Oct 3, 2020

How RMHC Obtained 132 New Donors from One Campaign

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Ronald McDonald House to reduce waiting list with $7.5 million expansion - al.com

Fundraisers with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana share their techniques for pivoting to online campaigns and events, driving donor engagement and participation in fundraising campaigns beyond all expectations for 2020 fundraising.

The following is a transcript of our Q&A conversation from our #OutsideTheRoom Fundraising Success Series – Episode 4. Watch the full episode here.

How are you engaging, Karen, the new donors you achieve? 132 folks. How are you engaging them now? And what else are you doing to keep those new people included?

Karyn Schuler: That’s an excellent question. So we actually built a separate email campaign targeted to those new donors. So it was a series of three separate emails with different communications and different tasks or asked. And just info and just communications geared specifically towards those new folks and really grooming them to want to get on board. And stay with us for the long term.

Perfect! Thank you. So next question. How far in advance did you start advertising the new gala of social media and radio spots?

Karyn Schuler: About a month. So we launched at 30 days out. April 6th was our first external communication. In May 2nd was the culmination event. 

Perfect. What were the main revenue drivers for the ungala? And how did they compare to your original gala?

Karyn Schuler: So sponsorship was the biggest. Again, we maintained two thirds of our sponsorships. And so that served as the primary point of revenue generation. On something new that we did with the gala this year, was the peer-to-peer fundraising. That’s not something you’ve been typically done with our traditional gala and we saw significant value doing peer-to-peer. Again, it was a great way for our volunteers to get involved with our fundraising. It was a way for corporate sponsors to be pushing it out to their own companies. I think if you think about your typical sponsorship. For example, let’s say that Coca-Cola is a sponsor and they come to the gala and they get a table of 10 people, then they to pick those 10 people to come to the gala. But now going virtual they could still be a sponsor but they don’t have to pick those ten. They can then push this out to their entire company and so it’s cool to think that maybe they could be doing some peer-to-peer fundraising on our behalf. They do Department versus Department fundraising campaigns. So the new employee campaigns with incentives that the person raises the most for Ronald McDonald House gets an  extra PTO day or whatever kind of incentive that said company might want to put together. Silent auction it was huge for us, we really outperformed our expectations there. And again what Patrick said was rethinking the kind of items that you’re putting into your auction. Not only because of the limits on travel and sporting experience and what have you that, now you’re going mass-market so you want to be able to have a variety of things that appeal to a much wider variety of people and price points. And then getting created within a digital space and we had things like meal delivery kit. We have some pretty well-known folks on our board of directors who generously donated their time. One was golf with board member and had taken your foursome out with board member. One was have lunch with this board member. She was getting really creative again with the resources that you have at hand and rethinking the kind of items that you’re going to be offering in an auction to appeal to your new audience base. That’s in between peer-to-peer that’s where we really saw a lot of key revenue coming in.

Perfect. A couple of follow-up questions silent auction .First one for you Karen, As far as the silent auction goes, how are you acquiring auctions items? And are business is still willing to give right now when they’re also taking a financial hot? 

Karyn Schuler:  That was really tough. Again being toward the beginning of this that we were fortunate to have a significant amount of the auction items already secured.  Some of those ended not being usable. Again with cancellation of sports and restrictions on travels, those are things that we typically would have put in out live auction. The things that we did have we had to rethink a little bit but them in silent and it would probably have gone for two or three times had the value had we done in live auction. But you’ve got to be creative and again using those board members to donate some items for us, the influence that we have relationships with, we have an excellent relationship with a former US golden medallist. And she’s a woman’s hockey player. And she was like “why don’t I do a lesson with a youth hockey team in the area”. So just being creative and you know having all the people in your circle helping you, helping you create those new brainstorm ideas and helping you go out and get rid of those items. 

Patrick Clore: Know that I love you stole the words out of your mouth so which is always great. I think being able to engage and utilize the resources you have at your disposal but other thing that I can recommend regardless of an organization side is making sure that you make the process easy. And so if you already have tried –and-true method similar to the uncork cursor like if it’s working, use that but if it’s been a while since you’ve analysed how are we facilitating the collection. And is it as simple as a button on our auction page or something like that is making it easy. The last thing you want to do is get somebody who’s willing and they don’t know how to get a hold of you because the lab the only option is a contact us on your website. So I think the other thing I’ve seen people do is just making it easy and as Karen had said, just be in contact in being a human being. I think that makes the process as effective as it can be. 

Perfect. And Patrick very briefly, do we have data about whether or not silent auctions that release items slowly over time versus all the ones are more successful? 

