How an Association’s Standalone Virtual Health Challenge Checked a Few Important Boxes

After being forced to cancel its annual in-person meeting, the American Association of Endodontists took a unique approach to digitally convening its members and corporate partners without trying to recreate its event online.

Author: Casey Gale       

Virtual Health challenge

After canceling its annual in-person event, the American Association of Endodontists launched the 2020 Endo Wellness Challenge for its members on a Heka Health app that kept track of participants’ progress and gave sponsors a chance to connect.

Like most organizations, the American Association of Endodontists (AAE) was forced to cancel its annual in-person meeting in 2020. AAE was scheduled to meet in Nashville, Tennessee, April 1-4, just as COVID lockdowns were becoming widespread.

Tanya Kinsman, assistant executive director, meetings and continuing education, knew that without the annual meeting, a lot of key connections between members and the association and corporate partners would be lost. In addition, fundraising opportunities for AAE’s Foundation for Endodontics would dry up.

“Our annual meeting really provides a huge anchor,” Kinsman said. AAE wanted to find a way to salvage those important elements without creating a digital version of the annual event at the last minute. So, AAE opted to launch the 2020 Endo Wellness Challenge powered by software-as-a-service platform Heka Health on Sept. 24–27, 2020, as an alternative event. Kinsman had participated in Heka Health’s wellness challenges before at PCMA and Caesars events, and felt that a standalone wellness event to bring the AAE community together was “a natural fit to go ahead and test out with our group.”

The challenge was to see how many steps participants could take during the challenge, with tracked steps and a leaderboard on the Heka Health app keeping score of individual goals as well as the overall step count of the participants — a reminder to the 213 people involved that they were taking part in a group effort. Participants were competing for top prizes like complimentary registration to AAE’s virtual Annual Meeting, April 21-24, 2021, and a complimentary subscription to “Endo on Demand,” an educational content platform, awarded at the end of the challenge.

“It really was something we wanted to do to support overall health and wellness,” Kinsman said. “And we wanted it for not only health and wellness for the individual, but also for the association and for the endodontic community. We really encouraged any friends, family, even corporate partners who might not necessarily be sponsoring it — it was open to anyone to join.”

Beyond wellness, the app also gave corporate sponsors the opportunity to connect with association members they would typically speak with at in-person events. “The sponsor could send out an email with a video link or set up virtual sales calls” via the app, Kinsman said. “And they were able to give some additional bonus points by purchasing additional steps for you if you met with them.”

In addition, the challenge allowed members to raise money for the AAE Foundation for Endodontics. Participants were able to match a dollar contribution for each step or mile completed with a friend; donate $5 per mile achieved; or challenge colleagues to a “step bet,” in which everyone contributed a set amount, and those who did not meet the goal doubled their donation. Users could also buy “bonus steps” to add to their step count by making in-app donations, Kinsman said. Corporate sponsors also could join in the challenge — for example, one sponsor made a match pledge in which they donated $50 to the foundation for each participant who hit 48,000 steps for the duration of the program.

The four-day challenge was a success — participants walked a collective five million steps and donated $20,000 to the foundation during the event. “We had a couple of donors who said that they had thought about donating and this pushed them over the edge and gave them a reason to go ahead and make that pledge in conjunction with the challenge,” Kinsman said.

AAE plans to hold the wellness challenge again in September 2021. “I think it’s something that we can grow,” Kinsman said. “We even had members who had reached out through the app help [option] and gave feedback directly to Heka Health saying, ‘This was so great, thank you so much. I love this experience. Please do it again.’”

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