St. Mary’s School, of Dekalb, Illinois, shows us the plans behind their virtual dance competitions, sign-up parties, and sponsorship commercials. They provide great insight on more ways that you can run various small-scale fundraisers right now. 

The following is a transcript of our Q&A conversation from our #OutsideTheRoom Fundraising Success Series – Episode 12. Watch the full episode here.

How many students are enrolled at St. Mary’s?

Stacey: We have about 200 students enrolled every year. And as I said that’s across three-year-olds through eighth grades.

How did you handle sponsors for the lancer dash? Which I know is upcoming so if it’s still in flux totally get it.  What type of business it is? Have you guys approached? Did they give away T-shirts or did you all give away T-shirts with sponsor’s logo? In general, how the sponsorship process is going to the lancer dash overall? 

Stacey: I think like the main benefit that the sponsor gets is their logo on the back of our race t-shirt. Which I think that was pictured on the slide there so on the back side is all the sponsors probably supporting St. Mary’s School. They also received Facebook posts and we offered our higher level sponsors. Also like the commercial option like we talked about for the lancer ball. So we sort of use that same for the dash then this year because they aren’t getting the typical signs at the event where everybody would visually see those so we’re doing that.  And then we also use like newsletter and emails to pass participants into the church community to thank all of our sponsors and let everyone know who is supporting us. 

Karen, speaking on the legacy ball and the sponsors commercials.  Did each sponsors get a 30 second spot so to say or was their time based upon their overall sponsorship level if I gave 2$ versus 1$ I got 60 seconds?  Was it in equal distribution for all of them?

Karen: we gave everybody the same amount of time but it was based level. So our lowest level of sponsorship did not come with a video but we have five our sponsorship but the other four levels did. And so they were all asked to submit a 30 to 60 second video. The reason why we did that is we didn’t think anything longer than 30 to 60 seconds would be engaging for our community members to watch. And so we wanted them to keep short but we did want to give that opportunity to our sponsors in appreciation for them pivoting with us. And as Stacey had described probably three quarters of them to took us up on it but they were a few that didn’t.

A few questions came around about the dance entry fee. So correct me if I’m wrong, the people voted and it was zero dollars to vote. Is that correct?

Stacey: Correct.  We told people that we could be monitoring it that it could not vote Chicago style so it was one vote per person. They could only vote once. There is not a way I don’t think in the GiveSmart system to limit that because use the vote function for fundraising and you want people to vote often to raise more money. But in our case, we didn’t so I just downloaded that into there’s report that you can run and I just downloaded it into a excel spreadsheet. Sorted it quickly to remove the duplicate entries and just went with whoever had the most unique numbers of votes. But yes, we did not have them pay for a vote so we just set it up as a zero dollar entry and it worked just right. 

You guys mentioned that both for the heads and tails and the dance contest the winners got a prize. But the question is, in regards to just entrance and everybody who sent it in. Was it hard to recruit people? Did they get anything for just sending in a video or the overall level participation from the dancers? Was it a struggle or were people more than willing to participate? 

Stacey: So for the dance contest it started a little slow because some people were like “What! I don’t want to submit a video of myself dancing.” And so it did start a little bit slow but we used Email and Facebook to show a couple of examples and kind of gave people ideas over how they could create a video. Because this was early in the shutdowns, right? And so not everybody was comfortable taking videos at the time and we had family that was all over Tik-Tok and doing some very funny and amusing tik-tok videos. And the rest of us l like there’s no way I could do anything like that. We got at the first couple of entries and made sure that everybody knew that they were posted so that they could see what other people were doing and that generated more people like “Oh, I can do that.” So that helped kind of get it going once we got the first two submitted. We had a local pizza “Papa John’s Pizza” that donated I think they gave us 30 free pizzas and so ended up having enough of those free pizzas that we were able to give everybody that entered a thank you prize for entering. We didn’t publicize that up front just because we weren’t sure if we were going to have enough pieces but we did end up giving a prize to everybody that entered.

Pertains to zoom and just doing it. Did you guys run into issues whether it’s a video or article audio quality? With so many people or maybe people didn’t know what zoom was at the moment you guys ran it. Just kind of overall feedback from donors and participants on that experience overall. 

Stacey: We didn’t run into anybody that didn’t know what zoom was. We did run into some older people that hadn’t used it before that were like “oh is it hard? Is it easy?” and so when we had them on the phone and we were talking about the event, we described what it was and they were willing to try it. And then we had the intro to zoom session for them earlier in the day so that they get comfortable with it. We did have some technical glitches. As we said like we had early in the program was going like our principal was doing the opening and then our priest was doing an opening and the priest couldn’t get on. So we had a little had little bit of a delay there. So our schedule is perfectly laid out. Didn’t go exactly to the minute as planned but that was okay we rolled with the punches. And then Stacey there’s another glitch that we had that I can’t remember what it was but I remember. So we had Stacey and her husband Joe, was our zoom master and I was sort of GiveSmart master. So if somebody placed a b it and they put in 10,000$ instead of a hundred dollars, I could correct in the back end. So we had the four of us connected via text during the event and so that helped us with any glitches that happen to pop-up. And then having a dedicated zoom master or somebody that is running the program or making sure that the videos are playing when they’re supposed to and that people are talking when they are supposed to and people are muted when they are supposed to. Making sure that all went well, having a dedicated person for that was super helpful. And we just had a one of the dads that was comfortable with the technology kind of volunteer for that role.

So for people who are looking to potentially in September October. What sort of lessons or things “Hey I wish we would have done.” Or advice to people who were looking at doing this for the first time and it might be a little bit hesitant about what’s about to happen? 

Stacey: I would say, look at the big picture and how to engage people and make it a fun event and have faith. We were amazed at what we were able to do in a super short amount of time. Great ideas were flown from our committee and it just all kind of fell into place and we were so pleased with our results, made more money than we ever have before. And it just turned out amazing. So I just plugging away and keep trying to bring in the fun and the rest feel like will fall into place. 

Karen: And I would like to add to that like don’t be afraid to try like we were having some ideas we’re like “Is that going to work?”  Like the heads or tails on the zoom screen we’re like “Is that going to work? Or is this going to be goofy or are people going to pay the 10$ to do this or not? And so we thought we’ll nothing about your nothing gain let’s give it a try and so we tried to be as creative as we could and willing to take the risk. And if it didn’t do as well in person then it was still better than nothing. And it’s just a fun way to be able to continue to engage and continue to move the mission of the school forward. So my advice would just try it and just iterate on it for next time. if it works continue it to make it better and if it didn’t then move on to the next creative idea but we were lucky as Stacy said we definitely exceeded our goal and we’re very happy with the result.

Brandon Stec