Building Healthy Communities (BHC) is a 10-year community initiative, launched by The California Endowment in 2010. BHC is dedicated to transforming 14 of California’s communities affected by health inequities. To celebrate the project’s 5-year mark, The California Endowment planned a 2.5-day conference, BHC Statewide Convening. The goal of the conference was to update attendees on BHC initiatives and progress, as well as create momentum to take the project through its final five years.
To celebrate the project’s 5-year mark, The California Endowment planned a 2.5-day conference, BHC Statewide Convening. The goal of the conference was to update attendees on BHC initiatives and progress, as well as create momentum to take the project through its final five years.
Previous California Endowment events hosted approximately 150 attendees. This year, BHC Statewide Convening invited more than 650 guests, opening the doors to grantee stakeholders, extended staff and local officials. An event of this scale was a first for the organization, so they enlisted the help of Christopher Pulido, Founder of the event-planning business Details by CP.
His main role was to work with their internal teams, external grantees and event vendors in order to tackle the unique challenge of serving a large and diverse audience.
“The challenge was bringing together non-profit presidents, as well as community youth, leaders and members, and even elected officials. How would we meet all their needs and help them see the value of being in the same space where they can learn and influence each other?”
Another goal for the conference was to help attendees build connections and foster ongoing relationships, and this intention was cemented into the conference schedule and overall design.
“We had a design firm assist in building the visual space,” said Pulido. “There were 20 to 30 minute unstructured networking breaks, allowing [attendees] to interact with each other over coffee. We brought in different furniture settings to help facilitate that.” Sets and sculptures were created out of printed cardboard, relaxation areas were designed, and a colorful exhibit space was set up for BHC’s 14 community projects. “It was not what you would expect to see, hear or feel at a traditional convening meeting. This event was much more visually appealing and included entertainment, performances, and music.” The event also aimed to encourage questions, conversation, photography, and, of course, social media engagement — an important part of the organization’s broader strategy.
Initially, The California Endowment considered printing a yearbook with attendee photographs and professional information to provide visual support and help create lasting relationships, but Pulido wanted a better solution
“These days, that’s not practical. Printing costs would be astronomical, and gathering all that information would be a feat in itself.” He recommended they find an event app instead.
Afer reaching out to other organizations that had tried various event apps, and setting up vendor demos with some of their favorites, Pulido and his team ultimately chose Attendify.
Pulido created a backwards timeline for publishing and promoting their app by using Attendify’s online setup and promotion guides. “The app provided templates we could fill out and upload, so getting the content we needed in there wasn’t difficult. It was designed to help facilitate the social media components,” he said. The Attendify team then trained Pulido and 18 team members on the app. As a result, they were able to encourage app engagement on the event floor and troubleshoot any potential issues.
Once the app was built, The California Endowment staff and consultants were the first to create their profiles. The staff seeded content, ensuring that by the time the app was live and promoted to all 650 attendees, there were already multiple posts and profiles in the activity stream.
“We started a buzz in the week leading up to the event. We took photos and posted things like, ‘I’m looking forward to my session,’ or ‘just landed,’” said Pulido. “It got everybody online sooner. By the time we were on site, we had more than 100 attendees already engaged in the app.”
The seeded content, along with Pulido’s “army” of 18 social media and app representatives on the show floor, resulted in almost 600 active users. Engagement was high, and the visually interesting backdrop of the event supported social posts. “A large portion of our attendees were under 30 and already engaged with social media. They were there taking selfies, group photos and posting pictures using hashtags. The environment was a fun and lively space, so it just tied right in.”
Throughout the event, the organizing team used the app to not only send push notifications; they also asked attendees to rate sessions, and attached links and powerpoint presentations to session information.
According to Pulido, the BHC event was a hit. “It was unique, appealing and just not your typical conference. The energy level was fun and engaging, and it was an important learning opportunity for the organization.” Pulido plans to share the app with nonprofits, especially those on a budget that are looking for better alternatives to printed collateral.