Overall, Bloomerang customers that sent fundraising appeals raised $1.35MM more during the COVID-19 crisis than they did during the same time period last year! We wanted to highlight some of those success stories here.

Ada Jenkins Center | Service Offering Precautions Communication & Critical Assitance Fund Creation

In this video, Steven from Bloomerang sits down (virtually) with Karen from the Ada Jenkins Center to talk about a special COVID-19 fundraising appeal campaign that resulted in nearly $100k donated, despite an in-person event cancelation.

Campaign At-A-Glance

Faced with a constituency directly impacted by the coronavirus, AJC needed to communicate and raise money quickly. The result was an event cancellation, a service offering pivot and the creation of a new fund dedicated to job and service-loss relief.

Email #1 – COVID-19 Precautions

With all of the services provided by ACJ, they needed to communicate what would continue and what precautions would be taken to ensure the health and safety of employees and service recipients. This email also communicated the postponement of their annual gala.

29% open rate, 3% click-through-rate

Subject: Our COVID-19 Precautions for Health and Safety

Email #2 – Urgent – Our Families Need Help like Never Before…

31% open rate, 2.4% click-through-rate

Subject: How to Help: Kid Booster Crisis Fund

AJC created a brand new fund to support those financially and medically impacted by the coronavirus.

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Full Video Transcript

Steven: All right, cool. Thanks for tuning in and watching this video. I’m Steven over at Bloomerang. I got my new friend, Karen, joining us. Karen, how is it going? Are you doing okay?

Karen: Doing as well as can be expected.

Steven: Yeah. You’re hanging in there. I think you’re kind of doing better than most from what I’ve seen. It’s why I wanted to talk to you. You are real high on my list. Karen, just to kind of start out, would you mind just telling us about yourself and the organization and all the cool stuff that you all are doing there?

Karen: Sure thing. So I am director of development at an organization called the Ada Jenkins Center in Davidson, North Carolina. We’re about 20 miles north of Charlotte. And we also serve two neighboring towns, Cornelius and Huntersville, and we comprise what’s known as the Lake Norman area. And for the most part, it’s a highly educated place, fairly affluent, but we do have these pockets of folks who are struggling. They’re around the poverty line. And those are the folks we help. We help about 2,600 people a year.

Steven: Wow, very cool.

Karen: So we are the only nonprofit in this area that provides wrap-around human services. So we have a free medical clinic, a free dental clinic, we do after-school academics, we have adult education, some workforce development, and we also have a food pantry. So we do all of that.

Steven: Yeah. And like so many others, I’m assuming that a lot of that has been diminished over the second half of March. What’s been the impact on not just the fundraising but also the services over in sort of your sphere of influence?

Karen: Right. So, like many states, North Carolina is under a stay-at-home order, and our food pantry is considered essential services. So we had to shut down our medical clinic and our dental clinic, which both are largely run by volunteers, volunteer health care providers. And so that all just shut down right off the bat. Our social workers who are in-house are all working from home. They’re staying in touch with their folks by telephone.

And really the only thing that we are operating as a service right now has to do with food. We’re a food pantry, and so we are operating that. We are also serving as a distribution point for our local school system, which is providing meals for free to children up to age 18 every day, a breakfast and a lunch. So we’ve got a drive-thru coming up. Folks can come up and drive through and pick that up, but we also were doing deliveries, because there’s a lot of folks saying that they don’t want to leave their homes.

Steven: Wow, yeah. So you’ve got all that going on, which needs to be communicated too. And then, on top of that, I saw, it looks like you had an event planned in March or early April. Is that right?

Karen: Isn’t everyone?

Steven: Yeah, all those spring events, it just seems like a timing. But I thought I could kind of pull up that sort of first email, because you know, we were talking before and you were kind of doing the normal thing through early March. And then, you know, I thought really quickly, and well done, pivoted and communicated all those things. So the decision to kind of postpone the event and tell people what’s going on, can you kind of walk through what your sort of mentality and strategy was with all those things?

Karen: Sure. As soon as we started hearing that, you know, events of over 50 people or more were going to have to be canceled, we just knew that this was something we were going to have to shelve. And you know, our board is incredibly supportive and providing great leadership, and so they were like, “Yeah, let’s cancel it. Let’s do what we have to do.” And several members of our leadership team, our executive director, director of operations, they were here during the 2008 financial crisis. So we had the benefit of them recognizing what some huge shifts were going to mean for the folks that we serve. And so, immediately, they said, “We need to start working in a different way.” And so we jumped on it right away.

Steven: Yeah. I can tell, not just with the timing, but you know, looking through that first email you sent, you just laid it out, you know, no fluff, no jargon, “Hey, this is what we’re doing.” And it was clear that there was a pivot, right, because sort of the medical stuff, that sort of went away, but then you really spun up the food need, which is something that you could still do in sort of a hygienic way, I assume.

Karen: Yeah.

Steven: What was the response to this first email? I know it’s been a couple of weeks. We’re recording this in April. But if you can recall, you know, what was sort of the response, not just the community, but also maybe service recipients.

Karen: We sent this email out on March the 13th, and it was sort of like, “Everybody, this is here. This is what we’re doing.” And we did receive probably about 20 to 25 emails back from our constituents that said, “So glad you’re doing this. Thank you so much. Keep it up.” The people we serve typically are not in our constituent base. They’re not donors. Some of them don’t have email. So we would hear from them anecdotally. They would talk to their social workers and just say, “Thank you for what you’re doing,” but it wasn’t necessarily in response to any communications that we were providing online, for instance.

