Success Story: Aspire! Afterschool Learning raises over $140k in their first-ever Livestream fundraiser on Givebutter to unMASK students’ potential

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Success Story: Aspire! Afterschool Learning raises over $140k in their first-ever Livestream fundraiser on Givebutter to unMASK students’ potential

In this video, Devin from Aspire! Afterschool Learning reveals how they were able to raise a quarter of their fundraising goal one month before their live stream event took place. Fundraising was more important than ever for this organization, as Aspire!'s students face additional challenges this year as a result of distance learning, including inconsistent internet access, keeping up with homework, and feelings of isolation. The Aspire! team rallied volunteers, team fundraisers, and supporters together for the ultimate MASKerade celebration. All funds raised will help Aspire! provide in-person and online programming this fall, to ensure kids don't fall further behind, and to unMASK students’ potential. You’re cordially invited to learn:  

  • What made them turn to Givebutter for their virtual fundraiser
  • How they built momentum by combining Givebutter team fundraising and Livestream events
  • Tips, tricks, and lessons learned for selling virtual event tickets early on in your fundraiser
“We also did the peer-to-peer part of it. That's one of the things that drew us to [the Givebutter] platform: the easy, seamless way to do tickets, peer-to-peer, and a live event all within the same page. Everything lived in the same place, and I think having all of those three things working together really helped us.”

Let the party begin!

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Full video script

Rachel: Hey everybody, Rachel here with Givebutter. Thanks for joining for another Success Story from the Givebutter community. Today, we are featuring Aspire! Afterschool Learning. More than a month out, this nonprofit raised a quarter of their fundraising goal to unMASK student potential. I have Devin here with me to share how they were able to create such an engaging MASKerade celebration, incorporating Livestream and team fundraising to raise more than $140,000. She's also going to spill on what made them turn to Givebutter, as well as tips, tricks, and lessons learned so that everybody who's following along right now can give better with Givebutter. Devin, thank you so much for joining us today.

Devin: Thank you for having me.

Rachel: To start, why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself, your role with Aspire!, and what your mission is.

Devin: Sure! Again, my name is Devin and I'm the Director of Development at Aspire! Afterschool Learning. We're a small organization based in Arlington, Virginia, and we provide afterschool and summer programs for students at risk of falling into the opportunity gap. We serve third through fifth grade students. This year, we've had to pivot—like many afterschool programs—to fill the gap of need as schools have mostly in our area been online. We now provide an in-person program 4 days a week for our students to have a safe place to learn during their day, to get the support they need to be successful during distance learning.

Rachel: Speaking of pivot, let's dive right into your live stream fundraiser. What was your strategy going into the year as things shifted with COVID? Walk us through what you were thinking with this fundraiser.

Devin: Sure! Every fall, we typically have our largest fundraiser of the year. Last year was our 25th anniversary. so we saw record-setting fundraising at that time. So coming into this year, we actually anticipated we would be down a little bit. We were trying to figure out what was our realistic goal for this year without that anniversary boost that we were anticipating last year. When COVID happened, we had to pivot to being online. We still wanted to do this event. It's very important, especially now that we are operating in-person, all day. That's a big challenge and expense for our organization. It was really critical that we did the fundraiser, but we also needed to adjust our expectations to what we were seeing as a trend. With that, we had to adjust our budget a little bit as we thought through the event.

Rachel: So how did you shift the event, specifically in terms of logistics, your fundraising goal, and all of that?

Devin: When we got started, we weren't sure what to expect because of ticket sales—in our case, we weren't sure. Would someone buy a ticket to attend a virtual event? That was a big question that we had to answer early on. So what we did was we made it clear in all of our communications that those tickets were also a donation. I think we were very successful in that in a few important ways. First, we had a pay-it-forward opportunity for someone. We partnered with a local restaurant and that restaurant is donating meals back to an Aspire! family. If you think about coming to our in-person event, we always have great food at the event. In lieu of that great food with your larger—what would it be equivalent to an event ticket purchase—that meal paid-it-forward to one of our families. That was very successful and it kept that donation value and ticket value up higher, as opposed to maybe an entry-level ticket to a virtual event maybe would be around $25. We wanted to keep that average donation up higher—more in line with a typical ticket to our event to be able to reach our goals ahead of time and prior to the event.

Rachel: And prior to the event, you had raised more than a quarter of your fundraising goal! How did you think about building momentum for your fundraiser?

Devin: I think the biggest part for us—there were two very important components. First was, in our case, a match gift but it was a pay-a-meal forward. It felt like that early adoption, to get your tickets early—I know we all want to get something last minute, especially for a virtual event. I think it's very tempting to just get my ticket a couple of days ahead of time, but we really wanted to get people committed earlier. Having that early bird ticket window for us was very successful. Then we also did the peer-to-peer part of it. That's one of the things that drew us to your platform was the easy, seamless way to do tickets, peer-to-peer, and a live event all with the same page. Everything lived in the same place, and I think having all of those three things working together really helped us.

Rachel: Beautiful. Speaking of which, I am going to go ahead and share my screen so people can see what we are talking about. You guys—it is so beautifully themed out. Devin, tell us how did you think through this theme? Because our team just thought it was so clever and engaging. All the visuals on your page were just so well done before, during, and after. Walk us through what we're looking at here.

