Tammy Zonker & R. Trent Thompson, winners of Fundraising Success Magazine Multichannel Campaign of the Year 2014, recently joined us for a webinar in which they introduced us to the key steps to achieving multi-channel year-end campaign success.

In case you missed it, you can watch a replay here:

Full Transcript

Steven: All right. Tammy and Trent, my watch just struck 12:00. Do you want to go ahead and get started?

Tammy: Yeah. We’re ready.

Steven: All right. Cool. Let’s do it. Well, good afternoon, everyone, if you’re on the East Coast and good morning if you’re on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “The Keys to Year-End Appeal Success.” My name is Steven Shattuck. I’m the VP of marketing here at Bloomerang and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion.

Just before we begin, I want to do a couple of housekeeping items. I want to let everyone know that we are recording this presentation and we’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides a little later on this afternoon in case you haven’t already gotten the slides. So if you have to leave early or perhaps you want to share the content a little later on, you’ll be able to do that. So just look for an email from me in just a couple of hours after we finish.

And as you’re listening today, please feel free to use that chat box right there on your webinar screen. You can send comments. You can send questions and we’re going to save a little time for Q&A at the end. So don’t be shy at all. We’ve got two experts here who will try to save as much time as we can for questions at the end.

Just in case this is your first webinar with us, welcome. We’re so glad you took an hour out of your day to join us. Just in case you don’t know about Bloomerang, we are a donor management platform. We have some great donor management software available. If you’re interested in that or perhaps in the market for switching some time down the road, you can check us out right on our website. You can even download a little video demo in the case of the software without having to talk to any of those sales people. So check that out if you’re interested. That’s just a little bit about us at Bloomerang.

I want to go ahead and introduce today’s guests. We have two guests. This is a special two-guest episode of our weekly webinar series. Tammy Zonker and Trent Thompson are joining us today. Hey there, friends. How’s it going?

Tammy: Great. It’s beautiful in Detroit.

Trent: I’m good.

Steven: Well, we’re glad for both of you to join us. Tammy just said they’re in Detroit. These are two internationally actually recognized experts. In case you don’t know either of them. They were both the winners of Fundraising Success Magazine’s Multi-Channel Campaign of the Year last year. Both of them, of course, work in fundraising. Tammy currently serves as Chief Philanthropy Officer for the Children’s Center in Detroit, where she has led the team to actually tripling their fundraising results for the last three years.

Trent himself, he’s the founder of Rebrand Retool or Perish. They’re a brand development firm for nonprofit organizations. Trent has over 20 years of accomplished brand and marketing leadership. I’m excited to have these guys. I kind of cornered them at an event earlier their year. I told them they have to be on a webinar with me because I have been following Tammy for a while.

I’m just really excited for them to share some case studies with us today, some other year-end appeal tips and tricks. So I’m going to turn it over to you guys to get us started. So why don’t you take it away for us?

Tammy: Awesome. Thank you, Steven and welcome, everyone to “Keys to Year-End Appeal Success.”

Many of you, you’ve kind of got your year-end appeal 80 or 90% baked and you’re just looking for that last bit of sizzle that will really make the difference in your fundraising results and help distinguish you from the ton of appeals that your donors will likely receive here as we move into the end of the calendar year. Some of you are thinking, “Holy smokes, next Wednesday is October 1st. I better start thinking about my year-end appeal.” And then of course there are some of you who are in between. You have a start, but you’ve got a long way to go.

So we’re really excited and hopeful that today’s session will give you some tools and some nuggets that you can apply right away to make a difference for your campaign. So we can go ahead and skip by mine and Trent’s bio. I think Steven really described us well.

Trent: I agree.

Tammy: Yeah. So thank you, Steven. That was very flattering. Let’s really jump into the content.

Trent: All right. Here’s just an overview of what we’re going to talk about today. We’re going to talk about the case study that Steven mentioned during the intro. We’re going to talk about how to develop some of the multi campaign strategies, how to align the channels that you’re going to use, the campaign goals, developing powerful messaging. You can create new videos and content but you can also repurpose a lot of things that you already have in the inventory.

We’ll talk about how we’ve done some of that at the Children’s Center in particular, developing a campaign schedule to keep all the moving pieces and parts on track, how we empowered some of our volunteers on the social media side to really be an amplifier for the campaign with their personal networks and just talking about some engagement opportunities that you might have in terms of reaching out and connecting with the millennial population.

Tammy: So on this slide you see the cover of Fundraising Success Magazine for October of 2014, so this time last year. This is actually an image from the appeal that won our award. So here at the Children’s Center we were awarded both Campaign of the Year as well as Multi-Channel Campaign of the Year for organizations of $10 million bottom line and higher. So we were so thrilled that our campaign was acknowledged in this way. The next slide I’ll show you exactly why we were so excited.

