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Bringing Your Nonprofit Network Together for Online Giving with Family Promise

Giving & Gabbing is GiveGab’s official podcast, featuring interviews with our philanthropic partners that highlight their unique digital fundraising and engagement stories. By offering this podcast, we strive to educate and inspire fundraising professionals from across the country – and perhaps even provide [a small morsel of] entertainment.

In episode 10 of Giving & Gabbing, we chat with two extraordinary fundraising professionals at Family Promise National: Chief Impact Officer Cara Bradshaw and Chief Operating Officer Sandy Miniutti. Family Promise is a national organization serving the homeless population and low-income families.

With over 200 affiliates in their nonprofit network, Family Promise uses GiveGab as their unifying platform to allow them all to take part in online fundraising initiatives securely and effectively. Although they have only been on the GiveGab platform for a year now, Family Promise has implemented four nation-wide campaigns for its affiliates so far. The Family Promise Giving Day took place in October of 2019 and raised 556,231 for 60 participating affiliates.

In preparation for their next Giving Day, Family Promise had to quickly pivot their strategy and a Coronavirus Emergency Relief site in the Spring of 2020 to provide its affiliates with a safe way to fundraise online. In June, they hosted #NightWithoutABed, a social media challenge that raises awareness for families experiencing homelessness raising $485,949. And most recently, Family Promise celebrated Family Promise Week, an annual fundraising event to raise awareness and support around for all affiliates that took place October 18-25.

So overall, we’ve seen a 68% increase in donors this year, and 83% of them are new donors. So we’ve had a tremendous experience with launching campaigns and working with GiveGab, and even though it’s only been a year we’ve been able to do several campaigns in the past year.

Affiliate organizations of Family Promise come in all shapes and sizes and are located all over the US. By bringing them together to take part in collective giving through a singular platform, Family Promise provides a space for affiliates to collaborate with each other and use the momentum to a nation-wide event to showcase their efforts and gain a stronger support base. It also ensures that all affiliates have the tools to fundraise successfully online.

Throughout this interview, Cara and Sandy share the numerous benefits of providing this platform for all affiliates and the impact these campaigns have made for all involved in the work done by Family Promise.

Read the Full Interview Transcript

In this episode of Giving & Gabbing, our guests Cara Bradshaw and Sandy Miniutti discusses:

Nonprofit Network
  • Their inspiration behind developing a central giving site for Family Promise week and other online campaigns
  • The Giving Day platform features they consider to be the most delightful or effective for helping reach their fundraising goals
  • Their strategies to maintain growth and keep the momentum going for next year’s Family Promise Giving Week
  • Advice to nonprofit networks interested in bringing its member organizations together for a Giving Day or Week

Check out the full interview with Cara Bradshaw and Sandy Miniutti on Bringing Your Nonprofit Network Together for Online Giving by listening to our Giving & Gabbing episode below or wherever you get your podcasts!

Giving & Gabbing is now available on popular podcast streaming sites such as:

Podcast episodes include nonprofit communication and marketing strategies and interviews with fundraising professionals from across the nonprofit and education sectors.

Giving & Gabbing

Interview Transcript

Jackie: Today we’re excited to chat with Chief Impact Officer Cara Bradshaw and Chief Operating Officer Sandy Miniutti of Family Promise, a nonprofit network that has helped more than 1 million people with housing, case management, and other services since 1988. Family Promise Week kicks off October 18th and will be celebrated nationwide in over 200 communities where there is a Family Promise affiliate. So Cara and Sandy, before we get into talking more about your experience on the GiveGab platform and running this initiative, would you like to introduce yourselves to our listeners?

Family Promise: Absolutely, so I’m Cara Bradshaw, I’m Chief Impact Officer at Family Promise. I’ve been with the organization for just about 5 years and I oversee our fundraising, brand, and marketing efforts. And I actually initially got involved as a volunteer so I’ve been very connected to our mission and what we do for a long time. 

And I’m Sandy Miniutti, I’m the Chief Operating Officer and I have the pleasure of working with all the affiliates across the country. My team provides the support and resources and fundraising opportunities. I’ve been with Family Promise for about 2 and a half years now and before that, I was at Charity Navigator for almost 16 years, so I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about donors and what motivates them, and what makes a really stellar nonprofit and how to communicate that excellence back to donors.

