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.
Boys & Girls Club Boone County | Services Pivot & Multi-Touch Fundraising Email Campaign
In this video, Steven from Bloomerang sits down (virtually) with Katie from Boys & Girls Club of Boone County to talk about how their programs have pivoted in light of the coronavirus outbreak, and how the community has responded.
B&GC Boone County (IN), having been forced to close due to social distancing mandates, quickly identified a gap in food assistance for K-12 students and zeroed in on providing dinners (due to most school districts still providing lunches). They have also recently added in virtual programming; all of which require funding.
We are doing a large push because we are offering an emergency food program that is not funded through the Department of Education food program that we typically do. We have had support from our community foundation and two major donors. In addition to that, we have had many first-time donors support this initiative!
Over the course of several emails, the club solicited volunteers, communicated menu options, acknowledged corporate sponsors (especially food providers) and solicited in-kind, as well as monetary, donations.
Full Video Transcript
Steven: Okay, here we go. All right. I’m here with my buddy, Katie, a fellow Hoosier. Katie, how are you doing? Are you doing all right?
Katie: We’re good, yeah.
Steven: Hanging in there, right?
Katie: We’re hanging in there during COVID-19, not exactly what we’re planning on doing this time of year.
Steven: Yeah. Well, you’ve been busy. One of the reasons I wanted to talk to you, Boys & Girls Club, Boone County, so Central Indiana. Maybe tell folks about yourself, what you do there, and kind of what your club is all about. I think most people know Boys & Girls Clubs, but maybe fill in the gaps for folks if they have any.
Katie: Okay. I’m the Resource Development Director. So I handle all the marketing, fundraising, community relations, etc. I’ve been here about a year and a half. We merged with the Lebanon Club about 18 months ago to become the Boys & Girls Club of Boone County. We have units in Lebanon, Whitestown, and Zionsville. And we have about 3,000 members with our sports programs and all of our community events. And then we have about 450 kids that come every day after school. We offer after school programming, before care, before school, summer camp, sports league, so a lot of different things for kids in the community. And our focus on this area is from ages 5 to 18. And offer things to do with academic success, community outreach, and healthy lifestyles are our three areas of focus that we work on with the kids.
Steven: And I’ve had an opportunity to volunteer at some of the clubs here in Indy, and just know all the great things you’re providing. And like so many people, a lot of that . . . most of that I assume has been shut down, right? I mean, what’s been the impact on the club since, you know, mid-March?
Katie: Right. On March 12th, our schools announced that they were going to be closing for the next three weeks. Since then, they’ve now closed for the rest of the school year except for e-learning. And so we closed on that day as well. We are doing now virtual programming which just started last week for any child. You don’t have to have a Boone County member. You do have to go on our website bgcboone.org and fill out a permission slip. But anyone is welcome to participate in our programming just to help. You know, the kids miss their friends from the club. They miss interactions with the staff. And to go three months without having those, we really felt this was an area that we could assist.
You know, you hear all over Facebook and Zionsville Moms that, you know, parents are overwhelmed with trying to teach the kids. So we’re having some homework sessions. We’re also doing some fun things. Kicking it with Ken, our athletic director, and just doing some fun things. We just did a dance party this morning already. We played Mad Libs last week. So they do this all outside my office but I [inaudible 00:03:02] what’s going on.
Steven: And you participated in one I heard this morning, right?
Katie: Yeah, I did. Yes, I did a dance party this morning.
Steven: I love it.
Katie: That’s one thing. And then as soon as we closed, the CEO and I decided that we needed to launch an evening meal program, which in Lebanon unit we typically feed about 100 kids a day, about 65% to 70% of our everyday members are after school members that come are on free and reduced lunch. So we felt that this was a need we needed to fill.
The program that typically pays for that is through the Department of Education grant, but since we cannot feed the kids on-site, that grant is not paying for this. So we have had to solicit grants, donations, individual, some of our major donors have really stepped up. We have a matching campaign going on. So it all started with one call to our Community Foundation. We had been alerted that they had carved out money to help for things. And I made a call Friday the 13th asking them to help support this program. And 10 minutes later, I got a call back telling me that they were giving us the first $5,000.
Steven: Wow. And it seems like . . . you know, one of the reasons I wanted to call you up is we could see all the activity in Bloomerang. And you seemed to have tapped into the generosity of your community. You had to cancel an event, right? Did I see that correctly? Yeah.
Katie: We were supposed to have a Be Great Breakfast on April 22nd. It’s sort of our signature, telling about our mission. We have three special events a year, that’s the one in the spring, we do a golf tournament, and then our biggest fundraiser is a Thanksgiving Day Run. But this event usually raises around $30,000. So we, you know, are losing that revenue as well as our membership revenue, our sport week we had to cancel. And so we were . . . you know, we’re just asking the community to support this food program.
And they have been incredibly generous, not only financial donations but hot dog buns and hamburger buns, applesauce, you name it. I put out an email and I have lots of donations that are at the door within a couple of hours. On the weekends . . . thankfully I live across the street, I drive by two or three times a day to empty out the donation bin and put it into my car to deliver some more. So it’s been great.
