Success Story: Music City raised $103k in emergency relief aid in less than 24 hours on Givebutter

Written by
Rachel Mills

Success Story: Music City raised $103k in emergency relief aid in less than 24 hours on Givebutter

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In this video, Deana from Music City Inc., shares how they used Givebutter to quickly and easily raise over $103k in emergency relief aid in less than 24-hours for the city of Nashville. You are going to LOVE this success story because Deana is giving away:

  • What made their emergency relief collect form so successful
  • Why they chose Givebutter as their fundraising platform (Hint: speedy integrations!)
  • Helpful tips and words of encouragement for the Givebutter community to make campaigns even better than they already are
"We needed something that was easy, that we didn’t have to think about - and that’s one thing that Givebutter did that was like, “Here you go!” You can customize it as much or as little as you want and you’re up and running! And that just made our lives so much easier. So we really appreciated that part, we didn’t need anything else that was difficult at that time."

Did I mention that Justin Timberlake donated to this Givebutter campaign?

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Full video script

Rachel: Hey everybody, Rachel here with Givebutter. You are going to LOVE today’s success story. I have here with me Deana from the great city of Nashville - better known as Music City. And today she is going to share with us how they put gift cards in the hands of those most affected by the March’s tornados and COVID-19. She’s gonna share why they chose Givebutter, what made their campaign so incredibly successful, and tips and tricks we can all walk away with to make our campaigns even better than they already are. D - thanks so much for representing Music City Inc., foundation, and for joining us today!

Deana: Absolutely! Happy to be here. Thanks for asking us. It’s been quite the ride.

Rachel: I can only imagine. To start, tell everyone a little bit more about who you are and what you have been raising funds for? 

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Deana: Sure! I’m the Chief Marketing Officer for Nashville - actually Nashville tourism - so it’s the National Convention and Vistors Inc. The first of March, Nashville was hit with a really bad tornado. It took out several neighborhoods. So many households were affected by it. And businesses as well - a lot in the hospitality industry. Now, this was two weeks before the virus hit. So Nashville got a double-whammy. We had no idea what we were in for. But when the tornados hit, we gathered in our office just with our senior staff and said, “You know, what can we do?” Visitors obviously aren’t going to come right now while everything - well at least while these smaller neighborhoods are shut down, so we needed to redirect our efforts into helping the community. And we decided - and we learned this from the flood - actually it’s kind of ironic… 10-years ago this past weekend we had a flood. You talk about underwater - Broadway, which you can see in my background, had water… the river was up… everything was closed. So many things were affected. And we learned that the community did a great job of raising money, but it was not as easy to get it right in the hands of the people that were affected - immediately - that’s when they need it. They don’t have power, they don’t have houses, they might have to go to a hotel, they need food… you know, there are so many things they need immediately and a lot of times when you raise money it takes a while to get from one group to another group to the individual. So we learned that during the flood and we hated that. So we had a lot of desperate people. So this time we decided that we would raise money and turn around and directly give it to the people as fast as we could. And that’s what we did.

Rachel: Wow. That’s amazing. I can’t imagine all that you’ve had to adapt to the last couple months here. 

Deana: Yeah, it’s been devastating. You know, just to see the looks on people’s faces when they are in front of their houses and everything’s gone. Or their place of work is gone and their houses… and so we also had to prioritize how we would distribute the money. That was something we learned a lot about. I’m happy to share as much or as little as you would like to know! So just tell me.

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Rachel: Okay, yeah - that sounds good! Tell me a little bit more about your fundraising strategy. I know you said when the tornado hit was to put money into the hands of those most affected. What was your fundraising strategy going into that?

Deana: So we immediately put up a campaign called #NashvilleStrong, because a lot of people were already starting to use that - it’s pretty common #NashvilleStrong - but it was “keep the music playing” in Music City, basically. So, it’s like, we have to keep going, we can’t give up. Nashville’s a really strong community - a really creative community - so we knew that Nashville would come together if we would rally the troops if you will. So we did that campaign the next day after the tornados. So the tornados hit, and the very next day we launched this campaign. And we did t-shirts and graphics - and you’ll see here I think in a minute - and we started putting it out on all our socials. And we created a platform a while back where we could take registrations and payments for different things and we just used that because we didn’t know anything else to use. And we put that up and our IT guy did some quick research and he found Givebutter. Which we were thrilled because it’s - you know, I had seen it on several social campaigns I just didn’t know the name of it and mostly like Facebook it would give you the options on how to donate and it seemed like it was really easy. So he found it and it’s so much easier than what we were doing. You know we had all of these buckets - you could pay over here and pay over here and pay over here. And then once we found Givebutter and put it on our website it just made everything so much easier, it all went into one place. We were grateful we found you guys!

