Many of us have experienced the dreaded “all-nighter,” where you stay up working through the night on whatever assignment is due in the morning. I had never heard of anyone who had even remotely enjoyed pulling an all-nighter…until I attended PRoBono my freshman year. PRoBono is PRLab’s annual overnight, hack-a-thon style event where COM students volunteer to spend their entire Friday night into Saturday morning providing meaningful PR work for deserving nonprofit organizations.
This year, I’ve had the pleasure of serving as PRLab’s President of Client Service, which meant I also had the opportunity to help plan PRoBono. PRLab’s President of Operations, Rachel Rubinstein, spearheaded the event with help from Vice President Rebecca Owen and our Director of Events, Hedy Zhou.
PRoBono’s primary goal is to give back, but it’s also a fun event with lots of prizes, games, and food. There’s a level of energy and excitement of being in-person at COM overnight with your peers that I was worried we wouldn’t be able to replicate over Zoom. Lots of questions and concerns ran through my mind when Rachel and I first met to plan PRoBono.
“Would we be able to deliver the same quality of work to clients if we were online?” “Would volunteers be able to get to know each other as well over Zoom?” “Would students have as much fun?” “Would anyone really want to stare at their computer screen for 12+ hours?!”
Luckily, PRoBono’s results proved all of my doubts and concerns wrong. Here are the top three lessons I learned from planning and attending virtual PRoBono.
1) A virtual event requires just as much effort as an in-person event
PRoBono may not have required us to rent out the COM building, bring in everyone’s favorite Ben & Jerry’s treats or play a competitive round of musical chairs at three in the morning, but we had just as many logistical items to account for. We had to make sure we could host upwards of 80 people on Zoom. We had to reformat the schedule, which included giving everyone a six-hour break to combat Zoom fatigue. We had to make sure clients and students received clear communication about the event, how to contact us, and what links to go to at what times.
In the same vein, virtual events aren’t easier to show up to on the participant side either. Students could have easily chosen not to attend the event, but they showed up, even with the comfort of their own bed just feet away. Having 68 volunteers dedicate that much of their time was really special and PRoBono wouldn’t have been possible without them.
2) It’s just as fun!
Truthfully, I did not think PRoBono could be nearly as fun as it was when we were in-person. However, I was wrong. I had a blast. We played two competitive rounds of Kahoot trivia throughout the event, which made for some hilarious commentary and conversations. (Did you know cats can be allergic to humans? I didn’t.)
We also had an online scavenger hunt and team room scavenger hunts to help spark everyone’s creativity. Instead of physical prizes, first and second place winners will receive e-gift cards to Starbucks and Grubhub. Overall, I may have needed a nap afterward, but it was all worth it!
3) 2020 can’t stop us
The biggest lesson I learned from PRoBono is that despite the challenges this year has thrown our way, 2020 can’t stop us from coming together for a good cause. No matter where you are, giving back is giving back.
In total, 68 volunteers worked together for 12 hours and created 72 deliverables for our clients. The virtual nature of the event allowed us to have clients from across the globe and students were able to participate from different continents. We had a record-breaking 85% volunteer retention rate and the event concluded with incredible client feedback. Lastly, we walked away with new friends and an unforgettable experience — and for that, I am incredibly grateful.
Congratulations and thank you to all who participated in PRoBono 2020!