Karin:  Wonderful, thanks so much for introducing yourselves and for being with us here today. Could you share a bit about your history working with the GiveGab team and how your fundraising efforts have grown over the past few years?

Family Promise: Sure! So we’ve had a fantastic experience with GiveGab. We were recommended by another national organization that also had a great experience with their giving day. We had never done a national fundraising campaign before and we wanted to try it, so we launched our first giving day in October of 2019. And nearly half of our affiliates participated in that first one which we were very excited about, and we raised over half a million dollars for our national organization and for our affiliates. The timing for that last year really couldn’t have been better, because when COVID hit in March it really derailed all of our fundraising plans.

We were able to quickly pivot our planned giving day in May of this year to become a coronavirus emergency fundraising campaign. So we did that in just a few weeks working with the team at GiveGab, and it was an amazing effort. We were so excited that we pulled it off and we raised nearly $800,000 through that campaign. That was only the second campaign that we had run nationally with our affiliates. So going on that success, in June, we launched an awareness campaign called A Night Without A Bed, which also had a fundraising component with GiveGab, and the primary push of that was awareness but we still raised nearly half a million dollars.

So overall, we’ve seen a 68% increase in donors this year, and 83% of them are new donors. So we’ve had a tremendous experience with launching campaigns and working with GiveGab, and even though it’s only been a year we’ve been able to do several campaigns in the past year.

Karin: Wow, that’s incredible, and that’s a huge percentage of new donors that you’ve gotten recently. Do you have any intentional marketing or outreach efforts that you did that you can share that helped you grow and increase those numbers?

Family Promise: Absolutely, so we have a really great team here, who put a lot into creating videos and graphics and resources for affiliates so that across our whole network we were telling the story of families experiencing homelessness and the impact that a donation can have. So we really wanted anyone who wanted to get involved to feel like a donation at any level can make a difference. You don’t have to give $1,000, you can give $5 or $10 and, collectively, that really does add up to something powerful. So that was a big part of our messaging, showing donors where their money was going and the impact that our network has.

Yeah, and Cara’s team made all this accessible to all our affiliates across the country so we made it really turnkey for them, so super easy for them to post similar messaging at the same time on their own social media channels so they were able to recruit new donors at the same time that we were doing it at the national office.

Jackie: Awesome, that’s amazing that you’ve been able to have so many initiatives even in just one year, and of course this isn’t the first year that you’ve been on the GiveGab platform either so you do have a little bit of experience there. Tell us a little bit about what first inspired you to run a giving day for your affiliate chapters. And what benefits have you seen over the years as you’ve run that initiative?

Family Promise: Yeah I think that Cara’s team has done a great job over the last few years tweaking our brand and elevating our brand, and we had been talking at the national office that it was really time to start capitalizing on that. We’d never done a national fundraising campaign with all the affiliates and we thought that the timing was right, and when we learned of your platform we thought that was the right tool to make this initiative work.

And I think it’s been really powerful to see the teamwork across affiliates all throughout the country working together to make this happen. It’s been really rewarding internally for our teams as well as just the fundraising success that we’ve had. And I think we’ve seen that we’ve been able to elevate the brand and bring more awareness to the issue of family homelessness, which not a lot of people think about, it’s kind of under the radar, but working collectively on this campaign has really brought everyone together to kind of sing the same message at the same time to increase awareness and also donations.

Jackie: Yeah absolutely, and you have affiliates all over the country, so although this giving initiative is more of a national effort for your nonprofit network, people who are wanting to donate are going onto the site and they can find a place to give that’s very localized. I think that’s a brilliant aspect of this as well.

Family Promise: Yeah, that’s important when you’re a donor, right? You want your dollars to stay in the community and you want to know what the return on your investment is. And I think we’ve really done a good job offering those opportunities to give locally as well as then communicating back, what did that money accomplish?

I think it also makes a big difference the way the GiveGab platform is set up, that we were able to get so many of our affiliates involved from the get-go because they were able to manage the back end with their donors, they had control over that, it went straight to their bank account, so there wasn’t a sense that the national organization was going to be taking their money or getting their donor information. It made it a much easier sell that it could go directly to them, so it’s a nice tool both on the donor side that they can feel that they’re giving to something local but also on the affiliate side they’re able to manage their constituents.