So I came into the Children’s Center as the Chief Philanthropy Officer in July of 2011. Our fiscal year ends in September. You can see kind of what I was inheriting. In 2010, our year-end appeal netted net revenue of $0.97, which is not that exciting until you move into 2011. So that’s when they actually lost $2,000. Actually, I’m sorry. I came to the Children’s Center in July of 2012. So I inherited both of those years, the $0.97 surplus and the $2,000 net loss.

So really, when I came in in July and Trent came in in September on contract to help us really strengthen our brand it was our collaboration, year-end appeal collaboration that resulted in the $72,000 in net revenue in 2012. Of course, the board thought, “Wow, they’re genius.” And we thought, “No, we’re really just trying to get started here.”

So in 2013, the award-winning campaign that you’re going to be learning about, we netted over $90,000 from that year-end appeal and then last year’s appeal, we really hit it out of the ballpark, raising net revenue of $233,000. So we’re going to give you juicy nuggets from both 2013 and 2014 that hopefully you can apply for your appeal this year.

All right. So when we looked at the 2012 year-end appeal, we had budgeted to raise $70,000 and our goal, of course, first and foremost was to renew and upgrade our current donors. We also wanted to renew recently lapsed donors. We are big fans of Penelope Burk and Cygnus Research and her donor-centered fundraising approach. How she defines lapse is really that 18-24 months. Her data would say that if someone has not given to you in the last 24 months, they’ve probably gone to support other organizations and your chance of renewing them is quite slim.

So we focused on those who had not given in 18 to 24 months. At the same time, we know here at the Children’s center that our donor age was probably around that median age of 50, 55. So we were very intentional about attracting that next generation of philanthropists. We’ll share some of those juicy nuggets with you.

So here’s what actually happened. So those were our goals. What happened was we sent to a direct mail list of about 4,000. We had an email list of just under 4,000. Some of those were duplicates. Some folks we had a mailing address for as well as an email address for. As you saw, we generated net revenue of $90,000. Average gift size was $520. Our cost per dollar raised was $0.11. Pretty good response rate at 4.2%.

As it turned out, even though it was a multi-channel campaign utilizing direct mail and online giving and social media and some millennial face-to-face engagement, 36% of the donors to that campaign chose to transact their gift online.

Trent: So at the beginning of the campaign, as a team we sat down and listed the things that we went through. We identified the campaign goals that you just heard from Tammy. We identified the metrics that we wanted to track to make sure we knew what were important to us and what we could also use to improve in future campaigns.

We certainly wanted to make sure that the communication channels that we were looking at campaigning and executing a campaign that aligned with the goals, going through the messaging approach that we wanted to take. This is where we inventoried all the aspects that existed and those that we didn’t have so that we knew what we had to create for the campaign.

And, of course, this is when we really started to build out a first rough draft of this calendar. What is the calendar going to look like and all the moving pieces and parts that we were going to have plug in to keep everything moving smoothly? This is where we started to make that list of all those volunteers that we were going to enlist to help us spread the word online via their social media profiles. Again, this is where we’ve really started to take a deep dive into the engagement strategies for the millennial audiences.

Tammy: So as he said, the goal was… this is our list of goals. So anytime that you’re going about crafting your year-end appeals, you want to use a checklist similar to this. What do you want to do? Obviously we want to renew and upgrade current donors, reengage lapsed donors. You always have the option of acquisition. We’ve got a few things we’ll share with you just as reference for you in terms of traditional or acquisition rates that you can expect. And then of course just establishing what are we willing to spend and what do we expect to raise.

So I’m going to go through this pretty quickly but it really is important. I say quickly because I know most of you have already done this or this is your practice. So to renew and upgrade current donors, this is where your donor database is so critical. So you obviously want to be able to pull who has given in the last 18 months and it’s time for them to renew.

We like to look at those donors by giving value. So we may say, “Who’s given $25 to $150? Who’s given $151 to $350?” So obviously the segmentation is something you’re going to want to pull out of your database. We like to track average age, where they live and how they chose to make their last gift, whether it was through a reply device, direct mail, online or mobile.

Again, you might not be tracking all this information presently. You may not have age overlays, but we certainly say there’s no good time like the present to start. Of course, having a tool like Bloomerang to do that is really to your advantage. The same is true as you look at upgrading or renewing lapsed donor. It’s the same process, pulling on those data points.

And then we always have that shiny object, that attraction to new, better, more. So the whole donor acquisition question. So here’s a checklist for exactly how you would go about perhaps buying a list or renting a list and really getting crystal clear about who you want to attract through that list and that acquisition and then how you would go about that. Again, I’m not going to go into that. That’s probably a webinar all on its own.

