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.
Naperville Education Foundation | Event Cancellation + 2-Touch Email Campaign
In this video, Steven from Bloomerang sits down (virtually) with Amy and Wendy from the Naperville Education Foundation to talk about a special COVID-19 fundraising appeal campaign that resulted in over $100k donated, despite an in-person event cancelation.
With schools closing, NEF canceled an in-person fundraising event outright and quickly shifted gears to create an all-new crisis fund. Two dedicated email appeals were sent, resulting in thousands of dollars raised, including many from brand new donors.
Email #1 – Event Cancelation
NEF succinctly communicated the cancelation of their event, but not the fundraising goal, and included an appeal that was contextualized for the current crisis.
29% open rate, 1.7% click-through-rate
Subject: The time to help is NOW
Email #2 – Crisis Appeal
Later, NEF announced the creation of a special fund for at-risk, food-insecure and homeless students.
31% open rate, 2.4% click-through-rate
Subject: How to Help: Kid Booster Crisis Fund
Email #3 – What You Would Have Seen At The Event
Since NEF had invested in the creation of content for the event, they sent that content out by email on the day that the event was supposed to take place. This email features several stories of impact from the foundation.
45% open rate, 4.6% click-through-rate
Subject: Why there’s no place like 203
Full Video Transcript
Steven: All right, I got Amy and Wendy here. My new friends here from up in Naperville. Amy and Wendy, how you doing? You doing okay?
Wendy: Yeah, we’re doing great.
Steven: Awesome. Thanks so much for doing this on short notice. We’re recording this on April 3rd and you two have had, looks like quite a couple of weeks. I want to get into what you’ve done to fundraise, but could both of you just kind of tell me about yourselves and tell me about the organization and kind of what you’re all about?
Wendy: Yeah, sure. My name is Wendy Goettsch. I’m the Executive Director of the Naperville Education Foundation. The foundation is the philanthropic arm of Naperville’s school district 203. So, we really exist to benefit the students and the school district. We fundraise to create opportunities that really go over and beyond the tax-supported budget.
Steven: Very cool. And Amy, you’re right there. You’re a partner in crime?
Amy: Yeah, so, Wendy and I work very closely together. My name is Amy Schade, I’m the Development Coordinator at NEF. And we sort of do everything between the two of us. Collaborative work on a lot of what we’re going to be talking about today.
Steven: Wearing a lot of hats, like I’m sure most folks are, I’m sure.
Amy: Yes, exactly.
Steven: So, you know, just like everybody, you’re trying to deal with what’s going on in the world. You had an event, kind of smack in the middle of March. Tell me about that event and kind of what you did. Seems like you had to cancel it outright. Tell me about that.
Wendy: Well, it was . . . we have two major fundraising events a year, and this was one of the two. So, it’s really a big deal that we chose to cancel it. It was an event that’s been . . . this was the 27th year. This breakfast was being held. It was the first time in its history it’s ever been cancelled. So, it was a big choice to cancel that. And we did quite a lot of discussing whether or not we should cancel it, should we postpone it, should we try something virtual? I mean, there was quite a lot of discussions, right, Amy?
Amy: Yeah, I mean, we were in the midst of making the final preparations for the event itself. So, we found ourselves really having to switch gears from table seatings and arrangements and you know, thinking about logistics to coming up with what were we going to do in the place of being able to have this event. The closer we got to it, the reality just became that it wasn’t. Even if we had it, no one would’ve come, so.
We had to make the hard call. Looking at the calendar, we’re associated with the school district, so we’re tied to the school calendar. Not knowing, one, when we would go back, was a huge consideration. And the other aspect was there simply wasn’t any time in the school calendar and we have so many different schools that we’re supporting, so many different activities going on at those schools and testing and things that would keep people from the school community being able to attend. Rescheduling really was just not a viable option for us.
