In this video, I’m joined by Kaitlin from Summit Area YMCA. The Summit Area YMCA is committed to nurturing the potential of every individual, promoting healthy living, and fostering a sense of social responsibility. They are a cause-driven, volunteer-led nonprofit organization that works to support and strengthen the foundations of community in New Jersey. Kaitlin explains how they raised funds to ensure that everyone, regardless of financial circumstances or background, has access to their life-changing programs through their incredibly successful annual campaign kickoff hosted on Givebutter. Kaitlin shares:

  • Why they chose Givebutter for their first-ever live stream event
  • What made this event so successful
  • Tips, tricks, and lessons learned for designing an engaging virtual event and fundraising page
“What was important to me was to choose a platform that I felt would be super user-friendly and fun so that our volunteers would have to put minimal work in but would get a lot out of it. That's where we found Givebutter and we're so happy to have found it. I absolutely would love to use this platform again next year—even if we're in person—because I felt like it was so user-friendly and fun and helped spread the word so quickly. We're thinking that we’ll never go back to fully in-person; it may just be hybrid from now on.”

Follow along to learn more about the “why” behind the Y!

Campaign at a glance

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Full video script

Rachel: Hey, what's up everybody? Rachel here with Givebutter. Thanks for joining for another Success Story from the Givebutter community. Today, we are featuring Summit Area YMCA. Recently, this organization's annual campaign kickoff used live stream to raise over $377,000 on Givebutter for its life-changing programs. If you're looking for a successful fundraiser that used live stream or the team fundraising format—any or all the above—this one is definitely for you. I have Kaitlin here with me who's going to share how they made this event so incredibly successful as well as tips, tricks, and lessons learned. Kaitlin, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your success with us today.

Kaitlin: Thanks for having me!

Rachel: So to start, why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself and a little bit more about Summit Area YMCA.

Kaitlin: Sure! My name is Kaitlin, and I am the VP of Advancement at the Summit Area Y. I just started in January, so we pretty quickly had to put this annual campaign together sort of post-pandemic or not-fully-post-pandemic. We knew we were post that sense of urgency that people had felt in the last year when they had given in great numbers. We really didn't know what to expect, and we were thrilled to use Givebutter and to see it to success. The Summit Area Y services multiple areas. We're in Summit, Berkeley Heights, Springfield, Providence, Short Hills, and Millburn—all in New Jersey. We provide childcare, the free LIVESTRONG program which helps adult cancer survivors. We give out a lot in financial assistance to those in our community who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford a Y experience. We did a lot during COVID for food insecurity and to keep our programs and our mission open even when our building had to be closed. Yeah, that's a little bit about me and my organization.

Rachel: Amazing! So, timing was everything with this campaign. You didn't really know what to expect going in. What is the history with your annual campaign? Has there ever been a virtual format? Was this a totally new campaign for you?

Kaitlin: It was completely different for our audience here. We normally do a very traditional campaign where we have volunteers who are assigned to solicit gifts from certain people, and they usually do that in person at the branches. This year we knew we were going into a year where we have fewer members in our branches so fewer potential prospects to cultivate. We knew that there were still people who were out there who were willing to support us who might not be comfortable coming into the Y, so we wanted to reach them digitally. What was important to me was to choose a platform that I felt would be super user friendly and fun so that our volunteers would have to put minimal work in but would get a lot out of it. That's where we found Givebutter and we're so happy to have found it.

Rachel: So happy to hear that! New adventure. You needed a platform that was going to be simple, easy to use, fun, and engaging. And, you pulled it off! You raised over $377,000 which is incredible. Congrats to you and your team.

Kaitlin: Thank you.

Rachel: So what's the secret? How did you do this? That’s a lot of money!

Kaitlin: It was a lot of money. It's almost like I still think about, “Wait, how did we do that? How did we pull it off?” We did a live stream right in the beginning to kick it off. We normally have a traditional event in our branches where we kick off the event and have our volunteers there to kind of pump them up. Knowing that we couldn't have that this year because of COVID, we streamed it live and basically had testimonials, had people speaking, and also had some trivia about our mission. We asked people to tune into the Givebutter page and participate using the comments section to answer trivia questions for a chance to win gift cards. That went off really well, and it gave us great footage that was able to live on our Givebutter site through the remainder of the campaign. We saw that initial boost. Truthfully, in the middle of the campaign, it was like pulling teeth trying to get donations in, so we definitely hit a lull. At that time, we were able to secure a $25,000 matching gift from an anonymous donor, and that was huge in giving us a little push when we needed it. Then it was absolutely in that last 24 hours we just got an outpouring of support. We got major donations in, some of which we weren't even expecting. We went into the last 24 hours thinking we weren't going to hit our goal and that morning we got to 90% of our goal, sent out messages to our volunteers to spread the word that we were that close, and that helped drive momentum to the very end.