Devin: Great. We have a wonderful volunteer with our organization that came up with our MASKerade theme. You'll see it's spelled like a face mask. We had one of our sponsors actually donate face masks that went home in our ticket package. We had an entire ticket package that went home for anyone that got an early bird ticket. It was a great incentive for anyone to get a ticket before our October 6th cut off before the event. That’s our ambassador piece; it says “Ask me about Aspire!” on the face masks. That was a great way to bring something tangible to a virtual event experience. I think that it was a surprise as well to our donors and ticket holders. The MASKerade theme was just such a clever idea, and once we had that in place, this whole idea around unMASKING student potential just evolved with another great volunteer. We had a graphic designer and copywriter. We had our events committee. We had a whole team of volunteers that really helped put this event together and make it successful. In our organization, I'm a development office of one. We have limited bandwidth as a team and as staff for fundraising sometimes, so having great volunteers was really essential.

Rachel: Definitely! I think the teamwork put into your page was very cohesive; from design, copy, to messaging. When you look at this page, you can tell it is well loved, alive, and active. You see a lot of usage; from team members to your live supporter feed on the right side. You've even been getting donations a week ago! Adding in an additional new banner, “There's still time to give!” I would very much still participate in this fundraiser and use your Givebutter fundraising page. Tell us a little bit more about what you were thinking of strategy: during the event and after the event because we've talked pre-event so far.

Devin: Our goal was really to hit that total: our baseline goal which was $100,000 prior to the event. We really weren't sure how much attendance we would have at the actual live event. We had heard, on average, those live event appeals had been down for many organizations. With that in mind, we really were trying to hit the pavement beforehand and try to do as much of our fundraising ahead of time and we did. We were successfully able to hit that $100,000 goal prior to the event. That means when we started the live appeal—which was very exciting—we were already ahead of the goal which was a really great feeling. It made it very celebratory. I think you can feel that momentum and that excitement going into our live event. That difference really makes a really big impact this year as we expand our programs. So it was very much needed, but it was nice to feel that we had baseline met where we were expecting.

Rachel: Absolutely! You can tell all the wide variety of constituents that you were targeting for this event were advocating for you and speaking out. You can see that in the supporter feed, the amount of sponsors that you had—one of the comments here I just thought was so touching. “One of Aspire!’s many superpowers is its ability to pivot and flex to support kids who need it most.” Just thought that was so touching. Then again, the great use here of sponsorship in the supporter feed, the way you were using your buttons—here's what I'm getting at everybody: if you are following along or you're reading this, you will definitely want to click, poke, look around, and take note of all the beautiful ways that Aspire! was using Givebutter to max. So tell us—I would love to know how you were figuring out all these new pieces, being new to Givebutter, to utilize?

Devin: I think having our live event, having that two months beforehand, we hit milestones and goals. When we first started, we just put the $25,000 goal up. We thought, “Wow, it'll be such a big deal to hit that number and ticket sales and donations.” At the time, it felt like such a big number. We were still learning how things went. We didn't know how the peer-to-peer fundraising would go. We didn't know what kind of engagement people would have with a virtual event, so we took baby steps along the way. We worked on our images—that was great to have a really great volunteer helping us with our graphic design needs. We had all the written story components of it and really focused at first on that early bird ticket sales. We really just honed in on that portion of it. Then, as we got that organized and that was running and doing very successfully, we started to shift our focus to the next parts of it. That was getting in the sponsorships and some of these other, offline gifts that were coming in that we were able to learn how to put in to Givebutter. That really was able to allow us to put the full goal on Givebutter and show the real reaching capacity of this event. That really, again, was the next phase of momentum for our supporters—to see the excitement around how well the event was doing.

Rachel: Here's what I'm hearing from you Devin: build momentum. That was the key to your success. Take it step by step. You didn't get overwhelmed by doing it all at once. You just took it success by success.

Devin: I wasn't even thinking about the live event that hard until a month before it because there was already so much happening. When it came time to put together the slides and the stories, we were ready then, but we had our hands full just managing what was happening in the first phases of the fundraiser also.

Rachel: Great. I'm wondering, what would be your word of advice or encouragement to other Givebutter fundraisers who are following along right now?

Devin: I think that you have so much potential with the peer-to-peer fundraising component part. That was a big surprise to us this year. We had over 300 first time donors to our small organization thanks to peer-to-peer fundraising. Which would be an incredible number any other year, but to have it happen this year when we were learning new technology and changing up the way we fundraise. Having our board be so supportive of our fundraising efforts was very helpful. They did an amazing job. They built a camaraderie and a little competition with each other. Also, one of our peer-to-peer fundraisers is a high schooler. I actually did a deep debrief with her and a lot of her feedback is going to go into our peer-to-peer packet that we’ll put together for next year to keep that. She is absolutely fantastic. We had everyone from a seasoned board member to a high schooler, and they were absolutely successful at peer-to-peer fundraising. They had their own techniques and styles, so I have great tips to share out for next year. But that was great. If you can find even five people within your organization or your board or volunteers that are those early sign ups for the peer-to-peer fundraising, that can really help you get off the ground.

Rachel: Excellent words of advice. I love that you have a teenager and someone on your board both using peer-to-peer—that's amazing. I just want to say thank you so much for using Givebutter for this inspiring event, to unMASK student potential, and for letting us share your Success Story today. We are cheering you on, and we cannot wait to see the success that you achieve for students in the future.

Devin: Thank you very much.

Rachel: For everybody else who's following along, please remember to like, share, and subscribe. Thank you so much for joining. Leave a comment below if you have any questions that I didn't ask that you want to see answered. We look forward to seeing you next week for another Success Story. Bye everybody!

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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.