COVID-19 Fundraising Success Stories – B.E.A.M. (Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry)

COVID-19 Fundraising Success Stories – B.E.A.M. (Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry)2020-04-10T14:55:18-04:00

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.

B.E.A.M. (Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry) | Multi-Touch Stewardship + Appeal Email Campaign

In this video, Steven from Bloomerang sits down (virtually) with Gracie from B.E.A.M. (Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry) to talk about how they have raised over $80k through persistent fundraising and stewardship.

Campaign At-A-Glance

BEAM, no stranger to emergencies (it’s in their name), jumped into action as soon as the crisis began. Gracie didn’t hesitate to include a soft ask in every update email, and shared impact stories frequently.

The #1 reason people don’t give is because they’re not asked. If you make that decision for them, you’re not going to raise any money.

1st Crisis Email

34% open rate, 4% click-through-rate

Subject: Emergency funds needed; COVID-19 intensifies

Crisis Update Email

With all of the in-person interactions BEAM has with service recipients, explaining social distancing measures was critical. Gracie made sure to always include a soft ask in each update email.

48% open rate, 5.8% click-through-rate

Subject: COVID-19 – How You Can Help

Impact Update Email

Deeper into the crisis, Gracie did not shy away from telling specific impact stories of what their services team was able to accomplish through donor support. BEAM boasted an unprecedented increase in first-time donors.

42% open rate, 5.7% click-through-rate

Subject: BEAM Reacts as COVID-19 Needs Increase

Updated Thank You Letter Template

Gracie updated their standard thank you letter template to acknowledge crisis support specifically:

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Full Video Transcript

Steven: All right. I got my friend Gracie joining me from beautiful Jacksonville, Florida. Gracie, how are you doing? Are you doing okay down there?

Gracie: I’m doing great, Steven. Thanks so much.

Steven: Yeah. Thanks for being here. You’ve been really gracious with your time in the midst of what looks like a very busy season for you. Why don’t you tell folks who you are and what your organization does? Because you’re doing great work down there and I want folks to have context for what you’re doing and what you’re all about.

Gracie: Sure, thanks. My name is Gracie Simendinger, and I work for BEAM. It stands for Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry. I’m the director of development here. And we’re located in sunny Jacksonville Beach, Florida. And we provide emergency assistance for families living paycheck to paycheck. So we are certainly meeting the increased need of those that are affected by COVID either by, you know, school closures or being laid off or, you know, reduction in hours. And so we’re seeing a lot more people in need of the basic need services that we provide, which is essentially food, rent, and utilities assistance.

Steven: Well, you’re right in the thick of it. I don’t know if I’ll talk to any other organization that is probably more impacted by this. I mean, you’ve literally got emergency in your name, right, so you’re primed for this. But you’ve also been really proactive, which is one of the reasons I want to talk to you.

Gracie: Sure.

Steven: What’s been the impact? Obviously, people in the community, I assume, have lost income. What was that kind of second, middle of March like for you all down there?

Gracie: Wow, it was really busy for us initially, with needing access to our food pantries as well as mobile food distributions. And so the photo behind me, I’m not actually at a mobile food distribution, but that is from us delivering curbside food into people’s cars that are in need of groceries. I mean, all of us . . . many of us have been to the grocery store the past week or so, the shelves are empty. And you know, we operate the Jacksonville Beach’s only, you know, food bank area that helps distribute food not only to our food pantries but also to partner agencies locally, and we rely on rescued food from grocery store partners while, when individuals are stocking up and the shelves are empty in the grocery stores, that means that we don’t have much to pick up as far as grocery recovery items are concerned. So we’re seeing not only an increased need in food but also a decrease in the amount of supply from our grocery store partners as they work to keep things on the shelves. And so we’re at a point where we are buying food to keep up with the demand of just basic pantry staples.

So the first initial two weeks of COVID-19 were really food-related. And then, as people approach the beginning of the month, when a lot of rent payments are due, that’s when we saw a large surge in the need of individuals needing help covering rent for the month of April, because they were laid off or had reduced wages in March.

Steven: Wow. Well, you have, in a normal time period, seen some really clear case for support, but now, especially, you went out and kind of communicated what that impact has been through several emails. Can you kind of walk us through just sort of what your strategy was? You know, it seemed like early March just kind of you’re going through what you normally had planned, but then there was this shift in, “Hey, this is impacting us. This is how it’s impacting us and the people we serve. And we need help.” You know, you didn’t shy away from asking for money either. So kind of, what was that strategy early on like for you?

Gracie: Yeah. So, gosh, I think, you know, we all personally are learning and growing through this in our own lives. And I am over development, but obviously, there’s a lot of cross-functionality in the marketing work that we do. And so I just think it’s best to always be transparent about, you know, where you are as an organization, what hurdles you’re overcoming or how you’re addressing the need. And so, to me, that’s fresh news. And you know, people want to know how you’re meeting it, and so, initially, it started off as a saying, you know, “We are the organization people turn to. These are the things we’re offering and these are the adjustments we’ve made based on CDC recommendations, local and state authorities just to make sure that we, as operators, are also staying safe.” And we are considered an essential business, of course, so a lot of the communication initially was, you know, what are we doing to make sure that we can remain open during this time of uncertainty.