Karin: Yeah that makes a lot of sense. I’m glad that capability on the platform was something that was utilized and convenient and a good sell for you all to your affiliates because it makes a huge difference and I know maybe some would be reluctant if it were to go through the national level first and be handed out. So I’m glad that’s an exciting feature. Can I ask if there are any other giving day features on GiveGab that you consider to be really effective and helpful for you in reaching your goals?

Family Promise: Yeah, so I think that powerful visual storytelling is so key to effective fundraising. So the ability to incorporate video and beautiful graphics on the home page of GiveGab I think is really visually appealing to donors and helps tell the story of the organization. So being able to customize that and have it be really crisp and clear has been really effective. As Sandy mentioned we also put together toolkits for affiliates to make it really turnkey for them so having that feature where people can download all of the graphics in advance, all the promotional materials, that has made it very successful for us. And all of the customizable email templates and social media calls to action made it easy for donors to participate as P2P fundraisers.

I would say the backend again as well that after the event closes, the affiliates can easily download their list of donors, put it in their own database, and then begin to steward those donors. We even worked with your team after the campaigns to offer webinars on what comes next. How do you keep these new donors engaged in your work, excited about what you do, and hopefully have them continue to give to you over time? So I think that’s been really beneficial as well so it’s not just…you guys don’t come in and just help us for one day, it’s a long term relationship and it’s really from the beginning all the way to the end. It’s been really helpful.

Karin: Well I’m glad, that’s been our intention! So I’m glad you’re feeling that on your end, too. We see the importance of being there from beginning to end. It’s a continuous effort year-round that you all put in, and of course something that a few of us like to say is: The first way you get a donor is from asking and the second is from saying thank you. So you’re right, after the giving day happens, it’s really important to follow up and appreciate and thank them so they continue to be your donors. I’m just wondering, with so many affiliates throughout the country…I know you guys provide that toolkit and that’s an amazing resource for them to have all that content, the graphics and the videos like you said, do you find that over the years the affiliates now are pretty good at taking initiative and finding those resources and maybe supplementing them themselves or do you find yourselves, not hand holding, but you know, helping them along quite a bit?

Family Promise: I think they’ve done a great job. When this all started, Cara and I did a couple of presentations at our national conference in April, before the first campaign was to take place in October that year and we had to do a lot of learning sessions to help people understand what the campaign was about and how the tools work. Your team came and helped us with that as well and we did a lot of communication throughout that period between April and October to help our affiliates understand what resources were available to them and how they could participate. And I think after that first campaign, you know, it becomes a word of mouth among the affiliates and they were able to help one another engage and understand how to make it work for them. And I think part of the beauty in our model and why this tool works well is that our affiliates have a lot of leeway to respond in their communities to their local needs and resources, so the directors are able to take the materials we give them and put it into a framework that works for their local community and how they engage people, whether that may just be on Facebook for one affiliate or maybe for another affiliate they have a bigger presence on Instagram. But they seem to really pick it up and run with it, and it doesn’t take a lot for us now at this point to convince them that this is a great opportunity. As soon as we open registration we see them jumping in and signing up, so I think the tool is really easy to use and it didn’t take a whole lot of ramp up learning.

No, I mean if you look at the timeline, we introduced it to them in April 2019, which does feel like years ago now. But that was the first time they’d ever heard of the idea of the giving day or GiveGab as a platform that was going to be stewarding their donor information and so I think there’s been a lot of buy in and participation in a short amount of time which has been great to see.

Jackie: Yeah that’s great, that’s wonderful that they’ve been able to adapt and that they have those resources to be able to spread the word and get participation from that and using those resources. So right now as we’re recording this episode, next week is Family Promise Week. It kicks off the 18th of October, which is just about a week away. I’m, like, forgetting what day it is but I think it’s about a week away!

Family Promise: It’s a side effect of Covid, nobody can remember what day it is anymore.

[Laughing]

Jackie: Yeah, I was like…is it the 7th today? No, it’s the 9th. So it’s pretty close! Tell us a little bit more about Family Promise Week.

Family Promise: So this is our 8th year celebrating Family Promise Week and traditionally it’s held the third week of October. And the concept initially was just to bring greater awareness to the issue of family homelessness, give our affiliates an opportunity to do something together, opportunity to thank their communities for their support, their volunteers, their board members, and donors. It’s really just a time to celebrate and again, we would give them lots of templates and tools to make it easier for them – emails and letters they could send out, and we allow them to do what speaks best to their own community. So one affiliate might do a whole email campaign and have an event to thank their donors, where another may work to get their mayor to come do a speech at their office.

