Success Story: American Society for Yad Vashem raised over $108k through its first-ever virtual endurance event on Givebutter

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Success Story: American Society for Yad Vashem raised over $108k through its first-ever virtual endurance event on Givebutter

In this video, I’m joined by Jill from the American Society for Yad Vashem. American Society for Yad Vashem recently hosted a virtual 6k in memory of the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. Through this inspiring event, they were able to raise over $108k—which is so far above and beyond their original goal of $6,000!—in support of its important mission of Holocaust remembrance and education. Jill is here to walk us through how they made this endurance event so successful one step at a time. She explains:  

  • Why they chose Givebutter for this inspiring event (Hint: Supporter feed!)
  • How they continued to build momentum for their endurance event over time
  • Tips, tricks, and lessons learned for maximizing your event reach with virtual fundraising
“I thought, to be honest, Givebutter was too good to be true.. It was really just this free tool, and I'm thinking, “No way! This can't be.” I was moving on from it, and then I wasn't really satisfied with the other ones I was looking at. I came back to it, asked for a meeting, and I just said, “Wow, this is real!” Everyone loved [Givebutter] and one of the best things was that it was so easy to use... We didn't have to go through someone else who had to edit it. We could do it ourselves, but anytime I needed help with something, I could just easily message... Givebutter really made this all possible.”

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Full video script

Rachel: Hey everyone! Rachel here with Givebutter. Thanks for joining for another Success Story from the Givebutter community. Today, we are featuring the American Society for Yad Vashem. Recently, this organization’s Virtual 6k raised over $108,000 on Givebutter in memory of the 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust and to raise support for its sacred mission of Holocaust remembrance and education—and all this is above and beyond their $100k goal with lots of other exciting details that we're going to talk about. If you're looking for a successful race fundraiser, this one is for you, for sure. I have Jill here with me to share how they made this event so successful as well as—you know them—tips, tricks, and lessons learned along the way. Jill, thank you so much for joining and sharing your success with the entire Butter Fam.

Jill: Thank you! It's an honor to be here. I can’t believe it. When we started this a few months ago, we had no idea what we were doing and we turned to Givebutter for advice and help and everything. Now we're here as a Success Story. It's pretty surreal!

Rachel: I cannot wait to dive into all the details of that, but before we do, why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself and your organization's mission.

Jill: Great, thank you! I'm Jill Goltzer. I'm the Director of Young Leadership and Social Media here at the American Society for Yad Vashem. The American Society for Yad Vashem supports the mission of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel. It is more than just a museum. We not only have an international school, but an art museum, a history museum, over 50 acres of campus dedicated to different memorials, and different statues and gardens honoring the Righteous Among the Nations who hid Jews during the Holocaust. It is such an emotional experience to be there, and here in the U.S., we try to really bring that commitment to remembrance and ensure that we all have a better future and that we learn the lessons of those who came before us. We really try to bring that here to the States and, of course, raise money to support Yad Vashem’s efforts but also to bring their educational mission here. And specifically with young leadership, to really raise awareness for the next generation so that as unfortunately we are losing more and more survivors, the message and their lessons are carried forth. We really carry the torch.

Rachel: Wow! Thank you for the incredible work that you all are doing. As I understand, this 6k that you rallied together so quickly is in support of your sacred mission. Tell us more! Walk us back to the beginning days where you were dreaming up this 6k, what your goals were, and how you were thinking through pulling it off. Walk us back!

