In this video, Susan from JPII Newman in Omaha, Nebraska inspires us with how they used Givebutter to raise $47k to provide COVID-19 emergency funding for college students. Plus, Susan shares:

  • What made their No-Call-Phone-A-Thon Team Fundraising campaign so successful
  • Why they chose Givebutter as their fundraising platform (Hint: support!)
  • Helpful fundraising tips to get the most out of Givebutter for Team Fundraising
“It was the customer service and responsiveness of the Givebutter team that drew me in. It was immediate. It was personal. I definitely felt like I was not going to be alone during that process.”


Campaign at a glance

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Full video script

Rachel: Hi all, Rachel here with Givebutter. Thanks for joining for today’s success story. I have here with me, Susan from the JPII Newman center, from Omaha, and she is going to be dishing on why they chose Givebutter for their recent Team Fundraising campaign. What made it so successful - y’all they raised $8,000 almost over their $40K fundraising goal. So we want to know how they did that. And we’re also gonna hear some tips, tricks, lessons learned, words of encouragement for the rest of us who are currently running, Givebutter Team Fundraising campaigns. So Susan, thank you so much for joining us today.

Susan: Well, I’m glad to be here. Thanks.

Rachel: So, to start, could you introduce yourself a little bit more about what your organization’s mission is?

Susan: Sure. My name is Susan. I’m the Director of Advancement for the John Paul, the second Newman center in Omaha. So we’re a Newman center, and if you’re familiar with that concept, we’re basically a Catholic parish and community located on the campus of, or close to, public university campuses. So we’ve had a presence in Omaha for about five years. And what makes us unique is that on top of providing mass and community events, programming, social events, we also have a residence hall where we can house up to 162 students to live in community with us.

Rachel: Very cool. Can you tell us a little bit more about your No-Call-Phone-A-Thon?

Susan: Yeah, well, the name, the name is indicative of what it was supposed to be. So we were going to do our first ever student phone-a-thon to our donor base in the spring. It was scheduled for the same week that I ended up doing the No-Call-Phone-A-Thon. But when the pandemic hit we had encouraged our students to volunteer to move home. And in doing that, we had to buy back part of their lease. So that, you know, we shared the risk, the financial risk associated with the pandemic. And then made our residence hall a little bit safer, easier to do social distancing, and so forth. So I had to pivot at the last minute because, with very few students around, I couldn’t - and social distancing requirements - I couldn’t do a phone-a-thon. So I, you know, prayed a lot, I put my thinking cap on, and started researching on the internet. Reached out to our database provider, and got some recommendations from them and happened upon Givebutter at that time. Which seemed like a perfect fit for us.

Rachel: What made it a perfect fit for you?

Susan: I can say it was, I think first and foremost it was the customer service and response, the responsiveness of your team that drew me in. It was immediate. It was personal. And I definitely felt like I was not going to be alone during that process. Basically the low cost, it was a real benefit for us. You know, we just ended up giving a little at the end to thank you, but it was a free platform. And your case study on the percentage of donors that actually cover the fees was really promising to me. So it was definitely a low-cost solution. And it had an integration with the database that I use. So it just seemed like a perfect fit. And sometimes when things all just fall into place, I don’t really question it. I just go for it.

Rachel: Well, thank you for saying that. And especially in a crisis, right? It’s like, “Make it as easy as possible, please!”

Susan: Yeah. And the interface was extremely intuitive. Once I logged in and set up my profile, I got ahead. I went ahead and started and I’m not totally inept when it comes to technology, but I found it to be extremely intuitive, easy to follow and set up. And I could customize it. That was really helpful for our branding to be front and center on our page.

Rachel: I’m so glad to hear that. So what was your, kind of going back to your campaign, what was your fundraising strategy? I know you use Team Fundraising, right?

