In this video, I’m joined by Ryan from Harry Chapin Food Bank. They recently raised over $569k through their March to a Million Meals peer-to-peer fundraiser on Givebutter. Even though they couldn’t have their annual walk-a-thon in person this year, Harry Chapin Food Bank and WINK News were committed to marching on with this crucial mission. Follow along to discover how they reached their goal of 1 million meals by March 1st. Plus, Ryan shares:

  • What made them turn to Givebutter
  • How to make the most of Givebutter team fundraising
  • Tips, tricks, and lessons learned for designing your Givebutter campaign page
“Givebutter gave us the tools and the outlet to create this campaign. [Givebutter campaigns are] great because they're easy to search, easy to find, and people really enjoy participating in them. [Givebutter] was very user friendly for everybody. There wasn't a lot of training that you have to do because it's so user friendly to begin with.”

You’re going to want to follow this Success Story every step of the way!

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Full video script

Rachel: Hey everybody! Rachel here again with Givebutter. Thanks for joining for another Success Story. Today, we are featuring Harry Chapin Food Bank in Florida. They aimed to raise $400,000 recently to provide 1 million meals. Get this—they ended up raising over $569,000. Amazing! That's why we're interviewing Ryan today. He's here with me to share why they turned to Givebutter, as well as tips, tricks, and lessons learned along the way. Ryan, thank you so much for joining us and for sharing your Success Story.

Ryan: Yes, absolutely. It's great to be here. To give you a little idea of who I am, I'm Ryan Uhler, the Digital Fundraising Manager at Harry Chapin Food Bank. I pretty much take care of all the digital, e-blasts, website—things of that nature. Recently, about a few months ago when the pandemic hit, I took on ownership of our peer-to-peer campaigns. It's been very, as you said, successful. We've had a lot of success with these campaigns, and we're very happy that we're seeing the results that we are. The community is loving it—they love the fact that you can make a comment and you can see the comments and it's all real time.

Rachel: So fun. Can you tell us a little bit more about your food bank for those who aren't familiar?

Ryan: Sure! We're based in Southwest Florida. We're the Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida. We cover five counties which are Lee, Hendry, Glades, Collier, and Charlotte counties. Prior to the pandemic, we were feeding about 28,000 people per week. Then it grew to a quarter of a million people per week once the pandemic hit. A lot of people down here are seasonal, so that was the height of season. They were losing their hours and losing their part-time jobs, having to cater to homeschooling their children. We saw a lot of first-time people coming through our car lines. We saw the need increase drastically, so all of these campaigns we've put on really help. It's great because they're easy to search, easy to find, and people really enjoy participating in them.

Rachel: That's so great. Thank you for the incredibly important work that you all are doing there. Tell us more. Break it down. How was this fundraiser so successful? I know we talked before we hit record a little bit about the history of what this fundraiser used to be before the pandemic, so tell us your origin story.

Ryan: We've been doing what's called annual hunger walks. That happens in January annually. We've done that for the past 11 years now, and it's something that the community expects that we've done. We raise about $300,000 a year. It's been growing since we started, obviously, but it's something that we would put on. There’s some funding that went on that we had to do to get the event. We would bring our trucks out. Everybody had a great time. It was a little walk and a lot of participation. What we did was we partnered with WINK News which was one of our local media news networks in our area. We partnered with them for the hunger walk and they would pitch it and give the date of the event and do stories. It was always a successful event, but with the pandemic, we were in a spot where there weren't a lot of events going on. People weren't expecting events. We didn't want to jump the gun. We wanted to be as safe as we could, so this was a great opportunity to figure out a way to do something similar, but do it in a digital space. Givebutter gave us the tools and the outlet to do that—to create this campaign. We figured, “What can we do?” We started brainstorming. I think people resonate with a meal when you're doing what we do, fighting hunger. They can understand when somebody sits down to a meal—and it's a million of them! You can get an idea of what we're trying to get at. We blew that out of the park at 1.4 million meals.

