Jun 9, 2020

Local Institutions Bridge the Fundraising Gap

Happy creative businesspeople brainstorming in office, placing sticky notes with ideas on glass

The following is a transcript of our Q&A conversation from Episode 9 of our Pivot Success Series.  You can view the full webinar, and other webinars in the series, on our Pivot Success page.

In this episode, we celebrate local institutions who used virtual fundraising to bridge fundraising gaps.

With the ability to highlight sponsors on your homepage, is that a tactic/aspect that you use when you’re still sitting sponsors?

Dan: Oh yeah! Absolutely. I would say it has to be a part of the benefit package right and we have to look at that almost as a suite of incentives and in some ways it starts to feel like a trade agreement because you can almost imagine a valuation being put on each one of those. But by all means be aware of how many mentions. Look guys we are all focused on trying to hold on to as much support, it’s a tough market and companies have a lot of pressure and I think the thing we all have to remember is that we’re up against massive competition with Facebook and Google Analytics and the companies the way of the world its all about impressions and a company has to decide if I pay 15 cents over in this digital social media company, I’m going to have another pair of eyeballs on me. How many eyeballs are you giving me for 15 cents? I mean that’s what we’re up against, so we have to go beyond but while still recognizing all those different opportunities for exposure.

How many employees or volunteers you had working on virtual events in comparison with previous events did you find you needed more or less. Can you give us a comparison there?

Kathi: So we took the model of fail fast and fail first, and for the very first dance party that we did it was myself, my colleagues did me and one other person from the ballet managing it and we did learn that maybe we needed a few more people but for the luncheon we only needed two people. We had myself handling kind of switching back and forth of folks and then one person monitoring the chat, so many fewer people. 

And Dan, similar or different?

Dan: Yeah, I think it’s a learning opportunity. I love that fail first, fail fast. It makes sense. I think sometimes we worry about; I certainly do, my colleagues will vouch for this. I worry about trying to get things just right and I think sometimes you do have to move forward. Anyway, there’s plenty to figure out. I don’t think we’re there yet but we’re going to keep trying. 

What interactive ideas for participants are you hearing that have been successful interactive stuff?

Mina: So as far as interactive live stream videos are awesome. Being able to incorporate. We’ve seen some kind of trivia throughout the live stream portion, having like comments and questions area during the live stream portion. Just being able to also have some kind of personal feel maybe like a short video of the board members during the zoom meeting or something similar.

Brandon, anything to add there?

Brandon: I’ve seen a lot of creative things; you know these 9 episodes that we’ve done I think each one we’ve had a new idea that kind of got us excited about the different interactions. But you know everything that we’ve seen from selfie scavenger hunt to the different dance contests and even just the different interactions that people have had by using social and doing heads or tails by social. It has really been inspiring to see but there’s a lot of creative ways being that there’s this great technology out there to really have some interaction. Obviously, it doesn’t replace being in person next to each other but at least people can have some fun with the different things that are available.

How are your donors responding? Are people disappointed? Are they pleased that there is some way that they can be involved? 

Kathi: Our donors have been thrilled. Again of course with the caveat that, they can’t wait to be back in person. But they had so much fun with both the dance party in the luncheon. We had so many emails afterward. Thanking us for doing it, what great fun and when’s the next one so I think they’re okay with it.

Dan what are you hearing from your donors?

Can I ask a real quick question just because I know they’re arts organization? Do your donor base skewed Kathy or Dan to the older donors? Are they more the boomers age group? What’s the breakdown of your donors?  I think that would be helpful with that question.

Kathi: we have a pretty even mix at this point. We certainly have some donor who have been a long time donors of the ballet who are in older category. But we also have some great younger folks that have come in. so I think that’s part of what makes it so successful for us in doing the virtual events because we do have such a good mix.

Dan: this is an area that we really want to try and move the needle on. In fact, this summer we’re gonna endeavor on a member survey to try and understand where there maybe some pockets of emerging supporters. We certainly recognize with an aging base of support and participants. We skew to the older generation, there’s no doubt about that. I think that’s a common reality for orchestras across the country from what I hear from the league of American Orchestras but it’s a challenge. How are they responding to your question Maureen, it’s a challenge. I would say we’ve supplemented a lot of the email communication with personal phone calls that’s been really critical I think for what sometimes call stickiness of donor commitment. We want them to be resilient, we wanted to renew and to stand by us and I think our loyal long-term donors for the most part they are signaling that they will do that. I’ve had some good conversations past couple of weeks, people are saying “I’m going to send my check I don’t know when we’re going to see each other again but I’m ready to renew.” So that matters.  But there’s some anxiety around there. I think particularly with our population. Because even when you know there’s signal generally for us to come back together, there’s still some challenges until they feel like it’s safe. It’s going to take time. But the phone calls are important, and I think volunteers can play a huge role in making that outreach possible. It’s all about scale. 

