Q.  It seems to me that you have taken some risks in fundraising driven by a desire to grow… is that true?

A.  A lot of these risks we have taken go back to the XL minutes we have received. Through those, we started learning about giving patterns and how millennials give mainly online or by phone, not by paper mailings. All the reading and research led and compelled us to make online giving a priority, even at a live event.

Also, we integrated our website into our donor management software so that anytime someone gives on our website, it captures all the donor’s information. Our administrative assistant doesn’t have to do data entry anymore. More focus is now on doing a great job saying thank you to the donors and building that relationship.

Q.  You adjusted your Comedy Café event strategy — tell me about that.

A.  What we recognized from our Comedy Café is that 20 percent of the people were doing the giving; 80 percent weren’t. We wanted everyone to have skin in the game.
So to work within our American society where everyone has options, we set up a color-coded ticket seating chart just like a sporting event. We put our donors’ participation in their hands. If they wanted to buy a table, they could. If they wanted to pay a few extra bucks, they could sit closer.  When they arrived at the event, they knew exactly where to go and they didn’t have to check in. We wanted to give them more choice. They responded very well to it.

Comedy Cafe Invite >

Comedy Cafe Giving Cards >

Q. What about some of your faithful attendees, how did they handle it?

A.  We sent a letter to former Comedy Café guests and let them know about the changes. We explained our desire to be consistent from here on out by always doing a ticket price and always doing an ask. We did alert everyone that it was going to be different.

Q.  How did you go from raising $18,000 at your event to raising $77,000?

A.  At last year’s event, we gave people the option to be on our committee for this year’s event and one guy who joined our committee asked me: Do you want to raise $18,000 or $50,000? Naturally, I said $50,000.

He said: Act like it. You have to put money into an event if you want to make money. We went from our Comedy Cafe budget being $10,000 to being $30,000. I wouldn’t change a thing, except having two comedians, one doing an A set before the ask and another doing a B set after.

Q.  What did you do different the night of the event?

A.  We made the night all about the donors. Americans want to “know now” so we did our ask very differently. We wanted the crowd to know that night if we made our goal so we told them at the beginning of the night that we wanted to raise $50,000.  The comedian did his routine, we interviewed a donor, and then half way through the night (as opposed to at the end), we made the ask. During the appeal, we printed color-coded giving sheets of each ministry that had a QR code at the bottom. We passed those sheets out and we locked our website to the giving page. We appealed people to give online; both one time and reoccurring donations were an option. People could give on-line at that point and throughout the rest of the night. With a band playing at the end of the event, we shared what we had raised, an amount just shy of $70,000.  Right then, someone got on-line and bumped that number to over $70,000. In America, people want to help if they know you’re under your goal. Ultimately, we exceeded our goal and hit $77,000 so there was a lot to celebrate!

Again, everything was pointed toward the donor. We wanted the donor to know the impact God was having through him/her. We appealed to the donor. We appealed to the culture.

Q.  Any parting thoughts?

A.  For all executive directors, if you don’t take the time to read these resources and research the work that is being done, you are really missing a blessing. These XL Minutes guys gave me these ideas; it was really a collaboration.

Mark Moyer is the executive director of Heartland YFC in Iowa.

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