COVID-19 Fundraising Success Stories – Peace Community Center

COVID-19 Fundraising Success Stories – Peace Community Center2020-04-09T11:41:43-04:00

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.

Peace Community Center | Event Cancellation + 5-Touch Email Campaign

In this video, Steven from Bloomerang sits down (virtually) with Miranda from Peace Community Center to talk about how they transformed an in-person event into a multi-touch email campaign that raised over $118k.

Campaign At-A-Glance

PCC converted a canceled in-person event into a multi-touch email sequence. Rather than hosting the event “virtually” at a set date and time, the content of the event was rolled out over a two-week period, with an ask and campaign progress communicated in each email.

The COVID crisis seemed to come at an interesting time for us, as we were getting ready for our annual benefit dinner on March 27th and had to cancel it. We didn’t do an appeal specifically about COVID-19, but used the impacts of the virus to fuel our appeal that we would have done around this time anyway. Our organization is an education-based nonprofit supporting historically underrepresented students, so with schools closed across Washington State, our programs had to quickly adapt to meet the needs of our students in the moment. We used this, along with stating the fact that we had to cancel our only main fundraising event of the year and that our organization relies on funding from that event. Our donors received the messaging really well, and were looking for ways to help out in this time of crisis.

Email #1 – Event Cancelation

Following a statewide shutdown, PCC was forced to cancel an in-person event scheduled about two weeks away. Rather than “canceling” the event, Miranda communicated that it would be moving to an online format with an unchanged fundraising goal.

43% open rate, 3.4% click-through-rate

Subject: Important Update: Learners to Leaders 2020

Appeal Email 3 of 5 – Service Recipient Story

Between the event “cancellation” email and the scheduled date of the event, Miranda sent five emails, each featuring someone who was going to speak at the event.

Here is one of those emails, featuring a former service recipient:

23% open rate, 3.4% click-through-rate

Subject: IT’S THE LAST DAY to stand with Hilltop students!

Email #3 – Thank You / Campaign Success Email

Following a successful campaign, Miranda sent a “thank you” email from the ED, which also included a video.

42% open rate, 4.7% click-through-rate

Subject: WOW! Thanks to YOU Peace Did It!

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Full Video Transcript

Steven: All right. Miranda joining us from beautiful Tacoma, Washington. You’re right in the thick of things. How are you doing? You’re doing okay? You’re holding up? Are you hanging in there?

Miranda: Yeah, yeah, definitely hanging in there, doing the best we can. And yeah, we’re doing well.

Steven: Yeah, you are doing well, at least it seems to me, just kind of looking at your database and all the activity there. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. But first, can you just tell folks who you are and what your organization is all about, what you’re up to?

Miranda: Yeah, of course. So I work at an organization called Peace Community Center. We serve historically underrepresented students living in the Hilltop neighborhood of Tacoma, Washington. So it’s an after-school program, and we do one-on-one-academic coaching throughout the school day. So it’s kind of different touches for our students throughout the day, focusing on academics and enrichment activities. So academics and providing tutoring, but then also providing new activities like arts and crafts, exposure to STEM fields, college tours and that kind of thing. So really, just providing resources and opportunities to make sure all of our students have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Steven: Awesome. Yeah, it seems like good work.

Miranda: Thank you.

Steven: And I’m guessing things have impacted you, not just on the fundraising side, but also on the program side. I assume the schools are closed, so that probably had an impact on you. What’s that been like?

Miranda: Yeah, it’s definitely been something that our program staff have been doing a really great job adapting to, especially as new changes are coming out. So I don’t know where people are viewing from, but in Tacoma, Washington, all of our schools are closed. And so all of our students are at home trying to learn through different ways. And so our programs have really adapted to doing . . . still providing services, but making sure that it’s, you know, a safe way to do it. At the high school level, it’s all about . . . you know, high school is a little bit easier because our academic coaches can still text and call, and so they’re still getting the tutoring. And then our younger students at elementary and middle school, our staff have just been calling families making sure, you know, whatever needs we can really provide for are being met.

Steven: Awesome. And it seems like the program folks aren’t the only ones that have pivoted, it seems like your fundraising has too. You had a big event, right, scheduled for the end of March. You had a spring appeal ready to go out. Walk us through what you did. You had to . . . obviously you didn’t have the event in person, but what kind of went on with the event?

Miranda: Yeah. So it was already a few weeks back. I think it was around the 13th or the 15th was when things got really serious in Washington around COVID. And so we were starting to have conversations, do we cancel it? Do we go ahead and go forward with it? Other organizations had started canceling their big events and other just big community events were being cancelled. But then, around the 13th or 15th was when our governor declared the ban on gathering of large gatherings of 250 or more. So the decision was made for us. So it was a easy decision. We’re not going to have a big event like normal. But we started to have conversations about what to do instead.

So you’ll see in our emails, we never actually use the word “cancel.” We were very strategic about moving it to . . . Oh, the email’s right there. Yeah. So the wording we used was that we were going to move forward with our first ever virtual Learners to Leader event. So really, what it means is . . . at the point where we had to make this decision about the event, we were about two weeks out. The event was supposed to be on March 27th. And so we already had all the speakers lined up. Everything was already ready to go. We had a really great program prepared.

And so what we did instead was we just took videos of everybody who was supposed to speak at the event. And so our goal with this was really to still have the event and make the donors feel like they were still part of this event, still saw what we had in store and had prepared, but through a series of videos that they could watch whenever convenient. So I know other organizations have done things like click and log in at a certain time, and we’re still going to do [inaudible 00:04:14] event. We didn’t do it live, we just chose to publish a series of videos on our website and through the emails. So each email had a different video of somebody who was supposed to speak at our event.

