In this video, I’m joined by Berns from Facing Homelessness. Facing Homelessness has built the most innovative and sustainable community solution for permanent supportive housing to help end homelessness: The BLOCK Project. At only ¼ the cost of all other permanent low-income housing solutions, it’s the swiftest and most affordable permanent solution to homelessness, as homes can be completed from inception to occupancy in only six months. Through their first-ever live stream event on Givebutter, the Facing Homelessness team raised over $144k to build five more BLOCK homes this year! Follow along, as Berns explains:

  • Why they turned to Givebutter for this event (Hint: Live stream fundraising!)
  • How they went above and beyond their original fundraising goal
  • Tips, tricks, and lessons learned for fostering friendly competition among team fundraisers
“Givebutter seemed like a really simple, great platform that was really easy for team leaders to come up with their own landing pages. It seemed like the right platform for pre-recorded content and live streaming an event... [Givebutter]’s just really intuitive and simple. I put a little document together to guide team members and team leaders to put their own pages together and I got no phone calls or emails; it was great! It was because of how simple Givebutter is. It's really simple for other people to follow. There's not too much distracting design things that make it complicated.”

Berns is laying out the fundraising blueprints and showing us how they built this incredible fundraiser step-by-step!

Campaign at a glance

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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 Facing Homelessness. Recently, this organization held a live stream event that raised over $144,000 on Givebutter for it's life-changing program: The BLOCK Project. That's above and beyond their $120,000 goal! If you are looking for a successful fundraiser that used live stream or the team fundraising format—or all the above—this one is going to be so helpful for you. I have Berns here with me who's going to share how they made this event so successful as well as tips, tricks, and lessons learned. Berns, thanks so much for joining us and sharing your success.

Berns: Thank you! I'm happy to be here.

Rachel: To start, why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself and a little bit more about Facing Homelessness.

Berns: Thanks, Rachel. My name is Berns, and I'm in charge of construction of The BLOCK Project. This fundraiser was catered towards the architecture/engineering/construction community. As I've been involved in building every single BLOCK home, I had the closest proximity to that community who's responsible for providing almost three quarters of funding for The BLOCK Project. Facing Homelessness began almost a decade ago, as a storytelling nonprofit pretty much. The founder of Facing Homelessness found that the stereotypes that people commonly have of people living outside wasn't matching up to the people that he was meeting. We started a Facebook page, sharing people's stories and beautiful black and white images of folks living outside, and quickly amassed almost 50,000 followers on Facebook from the Seattle community and beyond the United States and around the globe to hear and see these beautiful stories of people living unsheltered.

Berns: The mission evolved with the following over time and it's all about proximity. A saying that we share all the time is, “The closer you come, the more you’ll feel. The more you feel, the more you'll act.” We found that the challenge to homelessness is just a matter of proximity. If the community all stepped closer into homelessness—to greet and understand people living outside—then a healthy community wouldn't allow it to exist. As the mission evolved over time, The BLOCK Project became born. It's the ultimate expression of coming closer when we invite people living outside to become our neighbors. The BLOCK Project is a model where we're building tiny homes in people's backyards all across Seattle. Our tiny homes are much more sophisticated than many tiny home village sheds that exist around the country. Our homes have plumbing with a kitchen and a bathroom, are built with the most sustainable materials you can imagine, and they're self-sufficient units that have 10 solar panels. They're really sweet, really dignified homes. We've built 10 homes to date. This fundraiser was responsible for growing our BLOCK home portfolio by 50% to build another five homes this year.

Rachel: Wow, that's incredible. Thank you for the important work that you are doing. With this fundraiser, let's just dive in! I know you said your purpose was to increase by 50%—walk us back to when you knew you were going to start fundraising for this event, using live stream and the team format. How were you thinking through that in the beginning?

Berns: Yeah! So, this is our fourth AEC fundraiser—architecture, engineering, and construction fundraiser. When we had a fundraiser last year at around the same time, it was just in the wake of the pandemic and it was terrifying because at that time we didn't really know what was about to unfold with COVID-19, being that this is an AEC fundraiser. Job sites were shutting down. No one had any idea, from the designers to the builders, what was going to happen. The first two years of the fundraiser were in person. Really great live events where our various team leaders—some other people call them team captains—would compete with one another to hit a certain minimum goal. It created this amazing, competitive spirit that really helped bring in lots of funds for The BLOCK Project. We couldn't do that in 2020 because we couldn't be in person, so we did a virtual fundraiser but it was nothing like this year what we did on Givebutter. It was run on another platform called Classy. We didn't have any pre-recorded content or any live stream content. We had to drastically cut our goals and it turned out to be a successful event. We were originally targeting to raise about $120,000, we reduced that goal to $50,000, and we ended up raising $90,000. Sweet! That was the best we could do in the middle of the pandemic. Going into this year, we knew we had to take it to the next level, knowing that we still couldn't get together in person.

