We just wrapped up the Frontend Horse Holiday Snowtacular, and I couldn’t be more proud of our community coming together to raise money for a great cause. I want to go through some of the details around planning the event, what we learned, and what I want to shoot for next time.
This year, we raised over $17,000 for Doctors Without Borders, and here’s a breakdown of the numbers:
- We raised over $17,000
- $8,101 from viewer donations, matched by our sponsors for another $8,101
- Clerk, Netlify, and Xata gave an extra $380 each
- 1,064 unique viewers tuned in
- 47,498 minutes watched in total
- 101 donations were made
- 536 event signups on Luma
Choosing the charity
It’s important to us that the charity has a global impact. Our community isn’t focused on one country or part of the world, so our charity shouldn’t be either. Doctors Without Borders has an A grade on Charity Watch, is helping in places like Ukraine, and is well known and reputable.
There were many great charities to choose from, and at the end of the day, we just had to pick one that resonated with us.
When selecting guests for the show, I focused on inviting people who are positive and community-focused. The Frontend Horse community has a very specific vibe – we try to keep things light-hearted, positive, and drama-free. So for the holiday show, I wanted to invite guests who fit that vibe.
Additionally, for a fundraiser event like this, it’s important to choose guests who will bring an audience. Guests with large followings make it easier to get sponsors on board, and the more people who show up, the more money we can raise.
We had twelve guests, on for 18 minutes each. There’s a small two minute break between each guest, and a ten minute intermission in the middle. This way we’re able to pack a dozen great guests into a 4 hour show!
Guests were able to talk about whatever they’d like. Some gave talks, others had conversations with me, and others did code demos. It made for a great variety show, with the audience chatting and donating throughout.
The fundraiser is effective because sponsors match donations, doubling anything our audience gives up to a certain amount. This year, five sponsors agreed to match up to $2,000 in donations.
I work at Prismic, and they’re the reason this event exists at all. They gave me the time and resources to create the event, and have been incredibly supportive as sponsors.
Early on, James Perkins from Clerk reached out to me and asked how they could help. I sent him the sponsorship info and they were on board the next day.
Domitrius from Netlify reached out and offered to help the next day. He also reached out to Rizèl from GitHub to see if GitHub could sponsor. The guy has connections.
I met the fine folks at Xata while at the Jamstack Conference earlier this year, so I reached out to Alex F. and he responded that they were happy to support the cause.
I had a lot of help from the Frontend Horse community. They suggested speakers, secured sponsors, and volunteered their time for the website, graphics, and animations. They also moderated the event’s chat.
My main tasks were administrative, such as reaching out to sponsors and guests. These were tasks I didn’t want to hand off.
I tried to organize tasks with GitHub issues, though I’m not sure how helpful that was. It took about a day to create the tickets, in the hopes that more people would get involved. However, most of the discussion happened through Discord chat and GitHub PRs.
One of the things that makes the Holiday Snowtacular really stand out is the gorgeous 3d modeling work that goes into our introduction and promotional material. That’s all done by our community member Leif Niemczik. Last year he modeled me and our horse mascot Neighthan riding through the snow. This year we reused those models and added gingerbread houses which he created with gorgeous details.
We need people to attend in order to donate, so promoting the event is key. Some aspects went better than others.
Twitter was the main way we promoted the event last year, so the platform imploding just before we started to promote the event wasn’t great. Engagement was lower than last year, as people have left Twitter for different spaces like Mastodon.
Still, we made tweets for each one of our guests, sponsors, and many promoting the show as a whole. Lots of wonderful people retweeted and helped promote it there. Cassie Evans made a great promo video with her beloved dog Brody to promote the event.
Blogs and newsletters
We had folks talking about the show in a few different places. Our guest Kevin Powell included promo for it in his newsletter. Sacha Greif included it on Sidebar.io, and Geoff Graham wrote about it on CSS-Tricks. I also sent out an issue of the Frontend Horse newsletter about the event.
Andrew from the popular Carbon Ads network was kind enough to reach out and offer ad spots that got placed on sites like the Bootstrap and Laravel documentation. I really appreciate him promoting our event across so many high traffic sites.
I wanted to create a show where multiple communities could come together for a good cause. My idea was to get “Community Partners” to promote their Discord community and encourage people to join. In turn, that community would promote the show internally, helping to grow their numbers and come together for an event they’d be interested in, thus increasing the show’s audience.
I had an idea for communities to create 60 second videos that we would play during the show’s intermission. These videos would wish people happy holidays, encourage donation, and allow for them to promote the community. With 5 or so communities coming together for one event, it would encourage members to check out each community, and strengthen bonds between them.
Unfortunately, my execution wasn’t great and I didn’t give enough notice or support to these wonderful community members.
I believe it’s a great idea and I’d like to give it a go next time, making it simpler for community managers to get involved and receive more assistance than they did this time.
I have a lot of plans going forward with future fundraiser events.
In the tradition of open source, I want to borrow the pattern of having core team members, while working in the open and encouraging anyone to help out and participate. Ryan Trimble, Ben Myers, and Leif Niemczik helped immensely. Having a core team should make a lot of things easier.
Start working earlier
The show would have been better and less stressful if I had started working on everything months earlier. This is a common issue for me. I hope for the next one, friends and core team members can help me set deadlines that make it less hectic in the final weeks.
Work in iterations
I’d also work in iterations, rather than perfecting one thing at a time. Especially with the stream visuals, we were building every piece to completion when other entire scenes hadn’t been designed yet. Getting MVP versions of each component done and worrying about animations later would have made for a better end result. Next time we’ll build skateboards.
We can also improve our marketing. We could have built hype much further out, giving people a full month of teasers and reminders. Companies like Vercel are very good at this, and I want to steal some things from their playbook.
Promotion from blogs and newsletters is a huge help. Reaching out to creators and newsletters to help us promote might bring in a whole new audience for us. CSS-Tricks wrote an article on the event and it brought a ton of traffic.
Reaching out to some of the wonderful newsletters and blogs in our space to help promote would go a long way.
More than a livestream
I want the Holiday Snowtacular to feel like a show, not just a livestream. I want to lean in to the inspiration of the TV Christmas specials. The host gets visited by different guests throughout the hour, often to perform or sing a song.
I’d love to be in character, especially for the parts between guests, with a story that ties the show together. I could be in a cottage for the holidays when unexpected friends come to visit and share some holiday cheer. Or I go “door to door” and deliver presents to each of our guests.
I want to write fun introductions for each guest and maybe even have sketches or bits throughout the show. The guests have such wonderful segments, and I’d like to elevate my time alone to make the entire show non-stop fun.
More community participation
I had ideas for how to bring together multiple Discord communities for this show, but I made a few missteps in terms of what to ask them for, how to organize it, and so on. There are also ways I could improve how my community engaged with the project.
I’m not sure if or how I want to change the format just yet, but I want to explore some possibilities. Here’s some potential changes:
- More guests
- Change the amount of time for each guest and the breaks inbetween
- A longer show with pre-recorded segments instead of an intermission
- A second day of guests and events
We couldn’t have done it without the generous donations from our viewers and the support of our sponsors. I can’t overstate how incredible it is to have raised over $17,000 for Doctors Without Borders.
We’d also like to thank all of the guests who participated in the show. Their enthusiasm and willingness to share their time and knowledge is what brought us all together.
Finally, I’d like to extend a huge thank you to the entire Frontend Horse community. From those who volunteered their time and skills to those who simply tuned in and donated, your support made the event possible. We couldn’t have done it without you!
I hope you had as much fun watching the event as we had putting it together, and we can’t wait to do it all again next year. Happy Holidays!