And then what other goals do you want to achieve beyond renewing current donors and renewing lapsed donors and possibly achieving or attracting new donors? For us, it was about attracting younger donors. You may want to raise brand awareness or create some kind of advocacy campaign. But I always caution groups that we work with, if the primary purpose of your year-end appeal is money, don’t dilute it by making too many asks. If it’s a money campaign, ask for the money. I would save the other request for somewhere throughout the year.

Trent: Right.

Tammy: And then again, I promised you just a little bit of reference material for you in terms of acquisition is attractive, but what can I really expect? Am I going to hit my number, my net revenue number by trying to attract new donors? The truth is a response rate on acquisition through direct mail is one half of one percent, so those very wealthy strangers that you rented off that list. It usually in the first year, maybe even the second year, costs about $1 to raise $1, sometimes $1.25. So just have this mind as you begin to be attracted to acquiring new donors and plan accordingly.

And then of course, here is just some reference information for how you should go about planning your campaign budget. I think a lot of times what we do in the nonprofit sector is we say, “Gosh, let’s raise 10% more than we did last year or 15% more than we did last year.” But the truth is you’ve really got to put the pencil to the paper and say, “All right, what is it really going to cost? What should I project?” These numbers will help you do that. There’s a little more. I’m going to keep moving on.

All right. So the bottom line is you choose the channels that are going to help you meet your goals. In that award-winning Heal Children, Heal Detroit campaign that Trent and I collaborated on, you can see the channels that we chose. Direct mail, email, mobile, event, social media. We happened to have a buy on some billboards. So we did a couple billboards too. But, again, the bottom line is you get to choose.

Trent: It’s your choice.

Tammy: It’s your choice. You can take on as little or as much as you want or can afford. You can continue to build and layer upon it in future years.

Trent: So here’s just a short checklist when it comes to identifying those campaign channels that you want to be in. You’ll see this a few slides from now that we find it very helpful to use a mind-mapping exercise to plan the entire campaign, also to help segment the audiences that we’re going to reach and their preferred channels that they sort of hang out in on a regular basis and also helping us with plenty of budget for the campaign.

So the mind-mapping exercise, in fact, again, this is more for reference just to share with you how we use it, but I’m just going to go to the next slide because it’s a picture of the actual mind map for the award-winning campaign. You can sort of see, this is just the high-level. We did have some drill down maps that resulted from this initial exercise.

But even here on the lower right quadrant, you can see audiences. We have traditional donors and how we might reach them and what channels we have, the next gen philanthropist, the under-40 crowd and the engagement opportunities and how we might approach them. You see we have primary and secondary messaging. Again it’s to get our heads around the approach and the strategy and kind of start that whole appeal planning process.

Tammy: And then we took that mapping exercise and we applied it to our database. What we found was in that upper left-hand quadrant that for the goal of upgrading current donors and renewing recently lapsed, when we pulled that data and looked at those donors and their information, we began to understand where they lived and confirmed that on average, they’re about 50 years old. Then in that lower left-hand quadrant, again, our goal was to attract those Millennial and those Generation Y and Xers. They were not so much in our database.

The truth is there are not a lot of lists where you can get their contact information because they are just beginning to establish themselves professionally. So we identified and just brainstormed where can we find them? If we were going to go to them, where do they hang out? So we knew they’re moving to mid-town Detroit. They’re moving to downtown Detroit. They love food and coffeehouses and we’re going to take this campaign to them in some non-traditional ways.

Trent: So again, here is a list of questions that you want to ask yourself when you’re talking about segmenting the audiences. But I’m going to go ahead to the next slide because it kind of takes me one step down on how we approached it that helped us answer the questions on the previous slide. I just think this is helpful.

So these are the communication preferences of our segmented audiences. So on the far-left column, you have the Gen-Y, the Gen-X, the Millennials, the Gen-Y, the Gen-X and then you have the Boomers or the Matures. Then across the top, you have the different channels. By the way, there’s a legend to the far right so that you can match up all the initials and letters.

But you can see everybody is on social media at some level depending on which audience segment they’re in. So that’s good for you to know as you start mind-mapping where and how you’re going to reach them, what tools. It’s pretty even across the board on email.

But then you start to see on the Gen-X and Gen-Y, it really stood out to us, they really do share information about the nonprofits that they support on Facebook. So what did we do? We made sure we served up content on Facebook to help them share and talk about the Children’s Center. The same is true for the next column, sharing videos of charities they’re involved in on YouTube. So we made sure there was plenty of video of content to help them spread the word about the campaign.

Tammy: And then we took that information about how those folks… oh, I’m sorry, you want to go? No, go ahead. I jumped ahead. I got so excited.

Trent: So one more slide. This is how the different audience segments like to give, really how they like to make that transaction, that gift transaction. So you’ve got the segmented audience and on the top you have the different devices or ways of giving. Smartphones, you have the website and then of course direct mail. You’ll see in the column of the Give by Phone, Gen-X or Gen-Y certainly would give by phone if they’re given a way to do so. So we make sure we make it as easy as possible for every audience segment to give to us. No matter how they do it, we develop a pathway for them to do so.