Jill: Every year—right before the pandemic began, actually—in February, we have our YLA—which is Young Leadership Associates—we have our YLA Winter Gala, which is a huge, 400-person event in lower Manhattan. The whole theme is really we are still here to show pride, we will continue the legacy of those who came before us, and we will also stand here proudly and fight anti-Semitism—which is, of course, right now a major problem in the U.S. and around the world. We thought, “Okay, we can't do that this year with the pandemic. What else can we do that really takes everyone while we're apart and brings us together?” Also taking advantage of the fact that while we are virtual, there are silver linings. We can really expand this and make it very national or, as it turns out, international. As we sat there at our Young Leadership Board meeting, I said, “People are doing these virtual races.” Of course, when it comes to Yad Vashem, we have to make sure that whatever we're doing is very appropriate and tasteful and respectable. We thought this is something—when it comes to young leaders, you want them to do something that taps into their competitive nature. Also, getting outdoors when we're all stuck inside. So I said, “Okay, a 5k!” I have to say, I'm not a runner. I love to walk. I'm not a runner.

Rachel: So a walk/run!

Jill: Yeah, a walk/run! We wanted it to be accessible to all ages, whether that means a toddler or Holocaust survivors. That's why we said walk or run. Someone on our Board said why 5k? Why not 6k in honor of the 6 million? I sat there and said, “Okay, we're doing that!”

Rachel: Genius.

Jill: Love it! I really took—I think it was in March or April—I was really looking around because we said we need one central location to do this. We can't just do this on the backend on our website. We need something that is dedicated to this. How do we do it? I looked around, met with a bunch of people, and I thought, to be honest, Givebutter was too good to be true. Because when I looked at the cost and how it would say—of course, if you're doing Premium, it's a different cost. But at first when it was really just this free tool, I'm thinking no way! This can't be. I was moving on from it, and then I wasn't really satisfied with the other ones I was looking at. I came back to it, asked for a meeting, and I just said, “Wow, this is real!” I approached my organization and our Young Leadership Board. I said “We have got to go with this one.” Everyone loved it and one of the best things was that it was so easy to use. I would literally be on-the-go editing. As sponsorships came in, I could just add it. We didn't have to go through someone else who had to edit it. We could do it ourselves, but anytime I needed help with something, I could just easily message. I think I was telling you about what a small world it is when the person who I met with initially, Kait, turns out we were classmates at Harvard! That obviously helped because she was able to make me feel totally comfortable asking any question. But yeah, Givebutter really made this all possible. It was great.

Rachel: I love that so much. I totally get that! It seems too good to be true, but then you find out hey, it really is that easy. I'm going to go ahead and share my screen so that everybody who’s following along right now can see because I know they're on the edge of their seats wondering what this campaign page looks like. Yes, everyone, it was worth the wait because this campaign page is just gorgeous! Beautifully designed from top to bottom. Copy is just so sharp and easy to follow. If you’re following this right now and you're like, “I do not know where to start with the story section,” you're in good company! Good news: we're going to link this campaign page, so you can check out how they did it. Walk us through how you were thinking of designing the page. What was important to you? What were things that you maybe changed or added along the way?

Jill: We really wanted, of course, a place to acknowledge all of our supporters. We did not realize that list was going to be so long; it was amazing! I love this supporter feed that people could interact with. What was so important about this specific feature was that—this really sold us with Givebutter—you can dedicate your donation, your contribution, your ticket, you can dedicate it in honor or in memory of someone. For us, that was huge. If you see at the top, we tried to—actually Kait suggested this—to have a very simple, step-by-step guide. We put that together. Then we wanted a place where it was very clear that the idea was to dedicate your walk in honor of a survivor or a victim or maybe it's a Holocaust educator or a Righteous Among the Nations, which, just to explain, are non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. They are honored by Yad Vashem, including the woman who hid my grandmother. I would not be here today if it weren't for her, Mrs. Lipinski. Here we gave people the option. We wanted to make sure, even if you're not Jewish, if you're not related to survivors, you can still dedicate your walk or run to someone. We had the opportunity to link it to something called the I Remember Wall. If you go to it, you can basically match with a victim from Yad Vashem’s Shoah Victims’ Names database. That way you can learn all about them, and you can share their story on your personal page. We really wanted it to be personal and educational at the same time. You'll see people shared if you go to the different pages people created. I think one was...let's see...I can think of...Krakowski! Yeah, right there. They are four sisters and they include pictures of their grandparents.

