In this video, Mandy from Green City Market shares how they raised $22k (and counting!) on Givebutter Livestream to deepen their support for small family farmers, educate consumers and the next generation of eaters, and increase access to local, healthy, sustainable food. Mandy dishes on Green City Market’s commitment to serving those impacted by its mission—despite numerous cancellations and closures due to COVID-19. This inspiring virtual event included pre-recorded and live-streamed content, as well as a tasty Q&A session with local chefs! She also shares:

  • Why they chose to host their annual fundraising event on Givebutter Livestream
  • How they provided a unique at-home experience for virtual event attendees
  • What made their campaign so successful (Hint: Custom donation amounts!)
  • Tips, tricks, and lessons learned for fundraisers who are new to Givebutter
“None of us knew what we were doing, and Givebutter support was awesome. We emailed several times to say, “I don't know how to do this.” We had support from the Givebutter side who advised us on some of these other pieces that weren't [Givebutter] technology. They had enough experience to say, “Well, here's how that piece would play in,” and just gave us the confidence of let’s do this!”

Did I mention they pulled this off with only five full-time employees?

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Full video script

Rachel: Hi all! Rachel here with Givebutter. Thanks for joining for another Success Story from the Givebutter community. Today, we are featuring Green City Market from Chicago. So far, Green City Market’s Chef BBQ @ Home livestream fundraiser has brought in over $22,000—that's right. All in an effort to pave a new path for the local food community in the Midwest. It was incredibly well done. I got to watch it after-the-fact, and I have Mandy here with me to dish on how Green City Market pulled off a mixture of pre-recorded cooking demos and livestream conversations. She's also going to tell us what made them turn to Givebutter for fundraising and tips, tricks, and lessons learned, so everybody who's following along right now can give better with Givebutter. Mandy, thank you so much for joining us today.

Mandy: Absolutely! Thanks for having me.

Rachel: So to start, why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself and what Green City Market does.

Mandy: Great! Yeah, so I'm Mandy Moody. I am the Director of Development with Green City Market. I've been with the organization for just over a year and had the fortune of seeing the virtual event that we pivoted from a live event just about five weeks after I began with Green City Market. The Chef BBQ really is intended to help us achieve our mission of deepening support for local farmers who are growing sustainably and small scale, and educating consumers and the next generation of eaters. Teaching kids about where food comes from, why it’s important that they know how to source really wonderful food, and then what to do with it: how to prepare it and nourish themselves for a lifetime. Then the third pillar of our mission is food access, increasing access to farmers markets for everyone across Chicago because that's the community that we serve—is the Chicago community. Making sure that everyone feels welcomed at our farmers markets and that they can shop the market affordably through our matching programs and different other initiatives that we do for food access. So the Chef BBQ event has a big, big impact on our mission.

Rachel: Incredible work that you all are doing. Let's just jump right into your livestream! It was less than a week ago, so I know you're still kind of in the weeds of it and it's very fresh. What led to this pivot? Because it's COVID-related, kind of walk us back a few months to when everything started to shift for you all, and you started to think, “Hey, maybe we need to take this thing livestream,” I guess.

Mandy: Absolutely. So our situation is somewhat unique. I think every nonprofit is dealing with such unique circumstances that are really personalized to the work that missions do and how they raise funds. For us, the Chef BBQ is held in a public space. It's held on Park District lands in Chicago. When we learned that the park district was going to remain closed, we started to think about, “OK well, if things don't open up, what does that look like for us in July?” So we closed down in about mid-March. We had a lot of work to do on the program-side to make sure that those parks where we hold our farmers markets and do a lot of our great work supporting those farmers—we had to pivot that first. Our event really took a backseat for a moment as we figured out how do we accomplish our mission. How do we connect with those who are supporting the Green City Market mission? Then let's think about: what do we need to do for this event? When it became clear that, not only the park district was not in a place that it was going to be safe to re-open, we also felt that it wasn't going to be safe to have several thousand people in a park, close together, tasting delicious wonderful food—as much as we want it to be out there. We had to keep in mind as well that the restaurant industry here in Chicago and across the country is really being impacted by COVID and by closures. We really thought, “OK, we need to do something completely different.” For us, it really took us a little bit of time to think about what does that really look like? Because we were trying to take something that was so experiential—it's not an auction, it's not a traditional paddle raise, it's none of those things. How do we take that and connect it with the community, so that people feel engaged and interested in participating? I think the one thing that was the guiding light throughout the entire planning process was we took one of the shortcomings of Chef BBQ: it is a vast event so the event space, the physical layout, traditionally is very large. It’s outdoors, so there's not a great opportunity to really engage folks in the mission and what Green City Market does. Many people are coming to the event because it's a great tasting event where they can have awesome local food prepared by incredible chefs and wonderful beverage partners, but they're not hearing about the Green City Market mission. That was something that, as we thought about how do we pivot to virtual, we thought this is a great opportunity for us to connect with people more intimately than we could do live and in person. Which isn't really what you would think when you're transitioning from live to virtual, but was definitely a guiding principle as we were looking at how we were going to plan the event.