So it really varies and what I think is unique now that we’ve added this component of the giving day is that they can all participate in something at the same time. And I know sometimes people are shy about asking for donations, but I really see it as an opportunity that you’re giving someone. So maybe they can’t volunteer and maybe they can’t serve on your board, but they can give a donation, even a $5 donation. So I think it’s just another way to bring awareness to our mission, and to give people an opportunity in communities across the country to engage in solving this crisis, which is family homelessness.

Karin: Wonderful. Now, you’ve talked a bit about having, I think about…with Family Promise Week, three major campaigns this year because of COVID kind of derailing your original plan. I’m curious next year if you plan to have just as many initiatives and maybe how you’re going to keep the momentum going from this year into next year.

Family Promise: Yeah, we’ve talked a lot about what we’ve found to be effective and what we might want to tweak for next year. And I think the biggest thing is we want to make sure we get out in advance to give the affiliates the information and dates so they can plan a year ahead and work it into their annual plans. And so we definitely feel that a giving day is something that’s been very effective for us and we want to hold that again in the spring. An awareness campaign in the summer, and then something again in the fall has worked really well for us. So we want to continue that and really get the word out and the information out to affiliates sooner so they can get on board.

We also want to continue to have mini-campaigns throughout the year that aren’t just for fundraising but for thanking donors, for spreading awareness, and again, giving affiliates those templates for social media so they can continue to engage their new donors that they’ve gained through these campaigns and continue to steward them and make sure that they’re able to retain them and not just lose them from one donation. I think really looking at the past campaign success shows the value of participation, so they’re able as Sandy said to go to their peers and say, you know, look what we were able to do, we brought in five, ten, fifteen, twenty thousand dollars. We had, you know, 70% of those are new donors that we get to be in conversation with and steward. Online donation levels are going up and we’re seeing some younger demographics joining our cause. So I think all of those have been really good ways to communicate that to affiliates as to why they would want to participate next year.

Jackie: Yeah definitely. It sounds like you definitely have a plan in place for next year and that’s always good to start early. It sounds like there’s been a lot of positive trends that you’ve seen, and so that is always really promising to see.

Family Promise: Some of what your CEO said at the leadership forum, that it takes 21 days to create a new habit, and we’re really seeing that, because of other things related to COVID, people are more likely to shop online and have their food delivered, and so working and living and donating online is becoming more of a habit now. So we’ve definitely seen that online donations for the national office and for the affiliates have really skyrocketed. So I think in terms of COVID and how that impacts our fundraising over the next year, definitely having that online component of the GiveGab fundraising platform is critical because that’s where people are giving. We’re seeing less of that check-writing habit and more of the online giving habit.

Jackie: Yeah, it makes sense for sure. That’s, as you’ve said, the trend we’ve seen here at GiveGab. Our CEO has shared that out with most of our partners and yeah, we think that those trends are probably here to stay, for sure.

Family Promise: I agree.

Jackie: Now, what advice would you give to other nonprofit networks, maybe similar to Family Promise, who are interested in or considering a giving day?

Family Promise: So on the inspirational side I’d say do it, it’s totally worth it, it’s exciting, it can help you make your network or community feel like a real cohesive group. We’ve really just felt like it has brought together our team, our board, really energized people. And on the kind of, tactical side, I think it’s really important to, if you decide to do one, make sure you have the right resources to dedicate, so you need to have dedicated project managers for it. Sandy and I kind of tag-teamed the first one together which is really great, and then we were able to bring in, for the next few, other team members who could help with a lot of logistics, which was really important. But I also think if an organization is going to take this on, make sure you have some budget to dedicate to take some good videos and take some good photos, and you know, make sure the board is involved and excited about pushing out something like this. We also made it very low-barrier for participation by allowing affiliates to register for free, because they’d be paying platform fees, but I think that made it a really easy sell for them if they were getting this awesome tool and could raise money at a really low cost.

