67. Successful Fundraisers and Giving Days Using Peer To Peer Fundraising with Devin Donaldson
In this episode, we’re excited to have a conversation with Devin Donaldson, Director of Development and Communication at Aspire Afterschool Learning in Arlington, Virginia. With over 10 years of experience in marketing, communications, and data analysis, Devin brings a wealth of knowledge to Aspire Afterschool’s fundraising strategy. Throughout our discussion, we dive deep into the world of fundraising and we explore the significance of peer-to-peer fundraising, along with providing valuable insights into engaging board members in fundraising initiatives. This episode is a must-listen for anyone involved in school or nonprofit fundraising, offering practical advice and guidance to enhance your efforts.
About Devin Donaldson:
Devin brings over 10 years of marketing, communications, and data analysis experience to Aspire Afterschool’s fundraising strategy. She has served as Aspire’s Director of Development and Communications since 2019, leading fundraising efforts throughout the pandemic response and growing capacity at a critical time of program growth. During her time at Aspire, Devin has helped grow fundraising, communications, and the volunteer program capacity. What she loves most about Aspire are the long-lasting connections we build with students and families.
Thank You To Our Sponsor
Enquiry Tracker is the all-in-one solution for schools to easily manage their future families. From inquiry to online enrollment, you can automate personalized emails, run events, and virtual tours and get key insights to manage and grow a robust pipeline. The built-in broadcast communications tool allows you to reach out and proactively engage future families in their unique interests. With all data captured in one user-friendly centralized database that you can easily transfer to your school management system and at long last end those spreadsheets forever!
The following content has been automatically generated by an AI system from the audio recording of this podcast. We cannot guarantee the accuracy, or completeness of the information provided, and we apologize for any errors.
[00:00:00] Aubrey: Welcome to Mindful School Marketing. I’m Aubrey Bursch.
[00:00:06] Tara: And I’m Tara Clays. Today we’re joined by Devin Donaldson. Devin brings over 10 years of marketing, communications, and data analysis experience to Aspire Afterschool’s fundraising strategy. She has served as Aspire’s Director of Development and Communication since 2019, leading fundraising efforts through the pandemic response and growing capacity at a critical time of program growth.
[00:00:30] During her time at Aspire, Devin has helped grow fundraising, communications, and volunteer program capacity. What she loves most about Aspire are the long lasting connections that she builds with students and families. Welcome, Devin. We’re really glad that you’re here today.
[00:00:47] Devin: Good morning and thank you for having me and we are
[00:00:50] Aubrey: excited to dive into this topic that you’re you’re actually going through fundraising right now and this is part of your position and your role and I know our school fundraisers are very intrigued by this concept of giving days and what that looks like.
[00:01:04] But before we dive into that, can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and your background and about
[00:01:09] Devin: Aspire? Yes, absolutely. So aspire after school learning is located in Arlington, Virginia, and we provide holistic high quality after school and summer learning opportunities for historically underserved students and families.
[00:01:25] Our mission is really to connect students with the resources they need to become all they aspire to be. And we’re really committed to closing the opportunity gap that so many of our families face. I mean, one of the things that’s most important to us is access. So our programs are offered at no cost, uh, to our families, ensuring that students can get the help and support they need.
[00:01:50] Tara: think, um, the difference that you’re making in our community is amazing. So full disclosure, um, Devin and I, uh, work together both, um, I’ve been a volunteer and a supporter of Aspire for several years. And also just my company just built a new website for Aspire this year. So we’ve worked together quite a bit.
[00:02:11] And then I actually also just joined the board. So I am here as the podcast co host and also as a sort of pseudo representative of Aspire. And Devin does an amazing job. I have to say that. Just in the short time that I’ve been on the board and worked with Devin, the creative approach and the success that she’s had in fundraising, especially during the pandemic is really notable.
[00:02:34] So when we talked about a guest to have on to talk about. Giving days and fundraising. I thought it would be great to have Devin here to share, um, some of the tips and tools that she has used for Aspire, um, and just kind of go over the pros and cons maybe of giving days as well. So let’s start off with what do you think has made the biggest difference in the fundraising that you’ve brought in and that you’ve been doing for Aspire in general?
[00:03:06] Devin: Well, that’s a great question. Um, Aspire is a local organization to Arlington. So I think that a lot of small local organizations face the challenge of how do you get your message out? How do you attract new donors? How do you extend your reach when you do have a local focus? Um, and the pandemic provided a really unique opportunity to expand our individual giving.