Susan: I did. Peer-to-Peer, whatever you call it, Team Fundraising… I knew that for our campaign, our donors, they don’t want to hear from me. They don’t want to hear from the staff. They want to hear from those students that are supporting. So this gave us an amazing platform to be able to - you know, students, this demographic is amazing. But they’re sometimes hard to get to do things because they’re studying their work. They’ve got a million other things going on. So I needed a platform that was going to be very simple for them to either just take what I had put up there and use it, or to be able to just add their own thoughts and then use the platform to fundraise. So, honestly, I can’t remember your question if I’m answering it right now, but -

Rachel: No, no - you’re great! I’m just curious what made you choose Team Fundraising?

Susan: Well, it just made sense because our donors really need to learn what our mission is through the people we’re serving. So it was just an obvious choice to go with our students. I had known that with the phone-a-thon, lots of Newman centers, lots of high schools, and things like that fundraise using a phone-a-thon kind of, you know, campaign. And so, you know, they, it’s really hard to say no to a student in my experience. So having them front and center, talking about their experience at the Newman center, how the Newman center has impacted them, how experiencing the love of Jesus through the other residents and students and staff had impacted them. So this gave them, this was just a perfect way for them to highlight all of those things. You know, honestly, it was like a perfect storm. When it, when you think of it, we had the pandemic hit, they had to go home, lots of them, not everyone. And they were missing the Newman center, missing their community, missing their friends and roommates. And so I think the timing of this, for them to be able to express that on that longing and what it is they really, truly love about the Newman Center was just, it was providential, to be honest. So I think the student witness through the Givebutter platform was a very powerful mix and it just reached a lot of people online.

Rachel: Let me go ahead and share my screen. So everybody who is watching or reading can look at your beautiful campaign. 

Susan: Thank you. 

Rachel: You were just mentioning, hearing from students themselves, and one thing that stood out to me was that you had a matching grant from an alumni member. Do you want to speak to that a little bit?

Susan: Yes. And I’ll ll probably cry, to be honest. Phillip is an alum of JPII Newman. He’s also fighting stage four lymphoma. I had done, as part of this, I mean, anybody in marketing or anybody in development knows you need to have a multichannel campaign. So I had been prepping our donors for a few weeks, through emails, through social media. And being, one of the things that I’ve learned through this process and learned in this job, I’m fairly new to advancement is, that honesty really just goes a long way. So we were very honest and upfront with our donors about what we were experiencing as an organization in general and through the pandemic. And so in some of that pre-campaign work, Philip saw it. And I woke up one morning, 630 of course checked my phone first thing, and there was a $40,000 donation from Philip, who, amidst his trials and tribulations was so grateful for the faith that he gained at the Newman Center. The relationship with Jesus that’s helping him endure this trial that he’s in. So compelled that he gave such a huge amount that, you know, it blew all of us away. I can tell you during the course of this, I cried like 20 times during that week of our No-Call-Phone-A-Thon just kind of overwhelmed with the response. From our donors, our alum, the students that, you know, put themselves out there. I think, you know, fundraising is hard. And we had a lot of students who were very compelled by Phillip’s witness to get on board, to make their own page and to talk about why they love it. The Newman Center. So his was just a, a gift that bore so much fruit in so many ways, and that, you know, it certainly buoyed everything. He was a, he’s a very influential young man. He’s involved in everything, and he has friendships from people in grade school, high school, college, all the way up to senior citizens that he prays with where you really, so, very compelling. I don’t, I doubt sincerely we would have had the success without that lead gift. And his witness. But giving him a platform to express this through Givebutter, through the social media part of it, was just huge. We just absolutely couldn’t have done it without the fundraisers themselves.

Rachel: Well, and you can really see that people are rallying behind Philip in the matching gifts as well. There’s so many heartfelt comments on the Live Supporter Feed on the right side that I just thought were so touching. “Dear Philip, we’re praying for you, rooting for you every day. Thank you for the work. You’ve got this. Beat this thing.” I mean, I didn’t know the story behind it, but I didn’t even need to because it was so compelling just seeing your community come beside him and all the other students that are impacted by your organization. So here’s all your team members that raised - for those who are wondering - I’ll click yours just so people can see. Each team member has their own fundraising page. How did you prepare different members to be able to use this successfully?