Rachel: I love that: the guiding light. So, walk us through your strategy. Once you landed on doing the livestream and deepening that mission to connect with all of your community, what was your fundraising strategy?

Mandy: Absolutely. I think one of the things—there were several things that we learned throughout this process. One of those things was we tried initially to do a hybrid of a paid event where there was a VIP extra experience for a paid ticket price and then a free livestream where folks were going to be able to donate as the event was going on live. What we quickly learned was we really did not give ourselves ample time to actually sell tickets to an event. There was so much going on with, again, making sure that we were tending to our mission, and we're a very small organization, in terms of staff. There are five full-time staff people with Green City Market. We are serving 55+ farmers, thousands and thousands of children in Chicago, nearly 1,000 customers who shop the market using Link—so there's a lot going on. We quickly learned that the paid piece for us wasn't going to work this time. We do think that we have learned enough that we can actually do some offshoot events after-the-fact and use Givebutter to do those paid activities. But, what we found the most success in was creating a livestream event where we would have a combination of what folks come to Chef BBQ for: getting to see the chefs preparing this awesome food, getting to hear them talk about, again, where do they source this from and how can I, as a home chef who really loves great food, have access as well? So we really wanted to make sure that came alive. Then, we wanted to give people a little bit more of a behind-the-scenes peek, both in terms of allowing the audience to ask questions of our chefs, but then also to give them a really great view of the farms that are coming into the city to feed and nourish Chicagoans. That's why we have this great hybrid of a livestream event where we had some pre-recorded content, we had a Q&A session happening on Zoom, and then we also had some live interaction happening straight to the iPhone from our Executive Director and myself. The fundraising strategy really boiled down to, how do we connect—just like you would at any traditional paddle raise—really connecting those dollar amounts to what a donor could do with that dollar amount. Chef BBQ typically is not really a fundraiser in the sense of, again, we don't have a paddle raise. Typically, there's no auction. People are buying a ticket, and they're getting a great experience. This was a way for us to connect both that wonderful experience with an opportunity to make an impact and make a difference. Everything really hinged around that paddle raise or fund-a-need style ask. We found much greater success with folks registering for free and giving a contribution, as many did, right when they registered for that free livestream.

Rachel: I'm going to go ahead and share my screen so that people can see, even now, if you click donate on your gorgeous campaign page, you can see that theme that you were just mentioning with the paddle raise. Right? Do you want to walk through some of these?

Mandy: Yeah, absolutely. From a logistics standpoint, behind-the-scenes we looked at where do our donors typically—at what levels do they typically give? We wanted to make sure that—I've done lots of paddle raises where your top level might be $10,000 or $5,000. That's not really this audience. It was really important for us to see where historically had people given and how do we align those to real, tangible needs that Green City Market has? We came up with these levels and we noted that they're a little different. $275, for example, it's not only the monthly cost of funding PPE for our market staff and volunteers, but it also happens to be the value of a VIP ticket to the live event last year. So it made sense to our audience. $57, for example, to the number of vendors that we have at our markets this year, so giving $1 in honor of each of those vendors was something that was interesting. We definitely chose to have that other level up and available for folks to choose because, as you can kind of see behind that light box, people were giving all across the board at different levels. One thing you'll note too—that we did not take advantage of that I definitely think that we would do next year—is that team aspect and getting our board members signed up as team members so that folks could really engage peer-to-peer a little bit more. For us, it was really, again, more so just outright donations. You'll see myself there and then our Development Associate was another team member. Going forward, I think we would definitely look at having our associate board members as team members—our board of directors, other volunteers—just to get that fun, we're-all-in-this-together feeling.

