In this video, I’m joined by Cindy from Fenwick High School. They recently raised over $189k through their Raise the Shield 2021 Fundraiser. Raise The Shield is a Fenwick-centric giving day—a 24-hour online fundraising event that brings together like-minded donors around a common cause. Follow along to learn how they were able to engage Friars from around the world in support of Fenwick. Plus, Cindy shares:

  • What inspired them to turn to Givebutter (Oh hey, ThankView integration!)
  • How understanding your donor base can help you tailor your fundraising efforts
  • Tips, tricks, and lessons learned for launching a successful giving day campaign
“The integration between ThankView and Givebutter...that was a key component for choosing Givebutter. We asked [team members] to make a thank you video...then, the [Givebutter] donation button was right below the video. [Donors] didn't have to go to another site. Everything was all wrapped up into one. That ease—that everything just flowed from ThankView right into Givebutter—was just super huge for us… Take advantage of the ease and functionality that Givebutter has to offer. It's a really simple platform, and it's actually fun to donate!”

There won’t be a pop quiz, but you’ll definitely want to take notes on this high school’s giving day!

Campaign at a glance

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Full video script

Rachel: Hey everybody! Rachel here with Givebutter. Thank you for joining for another Success Story. Today, we are featuring Fenwick High School. Get this: they raised over $189,000—yes, you heard that right—for their 5th Annual Day of Giving fundraiser to support students. I have Cindy here with me. She's going to share why they turned to Givebutter, as well as—you know ‘em, you love ‘em—tips, tricks, and lessons learned. Cindy, thank you so much for joining us today and for sharing your Success Story.

Cindy: Absolutely! My pleasure. Thanks so much for asking me. We love sharing the Fenwick story.

Rachel: Well, we love your story and can't wait to share with everyone else. Just to kick things off, could you go ahead and introduce yourself and a little bit more about Fenwick High School?

Cindy: Absolutely. My name is Cindy Erwin. I'm the Director of Annual Giving and Development Operations at Fenwick. I have been with Fenwick for about 10 years, 11 years. Fenwick High School is a Catholic co-educational high school in the Dominican tradition. We’re located in Oak Park, Illinois, which is near the West Suburbs of Chicago. We opened in 1929, so we are coming in close on our 100th anniversary.

Rachel: That’s exciting!

Cindy: Yeah! We've been here for a long time. We are a school that uses the moniker of history, excellence, and tradition. We have many, many multi-generational families at Fenwick, so it's really both a tradition-laden yet exciting and innovative place to be.

Rachel: Amazing. Tell us more—I should say walk us back. You've been doing day-of-giving for five years now. Can you tell us about the genesis of that and what it's morphed into in 2021?

Cindy: Absolutely. Back in—must have been in 2017 now. That must have been our first one. I have to count on my fingers!

Rachel: Right! Same here.

Cindy: I had a Vice President of Institutional Advancement who really wanted us to investigate a giving day. We were not a participant in the formal giving day process, so he had asked me to look into it and what the benefits could be. This was actually probably in 2016. I took a year or so in order to really investigate it. Because Fenwick, like I said, we're that history, excellence, tradition. We have a population and a constituent base that looks at Fenwick differently than people tend to look at their high school experience. In the process, we realized that yes, we want to do a giving day, but we want our own giving day. We don't want to tie it in with the branded giving day that happens in November. We decided at that point in time to do our own giving day event. We named it “Raise the Shield” because the Fenwick shield is the Dominican shield. It's an icon of our institution, and that would resonate with our community. In 2017 was our very first Raise the Shield Giving Day. We started with a customized website and have evolved over the years and morphed into where we are today.

Rachel: Okay! That is so interesting. Raise the Shield; I think that's really clever. You obviously wanted this day to stand out for your community and it certainly did. It was very successful this year! What made you turn to Givebutter for your 2021 extravaganza?

Cindy: As I mentioned, for the past four years we have been using a custom-built web page specifically for our day of giving. Over time, we would modify it. We would gamify the event. In the first couple of years, we had videos. It was “Check back every hour to see what happened in the next video!” story. So it's a long story broken up into 24 videos, and we would encourage people to come back and see what's going on in the storyline. Then, in years three and four, there was more of a game. If you made a gift, you could get a trivia question. If you got it right, then you're in a raffle. We really gamified it.

Rachel: Oh, how fun!

Cindy: It’s been great, but we think our constituent base was getting a little tired of it. We needed to switch it all up. The long answer to your question was really the relationship that Givebutter has with ThankView. We have been ThankView clients for a couple of years now and concurrently what we realized was there was an organic opportunity that our graduates were taking with Raise the Shield. Individuals were serving as almost ex-officio Class Captains. They were encouraging their classmates to participate. So, in the spirit of wanting to really change it all up this year, we decided to look at the integration between ThankView and Givebutter. That was a key component for choosing Givebutter because then we utilized Class Captains. We asked them to make a thank you video. Then, the integration with the donation button right below the video—we literally told our people, “In your video, say the donation button’s right here.” That was huge. They didn't have to go to another site. Everything was all wrapped up into one. That integration is really what led us to Givebutter.

Rachel: That's so great! Shoutout to ThankView. We love our partners. They’re amazing. For those that aren't familiar, we'll definitely link it in the story for you to visit ThankView’s website. With ThankView, you can send personalized video messaging. Really helpful for donor recognition, stewardship, and in this case—hello!—day of giving. That’s brilliant!

