In this video, I’m joined by Robin who is the Executive Director of NAMI Nevada. CDC research is showing that quarantine and social distancing requirements are contributing to a massive increase in anxiety and depressive disorders. That's why NAMI Nevada has raised over $66k ($26k over their original goal!) to introduce the greater Nevada community to ways they can move forward—no matter the circumstance they’re dealing with. Robin takes us behind the scenes of their Drive to Thrive virtual event, and she even shares:
- What made them turn to Givebutter for their first-ever virtual fundraiser
- Why they decided to invest in a beautifully designed campaign
- Tips, tricks, and lessons learned for leveraging virtual events to take fundraising efforts to all new heights
“[With Givebutter] it’s easy to send [campaign] information out and interact with people. It's easy to see who you're giving to if you have a certain [team fundraiser] you want to get credit for the giving. I was surprised at how easy it was for me to take that Givebutter link...I started sending that link out to the people that I recently connected with in my texts. It seems insignificant now compared to the $66,000, but I probably got about $300 in an hour just texting the [Givebutter] link to my friends!”
Are you ready for some serious virtual event inspiration? Keep reading!
Campaign at a glance
Full video script
Rachel: Hey everybody! Rachel here with Givebutter. Thanks for joining us for another Success Story. Today, we are featuring NAMI Nevada. They raised over $66,000 for their Drive to Thrive virtual event, aimed to support individuals who are affected by mental illnesses by providing education, support, and advocacy. If you are looking for inspiration for your virtual event, this one is going to be perfect for you. I have Robin here with me who's going to share why they turned to Givebutter, as well as tips, tricks, and lessons learned along the way. Robin, thank you so much for joining and sharing your Success Story today.
Robin: Thanks for having me.
Rachel: Excited to dive in! To start, why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself, your role with your organization, and—for those who aren't familiar with NAMI at large—what are you all about? What do you do? Then, how is your state unique?
Robin: I'm Robin Reedy. I am the Executive Director of NAMI Nevada. We are the statewide organization, and we're derived from the national organization. There's a national NAMI; there's NAMI Nevada. You can say it both ways: N-Æ-MI, N-Ā-MI. You'll hear me saying it both ways all the time. Then, underneath (and it's not truly underneath) we have affiliates that put on education classes and support groups. In Nevada we have three affiliates, but each state has numerous affiliates that then put on education classes and support groups for people who not only want but need to learn more about mental health. Family members will come and take a Family-to-Family Class—it’s a five week class, a couple hours a week—and learn about the diagnosis, about the behaviors, how to de-escalate situations, the medications, the side effects of medications… Most importantly, they're in a class with other people who are dealing with the same issues. They get the lived experience and ideas of what went on in other families because really people start feeling alone. Aren't we all feeling alone during this pandemic? That's one of the issues going on now. Mental health needs are increasing, but the funding for mental health has always been empty. In Nevada, we are 51. We are dead last in services to the mentally ill. Last year our funding basically got cut in half for providing our services—understand that all the services we provide are at no cost to the individuals. We have support groups across the state. With COVID, we’ve flipped all of those things on to Zoom and virtual. I see, as COVID gets remedied, that we’ll probably have a mix of things going online and then in person. Obviously, we want to do more in-person stuff because that's what people need. But, everyone's feeling alone. Everyone feels like they're the only one going through something like this, so those connections with other people are so important—our support groups. We have support groups for peers: people living with a mental health condition. Only peers will go to the one support group. We also have family support groups so that family and friends—people who support peers—can go to another support group and learn what works for other people. Learn what lawyers work if you're looking, in terms of guardianships or whatever. Learn what services are out there. In Nevada, more importantly, the only thing that fills the gap because we're number 51 is all those nonprofits out there, depending on your geographic region. We have a couple really densely populated areas in Nevada. The rest are rural and frontier communities where they're lucky if they can get on a Zoom meeting. Getting all of that foundation to be able to do this is expensive. The books are expensive; the trainings are expensive. We have very little staff, but we have to pay some people to keep things going—it’s mostly volunteer. When our funding got cut so significantly—in fact, that's part of the problem in Nevada. Funding gets cut every time there's an economic downturn. The only places the state can take general fund money from is health and human services or education—both of which really need their money, especially during downturns in the economy. We're working to advocate at the state level with our legislature and with decision makers across the state to put in policies and programs that work and can work as efficiently as possible. None of that is free when it comes to the costs involved, so that's why we're doing the fundraiser.