Yeah, I think if it’s an organization like ours, a federated model with affiliates or chapters, make it as easy as possible for members to participate by giving them all those templates, by doing some educational webinars in advance, and something we did in the first campaign that was really successful was we got some sponsors so we had some prize money to give out. And that definitely energized our affiliates and they got a little competitive with one another. You know, we didn’t do that in the COVID emergency fundraising because that was definitely not the attitude at the time that we wanted to share, but we’re going to be offering prizes again for Family Promise Week and I think that’s got the affiliates excited again and they’re challenging one another to be the first to post on Facebook, and I’m excited to see who wins.

Karin: Yes, the prizes definitely do bring out the competition between organizations, which is fun to watch, fun to see, and it gets all their donors much more excited too. I know in our local area for our giving day, when organizations are trying to win certain prizes, it’s also fun to the donor and it’s exciting to see if they actually wind up winning it. Even if they don’t, it’s exciting along the way. Now, both of you have been in fundraising for quite a long time now. You have a lot of experience with it. I’m just curious, did you ever…is there something that since the beginning, since starting working in fundraising, that you had maybe like a moment of, not an “aha” moment, but some trick or some tool that maybe someone hasn’t tried yet or hasn’t utilized that you’ve found to be a really great tool or trick to tap into and to use? And I know you’ve gone over quite a bit so far, so it’s okay if you don’t, but I’m just curious.

Family Promise: I don’t know that I have anything earth-shattering, I think the honest truth is just to be honest with your donors and to take the time to thank them and to keep them in the loop with what their donation has accomplished. And I don’t mean, like, a receipt of, like, you went and you bought x, y, and z, but because of you, and your participation in our work, we helped this many families and here’s a story from one family. And I think that it’s not rocket science, and sometimes people are scared of fundraising, and I get jittery too sometimes, but to keep in mind, you are giving somebody an opportunity, they can say no, but when you have a strong mission and you’re able to communicate your effectiveness, more likely you’re going to get a yes more times than not.

Karin: I think it might not be earth-shattering, but I think that’s something that people don’t think about all the time. And I agree, when someone follows up and gives an example of how it helped this specific family, or you know, whatever they serve, whoever they serve, it’s incredible, and it makes me want to give again. So I think that’s an awesome idea.

Family Promise: Yeah, thank you’s are so important. I was on the board of an organization and we hand wrote little thank you messages. We each took a pile of thank you notes and wrote them as board members and I remember my mom got one from another board member and she’s like, “I’m giving again. I’ve never gotten a letter.” It was just so amazing to her to get a personal thank you. So that matters too, making it authentic and personal, I think.

Karin: Totally agree.

Family Promise: I actually got into fundraising from more of the communications side of things, like doing the direct fundraising. And so I was good being behind the scenes and telling the story and doing the inspirational stuff, so being an actual front-line fundraiser I thought was a little intimidating and almost a little cringey, until I got into it and realized how relational it is, if that’s the approach you take. So if it’s relational and you feel good about the mission, and you buy into it, that comes across. And so when you’re having conversations with donors, corporate partners, it ends up feeling like…I don’t go about my day asking people for money. That’s the biggest misconception I think that people have. It’s like, oh you call people everyday for money. I’m like, no I don’t, it’s not like that, right? There are so many corporations and high net worth individuals out there who want to give. There are people who don’t have a ton of means but want to make a difference, who have a philanthropic mindset, and I see effective fundraising as being able to tell the story compellingly, like Sandy said, show the impact of your donation, and then you don’t feel like you’re out there holding a cup for people to drop change in. It’s very much…not really a Robin Hood type thing, but there’s plenty of wealth out there, and people who want to make a difference, and if you have a great organization I kind of see fundraising a little bit as the conduit in making the match between, you know, the resources and where they need to go.

Karin: Yeah, I think that’s well said, and I appreciate the way you phrased it before about it being an opportunity, I think that’s a wonderful way to approach it. Well, thank you so much for talking with us today. I feel like we definitely learned a lot and I hope our listeners did too, and if anyone’s out there considering running a giving day, maybe you feel inspired now, and you want to go out there and give people opportunities to support your mission and your organization. So thank you so much for being with us and I hope you both have a lovely weekend!

Family Promise: Of course, thank you, you too!

Jackie: Thank you! And Family Promise Week is coming up! That can be found at fpgives.org. Where else can they find you? Where can folks find more information if they would like to?

Family Promise: FamilyPromise.org is our main website.

Jackie: Awesome, thank you so much. Enjoy your weekend!

Family Promise: Thank you, you too!

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