Project Renewal Raises $80,000 With CauseVox and #GivingTuesday

The growth of fundraising platforms and challenges has made it more important than ever for nonprofits to find that sweet spot of storytelling.

When we created the CauseVox platform a few years ago, we wanted to make crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising simple, impactful and easy to use for nonprofits. We have placed priority on clean design, customizable settings and features, and a straightforward user interface. But we also know that a key component to successful nonprofit fundraising is storytelling, and so we’ve made sure that is a foundational element for our products and services. Ultimately, we like to see all CauseVox users utilizing storytelling to drive donations and awareness for their organizations.

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CauseVox is a platform for easily creating online fundraising & crowdfunding sites.

Over the years, we’ve seen several of our users use storytelling more frequently and comprehensively, not just as a supplement to their fundraising efforts, but more often as a cornerstone. They are using it on their fundraising pages on our platform, within emails to their list, on their websites and on social media. They have learned to incorporate data to show potential and realized impact, and they’ve tested various approaches and mediums and tactics, for big campaigns that last several months, and small ones that last 24 hours. The growth of fundraising challenges and online crowdfunding platforms in the last few years have made it more important than ever for nonprofits to find that sweet spot of storytelling, data and community to achieve their fundraising goals.

We’re proud of the efforts of many of our users. One of the most impressive stories is from Project Renewal, a New York-based organization that empowers people who are homeless as well as those living in poverty. In 2013, the organization changed its fundraising strategy and began peer-to-peer fundraising on CauseVox – an entirely new approach for a nonprofit that is constantly challenged to simplify their complex message and mission. It was also just in time to prepare for the second annual #GivingTuesday, a 24-hour giving movement created by the UN Foundation and 92 Street Y. Project Renewal initially set a goal of $50,000 for their first #GivingTuesday campaign. President and CEO Mitchell Netburn says the target was ambitious, but realistic. They broke it down to what they knew they had coming in – a $25,000 match from their board – and what they thought they could get from their community. “We were thinking we would have 25 teams who would ask 25 people each for $25. Then we would raise another $10,000 from our email donor list.”

Ultimately, the campaign raised nearly $80,000 by the end of the day on #GivingTuesday. So how did they do it?

“We wanted to quantify impact for each individual donor as much as possible to make it real for them,” Netburn says. “And we knew that for #GivingTuesday, unlike some other fundraising campaigns, we were going to be asking for small amounts. We looked to our programs to find out what $25, $50, $100 and $1,000 would ‘buy’ for our clients and we used those numbers in most communications.”

Using an “impact metric” is common in the nonprofit world. Donors like to know what their gift is going to, and nonprofits should detail specific items, programs, or services when possible to make the connection, especially for peer-to-peer fundraising. Project Renewal continued to use this feature beyond last year’s #GivingTuesday campaign, and used it again this year. The team has been able to equate $10 to buy Thanksgiving dinner for three homeless New Yorkers, $50 for a week of groceries for a family in their En Casa program, and $100 for bed linens for a family moving into an apartment. The CauseVox platform allows users to plug in these types of numbers into an Impact Metric feature for their fundraising pages, but Project Renewal also uses it in stories, emails and social media.

But impact metrics alone aren’t going to drive a fundraising campaign. Nonprofits first have to find their message – one that resonates with their audience, and is easily shareable. They also need to build a story over time, even for a campaign like #GivingTuesday that only lasts one day.

In 2013, Project Renewal sent six emails to their list, starting in mid-November. Five featured an appeal, and they followed up after #GivingTuesday with a thank you. Netburn says they focused on four of their most moving action areas and included stats, quotes and an ask. Each email progressively got shorter, the call-to-action stronger, and the urgency heightened. They also tested subject lines for each email – something they had never done before.

An additional challenge was using P2P fundraising. “It really made us simplify our message,” says Netburn. “Often when we describe what we do, it is in full page paragraphs…doing peer to peer fundraising really forced us to focus on our ‘emotional’ storytelling and impact messaging.” And unlike previous fundraising campaigns, all Project Renewal staff got involved to ensure success.

Project Renewal used the CauseVox platform to participate in #GivingTuesday again in 2014. Their impact metrics support their storytelling and broad campaign message that highlights how Project Renewal helps people dream of a better future. So far, they have raised enough funds to cover over 1,500 weeks of groceries for needy families.

As philanthropy continues to evolve, nonprofits will continually need to experiment with how they inspire donors to give. And as we’ve found at CauseVox, it often starts with a story.

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