Rachel: Amazing! Then it must have just felt so exhilarating to see your community come around your mission, to rally above and beyond your goal even. I’m going to go ahead and share my screen here, so people can see your gorgeous campaign page. Right here, for folks that want to watch back, they can see your campaign kickoff that you had going here. The design is so beautiful, carried throughout the entire page. You have your team members and teams and your story section. I love the simplicity of this: two sentences, overall impact, and quotes. It was just that's what I need, that's what I'm looking for. It was very straightforward and formatted beautifully. Kudos to you; this looks great!

Kaitlin: Thank you!

Rachel: How were you thinking about the story, the donations? Anything that you did there that maybe you would do again or you would do differently?

Kaitlin: Well, we featured the same stories that we featured in our brochure and in our live stream to sort of reinforce the same messaging over and over. We always try to use a mix of graphics and storytelling, knowing that some people are drawn to data over stories and some people need that heartfelt pull in order to want to donate. We tried to hit every potential audience member there. We definitely wanted to keep it simple, and that was our goal. We know that people don't have long attention spans now, so when they get on the site, they want to quickly look, get the jist, feel the impact, and make a gift. We felt that the Givebutter page completely streamlined that.

Rachel: That makes a lot of sense. You were thinking about what speaks to different parts of your audience. Then, how did the teams and team members section go? Was that pretty easy for folks to navigate?

Kaitlin: It was very easy for people to navigate. I had, I think, zero questions from any of my many volunteers.

Rachel: Yay!

Kaitlin: That would be my secondary goal in all of this: is it easy enough that no one is hitting stumbling blocks? Because it can be frustrating to a volunteer if they're trying to set up a page and they can't quite do it right in five minutes. Our volunteers loved it. We created a little extra incentive by saying that the team that brought in the most dollars would get a private pool party at our Berkeley Heights pool. That really drove competition, especially among indoor cycling. As you can see, they came in top and they were sending out messages every week. “We're in the number one spot! Let's keep it there! We want that pool party!” We're really excited to host that pool party for them as a stewardship event and as a way to really express our thanks to them for just being such a huge part of this campaign.

Rachel: How fun! I love that. Shout out to the indoor cycling team.

Kaitlin: Oh yeah, they're awesome.

Rachel: Any other tips, tricks, or lessons learned as we look at your page here?

Kaitlin: I would say—not a tip or anything but—I absolutely loved the ability for people to comment when they make a donation. We definitely saw that take off among our Millennial parents and we got a ton of great testimonials as a result of that. I was then able to take our Givebutter page and forward it to a major gift donor who loves to support our childcare and say, “Look at all of these comments from these grateful families!” I was able to use it to actually steward someone else and spread the joy and that was a great thing that we used. I absolutely would love to use this platform again next year—even if we're in person—because I felt like it was so user friendly and fun and helped spread the word so quickly. We're thinking that we’ll never go back to fully in person; it may just be hybrid from now on.

Rachel: Oh, that is fascinating. I love hearing that. So clever to recycle some of those comments to keep the ball rolling because, like you said, the middle of a campaign can be so hard to keep the momentum going. It sounds like you just got really creative in ways that you kept the ball rolling. For those other fundraisers who are following along your story right now—and celebrating with you, I'm sure—what would be your word of wisdom or advice for them as they’re facilitating their own live stream event on Givebutter?

Kaitlin: We used as much pre-recorded footage as possible just to minimize the chance that there's going to be an error of some kind. The only part that we actually truly did live was my hosting part, which was necessary because I needed to be able to respond in real time to people who were submitting trivia questions. I definitely think that's key: just pre-recording everything and having it all lined up because there's just so much risk for error when you're going back and forth. We sent out the link also an hour before the event started. People would already have received the link if they had RSVP'd, but I sent a friendly reminder within the hour that it was happening. It was like, “Tune in right now! Here's the link.” That helped get a lot of people on at the last minute. Those would be just some words of advice.

Rachel: Nice! Those are great nuggets there. Kaitlin, thank you so much for joining us today, sharing your success, and for using the Givebutter platform for your incredible annual campaign and—like I said in the beginning—your life-changing programs in New Jersey. Thank you for what you do and for using Givebutter.

Kaitlin: Thank you!

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

View campaign: Summit Area YMCA

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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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