[00:03:29] Around the time of our event. So we had to pivot our event to in person the year before in 2019. We just had our 25th 25th anniversary event. It was our largest one ever. We were hoping to build on that momentum and keep our major fundraising event growing every year. But we were faced with the challenge of everything needing to be virtual.
[00:03:48] So we did pivot and held our, um, Event virtually. We did it pretty bare bones. We found a great platform give butter that allowed us to, um, kind of control our own video and do it via zoom and link it. So it wasn’t fancy and exciting. Um, but what was great about that is for the first time we were really able to do peer to peer giving.
[00:04:10] Um, and so in addition to our traditional sponsorships and donors, um, that supported the event, um, Thank you. We had the opportunity to do reach new donors, new people from all over the country. We had international donors, even supporting aspire, and it was a really special time to share our work. We were open in person while schools were closed for our students.
[00:04:34] We were doing really important, critical work every single day. Um, we pivoted from after school to the whole school day. So we got to share those stories. Um, so the kind of the two big things that came out of that was was expanding our video capabilities. We started sharing videos. We edited themselves.
[00:04:50] We recorded them on our phones. We had to learn how to hook up a microphone to a phone and make it work. Um, and then the other thing was that peer to peer fundraising, which I think really helps expand the reach of an event, but obviously on a giving day as well.
[00:05:08] That’s fascinating.
[00:05:09] Aubrey: I love how, I mean, COVID was so detrimental in so many ways, but it also opened up opportunities that we wouldn’t have necessarily. You know, thought about or embrace and how amazing that you all stepped up and did so much. And then on top of that, learned how to do video, which is so powerful and storytelling and everything like that.
[00:05:30] So I’m curious, could you define like the peer to peer bit of your fundraising efforts? Before we dive into more about like giving days
[00:05:39] Devin: and stuff like that. Absolutely. So, um, as part of our event that first year, we obviously couldn’t sell tickets, um, because the event was virtual. So we did two things.
[00:05:49] First was we had a pay it forward ticket amount where it paid forward a meal to one of our families. So we kind of kept that giving level up at the same level someone would have given, um, if they had purchased a ticket. So that was really helpful to keep giving levels at the same. kind of level as, as if the event was in person.
[00:06:09] And the other thing that people could do is create their own fundraising page on the event page. And the technology has really expanded and changed over the last couple of years. It makes this really easy. So everyone is able to go in if they’d like to fundraise. So a lot of our board members, staff members, even some of our volunteers, and we even had, um, some high school students fundraising for us.
[00:06:29] They would go in and create their own fundraising page, but it’s Still linked to the whole total. So while you had your own fundraising page, it was connected to the larger, um, gift total that we were trying to raise in goals. So it made it really easy, um, for people just you could add a couple of sentences of your own personal why, of why you care about Aspire and support Aspire, um, and what your connection to Aspire is.
[00:06:53] And then from there people could share it out, um, through all their social media, their. Um, you know, text messages work really well, um, emails as well, depending on the type of audience you have and connections you have. So, um, it made it really easy to customize and share their individual gaming pages and set their own individual goals.
[00:07:14] It creates
[00:07:15] Tara: a competition too, right? Between, between, um, the, the, the people who are participating in the peer to peer as well. Yeah, we’ve done peer to peer for another client for many years and it it’s been. Just absolutely fundamental to their fundraising. So, um, I’d love to hear. I’d love to hear about give butter because it has impressed me and how easy it is to set up and is it free to use or what is what is give butters platform.
[00:07:44] Devin: So gift butter doesn’t charge platform fees, but they do have like a tip amount and some of the fees that the donor typically pays. So that really helps even a small organization not have a huge cost with their platform usage. So it’s worked very well for us. It’s been very easy to set up and they have a lot of great capabilities.
[00:08:02] So we were able to go live virtually during those first events on the same page. So everything kind of connected back to one page. So if it was the live event, yeah. Um, that was virtual at that time. If it was the give butter giving pages, the peer to peer, everything still had a central page that everything linked back to.
[00:08:20] Um, and that made a really cohesive experience. Um, and it was just really user friendly as a small nonprofit.
[00:08:27] Tara: Yeah, that’s great. It’s a great tip for people who haven’t heard of it to check that out. Yeah. Our first
[00:08:32] Devin: over 400 donors, many of them, I think like 70 percent of them were first time donors, so it was really successful, much more so than we even imagined.