Rachel: Wow!

Ryan: It was great. It was amazing to see. I think we were grateful for the fact that we had the ability to do team fundraising. The ability for all of our supporters to see the messages that they put out there. Our media sponsor WINK News did a great job of going on on air. They would do a live read of some of the donations that would come in real time.

Rachel: Oh, how fun!

Ryan: It was very engaging and entertaining. People really responded. I think we owe a lot of thanks and gratitude to WINK News for doing the stories and constantly promoting that during the whole month of February. When we did our hunger walk with what we made versus how much it costs to put the event on and now doing it in this way...and people get a better understanding of what we're doing out there in the community and all the people we’re helping. A lot of these people with children are coming for the first time. It's incredible to see what this will do in the community. We're grateful we had the tool to be able to put it on.

Rachel: That's amazing. A couple of things that I'm hearing were helpful to your success: you had a new digital platform, Givebutter, that you were using that was easy to use as well as easy to use for your media partner who was helping promote this event all month long leading up to your deadline. Then, you also had a peer-to-peer model. Since Givebutter was new to you, I'm curious, how did you coach or train your peer-to-peer teams or WINK to utilize Givebutter as you were learning it in real time?

Ryan: It was very user friendly for everybody. There wasn't a lot of training that you have to do because it's so user friendly to begin with. It was good with WINK because as they were reading it live in real time, you could see that the thermometer was rising. They, in real time, would be able to say how much money is raised. We had a lot of feedback from the teams. The team fundraising section of it at the top there. For instance, we’ve got Storm Smart at $106,000. That was just their foundation that wanted to support this campaign. Copperleaf did their own little event social distancing and raised $36,000. It was amazing to see the support of the community. The Cross Creek Ladies’, Peace Lutheran Church, they all came together. They started a team page and then they shared it with their network. They saw the gifts come through their campaign, so they were able to go out into their communities and say how much they raised to go towards this campaign. It was really a great way to engage the community and a great conversation starter as to why are you doing this? Why are you trying to raise this? What is this million meals going to do? The fact that we're feeding a quarter of a million people a month, those meals will go very quick. We're kind of approaching summer hunger which is big in Southwest Florida because that's when all the snowbirds and everybody leaves. Kids are not in school, so they're not getting those free and reduced lunches if they need it. This is definitely helpful and we're so grateful for our community and we're grateful for this tool to be able to do this.

Rachel: Yeah, that's amazing. Just to point out that more than a quarter of your funds were raised through the peer-to-peer model. One thing that really stood out to me when I looked at your campaign was its simplicity. It just reminds you of the importance of messaging and visuals because you didn't have a long, drawn-out story section. It was just one paragraph. Straightforward. To the point. Have questions? Here's who to contact. Then, you also kept updating your cover image as the thermometer was growing which was really fun for us to get to watch as your campaign went on and on and just got more and more and more successful. For everyone who's watching, that's a great example and model to follow. You don't necessarily have to have all the bells and whistles. You can keep it really simple for people to follow.

Ryan: We tend to follow that model because simplifying it gives everybody a real glimpse at what you do and they understand it. But when you over-complicate it, sometimes it distracts them from what you're trying to do.

Rachel: Yeah!

Ryan: One of the challenges we had, as you mentioned the thermometer, was the fact that we did meals. We did have to constantly update that image. Originally, we had this image lying below the story or above the story.

Rachel: Oh, okay.

Ryan: I had this image set as a Google Drive image that can be updated and gave access to WINK to our Google Drive, so they could just modify that image and replace it and it would automatically go. I did a little code in the box that could see the Google image and it would automatically pop it.

Rachel: Yeah, cool!