Steven: Yeah, and it seems like it probably also gave you an opportunity to just kick in to gear with some new campaign rather than, you know, having to continue promoting the event or having people worry. And so, this all happened, it looks like early March, maybe first or second week of March, and you sent the cancellation email, and I’ll pull it up here so folks can see it. But can you kind of walk me through what it is you wanted to communicate because you did a pretty overt fundraising ask in the cancellation email itself. It wasn’t just, “Hey we’re cancelling.” But also said, “We needed this event to raise support, so can you pitch in?” Can you kind of talk about this email?
Wendy: Yeah, I mean, well, like I was saying earlier, it’s one of two major fundraising events. So, losing the income from that would, you know, just make a huge impact on the funds that we can provide for our programs. So, we knew we had to not only cancel it, but just say, “Hey, you know, we’re going to lose this money and possibly lose program support. So, we really need your help to kind of keep this going.” At the event itself, we have a piece of the event that’s called “Stand for your . . . Show your support,” so, it’s kind of like a human-paddle race. So, there’s a big portion of the funds raised at the event happens on the day of the event. Not just the ticket sales ahead of time. So, we kind of wanted to make up for that in any way we could. So, we thought, “Well, why don’t we just ask?” I mean, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Steven: Yeah, right, yeah. But a lot of people, it seems like are afraid to because they think, “Well, is it the right time? I know people are going through it.” And all the advice I’ve heard in over the past, you know, almost month now is, “No, ask.” And you all did it. And not only did you do it in this email, but it looks like you sent a subsequent sort of . . . I wouldn’t say like a crisis email, but it was definitely, “Hey, we need help because, you know, I assume the school districts are shut down.” The kids aren’t in school, right? They’re the same with here in Indy. What was kind of the thinking to go ahead and be bold to, you know, a couple of days later to send that ask to the list there?
Wendy: Amy, you want to go ahead?
Amy: Sure, I mean, we were obviously dealing with the aftermath of cancelling the event and getting some support of from just cancelation of the event. But when Wendy and I were on social media ourselves and talking the friends, we saw there was this need in the community to help people. So, we were seeing people post things that were saying, “I want to buy somebody lunch. I want to buy somebody dinner. I want help in some tangible way.” And we were also hearing from the district-side what those needs were.
So, Wendy approached the district to see if we could create something that would potentially meet those needs. And this was really rather early on when all of this just first started happening, so we didn’t necessarily know how long would go on. No one still does. What those needs were going to be, so we didn’t have a budget, we didn’t have a goal. We just wanted to help. And we knew that there were people in our community that really wanted to help. As well as some people in the community who might not be as aware of the need that we have in our district because they’re not necessarily seeing it on a day-to-day basis. So, getting that awareness out there as well. So, we already had a fund for assisting students who were at risk or had financial needs. So, we sort of spun that into . . . for this particular situation as a way to help.
Steven: I love that. I think it was a brilliant sort of pivot. And the language in the email, it’s no surprise to me to see, like, the click-through rates and the open rates you got on it because it’s really clear case for support and also kind of tying it to the current situation. And I totally agree, Amy. I was seeing the same thing on, you know, on my personal social media feed. It seems like people are feeling generous now even though, you know, some are going through financial difficulties. I know people have lost their jobs and I don’t want to minimize that, but people who haven’t, it seems like they are kind of in a generous mode. And I’m not sure if it was quite the same back in ’08 when we had a similar financial crisis, but . . .
So, the last thing I wanted to show folks and ask you about before I let you go because you’ve already been way generous with your time than we deserve, but you sent an email. I thought this was absolutely brilliant, on the day the event would have happened basically saying, “Hey, we were unable to meet. We were unable to gather, but this is what you would have experienced.” So, you sort of transformed the event and kind of repackaged it into an email. Tell me about the idea and kind of how you executed on it because I haven’t seen this. And I think it’s just great.