[00:08:41] We kind of were testing this out. We were unsure as everything was in 2020, um, but it worked out very well for us. Yeah.
[00:08:49] Tara: Um, I know you’re creative and I know you’re organized, so I want to talk a little bit in addition to the peer to peer and building off of that about some processes that you’ve implemented for your fundraising and for any specific giving days that you, um, that you run.
[00:09:03] Thank you. Um, that you anything, any processes that you feel have made a difference in raising money and also in creating a smoother system internally, maybe with follow up and going back to those 400 donors afterward and not letting them fall through the cracks. Can you talk a little bit about your processes for those things?
[00:09:20] Devin: Yes, absolutely. So one thing that’s really helpful is, um, setting up your peer to peer fundraisers for success. So if someone’s going to be fundraising for you, giving them sample text and scripts, um, most of the people that are doing a fundraising page, they may not have any background in fundraising.
[00:09:37] This could be the first fundraiser they’re doing or they have minimal amount of experience. So we really try to set people up for success and give them a template to follow. Um, to make it as less frightening as possible when they’re volunteering to fundraise. Um, and then the second thing that really like looking at your data, right?
[00:09:56] So the majority of our first time donors over 60 percent give less than 100. Um, and so really creating that awareness of like, that’s the first introduction to aspire. And so how do you cultivate them no matter where they are? Um, if they give through a peer to peer page, so they may only give. During those giving days every year, but how do you really still share the impact of that gift and stay top of mind because you’ll come back up next year on the next either event or giving day when someone’s fundraising for you again.
[00:10:27] So you really want them to feel like that was a worthwhile investment. They might be, you know, giving for Tara the first time, you know, cause you’re on the board and you’re. Sharing your giving page. But the second time they give, I really want them to really have in their heart a real understanding of their their impact.
[00:10:42] So that’s where we come in from a communication standpoint. Um, and it can be as simple as letting those that fundraise for you when you send out an email or newsletter and impact. You know, making sure you let everyone know and ask them to hit forward to everyone that gave to their page. Um, and things like that.
[00:10:58] So we keep reports internally of everyone that share contributed to everyone’s giving page. So we can provide those updates, let them know when their last gift was and then some other just things they can hit forward or say, Hey, I thought you’d be interested in this. Or this is a story that really, um, touched my heart and things like that.
[00:11:15] Cause we get a lot of emails, um, and everything. So sometimes just flagging that for people, um, Yeah. Yeah. That fundraised on your behalf can really help share that story out.
[00:11:26] Aubrey: I love that. So often in schools, we talk about the need to connect between asks, right? And to explain like what your gift is going towards, but also sharing the joy, the mission of what’s occurring within the classrooms or within your program.
[00:11:41] Um, and it sounds like that’s what you all are doing, you know, as a follow up and just being mindful. And I love that you mentioned checking data to understanding who’s giving, why they’re giving, um, and then making sure that, you know, you’re using that information to build your, um, you know, campaign. So.
[00:11:58] I’m curious. Like, let’s let’s dive into giving days a little more. Like, how do you approach and prepare for a giving day, such as do more 24 or giving Tuesday? Um, and, you know, it sounds like they’ve been successful for aspire, but maybe you can say why or how they’ve been successful and are giving days worth it for like a small organization.
[00:12:21] Devin: Yes, absolutely. So a giving day, like a really large one, like giving Tuesday, um, you know, is, is a really exciting opportunity to have people share your story, your mission. If you have a video or anything like that, that can go along with it, that’s quick and easy to digest. I think that’s really important on a day where people are getting bombarded with so many messages.
[00:12:41] Um, you want to have that quick snapshot that someone can say, Oh, that’s cool that they care about this organization. And I just learned about it maybe for the first time. Um, I think what’s hard for a small organization is that you are competing with really large, national, important causes. I would say the needs are everywhere, right?
[00:12:59] And some, some have, um, that broad, like national or global awareness. So you’re, you’re really in competition for messaging on that day. Um, and what’s nice about platforms, like Facebook or something like that, where people can fundraise for an organization and makes it really easy to give. It can also make it really hard for the organization to track where those gifts came from.
[00:13:20] Um, they don’t necessarily build a close connection with those donors. Um, so that I think that is one of the downsides as well. Like often people giving for the giving day, it’s just like a small gift there. It’s a one time impact, but it may not. It may not be a long lasting connection, but I think if you can create your own giving day that really is connected to your mission, it has an important significant for the date.