So these two charts, I think, prove very valuable in terms of planning that outreach for the campaign.

Tammy: And the next slide is actually a screen capture from Penelope Burk at Cygnus Research. It’s further information distinguishing the transaction channel preferences by age. So again, who likes to give by direct mail? Well, clearly, the 65 and older really love direct mail. The 35 to 64, 40% of them like that. The under 35, 25%, one in four, not so much, online, athletic events.

And I really like the last column of bar charts really indicating which age segments likes the option for recurring gifts, whether that’s monthly giving or quarterly giving, those kinds of things. So again, great fodder to help you determine not only how are you going to communicate these opportunities to these prospective donors, but also what vehicles for transacting the gift.

Trent: Very important.

Tammy: Don’t assume that people like to transact the gift in the same way they like to receive the information. I might like to get a direct mail appeal and make my gift online.

Trent: And don’t forget the power of repetition. It might take them three or four times where they see something from you in one of those channels before they take the next step and give to your organization.

Tammy: And then of course you just align that communication channel with your budget. So can you afford to add a video element? Does it make sense to subscribe to some text to give service? You need to do the math as you develop your strategy. And then bottom line is select the channel best aligned with your campaign goals. Move forward to multi-channel approaches. It definitely sets you up for greater success.

All right. So we’re going to move into the second topic which is really creating compelling messaging that really inspires giving. So we’d like to take a look at it in three steps. The first steps if framing your compelling message. We go through this process of answering these six questions because these are the questions on every donor’s mind.

What difference do you make and why should I care? Why you? What’s unique about what you do? Why your food bank versus the one down the street? Why now? What’s the sense of urgency? Why should I give to your arts organization when there are hungry people in my community? There are lots of good reasons. Why I should do that right now? You want to proactively answers those. Why me? Why are you connecting with me to be part of this cause? And of course, how will you convey the emotion and tell the stories in your appeal? What will compel them to give?

We’re going to go through like Grandma’s brag book here. We’re going to show you some pictures. I think that’s the best way to really convey the messages of campaigns. So this was the direct mail piece. If you look at the next slide, we identified how we answered those questions. What difference do we make? Really, the name of this campaign and the hashtag that was associated with it was Heal Children, Heal Detroit.

If we don’t help children now, they will suffer academically, economically, socially, emotionally and if I’m speaking to an investor type, I can clearly say, “We don’t have the tax base to resurrect our city.” If I’m speaking to more of that community-minded person, it’s the moral imperative. They can read into what they feel and what their core value are, heal children, heal Detroit. So again, you can look at this and really distinguish for yourself how we answered those questions.

We have a lot to cover, so I’m going to keep moving. Here’s just an example of how we chose to segment the direct mail and the pieces of the campaign. So we broke it down by prior giving level. If it was an acquisition or a lapsed donor, we started with the basic level and we gave impact statements, $90 could put nearly 100 books in the hands of children. And of course, we always leave a fill in the blanks line. So here’s an example from the actual campaign direct mail piece of an impact statement and how that was on the flier.

Trent: We talked about earlier about making it easy for our donors to give. This was one of these. For every appeal we create and certainly the award-winning appeal we create custom landing pages. You develop this theme and this messaging and you put it out to all these channels. The last thing you want to happen is when they then take action and they come back to your website for those who want to give online or to learn more about your organization is to create this disconnect where you send them back to the homepage and they’ve lost all the messaging, all that work that you’ve put into framing up the campaign is lost.

So we create custom landing pages and when they get there, they see those same impact statements that Tammy just shared with you just to remind them what these different donation levels will do and how it can impact the children in different ways. Of course you see on the bottom right of those buttons, Tammy just alluded to the donate any amount. We make that available here online as well.

Tammy: So of course, just to bring that whole conversation home, that campaign messaging needs to be consistent across every channel, whether it’s online or in print or through social media. So here were some of the ways that we ensured that took place. Then we’re going to do a little bit of a drill down and show you some more pictures from the campaign so that learning can really come to life for you.

Trent: So here are some of the channels that we were in. I think it’s probably important at this point to say you don’t have to be in all these channels. I think when we started, we weren’t. But as we learned more about the audiences and how they were segmented and their preferences and how they liked to give, we just slowly began to expand the number of channels available to the campaign and to the donor audience.

Tammy: So for those of you who do have your campaign almost baked for this year, maybe you just want to add one additional channel that will give you that extra oomph. For others of you who are really in the early stages of crafting it and you’re trying to accelerate it, really be intentional about what are your campaign goals and which of these channels will get me there the fastest.

So again, we’re going to show you some pictures. Look for the consistency. Direct mail.