Rachel: Exactly. Yeah, I didn't notice that before. Your amounts did really stand out to me. I thought, “I have to know the story,” because it caught my attention right away. I think it's really smart that you made it relevant not only to your donors and what they give based on history, but also context to last year and things that are going on this year that only your people would know. I was also really impressed with the way that you were engaging just simply by loving each of these donations. I think that's something that can be really easy to forget to do in the hustle and bustle of a livestream event. Another thing that really stood out to me was the way that you told your story. Would you mind just giving maybe a one-minute overview of how you told your story and why?

Mandy: Yeah, absolutely! Again, the mission of Green City Market really activates these three different pillars of farmers, education, and access. We went directly to folks who had been impacted by those areas. We spoke with Abby, one of our vendors, and we got a great quote from her about what does this really mean to those vendors? If we don't have Chef BBQ and we don't bring these funds in for Green City Market, what could that mean for that vendor and their livelihood? We talked a little bit about our education initiative and got a quote from a student. Then again another one, on our access-side, we spoke with a customer who uses our Link matching program where we welcome Link, which is food benefits SNAP dollars, and we match them dollar for dollar up to $15 at each market. We got those great quotes. I will say that several of these quotes were actually pulled from other collateral that we had already had in the works. I think it really highlighted that we focused a lot on storytelling at Green City Market, engaging with both the beneficiaries of our work and then also the donors and supporters of our work. Several of these quotes were either repurposed after or before the event: on our blog, in social media, and different things like that. The graphics that you see there were all designed for free on Canva. I'm sure many of your Givebutter clients are also using Canva; I don't know where nonprofits would be without it.

Rachel: Right!

Mandy: I think that it was really important to have that in there because it broke up those visuals, so that people didn't just have this big long line of text. I think that was another thing that really stood out and again that image that you see under “Access” is familiar to our community because we show another—this is what folks can get for $30 at Green City Market. We have another image that shows just what you can get for $15. You see how much more our Link match actually affords those customers who are facing food insecurity and really need affordable access to the farmers market. I think it's good to highlight that you're doing all this work for this virtual event, but really be thinking about how do we repurpose what we have? Then, how do we give a little bit of life and length to what we're creating for the live event itself?

Rachel: Right! That context is so helpful to know the consistency of messaging: that you're repurposing stories and images. Those are such great tips and tricks for people who are wondering, “This looks so beautiful. How did you pull that off so quickly?” Well, you're making it digestible for folks that maybe might be intimidated by taking the time to share their story in this way. Then lastly, I just wanted to point out at the very end you have a “due to COVID-19” message. It's concise. It's to the point. It's really emotionally gripping. This is something that we've seen on some other Givebutter fundraisers in the last few months, and it's a great tip and trick for anyone who's following along right now. Tell your followers specifically how COVID-19 is impacting you and financially, what that costs you. People don't know; they have no idea. I think this is an excellent example for those that are following along. Let's talk also about your livestream; what made you turn to Givebutter to pull this off?

Mandy: Yeah, absolutely. We did quite a bit of research. I felt like I was on a webinar every hour of my life, so I feel for those watching this and trying to gauge what platform out there is really going to work best for them. For us, it really came down to functionality and price. Again, we're a small nonprofit. We have a very small budget, so we wanted to make sure that we were very cost conscious but that we also have great visuals, right? So we have this beautiful logo and this beautiful food to show off. We wanted to make sure that the page of the actual event also reflected that brand and looked nice and people felt like “OK, this is a legitimate thing that I’m participating in.” Excuse me. So I would say the functionality of being able to have the livestream right where people were giving it made it—when we were doing the virtual paddle raise piece of it—so easy to say, “You can give right here!” We created some lower thirds that also had our text-to-donate number and keyword. We made sure to point that out for people, so that anybody who wanted to give via mobile, it was all very accessible and right there in front of them. So I think that those two things, functionality and price, really came down to it for us. I will say, when we were doing some of our calls for consideration, there was the question about how often do people cover fees—how often do your donors cover fees? Then the person I spoke with said about 90 to 95 percent of the time; they really cover them often. I was definitely skeptical of that, but I can tell you, of the donors that we had, we only had one person who did not cover the fees. That was huge for us as well. The dollar amounts that you see that people are giving, Green City Market is really benefiting from those dollar amounts. I think that transparency for the donor helped them feel confident that yes, I'm going to give my $275 and I'll take care of the fees to make sure that Green City Market gets that full $275. That was impressive to us as well: that it was kind of an all-in-one stop shop, very transparent for the donor, ease of use. . . A lot of things you're looking for in terms of—especially when you are trying to do something that you have never ever done before and that we don't have the expertise on staff to delegate out. We were kind of figuring this out on the fly.