And, you know, we’ve been able to help many families through hurricane season, of course, in Florida, but what’s different about COVID-19 as opposed to hurricanes, we watch hurricanes on TV, like, you know, we know when it’s coming, we have a general sense of when it’s going to end, but since this is such a prolonged situation for all of us that, you know, the end date keeps on changing or prolonging it. You know, we’re trying to be stable and, of course, meet the need for the long run. So, initially, the communication, of course, was just like, “Hey, this is what we’re doing. We want you to know we’re here and we’re available. And also, we need your support to keep this operation running. And also, if you know anyone that’s in need, please tell them that this is a way that they can, you know, access services.”

Steven: One of the things that really stood out to me, Gracie, was the specificity in everything that you communicated, and also, as it got further into March and even now into early April, you also told stories. You know, we’ve been able to provide this to these people and these specific things. Can you talk a little bit about not just the asking for help but, “Hey, this is what we did,” and still communicating that to your supporters?

Gracie: Sure. So these emails, I mean, there’s a little bit of a soft ask in all of these emails, of course, which I thought was important if we’re doing a touchpoint. I’m a Penelope Burk fan, so I’m always, like, give the gift, steward, provide a return on investment and then ask, but during these times, like, I’m just inserting the ask, at least a soft ask in there always. But, you know, segmentation is so important. We’re also operating at a time where people are consuming so much information. And, to me, if you spend a lot of time working on a newsletter and in making it pretty and having all these, you know, wonderful, you know, news articles, it’s old news by the time it hits mailboxes for your donors. Because, you know, those items are time-consuming, so you work on it a month ahead of time. By the time they receive it, you’re on kind of to the next thing.

So I wanted to make it really easy to read as far as the impact that we’re able to serve. So, you know, this is where I rely on my team. Like, I’m not doing this work. I certainly help out and volunteer as I can. But you know, it was, “Hey, guys, we’re, generally speaking, going to be sending out a Monday update email. I want to include all the information we’re doing from the previous week, you know. Can you include these numbers and partners in a timely fashion so I can just basically shine it up and put in an email and tell supporters?”

So when I spoke to segmentation, it was really . . . there’s not a lot of time to do that, especially in the work that we’re doing, since we’re moving so quickly. And so even though there’s a lot of information, it is kind of tailored for a larger audience. Like, I didn’t segment out major donors, because they’re just as curious about this work as, you know, our smaller donors that give $5 and $10, you know, gifts.

Steven: Sure.

Gracie: And so it was really important for me to say, you know, “This is where the money is going, and this is how we’re making an impact.” Here, again, back to the adjustments we’re making to continue to meet the need, and then, of course, like, this is what we need help with. And some of it’s monetary. You’ll see we’re really pushing our virtual food drive, because we’re not able to do actual food drives to really minimize person-to-person exposure. And then, another, you’ll see a little bit later, something that we’re still looking for access for is having the ability to train volunteers to help clients, our individuals in our community that need unemployment application assistance.

Steven: Oh, okay.

Gracie: So it’s kind of I’ll call out, “Does anyone have experience in this? Or if you know someone that has an experience, you know, in this area, let us know.” Because that’s another thing we’re hearing from the community is they’re having a lot of trouble submitting applications and going through that process.

Steven: So even your services are staying very nimble and agile too, you know, in addition to all the communications and marketing.

Gracie: Yeah, we’re definitely doing our best.

Steven: You know, I don’t feel bad about the segmentation. You know, when people say segmentation, my antennas go up for sure, but I think what you did really well is there wasn’t anything in those communications that could potentially upset a certain segment. So even though it went out to everybody, I think you still were very strategic in what you were saying to that audience. And I mean, the results, you were telling me before, you’re up, what, over $80,000 now over the past, like, few weeks or so. I mean, just amazing response that you’ve been able to get.

Gracie: Yeah. So we’re, of course, using appeals in Bloomerang. And so 82,000 in money raised online. And I’m just going to do a shameless plug for Bloomerang and Stripe, the actual, like, processor connection between having an online donation form and then having that go directly into the donors’ record. Like, that is huge for us and such a great timesaver. I do want to throw out a couple more numbers for you, Steven.

Steven: Okay.

Gracie: We have 145 new donors last month alone.

Steven: Oh, wow.

Gracie: And to date, and of course, we’re only, what, 9 days into April, between March and, of course, where we are now in April, we’ve had 250 new donors.

Steven: Wow.

Gracie: So we’re definitely seeing a huge surge in the amount of people that are supporting us, and this is just cause-inspired fundraising, right. Like, this is exactly what we’re seeing. And, you know, as difficult as it is to carry out the work that we’re doing with the increases we’re seeing, like, we’re just so blessed to be in a position where we’re the organization that people are googling when they want to support a basic needs organization. And not everybody does all the time.

Steven: Right.