Rachel: Oh, wow!

Jill: Yeah! It was so amazing to see what inspired people and to see that we have people all over the country. We are based in New York, and we have an office in California and Florida, but we had people in Nebraska, in Texas, in Georgia! We had Israel as well. We had around 20 states plus Israel people participating.

Rachel: Yeah, it turned into an international race!

Jill: Yeah!

Rachel: How exciting. One of the major benefits of going virtual is reaching a wider audience. You had also mentioned before this call—I think people would love to know—what was your original fundraising goal for this event?

Jill: Yeah, it's funny. We had no idea what to put the goal at. We were trying to be conservative. We actually started out, figured why not $6k? I think it was the first day we said, “Okay, well we’re past that.” We thought maybe that was just the initial excitement, so we said $10k. I can't even tell you when we said to ourselves, “Oh my gosh, let's make it $30k.” Some of us were like, “Whoa! No, no, no.” And we hit over it! People just kept getting so into it. I am so proud of our young leaders. This is the most that our young leadership has ever raised in an event.

Rachel: Wow! That’s exciting.

Jill: Yeah, so exciting.

Rachel: Jill, how did you keep the momentum going, then, as you kept pushing the goal forward?

Jill: It's unfortunate to say that with everything going on in the world it provided momentum and inspiration, but it's true. There is conflict in Israel and it's spilling over all over the world, especially in the U.S. with violent acts of anti-Semitism—especially on social media. Hateful rhetoric and blatant lies. It's been very difficult for a lot of our young leaders who have been on the receiving end of that. I think they were really inspired to put their family stories out there and just show this is why I'm committed to this, this is why I'm doing it. That really fueled it, but at the same time, it really provided a communal sense—this way of being together while we're apart. That was really the main thing. It gave people something to be not competitive but also proud of, and it really just gave them a way to bring people together, even if not physically.

Rachel: Wow, that makes a lot of sense. It was a timely conversation and gave an opportunity for all of your leaders to be empowered to share their stories and build community together—and literally create momentum in your walk and run. Any other tips, tricks, or lessons learned from this event?

Jill: One trick: any emailing you have to do, get it out sooner rather than later.

Rachel: Yes!

Jill: But I would say just go for it! You never know what's going to happen. With this, I was hesitant with when should we start it? How is this going to work? It really just took off and you've got nothing to lose. That was the main thing: with an event like this and a site like Givebutter, there's such little overhead that we were able to maximize our fundraising. That was so exciting. With other events, you see the amount coming in but it doesn't actually reflect it necessarily because of all the expenses. But here, it really reflects it. That was exciting. I would say to definitely make use of the ability to constantly change the story page and people being able to edit theirs. I will say one team member, Ari—two actually, Ari and Michael—if you look at what they individually raised and how many supporters they had… What's so amazing is he actually is not on social media, but he sent personal emails through the little email widget.

Rachel: Wow!

Jill: I thought that was incredible! Also, a major thing is the connection with Venmo that you have. That's huge for the younger generation. Definitely utilize that. While we wanted to do something more with going live, we didn't get the chance to but we definitely want to next time. We plan on making this an annual event with Givebutter. But I would also say to definitely maximize your use of the graphics, for sure. If you are on Instagram and can do swipe-ups, always swipe it up to this page. Really encourage people to share the motivation behind their participation in their personal stories because that makes it so much more meaningful.

Rachel: Yes, the power of personalization! Those are some excellent tips. Thank you so much, Jill, for joining us and sharing your story. Incredibly inspiring. We are so proud to have been the platform to host this incredible event. We cannot wait to see what 2022 holds for your 6k!

Jill: It'll be exciting! We'll see.

Rachel: Thank you to everybody else for following along. If you don't want to miss another Success Story, be sure to like, share, and subscribe to Givebutter’s YouTube channel. We will see you again next week. Until then, happy fundraising! Bye everybody.

View campaign: YLA Virtual 6k

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Written By

Written by
Rachel Mills
Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.