St. David's Foundation: Toast of the Town

About the project

A thirty-years-running tradition in Austin philanthropy, Toast of the Town is an annual series of small-group parties where celebrated authors, musicians, and academics mingle with donors and hosts in private homes across the city. It's an intimate, up-close experience, and it's the antithesis of Zoom.

Asked initially to create a microsite promoting 2021's Covid-safe, online-only series, we soon found ourselves building the very platform on which the Toast of the Town virtual events would run, and serving as Creative Director for the thirteen-part series.

It was easy to assemble a list of everything people didn't like about online fundraisers they'd attended: with gimmicky features meant to mimic the gala experience, the go-to off-the-shelf platforms somehow managed to amplify the isolated, at-home reality. So, inspired by the 2021 Inauguration Day livestream, we set out to create an experience that could be shared by small groups of friends, without huddling around a laptop or being tethered to their mobile devices. We wanted these parties to be on the big screen.

With special guests like Clint Black, Kathy Valentine, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Nancy Wilson, and H.W. Brands, all thirteen of the Toast of the Town events streamed live on our FLOW STUDIOS custom TV app, which guests downloaded in advance to their Apple TV, Fire Stick, and Roku devices. Using their phone or laptop, guests could check in with each other on a custom page with features like a dynamically updating gallery of photos, a text chat, and an invitation to join the stream in a one-on-one video Q&A. The series was a huge success, raising record donations and attracting talent who would have otherwise been out of reach in an in-person format.

Live Stream Excerpts:

Toast Escapes: Life at the Lakehouse (excerpt)
Country Music Legend Clint Black: Jersey Boy

Kathy Valentine of the Go-Go's: The Three Ps

BBQ and Bourbon with The Daytripper

Flight Night with Jeffrey's sommelier Anthony Schlotzhauer
Authentically Austin

Kathy Valentine of the Go-Go's: The Good Stuff

A Deep Dive Into National Security
With General Vince Brooks, Professor Robert Chesney, and Professor William Inboden

The Texas Observer: 2021 MOLLY Awards

About the project

Investigative news outlet The Texas Observer is a nonprofit newsroom with deep roots in progressive Texas journalism. Legendary columnist Molly Ivins served as co-editor of the magazine in the 1970s, and the publication now honors her memory with an eponymously named awards show. The annual event is central to the organization's fundraising strategy, so it was critical that in the absence of a live event, they offer prospective donors a rich virtual experience.

We anchored the show with a series of pre-taped roundtable discussions with writers and editors from the Observer. Shouting out donations in real-time and presenting awards to honorees who joined remotely, Becky Bullard and Ashley Cheng co-hosted the show live from our South Congress studio in Austin.

Live Stream Excerpts:

A half hour live DJ set culminated in this countdown sequence, in which Texas Democratic luminaries welcome guests to the fundraiser.
Excerpt: EmCees | About the Observer
Nominee reel and acceptance speech from Kyle Whitmire, winner of the 2021 MOLLY Award for Political Commentary.
Nominee Reel: Investigative Journalism MOLLY Award