[00:13:44] That is a really wonderful opportunity to reach more people and create, um, a deeper connection with them and a potential for a longer relationship. I always say that our fundraising at Aspire is really fundraising. And so that giving day is the first time you met somebody. It’s just an introduction. And from there, you can really build that.
[00:14:02] relationship, that affinity, the front, the connection that they have to the organization. And I just find that easier when it’s more of a customized giving day versus a large national, um, or global day of
[00:14:14] Tara: giving. Yeah, that’s that’s helpful to to hear. I think, um, it’s as a donor when you go on to the do more 24 or the giving the Giving Tuesday website, it is, you know, it is overwhelming all of the different opportunities that are there.
[00:14:32] So I think it’s it shouldn’t be the main focus of fundraising, right? Just Building on top of that. Okay. I’m going to ask you a kind of a I’m gonna put you on the spot as a board member. But, um, you know, as a director of development, working with a volunteer board. And schools and nonprofits rely on their board to help them spread their message and fundraise.
[00:14:57] So what are the biggest challenges to increasing board involvement and fundraising and I also ask you to share some of the techniques that and the tools that you use for For the board to make it easier for them to participate in fundraising, so challenges and tools.
[00:15:15] Devin: Yeah. Yeah. So, um, the biggest challenge that I when I made a professional change to fundraising, um, it’s just remembering that your board.
[00:15:26] are not there to be fundraisers. They really care about their mission. They may not have a background in fundraising. So a lot of the language that I might use professionally or ideas that I have professionally don’t necessarily translate to somebody who doesn’t live and breathe fundraising every single day.
[00:15:41] Um, so I really try to put things into more common language, approachable language, um, that make it sound less intimidating, um, as well. Right. So that’s why we always talk about fundraising instead of talking about like, Prospecting and cultivation and all these things, you know, I just break it down into, you know, you meet someone for the first time.
[00:16:04] It’s just a first gift, really giving them the data points on, um, the size of first gifts, like normalizing, like, Oh, my, my friend gave 25. And they say, Oh yeah. Like in the back of my mind, now they know, like most are gifts are under a hundred dollars. Like next year, maybe I’ll ask for a little bit more and like giving them that, that sort of process.
[00:16:22] Um, and then walking them through. Like what I hope for them to be able to do. So we have a really great training every winter where we play like relaxing music and we go through everyone that supported our peer to peer page, as well as our other connections, and we start to really brainstorm and think about what are those connections.
[00:16:42] Who would want to come and volunteer? Who would want to join us for one of our coffees? And kind of breaking that down collectively together is a time to brainstorm together and ask questions together, um, and sort of make it a working session so that it’s, it’s done for you. Um, and then having those tools like that report, then those notes live with the board member, their whole board service.
[00:17:02] So you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every year or remember, Oh, what was that? Who was that person I wanted to invite to the coffee? Like we have those notes saved for you. So I think that that’s, that’s something that I’ve really, tried to put into practice is one just. taking out some of the lingo of fundraising that can feel really intimidating, and then to having the tools in place for someone that they can build upon every year, that they’re getting more comfortable fundraising and more comfortable with their board service and more familiar with the organization, um, to have those tools that are available to
[00:17:33] Tara: them.
[00:17:35] Yes, I appreciate your, as a, as a spreadsheet, uh, geek, I appreciate all the, all the spreadsheets that you share with us.
[00:17:45] Aubrey: So, um, I’m curious, you know, being our, our podcast is about being mindful as well as marketing. Um, I’m wondering through the lens of our podcast, You know, as we talk about mindfulness and how it applies to school leaders, while Aspire is not a school, you certainly face many of the same challenges that, um, our audience does, like fostering learning with small leadership team.
[00:18:08] How do you define mindfulness and how do you live it well with your daily work
[00:18:13] Devin: and life? Gosh, um, for me, for me, mindfulness is taking like a pause or taking a step back. I think that it’s very, it’s very easy to get caught into what’s next. Like I had my own business for five years and it was very much the hustle culture at the time.
[00:18:31] And that is just a sure path to burn out. And so, um, You know, really trying to think through when do I get those breaks? You know, when do I have a pause? When can I step away? And being really mindful of when people are off work. We’re, we’re great at our organization. Like if someone’s on vacation, that’s like their, or has time off like that is their sacred time that we don’t interrupt.