Are they worried that the older donors aren’t tech savvy? Our research shows that there’s’ a wide swath of older donors who are comfortable with online. What are you seeing in your organization?

Dan: This is a fun one. Honestly, because I’ll tell you the firs time is two years ago, I was fairly new to the organization and the orchestra decided to go ahead with this partnership with GiveSmart. And we engaged a robust. I felt gala for 125th anniversary. We’re the oldest symphony in the country I mean this is an organization that has great roots, great foundation but a lot of memory within that circle of friends. And I think there were number of people that were like “Hmm are you sure about this Dan? I don’t know how this is going to go” and it was great. I’ll tell you it was great fun, we had two people out of 300 participants, we had two people specifically complaining to me that they really didn’t like the text. Now I want to make everybody happy. I really do, genuinely. It’s my goal to have hundred percent happiness but two out of 300 it’s not bad. And I think that signaled to us that some of our worried about the technology might be overstated or might be based some faulty assumptions. Quite frankly, we’re seeing a lot of adoption and I think not just for us, we’re pushed as organizations to try and embrace technology in a new way. But look our patrons are too right? Our friends our donors our members, they are all being pushed to do things that they weren’t doing because of this quarantine. And it’s not imposed, we didn’t impose on them, right? We’re trying to learn together so I think it really is about that willingness to embrace a shared challenge.

For virtual events Kathi, what kind of benefits did you include in the sponsorship package? Always a lot of interest about sponsors. 

Kathi: for our luncheon we had one large sponsor and they were going to get.  Obviously, you mentioned at the event, but they were happy to just move their funds over to the virtual event and they didn’t ask for anything. Other than just the mention and we had their logo on the GiveSmart site, and we had the same experience with party on stage. I haven’t and I also handle corporate for the ballet and so even corporations who sponsored things that didn’t happen, we are very willing to move their funds to Jen ops or something like that. We have been lucky in that regard that the sponsors have been very Fox all right now.

Dan what about you for your sponsorship packages?

Dan: it’s suite of benefits that may not be surprising in terms for what they were given for our last gala for example, tickets to the event premium exposure recognition and extra time with our music director. We set up a free cocktail hour that was exclusive for sponsors and their guests. So, it felt very high-end and I think that they really enjoyed that I particularly was a little nervous the lack of quote tote bag right we’ve all been to conferences and things were tote bags are given. That stuffs nice and quite frankly we said we really don’t have in the budget and what’s the impact of that are people going to be upset. I didn’t hear any complaints that we didn’t have a tchotchke bag on the way out. People didn’t notice it so I don’t know. I think whether it be sponsors or VIP’s, sometimes it’s about the experience and the feeling more than it is people want experiences. They really don’t need more in their house. 

 Could each of you just give me a high-level on which fundraising online elements have been most successful?

Kathi: our auctions went really well because again we reached a broader swath of people than we otherwise would have. And I do think that having these virtual events free with a suggested donation actually in the long run brings more funds. 

Dan: the ease of managing transactions like people don’t want to spend a lot of time checking out or getting something, they want so tickets or making a gift that it has to be easy. And so that’s one of the real benefits of the GiveSmart platform. Leader board gifts though that’s the other thing it’s really interesting. I found pleasantly surprise at the willingness of people to participate because they saw the names of their friends on the screen” Oh., that’s cool let me join them.”  And its maybe pack of mentality but people can inspire people, right? And again, that community that sense of community, if they’re in it I want to be in it. So, I think we can do more with that but it’s an area that certainly makes a positive impact.


December 15, 2022

“Jon Biedermann, Vice President of Fundraising Strategy, Community Brands: The role of cryptocurrency”

This interview originally appeared in Philanthropy News Digest on December 15, 2022. It features insights…

Read More
Benefits of Unrestricted Gifts
October 21, 2022

Benefits of Unrestricted Gifts 

As a nonprofit organization, there’s no doubt that you highly appreciate and value every donation…

Read More
October 12, 2022

Freshen Up Your Fundraisers

Fundraising events shouldn’t feel stale. But, with the planning, budgeting, stewarding, and more—likely with few…

Read More

What our clients say

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