Steven: Yeah. Well, I love this email. I know a lot of folks are sending emails like this. But kind of the main reason I wanted to talk to you was you didn’t stop there. A couple of days later, you were bold, and I think it paid off in your case and would for so many. You set up this new fund, right. This is a totally new sort of fundraising campaign that you probably wouldn’t have done normally. It wasn’t part of your normal March cadence, I assume. Talk to me about the decision to say, “Okay, you know, we’re communicating on the services, but let’s go a step further and ask for money because we need help.” And I think a lot of folks are feeling, you know, “Maybe we shouldn’t ask for money. Is now a good time?” Can you kind of walk me through that thought process as well?

Karen: Sure thing. So it goes back to the fact that some of our leadership had been here back in 2008 when things got really hairy for the people we serve. And I think because they had that presence of mind, they said, “This is going to get bad, and we need to stay on top of it right now.” And primarily, we need to send out an email and start raising awareness for a critical assistance fund. This was not in our budget. It doesn’t cover any operations. It’s strictly a fund that we can access when one of our clients comes to us and says, “I’m a couple hundred dollars short on my rent,” or “I need some gas money. I’m lucky I still have a job, but I don’t have the money to put in my gas tank.” And so we needed a fund to be able to access to help those folks. Many of our folks are undocumented also, and so they’re not going to get any government assistance.

Steven: Right.

Karen: And so we knew that wasn’t an avenue for them. So we sent out the initial email on March 13th, the one that just said, “Here’s what we’re doing.” And that’s part of what I’m calling our confidence campaign. It’s to show people we’ve got this. We’ve been around for 20 years. We have a great reputation in our community, and so we want to be the leaders. We wanted to demonstrate ourselves as leaders. So we sent that out on the 13th, just to level set, “Here’s where we are, here’s what we’re doing.” And then, four days later, we were talking in-house, and the rumors were coming down. News was trickling out slowly out of Raleigh that the governor was going to be putting some sort of stay-at-home order in effect. And the first thing that was done was that he shut down restaurant dining rooms. And so a lot of our folks are in food service and in janitorial. And so when the restaurant dining rooms were shut down, a lot of our restaurants went to drive-thru or pickup.

Steven: Right.

Karen: But they still had to lay off a whole lot of their staff.

Steven: Right.

Karen: That was the impetus. So that order came in I think 1:00 on the 17th, and we immediately got to work and said, “We need to create this. We need to launch it.” We launched it at 5:00 on the 17th with a separate letter that said, this one that you mentioned, with the initial feedback we got from clients who were calling us and saying, “Oh my gosh, I never imagine this would happen. Here’s what’s going to happen to us.” And so we launched this at 5:00, and I think within the first hour, we had something like 35 gifts totaling $10,000.

Steven: And now, you’re getting close to, what, like, 100k. Is that what you said?

Karen: We are getting there. So this morning, April 6th, we sent out a follow-up note.

Steven: Yeah, I saw that. We scheduled this ahead of time, so I thought that was cool to see that in your database. Yeah, you said you’ve gotten quite a few gifts from that just today alone, right?

Karen: We did. And the purpose of this one was a second confidence boost saying, “All right, this has happened, but here’s how we’re pivoting and here’s how we are remaining nimble and still serving our folks.” But at the bottom, we had, you know, a little plug for if you want to help contribute to the fund, if you want to join our standby volunteers, and we got response to both in this morning. I think within the first hour and a half, we received 11 gifts totaling nearly $5,000.

Steven: Wow. Well, I mean, all credit to you for having a wherewithal to get on it quickly and, you know, have the, maybe boldness isn’t the right word, but the boldness to ask for help. Because you know, one of the reasons I want to make these videos is a lot of people, I feel like, are a little sheepish about maybe asking for money right now. What would you say to someone who’s, you know, maybe even now, in early April, kind of on the fence of, you know, “Should we be asking? Is it the right time?” You know, what would you say to maybe a colleague who’s feeling that?

Karen: What we’re finding is that people want to help.

Steven: Yeah.

Karen: You know, we had 75 people sign up for our new volunteers list.

Steven: Wow.

Karen: They want to do something, and I’ll email them back and say, “Thanks. Great. What else can we do? Can we bring something over to the food pantry? Can I make a donation?” And so I think folks want to do something. And even when our volunteers come and serve in our food pantry or at the school distribution, the meal distribution, they want to talk. They want that sort of connection. And I’ve been calling donors, and they’re happy to pick the phone. And they want to talk about it and, you know, tell us a little bit about their families. So I would say this is a great time to reach out to people and don’t be afraid to do it.

Steven: I love it, and I really appreciate what you said about the board support, because every conversation I’ve had like this, if folks see the other videos, that’s been a big kind of angle of this, is the board supports them, you know. They say, “Do it. We got to do something.” And, wow. I mean, you all are awesome. I know you’re new to the org and new to Bloomerang. This is probably not how you envisioned, you know, doing your first quarter in a new software, in a new role, but great job, because you all are making it happen. So, you know, thanks for doing [inaudible 00:12:08]

Karen: Well, I think it’s a testament to how user-friendly Bloomerang is . . .

Steven: Oh, thanks.

Karen: . . . and we’ve been able just to roll with it and, you know, crank this thing out. And it takes, you know, 20 minutes, and we set it out there, and it’s working, and it’s beautiful, and you know, we’re grateful to have this capability now.

Steven: Well, we’re grateful for you, and I hope your bosses and the board recognizes all your good work, so. And thanks for doing this. You’ve been really generous with your time. We’ve been emailing. But keep it up, is all I can say. I don’t really have any . . . you’re giving the advice, not me, but you all are doing great, so keep going.

Karen: Thanks very much.

Steven: Yeah, thanks, Karen.

Karen: We’re all in it together.

Steven: That’s right, yeah. We’ll get through it. All right, I’m going to . . .