Rachel: Well, I'm so glad that you turned to Givebutter. We're so proud to host your amazing livestream event. Speaking of which, really briefly walk us through how your team got over the fear of going live because you had a mixture pre-recorded and live and Q&A. How did you do it? How did you pull it off?

Mandy: I think it was a combination of practice; we did practice a few times. We had our Development Associate who was running the show behind-the-scenes off of an iPhone. She was using a technology called Switcher Studio, which helped us to kind of pre-load that pre-recorded content. Then switch us back and forth between the Zoom and then between the actual livestream. So we had three key things happening: we had an iPhone recording the livestream of our Executive Director, a laptop computer that was running the Zoom piece of it, and then we had this pre-recorded content. I will tell you, when we were first talking it through, I couldn't visualize it. So I said, “Let's just practice it. Let's just do it and see how it works. Let's make sure that when we think we're speaking, we're actually speaking.” We learned quickly. When we were practicing without our chefs, who were a part of the Q&A, it was two people doing a Zoom right next to each other. So we're getting all this feedback. I'm like, “OK well, we'll mute the one computer.” Well, we quickly learned you can't actually do that in live because then our chefs can't hear our Executive Director. There was a little bit of that practice. Then I think at Green City Market we're really fortunate as a team to have a culture of risk-taking. We just sat down together and said, “What will be, will be. We're going to try this out. We're going to share up front with our audience that this is new for us. We're trying something new.” We reiterated that message during the live paddle raise portion that not only was the technology new, but the action and the act of doing a fund-a-need was new for Green City Market. We just laid our cards on the table and said we're going to try it and we're going to see how it goes. I think also we have, as you can see, a financial goal which we are still in the process of making progress towards. We actually have several follow-up things that are happening to again give more life and love to the work that we've already done. But I look at that $22,000 number against our $30,000 goal and I say, “If we hadn't done it, that number would be zero.” And the number of new donors that we're bringing into the fold, the number of people who had only ever gone to an event but never made a charitable contribution. I think the long-term benefits of where we are creating and strengthening relationships is what's really exciting to me as the Development Director. It's not just about this one instance in time: we’re building and staying in front of our audience and those who are supporting us. I think that you just have to jump in with both feet. None of us know what we're doing, and I will also say Givebutter support was awesome. We emailed in several times to say, “I don't know how to do this.” I think that was helpful as well, just knowing that we had support from the Givebutter side. Who advised us frankly on some of these other pieces that weren't their technology, or weren't your technology, but they had enough experience to say, “Well, here's how that piece would play in,” and just gave us the confidence of “OK, let's do this.”

Rachel: Well, that is a great word of wisdom and advice to those that are following along right now. Just go for it and Givebutter will be here to support you. We got your back. If you are looking for continued inspiration, or just want to follow and see the entire campaign, we will definitely link the campaign on your story as we share it. I guess to close, I'm just wondering if you have any other tips, tricks, lessons learned, or words of advice that you'd like to give to any Givebutter fundraiser that's watching right now.

Mandy: Yeah, I think I would just say that, again, just reiterating that fearlessness. We're all doing things that we've never done before as fundraisers and as event producers. I think it's important that we just try what we have within our capability to try and then we learn for next time. I referenced that paid ticket portion. What we learned there and what we planned and the effort we put in, we're planning on repurchasing and doing something with that. It's not a failure that that piece didn’t get off the ground running, it's just an opportunity for us to explore that and do another campaign with Givebutter where we have a little bit more time and a little bit more leeway. I think just try things. Ask your donors what they're looking for, what kind of experience they want, what would be meaningful to them, and then give it a try. Then go from there. Tomorrow's a new day; every day is a new day.

Rachel: Absolutely. Thank you so much again for representing Green City Market, Mandy. It has been such a pleasure talking to you today and just cannot wait to see what the future holds for you and your whole team.

Mandy: Thank you so much! Really appreciate it.

Rachel: Take care.

Mandy: Bye.

View campaign: Green City Market's Chef BBQ @ Home

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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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