Cindy: Solicitation as well. We had only used ThankView as a stewardship platform, but that relationship that Givebutter and ThankView had really opened our eyes to “Let's try this out as a solicitation opportunity.” We did, and it was great.

Rachel: That's so great. Speaking of linking things, I'm going to share with everyone your beautiful campaign page. As we're looking at this here, I’d love for you to walk me through your thinking as you were designing this page. What elements were you considering to make this as successful as it was?

Cindy: What was really interesting—and again, we were coming off of a really customized website, so we knew that we had some limitations. We put in our imagery and our logo on that front page. We don't have a customer base that tends to—they're not big on sharing via social media. Our constituent base and our alumni and our community, they really much more react to social media as opposed to engage with social media. We did not set up the team member component, but interestingly some people chose to do it organically on their own. What was really special was the messaging on the side. When people made gifts, there were quite a few people that put in notes and could share some really nice stories. That was a completely new experience for us. We gained some really neat notes and mementos that we then were able to share with the entire community afterwards. We really enjoyed that aspect of the Givebutter page as well.

Rachel: That’s so neat. I’m just scrolling through here what Cindy was describing: the Supporter Feed function. It’s neat that, although this is new to your constituency, they warmed up to it right away and left lots of heartwarming and fun messages on the side. You can see lots of enthusiasm there. I am wondering, did you do anything different in your checkout process when you were setting that up? How did you make that function?

Cindy: What was new for us with Givebutter was the opportunity for our constituents to cover the credit card fees.

Rachel: Oh!

Cindy: Honestly, we weren't sure how that was going to go over. We just didn't know how people would respond to that. 98% of the gifts had their credit card fees covered—that's huge!

Rachel: Yes!

Cindy: Huge! Like I said, we weren't sure how our people were going to respond to it, and that 98% was really, really impressive to us. It tells you that our community really wants to help. It's more than just about getting a gift. They also understand that there's a little bit more to giving, and they were willing to take that extra step as well. That was really a fascinating piece of learned knowledge for us also.

Rachel: Oh, that's so exciting! I love to hear that. I see your total here. Obviously, you raised a ton. You had over 800 supporters. How does this compare to what you were hoping for or year’s past?

Cindy: Admittedly, being our fifth year, we made some changes because some of our numbers and metrics had decreased over the past couple of years. We wanted to completely shake things up because we really had a sense that people were—I don’t want to say bored with it, but it just wasn't as fun, as exciting as it once was when we first rolled it out. The supporter number, I believe if I remember correctly, our goal was 800. We never set a dollar amount goal, but I will say that we were able to rebound in this year's giving from last year. We had a higher number of donors and a higher amount of money received from last year, which is exactly what we were hoping to do when we made the big change. That it would stop the slide and, in fact, it increased. We're really, really pleased with that.

Rachel: That’s so exciting! Congratulations on your success.

Cindy: Thank you.

Rachel: I can only imagine you're probably already thinking, scheming, and dreaming of 2022 and doing your giving day. Do you have any lessons learned or things that you might consider trying for your next giving day?

Cindy: I think what we want to do is—because that organic Class Captain thing that we then turned into a focal point of 2021 in a much more organized fashion. It was crazy successful! Our top 10 graduate class years of donors were from classes that had somebody make that ThankView video. I think our plan for 2022 is to continue to expand upon that. We had about 25 class years represented with a personalized video to their classmates, and I think our goal will be to have at least 35 or 40. Our community loves to hear from each other; that shared experience is so valuable. When a classmate pops up on a video and says “Here's why I donate and here's why you should donate,” it really resonated as opposed to me as a Director of Alumni, Director of Annual Giving, telling you why to donate. Also that ease—that everything just flowed from ThankView right into Givebutter—was just super huge for us. Super huge.

Rachel: That’s exciting to think about “How can we expand upon what already worked so well this year, next year?” And, not make it too hard on ourselves. Use that integration piece where you can! I am wondering, just to close here, do you have any words of wisdom or advice for other Givebutter fundraisers who are watching right now?

Cindy: I would say take advantage of the ease and functionality that Givebutter has to offer. It's a really simple platform, and, as you and I were talking earlier, it's actually fun to donate! Making a payment, whether it's a donation or a literal purchase of something, the platform pages are generally very static and dry. Somehow Givebutter just feels like it's a lighter sense. I would say that just adds to the experience. If you're having some fun on the frontend and then all of a sudden you get to a really traditional payment page...the Givebutter payment experience  continues that lightheartedness of the day.

Rachel: Great piece of advice. Thank you so much again for sharing your Success Story. Incredibly inspiring and fun to learn about where it started, where it's been, and where it's heading. We're all going to be watching Fenwick’s continued success and cheering you on in the Givebutter Family.

Cindy: Thank you so much for asking me to share our story. There's so many great stories out there, and again, thanks for letting us share ours.

Rachel: Absolutely! For everybody else who's following along, thanks for joining Cindy and I today. If you're not already subscribed to Givebutter’s YouTube channel, subscribe below so you never miss again. You can also leave a comment for Cindy if you have a question that I didn't ask that you really want answered. We'll try to get back to as many of you as we can. Until next week when we share another incredibly inspiring Success Story, happy fundraising! Bye everybody.

View campaign: Raise the Shield 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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