Trent: This is one of three drops. Here’s the landing page again. What’s important to say that I didn’t say a moment ago is make your custom landing pages responsive. I have this thing that I tell people all the time. Do not make donors work to give. We’ve all done it. We’ve gone to these websites where you pinch and zoom. The more you make people search for that form that doesn’t resize to the screen, the more likely that they’re going to bail because they’re frustrated.

So responsive just means that the site will resize to fit the screen of the device that they’re coming to your site on, whether it’s a smartphone or a tablet or a desktop. It’s a little thing to do, huge difference it can make in conversions. Just, again, talking about that consistency that Tammy alluded to earlier.

Here’s an example of a responsive site. It reformatted to a tablet. It also reformatted and resized so that it’s still easy to read and navigate even on a smartphone.

Talking about pulling consistency through the entire campaign, the Facebook page for the children’s center. We create a series of these that we rotated throughout the campaign that were part of that campaign calendar. So when a drop went out or e-blast went out, these cover photos were also changed, again, making sure that we were consistent throughout all of the actions and messaging and imagery throughout the campaign.

Here is an overall look of the different components. There’s an e-blast at the bottom there. There were about five or six during that campaign that we sent out.

Tammy: In each one of those images, you can see that yellow circle with one of five campaign messages. “Want to see your investment grow? Support a kid.”

Trent: Yeah. In fact, we have some images of close ups of those yellow circles here in a second. I alluded to this a moment ago early on. A lot of times you have things that you can repurpose, whether it be video or snippets of copy, audio, anything you have you can tie into the messaging that you want to convey throughout the campaign, definitely look for those things. We do every time. We have video that we shot, we repurposed. We have copy that we then aligned with to reinforce the message of the campaign. You don’t have to start from scratch every time.

Tammy: So that will save you a lot of money and a lot of time.

Trent: We also have a YouTube channel that serves all the video to our website and our blog and all of our campaigns. So we repurposed a great deal of these videos from our YouTube channel.

So here is just an overview. Again, I know we want to leave some time for Q&A at the end but you can come back to this at any time. These are some of the things to keep in mind when you’re creating your campaign schedule. The goal really is to have the schedule in such a way that you can manage your entire campaign and everything is synchronized and there’s no opportunity for disconnects throughout the campaign.

We build this calendar and this campaign in Microsoft Excel and then we make it accessible to team members. In fact, if Steven wants us to make it available, we can send it to Steven and he can put it to where you guys can grab the actual Excel file.

Tammy: Really the bottom line is when you get your campaign established, schedule it. Create the plan, schedule the plan, work the plan.

Trent: So here’s a snapshot or a picture of that calendar. I can’t tell you what an important tool that is for a campaign to have so many moving parts and people involved, coordination when you have this in front of you and you’re working from this. You increase your odds for success.

Tammy: I’ll just chime in here too that I think that schedule is what kept us from losing sleep at night. There are so many moving pieces. This is not the only thing you’re doing, of course. You’re doing donor visits and all the things you’re doing at your end. It’s just a way to know that you had this touch point, this touchstone that would keep you on track. We will absolutely make that schedule available to you if you’re interested.

Trent: These are a few things to keep in mind when you’re recruiting those volunteers and your staff to help spread the word online. You can come back to this at any time, but there’s one thing I do want to share, that we learned a lesson the hard way.

When we enrolled about 40-plus volunteers the first time in 2012, we thought we were so smart. We created an entire Word doc of all the posts. We created pre-written Facebook posts and tweets. We put this all in one Word doc and had dates by each one and tried to organize it in a way that was so easy to go through. And then we sent that document to all those that were willing to participate and just say, “Please post on their corresponding dates.” They probably did that for about a week, maybe two weeks. And then we noticed that the posts were waning quickly.

So what we learned from that was they’re busy. We’re asking them to do too much to support the social media campaign in the following years. This was sort of like the secrete sauce for us. We learned that we would just email to them the tweet and/or post depending on what they were willing to do for us on the day that we wanted them to share it and then we asked if you would just do that within 24 hours. I can’t tell you how dramatically it increased their participation and getting the word out online. So I recommend that you do something similar to that if you want your volunteers to stay engaged.

Tammy: It’s a big lesson.

Trent: Just an example of some of the pre-written tweets that we sent out. Here’s the series of Facebook cover photos that we created. So not only did we rotate those through the Children’s Center’s Facebook page, we also made those available through email announcements and other ways asking people to upload these Facebook cover photos as their personal Facebook cover.

Obviously they’re not clickable. They weren’t at the time. I think Facebook has made some really great changes. If you’re not aware of them, do check them out. You can now interact a little bit. We would put the name of the campaign, a piece of the campaign message and the URL so they could find that landing page and hopefully make a donation to the campaign.