Steven: Very cool. Which kind of, it seems like, expands sort of the shelf life, if maybe that’s the right word, of the event.

Miranda: Yeah.

Steven: So it seems like it became more accessible to people, right?

Miranda: Right. Yeah. And this way, we thought that maybe we could reach some more people, reach a bigger audience and still not give the impression that the event was canceled. We still wanted this date, March 27th, to be on people’s calendars. And so we just used that date as a deadline goal for reaching our fundraising goal.

Steven: I get it. So those were the goalposts from the not cancelation cancelation email to the scheduled event. You had a series of these emails and what I . . . I liked so many things about them, not that you need my validation, but you had a strong use of video. And it seems like you . . . It seems like Denice has been on video before, so you kind of had . . . Denice is your ED, right, and she was comfortable on it. But then I also liked that you had the sort of goal progress in each one, which is, you know, obviously, you know, motivating to folks, but you did hit the 100k, right? Or have I got that right?

Miranda: We did. Yeah, we did. So we ended up raising 118,000.

Steven: Wow. So more than what you expected to at the in-person event?

Miranda: Yeah. Yeah. This year actually was our greatest net revenue from previous year.

Steven: Amazing.

Miranda: So, yeah, we were really excited and really grateful for everybody who contributed.

Steven: So tell me about the speakers. It seems like it was a mix of sort of leaders and then also maybe some of the kids, some of the service recipients. Is that right?

Miranda: Yeah, so we tried to have a blend of the different people who were going to speak at the event, like I mentioned. So you’ll see some of the older people were alumni of our programs. So they were actually easier to get ahold of because they were adults and so they can . . . You know, as soon as the event was canceled, we were able to get their videos. This email that you have up, her name is Imahni. She’s one of our high school seniors that was going to speak at the event.

And so . . . Actually, if people are able to watch this video, so I [inaudible 00:06:33] know, we definitely do not have a professional videographer team. We definitely do not have the resources to have any kind of, you know, last-minute professional video. So this video in particular happened as schools were closed. Imahni just recorded it from her phone and sent in the recording and then we were able to put it together that way. So all of these videos are really just from phones. We’re really just doing everything that we can to try to bring people’s voices into the homes of donors and just trying to do the best we can. So it doesn’t have to be fancy is my point. It’s really just use the resources that you have and try to put something together.

Steven: I love it. I wonder if it was even more effective because it didn’t have that, you know, polish and kind of gloss, and it was more authentic just coming from the person. I love it. And we will make those videos available to folks if they want to watch them.

So what else? Was there any other sort of outreach beyond just those event folks? Was there anything else kind of going on on the sides that was . . . ?

Miranda: Yeah, yeah, definitely. So one thing I’ll note is that . . . so emails were definitely critical and definitely are a key part of our campaign. But it was really the effort of so many people getting involved to get the word out. As soon as our event had moved to a virtual platform, we contacted our table captains and table captains did an excellent job of reaching out to the people that invited them. We had our board members reach out to people that they knew and really spreading the word. All of our staff members were really great about posting on social media. So, really, it was more than just emails. We did even phone call solicitations. So it was definitely multi-channeled in our campaign like most campaigns would be, but I feel like we really tried to expand and reach as many people as we can through in-person contacts as well.

Steven: I love it and I love the stewardship after the fact, you had this nice thank you email to kind of celebrate the funding, the event success, another use of video which was great, so I love that as well. You know, Miranda, the main reason I wanted to talk to you was I think a lot of folks maybe they have April events or May event. We’re recording this in early April, maybe they have events coming up and they’re not sure if they should cancel them or maybe try to turn it into something else like you do. But you were pretty maybe bold isn’t the right word, but you definitely went out and tried to raise money. I think a lot of folks are saying, you know, “Let’s cancel. Let’s pause the fundraising for now. It’s not a good time.” But it seems like you tapped into some generosity. What would you say, maybe to close it out, to someone that’s maybe on the fence about being proactive about fundraising?

Miranda: Yeah, I think that through our campaign and through the donors, the different donors that we had contact with, it seems like donors are really excited to help, especially right now. So if people are on the fence about it, I would say yes, go ahead and ask. I had a lot of people reach out. I’m trying to think of . . . so one donor in particular, as I was doing just a thank you call, she was a teacher at a school that we have students that we support, and she was saying that she . . . so she had never donated to a Peace Community Center before. She said that she was donating to a different organization every day through all of the COVID crisis as a way of knowing that she has the means to help out and really helping the different organizations in our area.

And so she had heard about us through an email that one of our board members who also works at the school sent out to their whole school. So I think that kind of illustrates definitely the different contacts and getting more people involved. I mean, people like that really are out there. I think a lot of the donors are seeing that. Different communities are . . . you know, some people in the communities are hurting through crisis, some people are sick and going through some challenging times. And so donors with the means to help out, I think, are definitely looking for ways to take action and join their community and help out through this COVID crisis.

Steven: Absolutely. And you tapped into it. So kudos to you and Denice and the board for letting you do it and being proactive. You guys are awesome. Keep it up.

Miranda: Thank you. Thank you so much.

Steven: Thanks for doing this, for being gracious with your time to help some folks out and, hopefully, encourage them, you know, give them a pep talk. But stay safe, I know you’re right in the thick of it where it seems to be a hotspot. So we’re thinking about you, but thanks for doing this, Miranda.

Miranda: Of course, yeah. And good luck to all the organizations out there.

Steven: All right. Okay.