Doing something as simple as upgrading how your organization communicates can sometimes go a long way. Just ask Grace Powell, Executive Committee Board Member at the Jamaican American Association of Central Florida (JAAOCF).
Powell proposed to adopt BlueJeans Meetings so JAAOCF members could stay connected without seeing each other in person. This decision would help the small non-profit stay afloat and even thrive during the pandemic.
Based in Orlando, Florida, JAAOCF provides college scholarships to students of Jamaican heritage in the United States and Jamaica. It raises funds through events like an annual tea party and a gala celebrating Jamaican Independence Day — and by asking for sponsorship from organizations and community members.
“We try to get sponsors in any way we can, but it’s not easy,” says Powell.
Beating the Fundraising Doldrums
Raising money became harder for a lot of non-profits when governments started rolling out lockdowns and restrictions in 2020. Fortunately for JAAOCF, it was able to quickly turn much of its operations, planning, and fundraising online, continuing to get work done despite the crisis.
Powell had earlier signed up to BlueJeans Meetings to make communication among members — and within committees — easier. “I used BlueJeans at work and I knew how good and easy it was to use. I thought it would be great for keeping us all connected.”
By moving their meetings to BlueJeans’ video conferencing platform, the committees planned and coordinated their events as usual.
“We continued to reach out and present to potential sponsors for our scholarship program. And we managed to celebrate all our events virtually in 2020 and 2021.”
These events include a tea party fundraiser, a Christmas banquet, and the Jamaica Independence and Scholarship Awards Celebration. “For the tea party, everyone went online, enjoyed their tea and refreshments, and had a light conversation. Then we chose who had the best tea set.”
To reach more viewers, the committees streamed the events on Facebook via BlueJeans Meetings. They ended up raising more money than they ever had.
“Normally, we would give away three scholarships a year,” says Powell. “But in 2020 and 2021, we were able to get the word out faster about our scholarship program across the country and internationally, so more sponsors came forward.”
As a result, the association gave nine scholarships in 2021, the most it has awarded in any year. It also gave out nine in 2020, with four of them in the form of laptops.
“Thank God for BlueJeans, we were able to fundraise virtually.”
Attracting More Members
BlueJeans Meetings was also instrumental to JAAOCF’s successful vaccination drive for community members. It used the platform to hold meetings with doctors, pharmacists, and members to plan for the event.
“We had regular meetings within our team to develop materials to promote the event, helping us ensure it would be a success.”
As JAAOCF gears up to celebrate Jamaica’s 60 years of independence in August this year, BlueJeans Meetings came in handy for planning as well as preparing debutantes for a special ball.
“We had a workshop where we taught participants etiquette, poise, appropriate clothing to wear, and more.”
All these virtual activities helped the association grow its membership. About 20 new members joined in 2021, more than six times the average year.
“The best part of that is now we have international membership. In fact, we just got our first overseas member, who’s based in London.”
Sticking with BlueJeans
BlueJeans continues to be JAAOCF’s platform of choice as the association moves back to in-person gatherings. In particular, it is using the solution for entertainment and fundraising committee meetings.
“We have several activities to plan and coordinate, including a health fair, a thanksgiving event, our Christmas Party, and giving out Christmas gifts to a shelter for women. We’ll use BlueJeans to prepare for all that,” says Powell.
“Through BlueJeans, we found ways to continue meeting and doing our activities the past two years. And because of that, we were able to serve our community during such a difficult time.”