Wendy: Well, this event is the one event a year that we get to showcase our programs. We are able to bring them to life. A lot of it is through video. So, we spend months, you know, prior to the event pulling stories together so that we can bring them to life for that audience. And then we started thinking, “Okay, well, we’ve got these great videos. We’ve already invested in these videos and we really want to share them.” And there’s some art pieces in there as well that the kids did that were supposed to be on display that day. You know, there was a lot of effort for months ahead of time that went into this and we just thought, “We really want to share that with people.” Not only did we now had the opportunity to just . . . we’re going beyond the audience we would’ve had at that event. That event probably would’ve had about 400 people. Now, we’re able to share it with thousands. So, it’s actually kind of really cool and it kind of worked out really well.
Steven: Yeah, I love it. And do you mind kind of sharing the financial impact? Because I know you wanted to raise about 100 grand at the event, but you were telling me before you’ve actually raised more than that through these emails without, you know, the cost or the stress of actually putting on a live event, which is considerable. I’ve been there but . . .
Wendy: Well, the event itself, we had budged it to raise 75,000 income for just the event. And then for the net of the event, we’re probably just right on target because we’ve now not had to pay the venue and that sort of thing. So, some of the expenses went down and because of all this marketing and these asks, even the post event, we were getting event-related donations towards that. So, we’re kind of on target for that. The Kid Booster Crisis Appeal that we did, that brought in now . . . it continues to bring in. But right now we’re over 100,000 for that. And that was something that we didn’t budge for because we didn’t know that this was going to happen.
We didn’t know that those needs were going to be out there. So, we really did listen to our community. We acted really fast. We pulled our messaging together. It was sort of like the start of like the stars aligning.
Steven: Yeah, well, you know, pat yourselves on the back, too. I think you deserve a lot of credit for, you know, being bold and just the way you wrote it, the way . . . the creativity of the “day of” email. You know, the main reason I wanted to have you two before I let you go because you’ve been so generous, but a lot of folks that we talk to and that I see online, you know, they’re feeling like, you know, “Should we ask? Is it the right time? So many other people are asking.” We’re non-essential. I’ve seen a lot of folks kind of describe them as non-essential, which kind of breaks my heart because I feel like everyone’s essential. Whether they’re a library or an animal shelter or an education foundation.
Just one last thing before you go, what would you say to someone who’s maybe kind of sitting on the fence and isn’t sure if they should be as proactive as maybe you have been?
Wendy: Well, I’ll let Amy answer this, too. But from my opinion, I just feel like we asked ourselves all of those same questions before we went forward. I mean, “Should we do it? Should we not do it? Is it appropriate? I don’t know.” You know, we went all over the place but at the end of the day, we want to do more for our students and our district. And the only way we can do that is to make the ask. And the worst thing that could happen, I really believe, is somebody could say no. And that hasn’t happened.
Amy: Yeah, I mean, we saw the generosity of the community coming through in so many different ways. I mean, so many people in our community are rallying for all sorts of different supporting the community in so many different ways. You know, we’re lucky in that respect as well. You know, a lot of it is who we’re able to reach out to as well. You know, that’s a huge part of it but yeah, I mean, like Wendy said, the worst somebody could say is no. You know, I don’t think that anybody in this climate doesn’t understand that every single organization is suffering financially. Then the same holds true for the nonprofit world. And, you know, I think in all of our communications, we were up front about when we cancelled the event. This was a fundraiser, you know, we expected to make money and now we can’t. And, you know, so, we’re going to tell you that instead of just telling you that the event was cancelled, so.
Steven: Well, kudos to you two. I think, you know, there’s a lot of advice out there. And you either followed it, were creative yourselves, a combination, and made it happen. So, great job. You all inspired me. That’s why I reached out to you, so, thanks for what you do and thanks for taking a half hour to chat with me about this because I think you’re really going to help out a lot of people, you know, find their courage and get out there. So, thank you.
Wendy: Thank you.
Amy: Thank you. Thanks a lot.