. Now that the events have concluded, TSA is thinking of making virtual events a permanent part of their programming.
Previously canceled events are now making a comeback for 2020 and 2021.
“We’re already thinking ahead and planning for next year,” says Haas. “Nothing is set in stone yet, but we are grateful to have more options than we thought we would at the onset of the pandemic.”