Rachel: Well, thank you so much for the critical work that you're doing right now. Can you tell us a little bit more about your Drive to Thrive fundraiser?
Robin: Well, late in 2020—certainly after we knew that we were getting funding cut and that we were going to have to be doing something—we were looking at ways to raise money. One of the groups in the Reno area—I'm at a loss for the name of the group—they did a fundraiser and they raised over $100,000. We reached out to the people who were doing that fundraiser to learn from them. How did you do that during a pandemic? $100,000 is a really good number. I will tell you, I've worked for a lot of places and I’ve volunteered for a lot of places and I've raised money for a lot of different efforts, including political ones. The hardest thing to raise money for is mental health. It's almost like people think that if they do, that somehow they will get tainted by the mental health curse. This belief that if we don't talk about it, it won't happen to us. It's a tough gig to raise money for. They were raising money for food, and I have raised money for food organizations. I fully expected us not to be able to raise as much money as they did. We were recommended to go to the Givebutter site; I had never heard of it. We got connected with the Givebutter site and we educated our board members on how to sign in and hopefully compete with each other on the Givebutter site. A couple of people did in fact compete with each other. They’d see someone else making a donation, then they go out and get another donation and that worked. The people we work with who helped the other organization to raise the $100,000 helped us educate the board members, educate me on how everything worked, and do a lot of work to get money beforehand. I come from a marketing background myself, and having that number initially in the system, saying, “We've already raised this much. Our goal is this.” I do think I probably figured low at the $40,000, but given the environment, I wasn't comfortable in picking a higher number. Now, in hindsight, I almost wish I would have said let's have a goal of $100,000 because maybe people would work harder to get toward that. But, we did get the $66,000. I am hoping by the end of this we will have over $70,000 as a goal. That's a good quarter of what we had lost, so we're ahead of the game by quite a bit now. We would certainly do it again. If we ever get into a gala-type function, to where we're having it in person, I think I would then marry the two together. It's easy to send this information out and interact with people. It's easy to see who you're giving to if you have a certain person you want to get credit for the giving. It was easy for me to see that I was raising more money than the rest of the board, so I can hold that over their head.
Rachel: Exactly. I'm just going to share your beautiful fundraiser here so everybody who's watching can see what we're talking about here. You were just mentioning crediting, which is how we would do that right here. Very simple in the first step. Your campaign was just so beautifully designed. Did you hire outside help to design and write your campaign / your fundraiser?
Robin: We did.
Robin: It was part of the team that worked with the other organization, but these people also knew members on our board. They did charge a fee, but it was fairly insignificant relative to the whole. We also knew that this was going to be an annual event, so we were investing in logos and wording and things like that so that we could easily then use out into the future on our own. I absolutely think it was worth the investment. I think, in total, between the marketing group and then the PR group—because we also employed a PR group that worked well with all the local stations: radio, television, things like that—we got far more PR than I could have gotten on my own and for a fairly insignificant price. I think our expenses were about $7,000. We started this in October, and then we actually had the event in January. In that time leading up, we were able to do a lot of television, a lot of radio, a lot of in-print letters to the editor type things. I know that was significant because I could see the increased activity on our name, on our website, on our social media sites, and people just coming up to me. I knew that this PR was working. That it wasn't just throwing away money. We're a nonprofit, so we're not into throwing away money. All of those decisions were very critical. If you can find someone who has those talents, believes in the cause, and is willing to give you a discount in getting this stuff out, it helps in the long term because I’ve now met a lot of the PR people with the television stations. I was able to talk to them, and since then, I've even gotten calls on mental health topics to get continued PR with them. One of the things I've told all of them as I met them is “If you’ve got two minutes and you need a story, I can come up with one,” because mental health crosses every section.
Rachel: Yeah, it's so true. It's so true. I can really see that you invested in this campaign and invested well. I love the mentality you're bringing into that. I think in the nonprofit space, we can be so shy about investing in our fundraising campaigns because we want to see 100% of the funds raised go straight back in. But, you have to invest to be able to get that high level of commitment from all of your supporters like you so beautifully have. I'm wondering, as we look at this, do you have any other Givebutter tips, tricks, or lessons learned? I know this was your first time doing a fundraiser like this with Givebutter, right?
Robin: Right. It was, it was. I think for our next one—and there will be another one—that I will push even more of our board members to participate. I found it difficult to be able to sit with these very busy people and get them on because they sit there kind of frozen in front of a site like, “What do I do?” But, the people who were able to get on were people that I spent time with. In fact, in some cases I just said “Okay, I can hook it up. I can get it connected and send you the password.” Then, they could go forth and do it. Again, we will have some continued fundraising based on this. We have a board member who's planning their own little Cigar Bar event that's out there.