With the closing of school now until the 1st of June, we will be doing this program for 11 weeks. That will cost about $1,200 a day. And food costs is about $500 . . . not $500, it’s about $5 per person. We’ve been serving about 240 to 250 meals per day. Tonight, I . . . The grocery store in Lebanon IGA donated the meat and the Milky Way, a small local business, is making chili for everybody, put together by the Zionsville Chamber of Commerce.
Tomorrow night, Backroads Barbecue, it’ll be the third Tuesday in a row that they provide meals for everyone. And that was put together by the Boone County Chamber of Commerce. So we have just had a lot of support from different entities. And, you know, we really couldn’t do it without them. Jacquie’s Catering donated a meal the first week, and we have a barbecue place that’s donated. So some nights we’re making the meals, some nights restaurants are donating it. So, yeah, you know, we’re just . . .
Steven: One thing that stood out for me in your email is . . .
Katie: . . . reaching and we’re not just limited to [inaudible 00:07:04]. I’m sorry.
Steven: Yeah, you read my mind because that really stood out to me in all your emails of the businesses that have also, you know, kind of answered your call. And I like how you also acknowledge them in the emails because it seems like so often sponsors kind of go unthanked. So great job on that for sure. And I was just kind of overwhelmed by the amount of things that you’ve had to communicate. You had to cancel the event, close the club, say “We’re still doing meals.” So what was kind of the . . . Did you get kind of a natural influx of help by just announcing the closure and the need there, and then kind of add the sort of proactive fundraising? Or kind of what was the sort of the arch of the outreach, if that kind of makes sense?
Katie: You know, it started with the grant from the Community Foundation. We also had reached out to United Way, but we have not gotten any funding from them as of yet. So it has really been a Boone County grassroots effort. And really, through our email campaign, for the first three weeks, the only way we communicated was through our Bloomerang database, which we send out . . . every time we send out an email, it goes to over 5,200 people. So I try and do it no more than twice a week just because you’re getting bombarded by everything. But people are used to looking for them now. I’ll get questions like, “What’s the menu next week?” And then I also use our social media, our Facebook. And really, that’s our main social media that we’ve been pushing.
But like I said, the Chamber of Commerce has really been supportive. Businesses have jumped on. I have a donor who I called last week and asked him if he would do one meal, and he said, “Sure.” And then when I sent out the email yesterday and said that we were expanding it for eight more weeks, he sent me an email and said, “Call me today so we can talk about sponsoring some more meals.” So it’s been great.
And I have a volunteer whose kids go here. In the first couple of days because we have, you know, a SignUpGenius group that I also promote out, and that’s been so successful as well. And I had a volunteer who then after volunteering, one of the first days went to Meijer, and Target, and Kroger and got gift cards from all of those. We’ve also asked for one from Costco and I have a Walmart form around here somewhere that I’m going to turn in today. So, you know, it’s a lot of . . . it’s really the grassroots. One thing that Krista, our stewardship manager, is in here with me, when we look at the donors, 29% have never given to us before.
Katie: So, yeah.
Steven: That’s outstanding. But you’re being proactive. I mean, pat yourselves on the back because you’re going out there and calling people. I mean, talk about the phone calls because it seems like some people may be shying away from phones as well, but it seems like you’re not afraid to pick up the phone.
Katie: Well, we’re really not. But it’s people that I already have relationships with. I grew up in Boone County. I grew up in Lebanon, which is where we’re doing this. I wouldn’t feel comfortable picking up my phone, you know, for someone I didn’t already have relationships with and asking them. But someone who I know has . . . he doesn’t live in Lebanon anymore, but he grew up there. He’s invested in the community by buying an old warehouse and tearing it down and going to expand his business there. You know, I knew his heart was in the right place. He’s been a sponsor of the Boys & Girls Club golf outing. And, you know . . . And we have a big business park in Lebanon. And one of our big sponsors there, PWG, the first week pulled up and they are a wholesale grocer, they store a lot of grocery things. We had green beans and corn and all these things that a whole carload of things that he brought to us. Lysol wipes, that was the most exciting thing that he brought to us.
Steven: Yeah, you may have the only wipes in the State of Indiana.
Steven: Well, I mean, kudos to you. You did the pivot. I think, you know, it probably would have been easy to say, “Well, they’re getting the school meals. So we’ll close the club. We’ll do the virtual programming.” But you stepped up to provide the food and were proactive about, you know, making sure that there was food there or money for food. So many folks that kind of we’ve encountered are maybe a little on the fence about being proactive in fundraising, and sending emails, and reaching out to people, and you’ve done it in spades. What would you say to a person that may be thinking, “Well, I don’t want to bother folks, now maybe is not the right time to ask for money”? What would you say if you heard maybe a colleague say that?