Ryan: That was awesome that they could at 9pm or 10pm—when I'm getting my kids to bed—they could just upload the image and it's live as they're doing their newscast. I was happy that we were able to do that because we don't want to give anybody access outside of our organization so that was a great way to do it. It’s being creative, trying to figure out ways you can be creative and get the message out. The other interesting thing—if you hit “Make a Gift” there. This is something we're going to do some research on the value of these amounts because we did the math and these were the exact amounts. We were discussing how to make it more polished like $10, $50, $30, $60. One of the ideas was “Let's try doing something different. Let's try this and see what happens. Let's try doing these oddball amounts.” Because I think people, in their minds, they know things aren't always even.

Rachel: Exactly!

Ryan: When you make them even it almost feels like “Okay, I know some of this is going to it.” But these are roughly the amounts that we're on average seeing. We thought let's put the exact amounts out there—as close as we can to the average—and see what happens. One of the things we're going to go back—I'm sure, maybe I can come back to you and report back.

Rachel: Yeah, we would love to know.

Ryan: See which one of those amounts resonated the most. Put them in category one through four with four being the most. Just see which had the most impact. What people wanted to give most on that selection. Then, how many did the other amount and did an even amount. It's very interesting what you can do to sort of test it out.

Rachel: Yeah! It'll be really interesting to see. I would love to follow up and know how that worked out for you. It did stand out to me when I looked at it too in a positive way. For me, it built a greater sense of trust when I saw that. I'm like “Okay, they know the exact amount that's going to go.” I thought it was really smart. It felt really trustworthy when I looked at it.

Ryan: There were a few times people would go “Why six? There’s so many six! There’s a $48. What’s with the $48? Why not 50?” Well, we could have went with $50 or we could have went with $45. I think there's a few ways to look at it. I think that, like you said, we thought of it as a trust factor. Knowing that, being able to calculate that number that closely, does build that trust. The fact that we're able to do it—and it's not about trust it's about feeding our community! Everything at the end goes into feeding the quarter of a million people a month we’re serving. We're grateful. This goes right to the community and out to helping people. We're more than happy with how this campaign went, and all the other campaigns are doing well as well. We couldn't be more happy.

Rachel: That's wonderful. Congratulations on all your success. I'm wondering, to close here, what would you say would be your one piece of advice for other fundraisers who are watching right now or setting up their Givebutter campaign? Maybe, just like you, it's their first one. What would be your piece of advice or encouragement to them?

Ryan: I'll go back to what we talked about earlier: simplicity is king. When you start over-complicating, it gets away from you. The time gets away from you. Come up with what's the purpose of this? What are we trying to accomplish? Craft a little brief message to that and be simple with graphics. People are not there to read your life story. I think they see you're trying to do a good cause, and they want to participate in that. Another good thing to do would be to have people that have taken ownership of a team. Maybe they create a team page and share that with their network. Go out in the community. Talk to some people. Tell them you're doing a campaign for whatever it is, and ask them if they'd help support it or if they'd start a campaign. They don’t have to make a gift but share it with people they know. They could see that engagement grow and I think that's part of what we saw in our campaign. You get people involved and they start seeing their fundraising grow and then they get even more engaged and excited. It creates that level of excitement, so that's one one takeaway that we got. There's always more to learn as well as you grow with these campaigns. From what we were aiming for at $400,000, coming in at $569k was quite something to be proud of.

Rachel: Absolutely! Yes, excellent words of advice. Ryan, thank you so much for joining and sharing your incredible success with the Givebutter community today.

Ryan: Absolutely! Thanks for having me. I'm happy to discuss. If you ever want to go back and revisit, let me know. I'd be happy to share.

Rachel: Definitely! For everybody else who's following along, thank you for joining us again. Please remember to like, share, and subscribe to Givebutter’s YouTube channel. You can leave comments there for Ryan and I if you have questions that I didn't ask that you want him to answer. We will see you again a week from today to hear another incredibly inspiring Success Story. Until then, happy fundraising! Bye everybody.

View campaign: WINK Feeds Families March to a Million Meals

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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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