Patrick Clore: We have not done it in a mass. This is my not so subtle plug. If there’s anybody who’s willing to participate in us analysing their data, we’re more than happy to do so and share it with others. What we see a lot of people do is they take their live auctions and they put it in a premier category and so I think anything you can do to get a hook. So if you have something that you know historically performs well using that to draw people in. So if you do have  two or three items and kind of “hey, while  still fielding the rest of your donations are getting set up, you know using things that you know based  upon knowing your donors and stuff like that that we’ve mentioned. I think is always good and we do see some positive results where okay here’s two or three things I got you interested your data Is in the system and now as I continue the release things I have your information, I can text you out all that kind of stuff”. 

Got it. That actually ties into the next question. For Karen, how do you gather specific information about your donors like the interesting clay shoot in craft bee etc? This questionnaire is trying to improve that level of details in their database.

Karyn Schuler: We have some longevity with these events. So we’ve really been able to build the excitement around me through epic sporting clays. We’ve done now for 22 years. Our uncork support even has been around for almost a decade as it now has become more word of mouth with those participants who have come year after year then pulling in their own friends and networks. And as those new supporters come in that’s where we’re starting to track which events are appealing to those specific folks. 

Great! Thank you. And what was the timeframe of the event daily? Did you have a final wrap-up moment or a shebang of some sort?

Karyn Schuler: We did. So all of those daily itineraries, led up to our scheduled culmination event. This was scheduled to take place on the date and time of the original gala. So it was Saturday May 2nd at 7 p.m. we did a live stream. It was a very condensed version of what we would have done at the actual gala. It was our CEO and the emcee that we had originally scheduled to be at the actual live event. I’m the two of them live stream from their separate locations and we just put in our website on YouTube and on Facebook and encourage everyone to do in remotely from where they were for that culmination. 

One or two more questions. Karen you’re doing great. What with not as many expenses, what was your largest expense for your virtual event where the majority of your expenses incurred before you turn virtual?

Karyn Schuler: I wasn’t the largest expense was incurred before we went virtual and that was the production of the family video that I have talked about that we do each year in the room to reach out a specific family.  That was already in production raring to go well before we made the decision to go virtual. So we just saw that through we finished that. And professional production is expensive. So that was our biggest expense, GiveSmart wasn’t expensive. It’s looking to be able to utilize that platform. I didn’t invest a little bit in more digital advertising, its smaller miscellaneous expenses along the way. But between the auction, the video and the digital advertising I think those were the three biggest components. 

Perfect! Last question. Did you live stream? And if so, what did you use?

Karyn Schuler: We did live stream. So our digital marketing manager hats off to her, she found a tool “Stream Yard” and this tool cost 25$ for the month and it was awesome. So it enabled us to live stream and then broadcast that stream simultaneously on to Facebook and YouTube. And then we were able to embed it into our website which was the key to the folks who don’t have social media. A lot of our older donors and corporate sponsors and things like that. Another cool thing with Stream Yard being the tool, we were able to pop-up certain comments that came up in the YouTube comments or in the Facebook comments and we were able to pop them up onto the screen which was really neat to be able to do that. And have them be broadcast for everybody. And the other feature that it had is a scrolling bar along the bottom that we could customize the message. So we did things like one two three four five to donate now or to view the auction or plunge your gift in the comment section. So it was really neat and customizable and super easy to use. So for 25$ that was well worth the investment.

 

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We needed a platform to make sales online and to track and display ads for our sponsors. GiveSmart was perfect. We ended up making close to $15,000 more than we had hoped for. Definite better ROI than we anticipated. The interface is easy to use and provides plenty of options to get help if needed.

Michelle M.

The Rotary Club of South Whidbey Island

Using GS has created ease in auction bookkeeping, payments, and generating post-event thank you/tax letters. While we were online during COVID, our interactions with our GiveSmart via phone, email, and zoom were seamless. A representative always got back to us within the day. I would recommend GiveSmart to anyone doing a large online event.

Julie G.

MicroFinancing Partners in Africa

GiveSmart is highly flexible - you can use it for [a] simple registration and check-in, to full-scale galas with complex order forms, onsite upsells, live auctions, seating management, and more.

Jamie F.

Hope Chest for Breast Cancer

GiveSmart is easy to use and ideal for virtual events and can be used for in-person events to manage the silent auction, seating charts, and check-in to the event. Being able to use the platform for unlimited events within the contract year is very useful and being able to add other users and volunteers for different levels of access is helpful as well.

Dawn L.

Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County