Gracie: So I think we will see some first-time donors with us that may not stick with us into the future, but we’re still so incredibly grateful that there was a call-to-action enough where they want to give and support us at whatever level they feel comfortable during this time.

Steven: And you’ve been proactive, you know. I don’t want you to feel like it all happened naturally, because I can see it in here that you are proactive. And you mentioned putting in those soft asks in all the touchpoints, which I think is the thing to do. And some folks are maybe a little hesitant to ask for money now. I’m afraid somebody watching this might say, “Well, you know, they’re in the thick of it. Of course, they’re raising money.” But I feel like if people kind of follow your playbook, they can be just as successful. So, you know, what would you maybe say to someone that is feeling the pinch, for sure, and has been impacted by this but isn’t sure that, you know, now is the right time to ask? I mean, it seems like you’ve been able to tap into existing generosity that it was almost just kind of waiting to be tapped into.

Gracie: Sure. Yeah. I just think back to, again, the video that you recorded with a couple of gals at another organization. And it really . . . we’re all . . . I mean, no one wants to be told they’re a nonessential business, but we’re all essential. This is the social sector.

Steven: Yeah.

Gracie: You know, what would our community look like if we didn’t exist? Not we, specifically, but all of us. And so, regardless of whether you’re operating a food pantry during this time or running, you know, an afterschool kids program that is now, you know, no longer operated because school’s out. You know, it’s such an essential critical service, and I guarantee you that, for that specific example, those families that are having to work from home or, you know, juggle their kids at home while they’re not working, because they’re out of work, wish that they still have access to drop those kids off. So it’s still an essential service even if, you know, these organizations aren’t currently open to the public or operating. And so I would just encourage everyone that, you know . . . and again, I have a fundraising mind hat on, and the number one reason people don’t give is because they’re not asked.

Steven: Yeah.

Gracie: And so if you make that decision for them, you know, you’re not going to raise any money because you’ve already told yourself, “Well, they’re not going to give.” So I think that’s the first thing. One thing that I am constantly telling myself now because, you know, my organization is in the thick of it, and we talk so much about compassion fatigue in the sector, and believe me, like, it’s real. So you know, whether it’s an organization worried about fundraising or, you know, us who are also worried about fundraising but also meeting the increased need and having . . . I don’t want to turn anyone away that needs help with their rent assistance. I don’t want anyone to be evicted from their home. So the compassion fatigue is very real, and I just always think of this quote, you know, “If not you, then who? If not now, then when?” And then I also add, if not here, then where? Like, if not here in the community you live, where are you going to invest and where are you going to give your time? And if not . . . you know.

So I just think about that all the time whenever I’m like, “Ah, man, like I have to craft another one of these emails.” Because like you said, it is very time consuming, and we’ve sort of gotten into a groove, but then, of course, in the back of my mind, I’m like, “Well, we’ve been doing the same sort of, like, structure of these emails. Is it getting stale? Is it getting boring? You know, are people sick of reading about what BEAM is doing, you know?”

Steven: I don’t think so.

Gracie: Because everyone’s sending out an email, you know, about their response to COVID.

Steven: Right.

Gracie: So I just think we can’t just lay down and let the current environment just take us whole, that we have to do something about it. Another thing I want to plug too, Steven, if I have a minute.

Steven: Sure.

Gracie: I was on a call with the group that helps sort of mobilize the whole, like, GivingTuesday initiative . . .

Steven: Oh, yeah.

Gracie: . . . are looking to or already really planning to do a #GivingTuesdayNow initiative May 5th. I’m not exactly sure if BEAM will be participating to the full extent. But I think if you’re at all trepidatious about being a part of fundraising in the movement, that’s just an easy way to participate globally with, you know, your sector buddies that are also just trying to raise money or raise awareness of how important the social sector is during this environment.

So, you know, one of the things that they’ve mentioned on the call too is that 40% of nonprofits haven’t even acknowledged that the coronavirus is a thing in any of their communication. And I found that so staggering, because this is impacting everybody, and we need to be acknowledging it. And if your doors are closed, you need to be communicating with your donors that your doors are closed, and you know, you have . . . you know, I wouldn’t say you’re worried about stuff, but there are implications to that, right. And so just communicating with people about either what you’re doing or how this is affecting you is certainly going to help them have a greater appreciation for what you do and how they can support you in the future or now.

Steven: Wow. I could not have said any of that any better. I wouldn’t even try. Gracie, you’re awesome. It’s not a surprise to me that you’re raising the amount of money that you are, because you are extremely wise in what you’re saying. So I hope everyone else is watching this is as inspired as I am listening to you. So thank you. Thanks for the work you’re all doing. I mean, just, you’re right there in the thick of it. So thanks for the services also. And thanks for being really gracious with your time. Pun intended, I guess. This is awesome.

Gracie: Great.

Steven: We will call it a day there, but I hope you all enjoyed watching this video. And check out more interviews. We’ve got a couple other conversations like this one if you enjoyed it. But thanks, Gracie. Thanks for taking the time.

Gracie: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it, Steven.