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Rachel: Oh, I’m so glad to hear that. You know, I’m gonna go ahead and It sounds like you wanted to turn to Givebutter because you were just mentioning your beautiful campaign and I want to show everybody what it looks like. So this is the main page for those who are looking and they have used the Givebutter collect form that’s embedded into their website. Like Deana was just saying, you just click how much you want to give, continue, and in a few clicks, you’re done! What really stands out to me that makes this Collect page so phenomenal is - you made it really simple and clean. When you look at it, you think, “Checking out’s gonna be quick, it’s gonna be easy.” You know, there’s not a million pictures or a giant story… you put this together in 24-hours, which I think is amazing. So, what else kind of stands out to you when you look at this form, Deana? 

Deana: It’s so easy to me because I didn’t know it but I had donated with it toward other charities. So, I think, 1: the power of suggestion. Cause you have all the different options on what you can give. So you’re looking at it and you’re like, “Oh I can give $10, but really maybe I should go ahead and do $250 or $500 because it’s right there.” I think that’s just a great way to do it. But it also tells you it’s okay to just do $10. I think that’s pretty powerful when you are the one that’s donating you want to see that acceptance if you will. I don’t know if you can go back to our other screen that had the logo and all that - it may be one page before that. I really liked that we could customize it and we were able to put all that with it. It just gives it more credibility and a little more excitement. You have all the options of how you can do it. And I love that you don’t have to go to a website, you can do it on any of your phones. So if we either go to Google Pay or Apple Pay - if you’re on an Apple phone - we just liked having all the options. With the format that we had [before], we didn’t have all those options, like I said, it went into different buckets. So this just made it so much easier to donate and to collect.

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Rachel: Mhm, I like that you brought up the point about mobile - so important. Especially when it’s a relief aid situation. Because it’s happening instantly and you’re trying to get those funds as soon as possible. And the quickest way people can do that is on our phones.

Deana: Well, and if you see socials, we put it out on Instagram and Twitter and everything we have. And so if you’re looking at this you’re like, “Oh! I want to give right now! I don’t want to have to go remember the website or call” You know, like the old days when you had to do telethons and stuff… But this just makes it so much easier. You can see all the different ways that we promoted it - the t-shirts and all of that. We just started getting donations in like crazy. We ended up with 440 donations on Givebutter! Which was great - and they all happened so fast! It was just - the total amount… which was so good.

Rachel: It is amazing that you were able to do that so quickly. Within 24-hours and people responded just like that! I know that you also have pivoted since then and have started responding to continuing needs in your community with COVID-19. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

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Deana: Yeah, so, unfortunately, two weeks after the tornado is when we ended up having to shut down the city because of the virus. I mean, it was literally two weeks to the day where we had to close broadway… all the honey tonks and restaurants… saying we had to do the stay at home. I think we did it a little bit sooner than a lot - especially in the South - just because Nashville is such a popular destination and so many people were here over the weekend. We had the SEC basketball tournament, so a lot of people were in town. And then they canceled it after one night of games so all these people were all over town in honkey tonks and it got a little crazy… spreading the virus, so that was not really good PR. So we shut it down and all of those restaurants and honkey tonks and hotel employees were out of jobs. They started laying people off. So we knew that we needed to help our industry and our community and give back. So we did have to pivot a little bit. I’ll go back to what we did immediately. After we raised funds within 24-48 hours, we immediately had ordered gift cards of $500. We started handing out gift cards to people. We went literally door to door. East Nashville, Germantown, north Nashville - they were all hit by the tornado. So we went - we collected names from community leaders, city council, from those who was really affected. We prioritized: who lost their house, who lost their house and their job, who their house their job and their car… we kind of went down the list and prioritized it. We had our team - like 4 or 5 people - and hand these gift cards… just the stories and the tears and the appreciation… you know, it made it all worthwhile. And it was exactly what we meant to happen. We wanted to help them right away. So many people were like, “Now I can go get food! Now I can go pay this bill! Now I can go get supplies to clean up my place!” There’s just so many stories. We just see how it really made a difference. So once we gave out as many as we could - we just kept getting lists and giving them out but we still had money left. And then the virus hit and we shut things down and the employees were out of work. So we went through that list of hospitality employees. We’re a membership organization and have about a thousand members that are restaurants, hotels, attractions - you know, all in tourism. So we started asking them, “Give us names of your employees who are out of work. Give us names of those who are most affected.” And then we started giving out gift cards for that. You know you’re working you might not think a $300 gift card or a $500 gift card would mean that much but it does when you’re out of work and you need every penny. Or your house is destroyed from a tornado, it means a lot. So seeing that we can make a difference like that has been incredible. It’s not our day job. Our day job is to bring people to Nashville to have a good time… and be on vacation and go to all these places and experience the music and the city… so we completely had to do a 360 and take care of our community and it has made a huge difference in how we are looked at in our community… just trying to make that effort of trying to help them.