Susan: Well what I did is, I reached out to individuals that are engaged, thoughtful, know that they love the Newman center, always willing to help. And I reached out to them with some fun campaigns and some, um. Prizes for winners. Everybody who signed up got a Chick-fil-A sandwich and that kind of fun stuff. So there were some incentives to sign up. But, it was, it was targeted at first to people that I thought, you know, every organization has those, the usual suspects that you know, are going to sign up. So I encourage you to just start there, and reach out to them specifically and ask them to be a part of it. I would say that maybe 10 or 15% of the people I reached out to actually created a page. Now, had I had more time to develop this, I’m sure that number would have been higher. But I had about two weeks to plan this entire thing, set up all the graphics, the whole campaign. So we turned it around extremely quickly and our students rose to the occasion. But I did emails. I did phone calls and texts. And then I used a different platform that we use internally to email and text the entire student body that, that we serve. And a lot of them, if they didn’t set up a page, they donated. So a lot of our donors were actually the recipients of our mission funds, so it was pretty, pretty awesome. Yeah, especially college students, right? For them to give from not a lot of excess or any excess at all is, is very telling about our mission. So, but yeah, that’s how I did it. I reached out to them. I would have done it way sooner. I started probably three months in advance, reaching out to students and encouraging and having events and that kind of thing that would spur interest in fundraising. But I would say that in the two weeks that I was able to work on this project we had a huge success rate and I think it was just like I said, that perfect storm of missing the place, being home away from their friends and our community. And I think there were a lot of people that just had a heart attachment wanted to help.

Rachel: And then I also went to your website and I saw that you featured your campaign on there as well.

Susan: Sure.

Rachel: Just for anybody who’s watching as well that I’m just putting it directly on the home page is a best practice. That’s a great idea. Don’t just make it a button. Make it clear in multiple places that this campaign is live and ready, ready to take donations.

Susan: Yeah. We had a multifaceted campaign in terms of our website or all of our social media channels. I also reached out to our college students to sign up on social media, and that was really helpful too. I was on the radio. I don’t know if I did any print advertising. Another thing that I did as right when I knew I was going to do this campaign. I sent out a postcard. Two - oh, maybe, 300 people that I don’t have emails for that are in our database. And so they got a hard copy of the campaign, um, and followed up with a letter with them. So there was a lot that. And I take that back: I also sent the postcard to people for whom I had an email address, so they were getting it on our social media. If they liked our pages, they were getting a hard copy postcard of the campaign. They were getting regular emails from me at least weekly, which is a little bit more than I typically do. And the week of the campaign, I did a Monday, Wednesday, Friday email, all with just compelling messaging videos. So it was a robust and multichannel campaign, and trying to hit them in all the kind of different ways. I mean, what did they say? You’re supposed to people to see something seven times? We tried to do as much of that as we could muster in two weeks without overwhelming them.

Rachel: I just think that is super impressive that you were able to use such a dynamic, multifaceted marketing approach in fundraising in two weeks. I mean, wow.

Susan: Thank you. Well, we had a goal and we had to get it done and Givebutter completely helped enable that to happen. And we had, you know, a lot of processes in place already for, you know, our annual funding that really just helps facilitate that. You know, it’s a good database. Keeping your database clean, knowing who your, who your donors are and how you should reach them. A lot of our donors are older and I’m sure that’s true for a lot of nonprofits. I had to be able to reach them in a variety of ways. You know a lot of them listen to the radio, the Catholic radio station, they definitely check there. Their postbox out front of their house and, but a lot of them were not on social media and a lot of them don’t check their email regularly, so you have to kind of hit them in, in every way you can that’s feasible and within your budget.