Katie: Well, I think we have hit a sweet spot of looking at the need in the community that people are really passionate about. I had a volunteer text me on Friday night and said, “I’m more concerned about the kids not eating than I am about getting sick from the coronavirus.” And she’s a realtor that’s out and about. So I think it’s just . . . I think I would struggle with asking for something that is not helping with the situation. I think maybe, you know, sending out a letter just saying, “Our event has been canceled, will you, please, still support us?” Not sure I could do that. But helping with a direct need, a basic need during this time has really been good for us.
And we’re really . . . with the addition of Krista and a couple of board members who aren’t as busy as they typically are, we’re handwriting thank you notes to everybody who gives. All first-time donors, which at this point were 44. Krista’s calling them and thanking them for their donation. And, you know, the Boys & Girls Club of America, one thing that they’re suggesting and my mentor there is, you know, call some of your older donors, and this is something I would recommend to other people is call some of your own older donors, “How are you doing?” You know, just to check in on them not to ask them for donations, but just to check in on them and see if there’s anything you can do. “Can I pick up groceries for you?” Because, you know, as fundraisers, we’re not just asking for money, we’re these relationship people as well.
One thing I found interesting . . . My sister’s a fundraiser for a huge park in Nashville, Tennessee, and she . . . It’s one of the few things that’s still open and the State of Tennessee has closed their state parks but their metro city parks are still open. So people are packed in her park with social distancing, using the trails. And I said to her, “Well, I hope you’re using this as a tool to raise money.” And her point was, “I’m going to wait. I want them to enjoy it now. But don’t you think in the fall, I’m going to hit that as one of the best ways we got through this was to be able to have outdoor activity.”
Steven: Yeah. Remember April when you were able to get outside? Now’s your chance to give back.
Steven: Well, you’re smart. You must come from a smart family because you found that sweet spot and just how contextual.
Katie: [inaudible 00:14:33].
Steven: Yeah. And I think the specificity of all the appeals is what stood out to me as well. It was a clear, “We’re doing this thing, it’s needed. We need help, you know, do you want to pitch in?” So, you know, kudos to you and the team for making it happen.
Katie: Well, thanks. You know, thankfully, we already had a commercial kitchen. We already had a kitchen manager. So those things are huge and it’s really nice that we have not . . . knock on wood, and hopefully, with the grants or government help that we applied for last week, we have not had to layoff anybody. The people have self-selected that they don’t feel comfortable working, which is absolutely fine. They want a job when they come back. But we are hoping not to have to lay anybody off and our board is very supportive of that. And we check in with them every two weeks and say sort of, “This is where we are. Can we go the next pay period?” And our goal is, you know, to not have to lay anybody off or furlough anybody.
Steven: And the fundraising results have been, you know . . . I know it’s a new sort of programming campaign, but it looks like it has dwarfed what you were doing maybe last March and April. Is that a true statement?
Katie: Definitely. It’s a true statement. We did our Be Great Breakfast last year, the end of April, and raised around $30,000. But half of that came from two donors. And one of those donors has doubled their gift for this spring.
Steven: Wow, with no event.
Katie: The other donor is being asked this week to make at least the same size gift as she did last week. You know, right now our plan is to have that event in September, but I think that’s everyone’s plan. I think we’ll look at things over, you know, hopefully in June and see, do we really need to have that event? Or can we use those resources to really push towards our Thanksgiving Day Run? Which would be my hope.
Steven: That makes sense.
Katie: I love event fundraising. I’m one of those weird people that love to do special events, but I . . .
Steven: It’s not weird.
Katie: . . . doing two major events in two months. I did it my first six months here and it was a lot, you know.
Steven: Yeah, definitely.
Katie: Hopefully those gifts will keep coming. And, you know, we’re really trying to engage the people and say “Yes, you’re giving right now maybe for the meal program, but these are all the other things we do.” And we just got a gift either last night or this morning, and she said, “Thanks for all you’re doing, please use this gift in any way that you need to.”
Katie: You know, if it is a designated gift for the meal program, we’re definitely using it for that. We do know some of our larger gifts that have come through, if we go to those really two donors and say, “We need to use this money elsewhere.” I’ve already talked to one of them, they are absolutely fine with it.
Steven: Awesome. Well, it’s a testament to the foundations you’ve laid, especially with the stewardship and the additional focus on stewardship you have during this time, which I love. I love the handwritten notes. So you all are inspiring me. It’s why I wanted to talk to you. So thanks for sharing. It’s the experience.
Katie: Thank you. It’s nice to have a purpose during this time. My husband’s working from home, I have three teenage boys, so I’m happy to go to work.
Steven: Yeah. Well, I’ve got an 8-year-old son running around and our YMCA has been doing some virtual programming, but I might have them check out your club tonight and take a class or two.
Katie: Well, I have got a quick question for you when we are done with this part so I . . .
Steven: Okay. Well, we’ll call it a day there. And yeah, we can keep talking, but thanks for sharing your time. I love all the tips and, you know, just keep it up. Thanks for all you do.
Katie: Well, let’s hope we’ll keep the momentum to take us forward, because we’ve had a lot going on in the last two years. So we really needed some good momentum.
Steven: You’ll keep it going, I’m sure. Thanks, Katie.
Katie: Well, thanks.