Berns: Givebutter seemed like a really simple, great platform that was really easy for team leaders to come up with their own landing pages. It seemed like the right platform for pre-recorded content and live streaming an event. We knew that we wanted to run a live event—no longer than an hour because of Zoom fatigue and everything else that people are going through—and we knew that trying to capture it all live might be pretty daunting for the participants to get prepared for. Although we love putting that organic energy out there, we knew we needed to do some pre-recorded content. We ended up sharing about 25 minutes of pre-recorded content. About three months leading up to the event, Facing Homelessness had the team get together and just really brainstorm, “What do we want to share to promote the heart of what we're doing at Facing Homelessness and The BLOCK Project?” We came up with some concepts. Fortunately, we have a very talented team of folks that know how to interview people really well and facilitate meaningful conversations. We have some great people that know how to take photos and do production and editing. We spent about three weeks pre-recording content and that helped us get to where we're at and helped us create some good promotional pre-recorded content that could be shared, not just at the live stream, but after the event too.

Rachel: So smart from a marketing perspective to recycle some of that good content. I'm going to go ahead and share my screen here because I know people are at the edge of their seats wanting to see this beautiful campaign that we're talking about. For everyone who's following along, obviously we're going to link below so you can take a look at Facing Homelessness’ page. You can actually still watch the entire live stream if you're looking for inspiration. I know I loved even just the intro! The music and the black and white images—a nod to your, as you were saying before, the history of your organization. I thought just even that was so clever and inviting. As you go down, you can see your teams with the different logos. I thought that was a really good idea. A lot of times we see team members with just the leader's face, but I love that you have the logos here. That made it really identifiable. Your story section—I mean, don't even get me started on this piece! It's just gorgeous. It's beautifully written. Beautiful images, like you were just saying. Specifics about the project, overview about who you are and what you do, what people can expect of this when they support the event, and then, of course, again just a nod and thank you to all your partners at the very bottom. Just a beautiful, beautiful campaign page. Kudos to you and your entire team. It looks so good!

Berns: I guess another element I wanted to throw out there… All of our past events have been paddle raisers. That's helped contribute to the success of this fundraiser—to maintain that competitive spirit. That's why having a live stream was great because we got to see more of that happening, where we couldn't do that so much last year.

Rachel: So, speaking of—kind of on that note—what are other tips, tricks, or lessons learned that you have from your first live stream fundraiser on Givebutter?

Berns: Oh, good question. If you haven't done it before, I don't know, we had a consultant work with us who did over 20 live stream events before. That was really helpful because we just had all the right templates and guides and tools to guide us along. As we were building the run of show, we had something that was really easy for the live production crew to manage. That was seamless! When we made changes somewhere, it transferred to other places. We ended up going into a production studio and that helped a lot. If we tried to do it with our own crews and set it up in our own spaces, it would have been really stressful for us. Our easy button was just to spend a little bit of extra money and not have to sweat managing all that. It turned out to be pretty seamless and really smooth to hire a professional production studio to help with the live stream.

Rachel: Good tip!

Berns: With any successful fundraising campaign, you need to do your recruitment for team leaders and stuff way in advance of the campaign. Cultivate those relationships. I think that's really important and there's always room for improvement for us on that front. Just the more time doesn't hurt. The pre-recorded content was really great because we now have lots of videos to share that are going to have a return that will pay itself over time. We're not even experiencing the benefits of that yet, but we’ll continue to.

Rachel: Right! So true. So, don't be afraid to ask for support from partners to pull it off and work in advance to cultivate relationships with teen leaders. Those are great tips. How would you say your experience was using Givebutter for your first-ever live stream?

Berns: It’s just really intuitive and simple. I put a little document together to guide team members and team leaders to put their own pages together and I got no phone calls or emails; it was great! It was because of how simple Givebutter is. It's really simple for other people to follow. There's not too much distracting design things that make it complicated. So yeah, it worked out great!

Rachel: Glad to hear it! For those who are following along that are really excited and inspired by what you do and want to support you and follow you, where can they find you?

Berns: Yeah, thank you! If you're on Facebook or Instagram, look up Facing Homelessness. It will be the best thing on your feed that you see. You get to witness really heartfelt, genuine stories of people living outside and community showing up. If you're in the Seattle area, definitely check on the “Get Involved” links on or website. There's tons of really awesome ways to volunteer and get to know and come closer to Facing Homelessness and The BLOCK Project. There's obviously donate buttons on those websites too. Even the $5 a month and $1 month contributions mean the world to us.

Rachel: Sweet! All right, everybody. You know where to find them. Go follow and donate! Berns, thanks again for joining us and sharing your incredible success in this fundraiser and, even more importantly, for the incredible work that you're doing for your community.

Berns: Thank you, Rachel.

Rachel: For everybody else who’s following along, thanks for joining for another Success Story. Please be sure to like, share, and subscribe to Givebutter’s YouTube channel, so you never miss another Success Story again. We will see you next week and, until then, happy fundraising. Bye everybody!

View campaignFacing Homelessness AEC Fundraiser 2021

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Rachel Mills

Rachel Mills

Givebutter Marketing & Contributing Writer

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

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