Rachel: Right, right. That’s a great point. I mean, you’ve given us so many things to walk with practical tips. I mean, I guarantee people are taking notes right now! I mean that. So anybody who’s watching, other charities that are maybe, gearing up to do a Team Fundraiser: do you have any lessons learned or words of encouragement to them as they?

Susan: I probably stated that. So I might be redundant… Start sooner than I did. Although sometimes I work better under pressure, so, you know, do it. It’s important. Do what works best for you on that one. But I would definitely start a campaign leading up to it to get people to sign up to be fundraisers. That is no small feat. And if you don’t have that, your fundraiser’s going to flop. You have to have a lot of fundraisers out there, sharing posts, emailing their friends. And that takes courage. And there’s a lot of people that are extremely apprehensive. So I would start early, make it fun, have prizes and incentives for people to sign up... prizes and incentives for people to raise the most money. And make it fun! Mine had been perfectly timed because with our leadership crew, which is about 40 students. I had to give a talk on stewardship, like three weeks prior to that. So they have that in my face, begging them to be good stewards and that kind of thing. So, you know, um, but just find different ways to reach people to sign up to be fundraisers. That was my biggest concern going into this. And then once that all started to fall into place, it was just, you know, basic marketing and getting it put out there. I would say, you know, one of the biggest concerns I had about doing this was that it would be so COVID-related. That can be a little dangerous when you’re fundraising for operations to have such a successful campaign just around COVID and ours happened to be around COVID and around Philip. So, you know, I think, Mmm... really sticking to mission first, which is what I tried to do, but our story was so compelling that I think the COVID and coronavirus crisis as well as Phillip’s story really just kind of catapulted everything to the top are those two things. And mission was just a little bit different. So I would encourage you to just focus on mission as much as you can. There are always going to be needs for emergency campaigns and they are effective. So maybe just try and balance that a little bit so that next year you don’t come around to this time and go, “Wow, we only raised 25,000, or something like that.” So just set your expectations accordingly for a campaign this year during a pandemic as well as when you’re planning for next year. I have found that people have been extremely responsive to our asks whether they be phone calls, letters, during this time, I think people are just overwhelmed by the pandemic and they’re ready to give. So I think that’s my last advice. Do not be afraid to ask. This is the time every lots of organizations are asking. And trying to find the right donor for your mission doesn’t change. So just don’t be afraid to ask right now because you might be surprised. You’re, all you’re trying to do is match up somebody’s desire to be helpful with what your mission is. So if you can do that effectively, it will pay off. So don’t be afraid to ask, I think is my biggest bit of advice. And be honest with your situation. I think because somebody asked me that, one of our donors, “How has this so successful? Why do you think this was so successful?” And I said, “Yeah, I think it’s because I was just very honest with what our situation is.” People, I think mission is wonderful and we absolutely have to talk about that, but we also have to be honest with our donors about our finances, about where the money’s going and what it’s being used for. So, um, I’ve learned, you know, not being one of those seasoned Development Directors, I come in with a sort of lens to this whole thing, and I have found the most success by just sitting down with our donors, on all of our channels. It’s really paid off for us this year.

Rachel: Thank you for sharing that. Lots of encouraging words of wisdom from you. You brought up a really good point that is a really unique time to raise funds. It’s going to look different, but also don’t ditch the best practices at the same time.

Susan: That’s right.

Rachel: It’s a balance of both - it’s being adaptable and nimble, but it’s also being strong in your mission. So thank you so much for sharing that. I appreciate you offering that to our entire community today.

Susan: It’s my pleasure.

Rachel: Thank you. Yeah. Hopefully we will see another campaign from you soon knocking it out of the park. Thank you so much for doing this today, Susan.

Susan: Well, thank you. You can count on my business and I will definitely be doing a No-Call-Phone-A-Thon next year, too.

Rachel: Can’t wait to see it. Take care.

Susan: Thanks.

View campaign: No-Call-Phone-A-Thon

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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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