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Customer Story: How AFFCF Raised 200% Of Their Virtual Walkathon Fundraising Goal

2020 was a good year to decide that virtual events are the way to go. Kimberly Searles, the Outreach Coordinator at Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation (AFFCF) discovered this when midway through a virtual walk campaign, COVID hit and quarantine went into effect. 

But with some flexibility and a focus on impact, their CauseVox campaign brought in double the original goal. Here’s how they did it.

About AFFCF

AFFCF is an organization based in Arizona that funds a variety of activities for children in foster care, to help them experience a normal childhood while they’re going through difficult times. One of their unique programs is Keys to Success. 

AFFCF logo

While a childhood in foster care is difficult at any time, ages 16-24 can be particularly challenging. This is when most youth age out of the system and lose the resources and supports that exist. To meet that need, AFFCF created Keys to Success, which supports those young adults in the system with career development, finishing education, and finding sustainable employment. These services pick up when young adults need them most and are essential for setting up vulnerable youth for a successful life.

What makes the program even more unique is that it includes a Youth Advisory Board of people who have completed the program and those who are still in it. That gives the most important stakeholders a big voice in the program.

In 2019, the Youth Advisory Board decided they wanted to build a fresh fundraiser for Keys to Success. “They were really adamant about it coming from their voice,” says Kimberly. The impetus for the campaign came from the board, and the direction it took came from them as well.

Just like the Keys to Success program, the campaign was unique from the start. After looking at in person races, the group decided that they wanted to create a virtual race fundraiser. Setting up the in person race would have taken much longer, and been a significantly bigger challenge for the group.

This decision set the tone for the rest of the campaign: it would be easy for anyone to get involved, it would center the needs of the Youth Advisory Board, and it would be built on youth sensibilities. They chose May as it’s Foster Care Awareness month, and started building their strategy.

When COVID hit midway through the campaign the team breathed a sigh of relief: their event was already virtual.

Raising More With Less Effort With Peer-to-Peer Fundraising On CauseVox

You might think that a fundraising campaign driven by a group of young adults without fundraising experience could be an uphill battle. That’s where CauseVox entered the picture. The simplicity of the technology, plus its powerful customization freed up the Youth Advisory Board to tell their stories and connect with their community.

They began with a goal of $10,000.

In less than three weeks, they had blown that goal out of the water. They doubled their goal, and the community came through to reach that goal too. Their final total was $20,355.

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Kimberly credits the ease of using CauseVox. Her own 11 year old son created his own fundraiser and participated in the event. “If an 11 year old can set it up, anyone can set it up,” she jokes. One of her points of pride was that they had very few calls asking for tech support: it was simply intuitive. 

Even better, CauseVox allowed Kimberly to create a customized template for her fundraisers. When they created their fundraiser, they just had to fill in their own information and upload photos. She made sure to call out a section where they could place their own impact statement so that each fundraiser was personalized. That individual touch took the campaign to the next level. 

The Heart of the Campaign: The Youth Advisory Board

From the first thing you see on the campaign, you know who is the heart of this campaign. Kimberly made sure that her content included the voices of the Youth Advisory Board. “The video [on the main page] is actually from the youth in the program describing what their life was like before it and after.”

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Throughout the page she included photos of youth in the program at jobs, in the community, and connecting with others. It gave donors and fundraisers a clear picture of how their dollars affected real people, and what kind of success could come from the program.

affcf-program-virtual-walkathon-causevox

Kimberly is understandably proud when she talks about the kids. “As you can see we have pictures of our Youth Advisory Board, which has grown since this campaign took off.”

To help bring the community together, AFFCF held one day during which community members could join them in event t-shirts and walk together. One of the best parts of the day was the inclusion of youth and staff from the program. 

Having those representatives on the day-of let community members connect. It showed what the program was all about, and showed that the youth had a stake in the program. This was their program, and they wanted to make it better.

Supporting Fundraisers

“We put a lot of effort upfront into making everything as easy as possible so that when someone decided to register to participate as a fundraiser, we wanted them to have everything they needed right off the bat.”

Because of the ease of CauseVox’s technology, Kimberly could focus her attention on making sure that her fundraisers knew exactly how to run a successful fundraiser. She started by ensuring that she had the right people in her corner.

They began with donors who had given specifically to Keys to Success, then expanded on to caregivers and invited them all to fundraise.

Each fundraiser was provided with a Google Drive full of resources. Everything from details on how to track your miles to information about building a donor list, plus sample emails and social media posts. 

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It was Kimberly’s way of saying “You’ve signed up, here’s what you do next,” but it all came in the voices of the Youth Advisory Board. The group created contests for their fundraisers, including costumes, number of miles walked, and dollars raised.