Tammy: And you can see the messaging again. So people would just go and they would select the messages worth most to them. “Getting Detroit back on its feet starts with baby steps.” Obviously at the Children’s Center we serve children and families that have experienced abuse and neglect or a developmental issue or something along those lines, mental health issues.

Trent: Here’s one of those things where we tried to do something different with an inexpensive tool. I think it didn’t cost anything. It’s an app called Flipagram and we were able to create a quick picture flip book, if you will, but electronically.

Tammy: Set to music.

Trent: Set to music and we put pictures from the campaign in and in between pictures we had panels with campaign messaging. Then we just posted it and we asked all of our volunteers to tweet it and post it as well. So there are lots of great tools out there that are inexpensive or no cost at all that will give you a lot of creativity like Flipagram. And just another example of a pre-written tweet showing how we even pulled the yellow circle through to the Twitter profile page.

Tammy: All right. So now I want to talk to you about Millennials and some of the more innovative things that we did to attract them. So again, Millennials, we couldn’t just buy a list of people who were within that age span because again, the public databases don’t necessarily own homes yet. It was just limited. So we went to them. At least in our community where Millennials hang out, they’re pretty cool, so they hang out at the brand new hip restaurants and the coffeehouse on the corner and great little microbreweries and pubs. These young people know how to live.

So we knew where they hung out and we recruited about a half a dozen Millennials for an informal focus group to really talk about what appealed to them about our campaign, how they like to engage and share, how they choose nonprofits to support and of course there’s a lot of data out there on the web, a lot of Millennial research that you can access for free.

And then we wanted to take what they told us and apply it. Here’s how we did that. The first thing we did was we created a campaign coasters contest. So we took each of those yellow coasters, those yellow campaign messages and we literally turned them into cardboard coasters. We included a text to give call to action on the reverse side as well as the URL, so if they wanted to give online instead of text to give, they could do that. We went to those pubs and those microbreweries and those cool places and we said, “Hey, if we gave you a few hundred of these coasters, would you be willing to put them out and use them? Would you be willing to donate a gift card or two and be a part of a contest?”

So here’s how the contest worked. In essence, through social media and that volunteer tweet team, we put out the message that if folks wanted to go to these lists of restaurants and if they would take a photo on their smartphone of the coaster and then tag us at #HealChildrenHealDetroit and post it on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram, they would be entered into a contest to win one of these great gift cards from a variety of restaurants. We recruited probably close to 20 restaurants who participated.

Trent: I think it was over that.

Tammy: It may have been. It’s a few campaigns ago now. We also did some fun posters to put up in a lot of these restaurants. We’ve got a local university here in our midtown area. They put some up as well. Of course we had a custom landing page that was responsive. It talked about the rules and all of that. Again, you can read some of those great images, “Rebuilding Detroit doesn’t start with bricks and mortar. It starts with bread and butter.” How fun is that? “Want a sound investment? Listen to a child’s laugh,” really connecting people to the preciousness of childhood.

The other thing that we did is we did some fun pop-up dinners, which I know are more popular now. But believe me, in the fourth quarter of 2012 when I tried to explain this to my board, they were like, “A pop what?” But ultimately this was where you recruit an up and coming chef and you have a pop up restaurant. You serve a four or five course meal with wine or beer in a non-traditional restaurant.

So our first pop-up was at the Detroit Farm and Garden, so literally the place that I bought my mom’s compost a few weeks before became this beautiful, white linen, mixed matched china dining experience. Ticket price, I think was $55 and proceeds went to the Children’s Center. So we’re going to walk you through how that worked.

Here’s a poster for it. This was actually a photo from Detroit Farm and Garden. We promoted it via email blasts as well. You see an example here. This was one of the pop-ups. This was like the pre-reception for the pop-ups. You could see they were really well-attended. We typically had between 50 and maybe 80 people who showed up. We even let a few old people in, like my age.

Trent: And me.

Tammy: And really, they came for the great meal. So we felt like we only had really five minutes’ worth of permission. So I would welcome guests, give them a very quick overview of the Children’s Center and maybe tell a story. We had a full one-hour tour, but we have a four-minute video trailer of that tour, which actually is at the Children’s Center website if you ever want to check it out. It’s pretty moving. So we would show that.

Then we would say, “Thank you for being here. It’s the perfect example of eating well and doing good. If you want to learn more, come take the full tour.” And then dinner was served, the chef was acknowledged. People had a great time. And they left with a little sweet treat that had the year end appeal attached to it. We’ll show you some pictures here.

Again, this was Detroit Farm and Garden. There’s that little four-minute video being shown. There are people enjoying. This one was actually at a metal and woodworking shop. Crazy. Look how beautiful it works. All the chefs donated their time. They prepared the food at cost only.

Trent: On-site also. It was awesome.

Tammy: It was pretty awesome.

Trent: Great experience.

