Photo of Chorus pro Musica by Lorin Granger
Annual fund drives. The never-ending quest for nonprofit community choruses to obtain just enough donations needed every year to survive.
Last year, Chorus pro Musica began to analyze our annual fund process: a few appeal letters to singers and donors, a donation page on our website, and a few emails to our subscribers soliciting donations. It seemed to be working, in general, but with very little growth in our annual fund. We had a large project in the pipeline (small plug for our newly commissioned oratorio "Audubon"!) and we knew we'd have to exceed our initial annual fund goal to make it happen.
Fortuitously, on October 31, 2017, we received an email from Facebook with a special announcement: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation would be partnering with Facebook on Giving Tuesday (November 28) to match donations made to nonprofits that day through Facebook's donation tools.
A match, you say?! Count us in! This seemed like the perfect opportunity to revamp our annual fund process, test out a new fundraising channel, expand our reach, and, hopefully, increase our donations. And it worked!
Setting Up Facebook to Receive Donations
Priority number one was to set up our Facebook's donations tools. We only had four weeks to plan for Giving Tuesday and the Facebook verification process can take up to three weeks! So, we had to work fast.
We waited with bated breath for weeks as Facebook worked to verify our account.
Preparing the Materials
We wasted no time waiting for Facebook. We started creating our promotional and member materials needed to spread the word about the campaign.
Photo by Maddie Freeman
During our weekly rehearsal, we grabbed a few "willing" singers at break time and sent them to our video studio. We asked them what they loved most about singing in Chorus pro Musica. Then we asked them to say a few different "thank yous" to donors for a future video (more on that later).
We took the footage, edited it, and came up with the following: "What I Love About Chorus pro Musica."
I'm not crying... you're crying. (Ok, I'm probably the only one crying.)
In order to take advantage of our web and social presence, we had our designer create a Facebook banner, Twitter banner, logo, and email banner specifically for Chorus pro Musica's Giving Tuesday promotions.
We knew that we would only be successful in our Facebook fundraising campaign if, and only if, we had our singers engaged on Facebook.
Facebook has a feature called "Facebook fundraisers" where anyone can set up their own "fundraising page" for a registered nonprofit on Facebook. Our goal was to get as many Chorus pro Musica singers with Facebook accounts as we could to set up a Facebook fundraiser for the chorus.
So, we created a list of instructions for singers explaining how to set up their Facebook fundraiser. We made it stupidly easy too. We even wrote the text, created an image, and set a $100 fundraising goal for them so that all they would need to do is copy and paste in the pre-written materials into their fundraising page.
A few days before Giving Tuesday , we finally received an email from Facebook stating that we had been approved to use their donations and fundraising tools! We were ready to launch this to our members.
We sent an email to the chorus letting them know the plan and attached our instructions. At our regular choir rehearsal the week of Giving Tuesday, we had a few volunteers and computers set up on tables surrounding the singers. Singers would take turns during rehearsal to come to the tables and get their Facebook fundraiser set up with the help of volunteer. Each singer logged in to their Facebook profile, clicked the "Create a Fundraiser" button, copied and pasted the text from our instructions, added the graphic and... voila! By the end of rehearsal we had thirty singers signed up.
For every new fundraiser, Facebook notified each singer's Facebook friends. We immediately starting seeing donations come in - I think we had over $500 in donations just that night!
How We Promoted Our Fundraiser
Our singing members certainly were our best promotional tool. But we also enlisted the help of our marketing committee to help utilize other channels like social media and email marketing to our advantage.
On Giving Tuesday, we published our What I Love About Chorus pro Musica video to our social channels, Facebook and Twitter, and boosted the post on Facebook to our followers and their friends. We continued to post on social channels throughout the day with important updates.
We sent an email out to our members and posted to our chorus's private Facebook group asking them to share their fundraisers to their news feeds and individually message friends and family.
We would then update the chorus via email/Facebook group, anytime something exciting happened: when any member met their $100 fundraising goal, when we reached our total goal, when we got large donations, etc. This helped keep people excited throughout the day!
We also encouraged singers without Facebook to ask friends/family to donate via Facebook or online through our website.
We launched a news article on our website and had a large sliding graphic on the homepage promoting the event.
We sent three Giving Tuesday emails to our email subscribers.
- Email #1 was sent one week before Giving Tuesday and announced the event and our fundraising goals.
- Email #2 was sent the day before Giving Tuesday, reminding donors to donate at 8am the next day (for the best chance at the match) and included our What I Love About Chorus pro Musica video.
- Email #3 was sent mid-day on Giving Tuesday with a fundraising update saying that we had already surpassed our goal but we weren't done accepting donations!
Final Goals & Follow-Ups
Photo of Chorus pro Musica by Sam Brewer
We hit our initial goal of $5,000 in donations early in the day. And the money kept rolling in. By the end of the day we had over $14,000 donated to our campaign!
After Giving Tuesday, Facebook took a few days to determine our match amounts. But we eventually found out that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation would give us $2,220 in matched funds!
In addition, when looking at our donor pool from Facebook, it was very clear that many people had not given to our chorus before. They were simply friends and family members of our singing members who had not, until that day, been asked to donate. So not only did we meet our fundraising goal but we also increased awareness of our organization and built our donor pool!
After the event, we asked our singing members to individually thank their friends and family who donated. We sent another email to our subscribers announcing the total amount raised (~$16,700) along with a "Thank You" video we made (from the same clips mentioned earlier). We posted a news article on our website with the story and shared our successes on social media.
What We Learned
- We don't have to work too hard to bring in the big bucks. Within a span of only one month, we were able to successfully plan and implement one of our most successful fundraising campaigns.
- Peer-to-peer fundraising works. When singers turn themselves into fundraising machines, the organization can exponentially increase their donor pool and annual giving. The key is to directly ask singers to do this and make it incredibly easy for them to succeed.
- Matches motivate. Whenever there is a matching opportunity, take advantage of it. People are more likely to give if they know their gift will make double the impact.
- Facebook fundraising tools is a great fit for nonprofit community choruses. They waive all of the fees, so choruses can keep 100% of the money. They automatically promote Facebook fundraisers to friends and family and their tools are easy to use and share.
We are incredibly proud of this successful fundraiser and we hope this story will inspire other choruses to try their first peer-to-peer fundraising campaign!
Tori Cook is the former Director of Sales & Marketing at Chorus Connection, an active board member of the Greater Boston Choral Consortium, and a soprano with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. In a past life, she was the Music Director of the Harborlight Show Chorus and President of Chorus pro-Musica. When not making music, she daydreams about adopting a golden retriever puppy and scuba diving to exotic locations around the world.