When COVID-19 hit in early 2020, hundreds of nonprofits were forced to scramble to adjust their plans for fundraising events. Summit Assistance Dogs was one of them.
Their annual Unleash Your Love luncheon was scheduled for early May. After shutdowns and quarantine orders, they made the tough decision to move the event to a virtual platform.
But their experience of flexibility and virtual know-how is a great example of the ways that virtual can be even better than in person.
In just over a month, Summit Assistance Dogs moved their event from in-person to virtual using CauseVox, and netted over $35,000 more than the previous year at their in-person event.
With just the tools of CauseVox’s professional fundraising platform and some dedicated fundraisers, they were able to take a COVID challenge and turn it into an amazing success.
About Summit Assistance Dogs
Summit Assistance Dogs is an organization that pairs highly-skilled mobility service dogs with people living with disabilities These dogs retrieve items, open and close doors, turn switches on and off, and engage in a wide variety of tasks that help their partners live with greater independence and confidence. Not only that, but the program diminishes depression, anxiety, and loneliness.
Donor Relations Associate Emma Kouguell shares that each year they host a spring luncheon as their largest fundraiser of the year. With 700 attendees, table captains, client stories, and more, it’s a major part of their fundraising and their community.
When they faced the decision of what to do without an in person event, the organization struggled: they needed this fundraiser to continue their work. But how could they make the event successful without their usual luncheon? The answer was virtual peer-to-peer fundraising with CauseVox.
Raising More With Less Effort With Peer-to-Peer Fundraising On CauseVox
When it became clear that an in-person event wasn’t a possibility for 2020, Emma started looking for virtual options. A peer-to-peer fundraising campaign stuck out.
“This was Summit’s first time doing something like this and we chose this option because we felt that our donor base would be on board for something like this and it was also an opportunity to see how a virtual event would go for the organization,” she shared.
After just a short amount of time, it became clear that CauseVox was the right platform to support Summit Assistance Dogs: the ease of use, the robust customization options, and the strong customer support allowed Emma to build the ideal virtual event for her organization.
CauseVox Supports Peer-to-Peer Table Captains
One of the most important elements of the annual luncheon was the Table Captains. These are fundraisers who went above and beyond to help recruit and organize other donors. Emma knew that the most important place to start was by moving these captains online.
This was the first wave of communication and created a strong base of supporters to begin creating fundraising pages and reaching out to networks.
Two important benefits became clear right away: hosting the event virtually allowed Emma to reach out to supporters further away, giving them more table captains than usual. “It was really great to be able to expand that reach,” says Emma.
Even more important, CauseVox allowed Emma to build a default template for all of her fundraisers.
“You can create a template on each page. It’s a default template where if someone joins your campaign to do peer to peer fundraising, it is customized to what you want…an example for what you want people to use. They didn’t have to do anything further if they didn’t want to. It made it very easy for people joining the campaign.”
Fundraisers could join easily with less frustration and less clunk. Just a few clicks and their pages were set up with all the content that Summit Assistance Dogs had created.
This customized support was key to the success of the campaign. Not only did fundraisers feel confident when setting up their pages, Emma went above and beyond to create a fundraiser toolkit, a user guide for CauseVox, provide one-on-one support to her fundraisers, and give personalized attention.
All of this was possible because she wasn’t chasing after solutions to technical problems or dealing with clunky software. The seamless, simple nature of the fundraising pages let Emma and her peer-to-peer fundraisers focus on creating beautiful stories and compelling messages.
“I think when the fundraisers have something to work based off of it’s really useful for them to be able to be successful as a fundraiser,” she shared. “A lot of people were really appreciative of the organization and support we were able to provide.”
CauseVox Builds Community As a Virtual Space
But CauseVox became something more than simply a fundraising platform: it became the community space that Summit Assistance Dogs usually found at their luncheon.
Typically attendees at the luncheon get to meet and talk to clients to learn about the impact of the program.
To mirror this amazing connection, Emma used videos, pictures, and stories to highlight the voices and partnerships of clients and their dogs. Clients read letters they wrote to their dogs, or letters from those who participate in Summit’s prison program training dogs.