Tammy: And here’s that little Chinese carry-out box that had either a cookie or a cannoli. Again, tied to it with a little gold ribbon, the year-end appeal. The sticker said, “The sweetest ROI you’ll ever get.”

Trent: So really, what we’ve learned from trial and error is that campaigns deliver better results when your brand and all the channels and your messaging are seamlessly integrated and work together.

Tammy: So what’s next? What did we do last year, especially last year that got us up over $233,000? So we did the same kinds of things, different campaign theme and message. But we also introduced how major gifts can support the year-end campaign.

So precisely how we did that was it happened to be the 85th anniversary of the Children’s Center. So we approached the Ford Fund, Ford Motor Company Fund and asked them would they be willing to match every gift made one-to-one up to $85,000 in honor of that anniversary. And of course, they said yes. So this year we’re working on a private individual to do a similar match or perhaps a group of individuals. That’s how to incorporate major gifts.

I will tell you, I have people calling me, both on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve saying, “How close are you to fulfilling that match?” I’ve had $5,000 gifts. We’ve had two $5,000 gifts made online and a $30,000 text message. It was remarkable. I cried the whole holiday season, tears of joy.

Trent: This is pretty much what we said we would cover. It’s just a recap of what we said in the very beginning. We want to open it up to questions and answers.

Tammy: Yeah. I hope you got a lot out of it. I’m sure you have questions.

Steven: We do. Thank you, Tammy and Trent, for sharing that with us. I just love case studies. It’s just so much better than advice because you know that what you’re saying actually worked. So I really enjoyed that. There are a lot of cool things that I was taking notes of some neat ideas. So thanks, that was great.

I know we have some questions that have come in already. I want to encourage people if maybe you were sitting on your hands, don’t be shy. I think we’ve probably got about ten minutes for questions, I would say. I’m just going to go down the list here.

We’ve got one from Christine. Christine is wondering, “Do you count all year end giving towards your appeal campaign or is it just gifts which can be directly attributed to that appeal specifically?” So was the dollar amount you shared, did they come from just this campaign or was it everything you received in the last two months of the year? How do you actually define that?

Tammy: Well, for us it was pretty clear. Did it come in with a direct mail piece? Was it facilitated through the campaign landing page, like the campaign giving page? Did it come through text to give? Year end is the only time when we do a text to give campaign. We knew. There were a couple of major gifts who came in. I know last year that match gift is what inspired them. They were going to give something at year-end as they usually do.

Steven: Right.

Tammy: So if they verbally mention the year-end campaign in that match, we counted it.

Steven: Is that what you think most nonprofits should do or should they just say, “Hey, this is the money that we raised in November and December,” regardless of what campaign or activity generated it? What advice would you have for how to actually report on your year-end revenue?

Tammy: Yeah. For me, it’s all about what empowers your team, what empowers your nonprofit and makes your donors feel excited. For our donors and for our tweet team and for our committee who put on these pop-up events and who tweeted when we sent out tweets and they would retweet them and make those posts, they wanted to see that thermometer rise.

Those donors that called me up on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, they wanted to know their gift counted towards that campaign. So by all means, I let them. I would say what empowers your team and your donors to feel like they are part of something big and they won.

Steven: That makes sense. I like that. Emily here is wondering when is the best time to send the year-end appeal. She says that they’re planning on November 16th for their appeal. Do you think that’s too early, too late? Is there a magic timeframe or does it just kind of depend?

Trent: I think it’s kind of all of that really, Steven. But I think here date is a good date. I certainly wouldn’t launch anything after Thanksgiving. What we have learned is we actually start in late October. But what we do is we don’t start with the campaign in terms of the actual ask. We start with gratitude messaging. “Thank you again for being such a great supporter.”

We might share a video about a success story. Just letting them know they’re appreciated. We might start weaving in some campaign messaging without actually calling it that. So then when they actually start to see the campaign, they connect the dots. So we start that probably about the third week of October.

Tammy: The other thing I don’t think we distinguished clearly enough, the direct mail piece had three phases. So there was a drop in early November.

Trent: For that year it was.

Tammy: A drop in early November. There was a drop in early December. And there was a direct mail drop that should have arrived in your mailboxes at home like December 26th. There was different campaign messaging all in that same theme. The December 26th was, “It’s still not too late.”

Steven: Right.

Tammy: Anyone who had not given to a prior drop got the second drop. Anyone who still didn’t reply got the third drop. But if I made a gift after the first drop, my name was removed in future drops.

Steven: Okay. Makes sense. So you kind of anticipated one of the questions that was next on the list. You kind of started sowing the seeds in October, it sounds like. Was there anything prior to October? Was there anything throughout the entire year that had some of the same thematic pieces that kind of came out of the campaign later on in the year? I think the other side of the question is will you carry some of these things on through the New Year and maybe into the first quarter or is this just kind of a closed system, if you will?