One of the most exciting elements of the fundraiser was that competitive spirit. Kimberly recalled seeing the top two teams battling it out for first place in a good-natured contest to see who could raise the most. Some fundraisers shared updates on their pages to let donors know how they were doing. One family took photos of their desert runs and shared the beautiful cacti and flowers.

The sense of community was something that came from Kimberly and the Youth Advisory Board: everyone bought in to the cause, and wanted to stay connected with the fundraisers. They provided their supporters with everything they could need.

CauseVox Is Accessible to Anyone

“This is a fundraiser you can do as you want. You don’t have to follow any certain rules. You can decide if you want to run…you can hit the treadmill, or you know, just walking around in your backyard.”

AFFCF has a lot of personality. CauseVox let them express that personality in their own ways. No matter who wanted to get involved, CauseVox gave them a way.

Kimberly says that this customization and accessibility are a big part of why the campaign was successful. Online fundraising can be intimidating, but “even the most technology challenged person can do this event, can participate. What we liked was that it opened a lot of doors and gave us a lot of new contacts.”

Two main groups saw the benefit of this ease and customization.

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The Youth Advisory Board is made up of young adults who are primarily in school and working. These are busy kids. They didn’t have time to go door to door, make calls, or use other traditional fundraising methods. Instead, CauseVox gave them access to the channels they were comfortable using, and let them share any time they wanted.

The organization’s general board members also found the site approachable. One board member didn’t want to fundraise himself, but made a point of donating to every fundraiser who was part of the program.

Two different groups with very different needs found that CauseVox worked for both of them.

But CauseVox also worked well for Kimberly and the staff. “What really was nice about CauseVox was that you have the tipping feature. It practically makes CauseVox free,” shared Kimberly. She estimated that about 90% of donors used the function, greatly reducing the costs to AFFCF.

She also loved the donation tiers, which “make it really tangible for people who are going to donate.” As a fundraiser, Kimberly used CauseVox’s features to their fullest, including updates and media that inspired her donors.

Plus it was all seamless to set up and maintain. No IT needed.

Lessons Learned

Over the course of 6 weeks this first time campaign reached its goal and then reached double its goal. What did AFFCF learn from this success? Here are the takeaways:

  • Less complexity in your fundraising process 
    • Code-free integrations with popular software
    • Run one of all of your digital fundraising initiatives
    • One place to handle every stage of the fundraising process

1. Involve Your Clients

From the very beginning, participants in the Keys to Success program were involved in this fundraiser. They talked about what the program meant to them. They shared what it had done in their lives. Their voices were a front and center reminder of how important the work is.

Where you can, include the people who will be affected by your work. They should be your biggest supporters. Even when they can’t give money, they can give time, talent, and the stories they have.

2. Use A Toolkit

If your fundraisers are using their time to create a fundraising strategy, or are too nervous to ask for donations, they’re not really fundraising. You want to give them all the resources and support you can. The best way to do this is by creating a toolkit that answers their questions and provides them with templates, samples, and information.

Kimberly created a beautiful toolkit for her fundraisers that gave them all they could ask for before they had to ask. She even tailored social media posts to different platforms, created a basic fundraising plan, and provided sample social media content.

3. Make It Personal

One thing that donors can spot a mile away is basic boilerplate language. What draws them in are unique stories from real people. Kimberly created a campaign that was all about personal stories.

Whether it was in the pictures she shared, the video content from the Youth Advisory Board, or the personalized impact statement included in each fundraiser, Kimberly made sure that every time she told her donors about the program, she had a face and a story to go with it. 

4. Use Updates!

Screenshot of the updates Kimberly posted

Of all the amazing features that CauseVox has, one that can seem less impressive is the ability to add updates to your campaign. But those updates are one of the best ways to maintain up to date communication with your donors and fundraisers.

Kimberly learned this early on, and used the update feature to share with her fundraisers when they had reached their $10,000 goal, as well as when they increased the goal to $20,000. Having a centralized way to share that information ensured that all the fundraisers kept pushing throughout the whole campaign.

To hear her full story, make sure you check out our Nonprofit Leader Panel Webinar.

Run Your Virtual Walkathon or Race On CauseVox

CauseVox can help you knock your fundraising campaigns out of the park and raise more with less effort. Easy for you to set up and easy for your fundraisers to navigate, the whole process is a delight for donors and nonprofits.

CauseVox has dozens of integrations, including Strava to allow your virtual walkers and runners to record and share their progress.

If you’re ready to move your fundraising events to virtual, let CauseVox make the process more simple with less clunk.

Get Started with Peer-to-Peer Fundraising on CauseVox.

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