Friends, I’ve been excited to write this post for you for quite a while. As part of the education team at CauseVox I love helping nonprofits improve their fundraising, but I don’t often get to do it myself. That’s why I was absolutely thrilled when my day job decided to host our first fundraiser of 2021 on CauseVox.
It was my first time on the customer side of the experience, and I have to say: it’s as easy as we keep telling you it is. My coworkers at the Autism Society of Minnesota and I decided to kick off 2021 with a creative new peer-to-peer fundraiser on CauseVox. Here’s how we made it work.
About The Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM)
Founded in 1971, the Autism Society of Minnesota enhances the lives of individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder. AuSM serves Minnesotans, throughout their lives, with a fundamental commitment to advocacy, education, support, collaboration, and community building.
Historically, AuSM has run a gala in the spring, but thanks to over a year of COVID, it was cancelled in 2020 and we didn’t anticipate running one in 2021. We were left with a gap in our fundraising plans, and we knew we needed to do something innovative to pull in donors.
Enter A Toast to AuSM.
To celebrate our 50th year of service to the Minnesota autism community we invited our community to join us for a livestream event full of cooking demonstrations, personal stories, and drawings. Participants could cook along with us and have brunch at home.
We asked some of our top supporters and board members to take on the role of “AuSM Champions” and create peer-to-peer fundraising pages. Many of our fundraisers also hosted Zoom watching parties of the livestream program.
Despite the fact that this was a new fundraiser, with new technology, and our first go at a completely virtual fundraising event, AuSM met and exceeded our goal of $25,000. CauseVox made it easy.
Raising More With Less Effort With Peer-to-Peer Fundraising On CauseVox
AuSM has been through a lot of peer-to-peer fundraising sites. A lot. As the person who has to manage all of these sites, train in our staff, and provide support to our fundraisers, it’s been stressful bouncing from site to site trying to find one that met our needs.
That’s why I breathed a sigh of relief when we moved to CauseVox. In a typical year, I get a dozen calls as fundraisers try to set up their pages, as donors try to find the right fundraiser, and as participants try to register for our events. Inevitably people get confused and need someone to hold their hand through the process.
I received 0 calls asking about how to navigate CauseVox for A Toast to AuSM. It was so intuitive and easy for every person, from my events team to the end donors.
What made this new event possible was the ease of use that we got with CauseVox. From setting up our page, to supporting our fundraisers, to receiving donations, every step was simple. We spent less time troubleshooting and more time connecting directly with our supporters.
Personal Outreach And Finding Fundraisers
Speaking of connecting directly, one of the most powerful resources we had for A Toast to AuSM was our supporters. Because this was a new event, we didn’t have a list of prior supporters and fundraisers to tap. Instead, we focused on working with our board to create a soft launch, then making personal asks to our biggest supporters.
We began by working closely with our board for a soft launch. Before we opened the program to the general public, we shared information with our board, asked them to create fundraising pages, and walked them through the process. This helped us to test out all our materials and make sure everything was as easy as possible for fundraisers. Plus it meant that when we sent our first email we already had donors and fundraisers, making the site look more legitimate and giving social credibility to the campaign.
From there, we used our database to identify some of our top supporters. This included high donors, donors who gave year after year, participants who attended our events and programs, and super volunteers. The key for us was personalization: instead of sending out bulk emails or generic requests, we personalized our email requests for those supporters to become fundraisers and followed them up with individual phone calls.
These personalized connections helped us to bring on more fundraisers, and opened communication if they ran into any problems.
Creating An Engaging Program
Once we found our fundraisers our next step was to create a livestream program that would get our donors excited. It’s easy to tune out when it comes to online content, and Zoom fatigue is real. We kept a few concepts at the core of our program: short, dynamic, and emotional.
Keeping the program quick was very important to us. We pre-recorded demonstrations from chefs and a mixologist and played them during the livestream. The pre-recording allowed us to edit them down and remove any unnecessary sections. Those demonstrations made up the majority of our program, but we also included short sections sharing information about AuSM, a quick story from one of our community members, and drawings for prizes (all donors and fundraisers were entered).
That’s where we came to dynamic: it was very important to us to have a program that wasn’t just someone talking for an hour. We included content that was recorded and content that was live.
We had interviews and demonstrations. We had drawings. We had stories. Our focus was on making sure that the type of content changed every few minutes to keep drawing in our audience and ensuring that they stayed focused with us throughout the whole program.
Finally, we wanted to make sure that every element had some connection or pull with our audience. Rather than just having a baker demonstrate our brunch dessert, we highlight a young man from our community who had turned his passion for baking into a career. We wanted to illustrate how supporting AuSM would connect you with the success of those in our autism community.
Throughout the process, we learned a few lessons. This was our first all-virtual fundraising event, and at times it felt like we were making it up as we went along. But to help you, I’m going to share the lessons that we took away from A Toast to AuSM.
1. Make It Engaging
I know I already spent a paragraph talking about this, but there’s a reason that I am repeating myself. If you go to the trouble of putting together a livestream event, you want to make sure that your supporters are watching and paying attention. If you don’t keep them engaged through features like chat, question and answer, prize drawings, or interactive elements, they’ll just tune out. We found that having a variety of elements happening throughout our program kept people excited.
2. You Can Do It Yourself
When we first decided we wanted to do a livestream that included some recorded elements, we were a bit nervous about running it ourselves. On the other hand, paying someone to manage our stream for us was out of our budget. What we found was that with a little bit of determination, it was surprisingly easy to run the livestream for ourselves.
We found a service called Restream that allowed us to livestream to Facebook Live and Youtube Live at the same time. We could have multiple presenters on video, and share pre-recorded video from the desktop. While it can be intimidating to look at new software, being open to trying new things can go a long way. The best part of this was that we were able to post our livestream directly on our CauseVox page. Our attendees could watch and donate easily, which was the goal when we started.
It’s one thing to know that having functional technology will make your life easier. It’s another thing to know that better technology will make your fundraiser more effective. CauseVox actually allowed us to bring in more donations because it was easy for our fundraisers to sign up, easy for our donors to make a gift, and easy for us to manage the administrative end. That gave us more time to connect directly with our fundraisers and more time for our fundraisers to reach out to donors.
4. Virtual Events Improve Your ROI
One of the fears that we had when we began the event was that we wouldn’t bring in as much money through a virtual event as we would have through an in-person event. What we found was that the more important number is actually the return on investment: how much you make compared with what you put in. What was amazing about our virtual event was that our costs to run our event with CauseVox were almost nothing. We didn’t have to pay for a venue, food, supplies, decor, or any of the other typical expenses. What that translated to was an incredibly high ROI for this event.
After the success of the Toast to AuSM event, we immediately jumped in to another event with CauseVox (we truly can’t get enough). Our spring walk is a peer-to-peer fundraiser, and we’ve already seen over 50 fundraisers sign up through CauseVox.
We can’t recommend CauseVox enough for other Autism Society affiliates. The power of autism communities is strong: all we need is the right tool to harness it. We know our families are busy and overwhelmed: we don’t want fundraising to be another challenge. With CauseVox, it’s not. The process is simple and fast, so that your families and supporters can get back to doing what’s most important: supporting people with autism.
To hear more about how we made our event successful, watch the free Virtual Fundraising Roundtable Discussion:
Run Your Virtual Event On CauseVox
CauseVox can help you jump-start your virtual fundraising efforts, whether it’s your first campaign or your fiftieth.
Easy for you to set up and easy for your fundraisers to navigate, the whole process is a delight for donors and nonprofits.
If you’re ready to raise more through your events, let CauseVox make the process more simple with less clunk.