Tammy: Yeah. No. We are very much about pulling a theme through. So since our fiscal year begins in September, the calendar year end campaign is really the launch of our fiscal year. So one year it was, “Children are the Heroes.” We pulled that through the whole year, through our events, through our impact report or annual report. So we kind of used the year end appeal as the start.

When you think about it from a donor’s view, being donor-centric, when they make that gift, it’s a brand new start, right? It’s a fresh beginning. It’s the next commitment. We think, “Sure, we’re done.” No. We’re beginning.

Steven: Yeah. Absolutely. So your average gift amount, Michael was wondering if that included the match or did you filter those out when you were calculating your average gift size there?

Tammy: Actually the match was the 2014 campaign. So it’s not included in this case study at all. That was in the $233,000.

Steven: Okay. Cool.

Tammy: We kind of collapse those a little.

Steven: That makes sense. Hey, Steven here was wondering, another Steven, not me, but he was wondering how many people does it take? What was the size of the team? Who was doing what? What did the boots on the ground work like in terms of the human capital there?

Tammy: Well, at that point in time, we had five people on the team total. But in terms of who worked on this campaign, Trent is the campaign strategist, he works with an outsourced graphics design person. We had our database manager who helped pull and manipulate and help us do all the data pieces and then I kind of wrote the impact statements. So believe it or not, it was a pretty lean and mean team. So the truth is we’re just so passionate about that. It makes it work.

Trent: That’s why that calendar, that schedule is so important. We don’t have the luxury of a huge team of resources to have just individual tasks. You can’t stress that enough.

Tammy: We did have a dozen or so people who were retweeting. Use your volunteers, for sure.

Trent: Absolutely.

Steven: Yeah. Absolutely. I know we’re kind of running out of time. I just want to let everyone know again that we are recording this and I will be sending out the slides. So you’ll receive those from me a little later on. One last question from Mary, this is a multi-channel campaign obviously. I’m curious how you kind of connect between which direct mail pieces or if at all actually drove the online giving?

How you were able to kind of track that or measure that? I know that’s kind of difficult to do when you’re sending out a mailing knowing if it was that actual mailing that generated online activity or some other channel. Maybe you can talk about what your methodology there actually looked like.

Tammy: It really came through the database, right? So we knew how we sent the communication to each donor and then we know how they transacted it. So one of the challenges we’ve encountered is that within our donor database, we probably have maybe 25% of our donors, we have their email address. So we’re working on improving that but the truth is they didn’t get the e-blast. They got the direct mail piece.

Steven: Right.

Tammy: For a lot of them. So we could kind of look at it by, “Pull a report that shows me who receives direct mail and transacted online,” kind of one of those algebra equations. I know Bloomerang is a lot more intuitive than that.

Steven: We try to be.

Tammy: But it was all database. We didn’t look so much at transactions versus how it was solicited.

Steven: Right. Well, cool. I know we’re close to the 2:00 hour. I don’t want to keep anyone much longer, especially if you haven’t eaten lunch. I know how people can get hungry around this time of day. I know we didn’t get to all the questions, but is it fair to say you guys would be willing to take questions maybe through email or through Twitter?

Tammy: Totally. Email us or tweet us.

Trent: Absolutely.

Tammy: If you do want a copy of the actual campaign schedule, we are happy to send you a link to a Dropbox. Just email us and let us know.

Steven: Very cool. I know a couple folks have asked for that. I’d like to see that as well. That would be cool to have. Well, great, Tammy, Trent, this was really awesome. I learned a lot. I hope everyone else enjoyed the discussion. So thanks for sharing all this with us. I really appreciate it.

Tammy: Our pleasure. Thanks for having us. Maybe you’ll invite us back.

Trent: Absolutely.

Steven: I will. Don’t you worry. That’s a definite.

Tammy: Thank you.

Steven: I want to see what you guys do in 2015 with your next campaign.

Tammy: Us too. Thank you everyone.

Steven: We’ve got a lot of resources available on our website as well. We’d love for you to keep the conversation going. Check out our podcast, our newsletter. We’ve got a great blog. We’ve got some downloadables you can check out. We’re taking next Thursday off of our webinar schedule.

But we are back in two weeks, two weeks from today with Lori Jacobwith. She’s going to talk about how to share powerful stories at your fundraising events. It will be event season coming up real soon here. So don’t miss that if you’ve got an event coming up in October or November. It’s going to be a really good presentation. There are a couple other webinars you can register for, some other topics through the end of the year. We’d love to see you again in two weeks or out some time into the future.

So thanks for hanging out with us for about an hour or so. Look for an email from me later on with all the recordings and slides. See you in a couple weeks. Have a great rest of your day and have a good weekend. We’ll talk to you again soon.

Tammy: Thanks, Steven.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.
Kristen Hay