[00:18:54] Um, and things like that so that you have that space to recharge and to live your life. And. You know, for me, it’s being outside. And so we’re always at the barn. We have horses. So like, that’s my time to really recharge. And I try not to bring, you know, any work to the barn if I can, um, cause that’s my space and my time as well with my family and doing something I love.
[00:19:14] So, um, for me, mindfulness is that, that break and separation, um, um, most importantly.
[00:19:22] Tara: I love that. Thank you. And I love that you have horses. Um, okay, we are actually going to jump into rapid fire questions. Now, this is a really fun part of our show. We have a, uh, Goodreads list that we share that, um, is, has grown to be amazing resource.
[00:19:39] So the first rapid fire question is if you could put one book as mandatory reading on a high school curriculum, what would it be?
[00:19:48] Devin: I love this question. So I decided to choose quiet power. Um, it’s the street secret strength of introverts. And this one is a guide for kids and teens, the bestselling author of quiet.
[00:20:00] And, um, you know, I’m very extroverted, but I’m a parent to a more introverted, um, quiet power. Tween myself. And so I think that really, um, leaning into what your own leadership style is really honoring everyone’s what everyone brings to the table and different skills and everything really makes a strong team.
[00:20:23] And I think that kids really understanding that when they’re younger will only help them as they go into college and their first careers and jobs and feeling more confident and centered in who they are themselves and what they offer to the team as well.
[00:20:39] Aubrey: That’s so cool. Thank you for sharing. Um, what’s one app you couldn’t live without?
[00:20:45] Devin: An app I couldn’t live without. Um, I guess for one is my Formula One app. Um, I’m obsessed with Formula One and there’s a really good app that I use to be able to track everything, watch all the races and practices and, and that is my escape too, um, as well.
[00:21:03] So I really enjoy that, but I always have it with me on the go so I can listen in if I’m in the car or something like that. And the other one is Audible. I love audio books. Um, and, you know, I have to commute to work or drive somewhere, and so for me, Audible is, is my, my go to every day. That’s a
[00:21:20] Aubrey: first. I don’t think we’ve had a Formula One app as one of our apps, so you’re a first.
[00:21:25] My husband and son will love that. I had no idea it existed. Thank you for opening up this new world for us.
[00:21:33] Tara: Yeah, and I love Audible too. Um, okay. The next question is, what are you reading right now?
[00:21:39] Devin: I was just recommended this book, Essentialism. Yes. I read that. Yeah. And the pursuit of less, right. And so I think that that is something that is something we can all practice.
[00:21:51] We live in a more and more culture. Everything is available to us. And so how do you, um, do less, you know, worry about less. That’s my goal. Um, and just kind of having more intentioned, um, focus and goal every day with how you live. So I’m hoping that’s what I learned from this book. I love that book.
[00:22:10] Aubrey: I think I listened to it on Audible.
[00:22:14] It was a good one. Um, okay. What is one great piece of advice you’d like to leave us with?
[00:22:21] Devin: That’s a great, that’s a broad question. Um, I guess since this audience is to fundraisers, um, is
[00:22:32] To, I guess, not be afraid to think outside the box and to lean into your data and share what that’s telling people. I think that there’s a lot of power in our data. You know, I am a very creative person, but I, I really feel like I am able to make those creative decisions that are backed by strong data.
[00:22:50] Um, and so that’s sort of your toolkit and your power to be able to communicate what you need. Um, what’s most essential for your organization? The fundraising landscape has been really changing a lot. There’s a lot of, um, Constraints on corporate funding right now that, you know, many, uh, not, uh, foundations aren’t giving multi year gifts like they may be used to.
[00:23:09] So there’s a lot of challenges that we’re kind of facing and fundraising as an industry, as fundraisers. Um, but you know, being able to find those tools that help communicate that need, I think really helps alleviate some of that stress or worry that I feel. Um, and empowers me to be able to make recommendations that I think will be the best for our organization.
[00:23:30] Tara: That’s such helpful information for our audience. Thank you so much for joining us today and sharing everything. Devon, it’s really been a treat to have you on the podcast. Where can people find you online? And I’ll let you give a shameless plug for Aspire’s, uh, ongoing fundraiser this fall?
[00:23:47] Devin: Well, I’m always on LinkedIn at Devon Donaldson.
[00:23:50] Um, so it’s easy to find me there. And then of course, please follow along at aspireafterschool. org, our beautiful website, um, that Design TLC created. And we’re so grateful for, um, so those are the best places to find me. Thank you so much. Have
[00:24:08] Aubrey: a great day. Bye. Bye.