Robin: The Las Vegas Circus Center that you're seeing on the page, they—I didn't even know this existed—they have what's basically a gym, but the gym is designed for people who do high-end shows in Las Vegas like the Cirque du Soleil. There are all these performers that come into this gym to do trapeze work and do all that kind of work there. I didn't even know it existed, but it totally makes sense that it exists. He saw the Givebutter fundraiser on social media, and he reached out to me. He had an online show with all of this talent, and then streamed it for a fee and that's the Las Vegas Circus Center donation. People who attended that, people who performed in it, people who paid to watch it online...sent us the money—the $13,000. It was all for NAMI Nevada. Again, it was just seeing the Givebutter logo and all that on our website when he was searching for mental health. Sadly, he was searching for mental health issues because all of these performers are not working. All of these performers now haven't been working for well over a year. That creates an unknown, anxiety, depression, things we talked about in the Drive to Thrive video. They did lose someone to completing suicide and that's sadly what drove him to our Drive to Thrive.
Robin: That is based on a very sad occurrence, but that occurrence is so possible across the United States right now. This has gone on for so long, and while there might be a light at the end of the tunnel, some people have just stopped looking for that light. Whenever we're talking about mental health issues, anxiety, and depression, a much larger segment of our population—we say one out of four, one out of five people experience this in their lifetime—I hesitate to say that that's a much larger number right now. People have to work on doing things, connecting with other people through telephonic means, talking to your doctors, talking to your friends and family, doing things that bring you contentment. Whether that's sitting with a pet… Whether that's walking outside… Whether that's playing a game… Kind of staying away from some of this negative news that we're hearing. If you feel like this is affecting your life, you really need to talk to someone whether that's a friend, whether that's NAMI, or whether that's your own personal physician. Telehealth is happening; they can get on the phone with you. If you find yourself being a different person, know that this is a temporary thing, but get help for it now.
Rachel: Absolutely, yes! Givebutter Fam, all of you that are watching, you are not alone. So, last question here: I am wondering what you think is the future of fundraising for NAMI? You mentioned it a little bit; you have a board member who's going to be using Givebutter, but what do you think is the future? Is it hybrid? Is it totally virtual? Where do you see things heading in 2021 and beyond for your organization?
Robin: I think initially people will want to be going to things and doing stuff that they haven't been able to do. All of those people who always complained about going to all of these fundraisers will probably be excited to go out and do these things!
Rachel: I know, right?!
Robin: But, I think some of the tools that we've gained through this we’ll use at the fundraiser itself.
Robin: Whether it's walking around with our phone and collecting donations at the fundraiser itself. I also think there'll be a significant amount...I know, right now, I'll be looking after this fundraiser to do another type of fundraiser for one of our affiliates which will be kind of a TikTok-ish streaming thing to get attention to a program that they're doing. We're going to be approaching first responders to try to do something with that and raise money for our crisis intervention training and warmlines because those are crisis lines.
Robin: Doing something like that and every dollar that's given toward whatever they're streaming, that is a vote to see who will wind up with the NAMI Nevada prize—whatever that ends up being. I do think it will still be a lot of online work. We're just going to have to get comfortable with that. I'm really open to online and technology for someone my age, I think. Very open. I was surprised at how easy it was for me to take that Givebutter link, on a Saturday morning, I'm lying in bed, I pull out my phone, and I started pulling up people I recently texted because those are the people that connect with you on a daily basis. I started sending that link out to the people that I recently connected with in my text. It seems insignificant now compared to the $66,000, but I probably got about $300 in an hour that morning just texting the link to my friends. Some were business associates, some were friends, but it was people I texted to very recently. $20 here, $25 there—eventually, it adds up.
Rachel: Absolutely, absolutely. So fascinating to think about the future of fundraising after all we walked through in the last year. I love hearing your thoughts, Robin. Congrats on your incredibly successful fundraiser. We wish you and your organization all the best this year and beyond. We can't wait to see what's next for you!
Robin: I'm excited! Change can be good.
Rachel: That's right! Thank you to everybody else who is watching and following along. Please remember to like, share, and subscribe to Givebutter’s YouTube channel. If we didn't ask something that you wanted Robin to answer, just comment below and we'll try to get back to as many of you as we can. Thank you so much for watching, and we look forward to seeing you next week for another incredible Success Story. Until then, happy fundraising!
View campaign: Drive to Thrive
Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.