All nonprofit executives recognize corporate strategy development is important. But it’s a safe assumption that most also find the creation of their organization’s...
CauseMic’s origins can light the way for your nonprofit
In 2012, when I was leading fundraising for nonprofit Team Rubicon, I traveled to Salesforce’s annual Dreamforce conference in San Francisco.
Prior to Team Rubicon, I had experience with Salesforce at a social impact company that utilized it for lead tracking, sales conversions, customer interactions, messaging, and the like.
So Dreamforce seemed like a good place to confirm whether Salesforce’s customer relationship management (CRM) platform would be an effective tool for nonprofits.
As I suspected, it did indeed have potential!
Yet, as intriguing as this revelation was, the real eye opener came on my flight home.
I read an article about Chewy.com and how it claimed 40 percent of the online pet retail business. It wasn’t their large market share that captured my attention, but rather how they achieved it was a real game changer.
Chewy’s success appeared rooted in personalized communications with their customers.
In an increasingly digital world, even in 2012, snail mail was typically shunned in favor of online messaging.
Not Chewy, though. They sent hand-written notes to new customers. Hand-written!
For those whose pets had passed away, Chewy sent flowers. They commissioned portraits of randomly selected pets whose photos appeared on their Chewy account. And Chewy mailed each and every customer a holiday card.
This was a real Aha! moment for me.
Could their retail philosophy work for nonprofit Team Rubicon? Could we somehow leverage best-in-class, for-profit technology to scale personalized engagement?
The short answer was “Yes.” But we had to operate like a business to achieve some level of success enjoyed by our for-profit counterparts. As such, three things struck me as vital:
- We needed to use current, proven customer-based technology that we could adapt to nonprofit needs involving donors rather than customers.
So we worked with Classy and Salesforce developers to marry both systems into an effective, streamlined donor-based technology.
- We needed content with compelling stories on a continual basis.
To that end, Team Rubicon sent photojournalists into the field when disasters struck, documenting in real time the challenges faced by those whose lives had been impacted.
We kept our content fresh and contemporary, with each new disaster justifying our ongoing requests for donor support.
- We needed to distribute the content to the right people at the right moment in the right way.
Having great content does nothing for an organization if it’s not sent in a timely way to the very people who can make a difference. Thus, we adopted a multi-channel approach that incorporated personalized messaging to foster a rich donor experience.
So at next year’s Dreamforce, I didn’t just attend—I gave a keynote speech about how Team Rubicon had more than doubled revenues in one year, from $3.2M to $7M.
Afterward, a number of nonprofit leaders approached me and asked how they could do the same for their organizations.
And CauseMic was born.
As noted, along with best-in-class CRM platforms, marketing channels, segmentation, and the like, personalization is a cornerstone of our client success stories.
When it comes to messaging, you’re always speaking to just one person. A case in point is what we accomplished with Greater Good Charities—but not at first!
GGC is a charitable organization dedicated to the health and well-being of people, pets, and the planet. To date, they’ve given over $350 million in cash and in-kind grants to charity partners that support their mission.
We initially hooked up with GGC to help them with a previous failed software implementation. Their loss of data visibility left them unable to make strategic marketing and fundraising decisions.
Moreover, they faced a challenge that many nonprofits experience with mission creep or expanded programming: They struggled to communicate how it all fits under one brand and one mission.
As such, GGC lacked a clear and cohesive story to share with prospective donors. Clearly, they needed a holistic digital transformation, and we were all set to proceed.
But then the Pandemic hit in 2020, and something else jumped to the front of the line.
Nearly overnight, the lives of thousands of animals nationwide were in jeopardy due to shelter workers being ordered to stay home. If the animals couldn’t be cared for, the only humane thing would be to put them down.
GGC needed to implement their “Stay Home and Foster” program quickly to avert this imminent tragedy-in-waiting.
Both formerly of Team Rubicon, CauseMic’s VP Bobbi Snethen and I were quite familiar with the immediate need for “boots on the ground” when disaster strikes. In this case, every minute that went by could be a lifetime for a helpless animal.
So we embarked on a four-day sprint to put “Stay Home and Foster” in place.
► Day One—We designed the digital process for program implementation
► Day Two—We developed a working prototype
► Day Three—We tested and debugged the process
► Day Four—We deployed the program
Using a Salesforce database, CauseMic implemented best-in-class technology that matched volunteer fosters with shelters in any given 50-mile radius across the country. Shelters were able to see nearby volunteers, and volunteers knew where the nearest shelters were.
Next, CauseMic ran paid ads and executed a strategic email campaign to drive traffic to a landing page featuring a compelling story, embedded intake form, and a call to action.
The result? Each of the recruited 96,000 volunteers was matched with one of 4,800 shelters—a Herculean feat for such a short time frame! (CauseMic Cultural Principal No. 1: Sleeves up)
Was this initial program perfect? No, because we didn’t want to pass up viable in a quest for great. We just didn’t have the luxury of time, especially when it came to individualized messaging.
Later, however, we were able to refine the process using personalized content plus feedback from volunteers and shelters. (CauseMic Cultural Principal No. 2: Success is not final)
Our initial success with “Stay Home and Foster” led to additional efforts with Greater Good Charities, eventually resulting in a complete overhaul of their digital tools and processes.
We used Hubspot as their primary marketing tool, enabling GGC to scale personalized engagement with the right message at the right time.
Consequently, GGC is ideally positioned for accelerated donor engagement!
Currently, CauseMic is building a process that keeps track of thousands of in-kind donations each year all across the country. In fact, as a nifty full-circle to my article intro, Chewy.com is part of this arena by donating tons of mixed-pallet goods to GGC.
Since our founding, our mission has been to fully fund cause-driven organizations.
We approach this by scaling their resources.
That is, after putting in place optimized technology, compelling content, and effective distribution, our clients can scale with more and more donors, revenues, and impact without the need for ever-increasing resources.
Of course, growth can happen concurrently with scaling, which typically means more revenue but also spending proportionately more on resources (for example, more employees, program needs, and office space).
But all along the way, regardless of growth, your scalable platforms and processes enable you to do a whole lot more with what you’ve got.
Are you ready to see what's possible?