Emma took her program to the next level by using CauseVox as the hub of all the content. Her strategy was to “make it personal. Show the impact the program has on people’s lives, and the positive impact it has on our dogs. Making sure we kept that front and center for the day-of was really important.”
What truly allowed Emma to bring those stories to the front was CauseVox’s customization options. She used updates to keep people visiting the main page of the fundraiser, sharing photos and videos that drew people in (she did have the cheat card that her organization can post dozens of photos of puppies).
Not only that, but in the default template for fundraisers, Emma included links back to the main fundraiser page and information about watching the live program. At every turn, she sent her donors and supporters to the CauseVox page: through emails, social media, fundraiser pages, and more.
With the CauseVox page set as the virtual program space, Summit Assistance Dogs aired a video of their luncheon program on the same day the luncheon was set to take place. They had over 100 people watching live, and over 300 views since. CauseVox allowed them to directly embed their YouTube video on the fundraising page, putting people in prime position to make donations while being a part of the event.
Converting Donors With Donation Forms
Emma found that one of the biggest benefits of using CauseVox was the way she could customize donation forms. She did so much work to bring supporters to her page, but CauseVox helped her to convert them into donors.
Her biggest takeaways?
- Being able to create customized donation tiers was incredibly helpful: it gave more chances to show the impact of donations.
- The donation forms were incredibly user friendly.
- The customization options allowed Summit Assistance Dogs to make the form simple, but still get the information they wanted
“Being able to have that flexibility with the donation form was really helpful.”
After a month long campaign and a live program, Summit Assistance Dogs raised $185,000. Not only did they reach their goal of $175,000, they also unlocked a $25,000 match. What did they learn from this success? Here are the takeaways:
1. Start Before You Start
One of the most powerful tools in the Summit Assistance Dogs arsenal was their Table Captains. These super-fundraisers were the first to create fundraising pages, then went on to champion the online campaign to their networks. Emma knew that an important element of the success of this campaign would be bringing those folks on board.
Before you launch your virtual campaign, have your core team ready to go: their pages set up, a toolkit in hand, and strategies in place.
2. Use A toolkit
Your fundraisers are your image in the community. 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.
Emma created a beautiful toolkit for her fundraiser that included all of that and photos, logos, and posts. She found that fundraisers jumped in with less fear when they had something to start from.
3. Make It Personal
Emma made sure to include photos and videos from Summit Assistance Dogs in the default template she created for fundraisers. She knew that this would help personalize all of the fundraising and draw in donors.
She also included individual stories and voices in her marketing and updates. Allowing clients to share video stories, or share the impact of the program gave a face to the dollars.
CauseVox has so many features that many fundraisers forget to utilize them all. One area that Emma truly took advantage of CauseVox’s abilities was in the use of updates. She shared videos, pictures, stories, and news on her CauseVox page to keep donors and supporters coming back over and over.
This communication not only strengthened the relationship between the donors and Summit Assistance Dogs, it also helped to draw in a large crowd for the live program.
5. Pay Attention To Expenses
This is a lesson that might blow you away. Many organizers shy away from online events, concerned that they won’t bring in as much money. But what you bring in isn’t the only factor in return on investment. Cost is also incredibly important.
Take a look at the numbers from the Unleash Your Love events in 2019 and 2020.
In 2019, the event did bring in higher revenue. But here’s a number that should blow you away: because Summit Assistance Dogs used CauseVox, they spent $50,000 LESS in 2020. The cost of a virtual event was significantly lower. What did that mean for the final numbers?
They netted over $35,000 more in 2020 than they did in 2019. If you’re a numbers nerd, in 2019 the ROI for the event was 212%.
Their ROI in 2020?
That’s ~8 times higher.
Not only that, but with no massive in-person event to plan, the process was simpler, more streamlined, and easier on the staff.
Virtual events are less expensive and easier to run, putting more money back in your budget.
Download your Virtual Event Planning Guide and Calendar Template:
Run Your Virtual Event On CauseVox
CauseVox can help you knock your fundraising campaigns out of the park and raise more with less effort.
If you’re ready to move your fundraising events to virtual, let CauseVox make the process more simple with less clunk.