Get Schooled! In online Fundraising!


Thanks to Claire Kerr (@snotforprofit on Twitter), I met Noelle and Laura at the Nonprofit Technology Conference in San Francisco. They came all the way from The SickKids Foundation in Toronto, Canada for the conference. I was hugely curious about their jobs, what they’d learned so far, and measurements for their success in online fundraising. One of the things I learned right off the bat is that it’s actually illegal to sell mailing addresses in Canada. So they have different constraints than American fundraisers do. Also, their tax codes are different, so people often have different reasons for giving.

Without further ado, here’s the interview!

1. How did you get into fundraising/social media for nonprofits?

Noelle: SickKids Foundation is my first foray into fundraising. During my maternity leave, I decided that I wanted to find a role that would help combine my experience and passion for marketing with my desire (as a new mom) to help kids. SickKids fit the bill and I haven’t looked back.

Laura: I started my career at SickKids Foundation as an intern in the communications department. I managed the publications portfolio for my first three years and then transitioned into a digital role. The foundation of social and digital storytelling is based on the same principles of traditional communications – it’s another channel, and one with some unique and exciting challenges.

2. What metrics measurement tools do you use for your social media campaigns?

As a non-profit, we have to be particularly mindful of where we invest our donor dollars. To date, we use free social media monitoring tools. like Facebook insights, channel stats from YouTube, the Flickr pro account stats and several Twitter tools like Hootsuite and Twilerts. We always use Google Analytics, too.

We’ve been given the opportunity to test the Sysomos tool for a month, which we are testing with our new Healthy & Happy campaign –www.dothehappy.com.

3. What are some issues you have with donor acquisition and retention?

As a not for profit, we are constantly challenged with driving new donor acquisition at a reasonable cost per dollar. We carefully evaluate the ROI on all of our programs to ensure we are bringing in donors that will deliver value and ultimately support our mission.

In terms of retention, we have invested in a sophisticated database to help us segment donors into different streams of communication so they receive content that interests them most. It’s a Blackblaud donor relationship management system. We’ve affectionately nicknamed it KYDs – Know Your Donors

4. What have you found is the best strategy for identifying and cultivating donors online?

Acquisition in the digital space is something we are still learning. We are testing new strategies to acquire warm leads to build our email lists and then we eventually hope to convert these individuals to donors. We are trying some engagement tactics followed by a series of introduction emails. We are also planning on testing some gaming and contesting.

As part of our most recent campaign (www.dothehappy.com), we are gathering email addresses through: story submissions (video, text, photo), lunch purchases and free education event ticket sign ups.

5. What are some email marketing strategies that you’ve found that helps people give?

As with all of our marketing strategies – test, learn, then tweak. Our approach is to continually optimize by applying a test and learn strategy. Test subject lines, asks, copy, images etc. to drive increased donations.

Email software: We are currently investigating different email deployment options.

We have certain limitations with our current email system, which is why we are exploring new options. Our learnings in this area are minimal. We have noticed that any email subject line or header in an e-newsletter that offers a value-add to our readers has a higher click-through rate. A recipe always performs well.

6. Do you personally give to charity? Which charity, if so?

We both make regular contributions to SickKids Foundation. The cause, children’s health, is inspiring. When anyone at the Foundation has a rough day, we make an extra effort to walk the halls of the Hospital and see the bravery and courage of the children within. It reminds us of our vision: Healthier Children. A Better World.

We both also donate to other causes.

7. What advice would you give to people who want to get more money through email or social media for their charities?

Same answer as #5. Try lots of new things on a smaller scale and roll out on a larger scale when you find success. Don’t be afraid to try new things and don’t be afraid to fail.

We’ve discovered social media isn’t a great fundraising tool but it’s a great communications channel to speak about fundraising initiatives. While you might not collect donations through the actual social media channels, you are building valuable relationships and those relationships do result in increased engagement and donations.

Noelle: At SickKids, Noelle is responsible for the planning, development and execution of the Foundation’s acquisition marketing activities. This includes traditional fundraising programs, digital acquisition, symbolic giving and the SickKids Lottery. Noelle has been at SickKids for four years.

Prior to joining SickKids, Noelle spent nine years at Bell Canada in a variety of senior marketing positions. She has broad experience in mass advertising, direct & digital marketing, product launches, events & sponsorship and CRM.

Noelle moved over to the client side after spending the first four years of her career at Grey (Advertising) Interactive. Noelle is an active member of the Canadian Marketing Association. She currently sits on the NFP council and has been a judge of the annual CMA awards for the past six years.

Laura: Laura Bradley is a cause-focused communicator and marketer specializing in digital communications and publications. With a background in communications and journalism, and an interest in innovative ways to tell stories, working in the digital space seemed like a natural choice.

Laura is the digital communications specialist for SickKids Foundation, a Toronto-based non-profit that raises funds on behalf of The Hospital for Sick Children. In this role, she is the subject matter expert in digital communications and provides counsel and guidance to her colleagues to support fundraising goals and campaigns. In addition, she oversees content creation and community building for the Foundation’s websites and social media channels.

It’s a privilege for Laura to work for an organization that is committed to improving the health and well-being of children. She is excited to continue to support the Foundation’s fundraising goals and the implementation of its digital strategy. When she steps out from behind her computer or smartphone, you can find Laura in the downward dog position or trying not to burn down the kitchen while baking.

Hope you learned something about online fundraising that you didn’t know about before, and if you have any further questions for Noelle or Laura, just leave a comment!