#GivingTuesday Success Story: Homeward Trails Animal Rescue

Ahead Of The Pack

This is the last post in a series of case studies highlighting the “top dogs” on #GivingTuesday in 2015. Today we’ll be looking at how Homeward Trails Animal Rescue, a volunteer-run animal rescue group, used peer-to-peer fundraising and social media to raise over $45,000 on #GivingTuesday in 2015 and win an extra $3,000 in prize money.

Happy Tails

Homeward Trails Animal Rescue is a volunteer-run organization based in Fairfax, Va., and helping animals from all over the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

Founder Sue Bell didn’t set out looking to run an animal rescue. During a trip to Fayette County, WV, in 2001, she dropped off some dog treats to the local animal shelter and found out that they were struggling after a flood. The flood left the underfunded shelter operating out of a trailer and euthanizing 98% of the animals that entered their facility. Bell was moved to help and took home 3 dogs, for whom she quickly found new homes in the D.C. area. Then she brought back more dogs and found them homes. Now, 12 years later, Bell is running an animal rescue full-time and helping more than 1,700 animals find homes each year.

Outside of #GivingTuesday, Homeward Trails uses Razoo year-round for fundraising encouraging their supporters to “sponsor” animals. Volunteers create fundraising pages for individual animals allowing donors to know more about how their donation is making a direct impact. This has been a very effective fundraising strategy for them.

Mobilizing Supporters Through Peer-to-peer Fundraising

Since Homeward Trails doesn’t have full-time fundraising staff or social media managers to run their #GivingTuesday campaign they rely on an army of volunteers, foster parents, adopters and supporters who are passionately dedicated to Homeward Trails’ cause. Peer-to-peer fundraising seemed like a natural fit!

In a peer-to-peer campaign, an organization enlists its supporters to start fundraising pages and reach out their their social networks to raise funds. Peer-to-peer campaigns can help organizations move beyond their own donor base and reach people they wouldn’t otherwise have access to through their supporters’ social networks.

Homeward Trails had 12 people start #GivingTuesday fundraisers for them. Those 12 fundraisers were responsible for bringing in 25% of the day’s donations by using volunteers, fosters and shelter partners as ambassadors.

Homeward Trails proved that you don’t need an actual army of supporters for a peer-to-peer campaigns to work — just a dozen people can be responsible for bringing in hundreds of donors!

Supplementing Peer-to-peer Fundraising With An Internal Campaign

While Homeward Trails had supporters running peer-to-peer fundraisers on #GivingTuesday, they didn’t stop there. They also had their own #GivingTuesday page and promoted it to their supporters.

This two-pronged approach can be incredibly effective. While peer-to-peer fundraising can help bring in new donors and help your organization reach new people, there are many who will look to you to find out where to donate on #GivingTuesday, so it helps to have a page where you can send them to make a donation!

Their page was simple and well-done: they explained what they do, how to help (their “ask”) and shared a photo collage of some of the animals in their care.

Homeward Trails raised $34,621 on their page alone for #GivingTuesday — exceeding their goal of $30,000.

The Power Of Social Media

Homeward Trails has a continual and strong social media presence with a robust community of over 30,000 Facebook followers. They post regularly and have an enthusiastic, engaged group of people tuned-in to see photos of animals posing with their new families after being adopted, to get the latest scoop on Homeward Trails events in the community, and help spread the word about animals who are in need of homes.

Because they’ve spent time cultivating such an active community of animal lovers on social media, all they had to do was put out a call for help on #GivingTuesday, and their supporters quickly stepped up to help.

If your organization has ever wondered about the ROI when it comes to social media, Homeward Trails is a great case study. Through social media, they’re able to find homes for animals, get volunteers to transport animals from shelters as far away as West Virginia, and increase their donor base. Because they spent time establishing a presence on social media, their supporters were ready to answer the call for donations when it went out.

Many of their donations were in the $10 — $50 range, and they kept their “ask” consistently at $10. These smaller donations added up quickly, taking Homeward Trails to the top of the #GivingTuesday leaderboard and winning Homeward Trails $3,000 in prize funds.

Win Big By Keeping Your Donors Informed

Homeward Trails spent most of #GivingTuesday atop the Large Nonprofit leaderboard and won a “Golden Ticket”. They kept their donors informed about the prizes through social media, letting them know when to donate to help them win extra cash.

(Donors love being able to make their donation go further. This is why matching grants are always such a big draw. Keep your donors in the loop and let them know the best time to donate  and you’ll see them leap to action.)

What you can learn from Homeward Trails’ #GivingTuesday success:

  1. Empower your supporters. Encourage your biggest supporters to start a fundraiser on #GivingTuesday, make them a part of the team that is key to your success.
  2. Don’t wait until #GivingTuesday to use Razoo! Homeward Trails uses Razoo for fundraising 365 days a year, so when #GivingTuesday comes around, they’re seasoned pros at creating great fundraising pages plus their donors are familiar with using Razoo to make donations. Razoo has a lot of great features to help you raise funds for your organization year-round, so take advantage of them!
  3. Create your fundraising strategy based on what’s right for you. You might feel like you shouldn’t run a peer-to-peer campaign and an internal fundraising campaign at the same time, but it worked for Homeward Trails! You can use multiple fundraising strategies at once. The bottom line is that your organization will be successful on #GivingTuesday if you do what makes sense for your organization — even if it breaks “the rules” of fundraising.
  4. Nurture your social media audience — it pays off. When you’re not active on social media and don’t engage your supporters in your work, you can seem like a fair weather friend when #GivingTuesday and giving season come around. No one likes the person who doesn’t talk to you until they need something from you, and that’s true of nonprofit organizations as well. People are more likely to step-up to help your organization when you keep them engaged year-round. If you invest time in developing a rapport with your supporters throughout the year, it will pay off big time on #GivingTuesday!

About Linda Gerhardt

Linda spent most of her career in the nonprofit sector before joining Razoo. She has worked for animal welfare groups large and small, in nearly every position. She specializes in social media strategy, communications, and digital marketing.

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