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Rachel: Just incredible! I mean, kudos to you and your team for being able, like you said 180 totally turn everything around, so quickly - and TWO times, in such a short period time to make a direct impact in the lives of those who need it most in Nashville. It’s just inspiring! So I’m really glad we were able to hear more about what you guys have been doing. All the good that’s been happening in Nashville in spite of all of the pain and all of the struggle. You shared a little bit about how Givebutter was able to help you do that really quickly, really easily… is there anything else that you’d add to the list in terms of your Givebutter experience… like, “Yep, it was quick, it was easy…” Anything else that you would say helped it to be successful?

Deana: I think the main things are that it is - it’s quick, it’s easy. We put it up SO fast once we learned about it! The team at Givebutter was so good to respond. It’s very self-explanatory… it’s not difficult at all to launch. You know the onboarding is really easy. And it’s nice that you can customize it. You know, putting our graphics and our logo on there so it’s not just this thing everybody else has. It’s a good tool! It’s nice to see the backend of it… you can see real-time who is donating and how much their donating. You can tell if you launched something - like Instagram or on Facebook, you can see that immediate response. And we love that! Like, “Oh wow, it really worked!” Justin Timberlake tweeted that he donated to it! That’s huge, and so then you can see the effect of that of all the people that are following him. So that’s nice to have those celebrities endorse that. So the backend of it was really strong.

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Rachel: Yeah, it seems like it was just seamless for you. It just fit in with the graphics you already had going, the process you had on social, all the traction you built on there - you almost mimic that experience on your Collect form.

Deana: Yeah and you know, when you’re going through something like that… we were stressed to the max! We were trying to figure out what was even going on in our community. Whose open, whose closed? What we need to do with the visitors that were in town that were affected - a lot were staying in AirBnB’s that had lost their power. We had a lot that was going on at the same time! So we needed something that was easy, that we didn’t have to think about - and that’s one thing that Givebutter did that was like, “Here you go!” You can customize it as much or as little as you want and you’re up and running! And that just made our lives so much easier. So we really appreciated that part, we didn’t need anything else that was difficult at that time.

Rachel: Thank you, yeah, I appreciate you saying that! What would you say to anybody whose listening who is kind of on the fence about starting a relief campaign page, kind of like you had? Maybe they’re another city in the states or they’re a small business who maybe wants to give back but has never tried it before, you know, they’re new to fundraising… what would you say to them?

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Deana: I would say, just do it! People want to help. That’s the one thing that you learn when you go through things like this. People want to help, they want to give. And the easier you can make it, the more credible that you can make it… if you put it out there exactly what do you’re doing with the money and how it’s getting to whoever you raise it for. I think that’s important. But it’s not difficult. Probably the most difficult thing is distributing the funds. So you want to make sure that you have that in place, make sure how you’re going to do that. A lot of people raise it for one person or one company or whatever it is, so that’s not as hard as an entire community. But there are ways to do it and you can do it! You know, I’d say, it’s not difficult to put up at all. Even if you just help one person, it’s worth it!

Rachel: Mhm, so good. That’s right! Do you have any final tips or tricks you could give to people who are already using Givebutter that you’ve discovered?

Deana: Oh, gosh, tips and tricks… that’s probably gonna be better for the IT people who are actually doing that stuff. But as far as raising money, the more you can promote it, the better. The Givebutter part, to me, is the easy part! The promoting it and getting people to go to it is where you need to put your efforts. Otherwise, nobody is just going to find your page to give you money. You have to tell them what’s going on and what you’re raising it for. So, the promotion of it.

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Rachel: I think that’s great. Because a huge part of what makes campaigns successful or not as successful is there ability to tell their story and promote it. That’s something I’m so glad were able to screen share. And everybody whose watching - please go click on their campaign page because it is phenomenally done. It’s just so inviting. Like I said, you just look at it and think, “This is easy! I can donate, no problem! I have no questions. I know exactly what they’re doing with the money. They’re transparent. The process - Apple Pay, Google Pay, Venmo - makes it really easy.” So thank you so much for inspiring us with not only how you’re using the campaign but what you’re doing with the funds. It’s just overwhelmingly beautiful. Thank you so much for inspiring the Givebutter community. I just want to say thank you for sharing your story and for your time today!

Deana: Well, thank you! And thank you for making it easy to raise money and give back to the community.

Rachel: Thank you, take care!

Deana: See ya!

View campaign: #NashvilleStrong

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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.