As fundraisers, we often focus on the ask. Yet, sometimes it’s important to share a story and express your gratitude. For Jeff Allen, that means spreading the mission of Monkey’s House to anyone who will listen and thanking every donor – no matter the size of their contribution.
Monkey’s House provides loving care to homeless dogs with terminal diagnoses or hard-to-adopt disabilities. As an all-volunteer, donations-funded organization, they have no paid employees. In this episode, Jeff sits down to discuss the impact of social media and how to grow your following – and your donor base.
- Don’t look back, look forward
- Don’t make decisions for the donor
- Express gratitude frequently
Episode 7 Transcript
Jeff: It’s not always about raising the money, but it’s a reason to awareness and the mission, because if you read people to spread the word, right, even if they don’t donate, but they’re spreading the word, then you might get some donors down there. Because the main mission is not about bringing money in, but it’s about people living your mission.
Kimberly: As fundraisers, we often focus on the asks yet. Sometimes it’s important to share a story and express gratitude. I’m Kimberly O’Donnell and this is Accidental Fundraiser, a show from Network for Good, that shares radically authentic stories from the trenches. Monkey’s House provides loving care to homeless dogs with terminal diagnosis or hard to adopt disabilities as an all volunteer donations funded organization.
They have no paid employees. Jeff Allen co-founded Monkey’s House with his wife, Michelle. His wife is the Director and he works behind the scenes fundraising and building and weird. Jeff joins me to discuss the impact of social media and how to grow your followers as well as your donor base. Jeff first saw the value of an online audience after his wife was featured on CNN, making their social media explode overnight.
And as more people became aware of monkey’s house, Jeff saw their fundraising ability increase alongside their phone. In our conversation. Jeff shares the importance of spreading the mission wherever you can, and showing gratitude for each donor, no matter the size of their contribution. Now let’s join the conversation. Starting with Jeff’s favorite fundraising milestones.
Jeff: You would have a platform to help you fundraise platform. Today’s social media, right? Have a big following to help you. Right. We call them I’m Wiki, SAS family. We try to really get them involved. Uh, every night on Facebook we’re storytellers, we tell stories about the dogs, pictures of the dogs.
We have a global following across the world, that frame of what these dogs that they’ve never even met. So the big thing was when we got up to 10,000 followers, right. And the donations were starting to support them. Then the best thing is if you can get some mini attention and we got it on some of the local ABC Fox networks, uh, CNN actually came out and then that same year Michelle was a CNN hero, which is really big news.
So what happened was we went from 10,000 followers, us struggling to get followers to 50,000 followers almost over.
Kimberly: So now you have over 78,000 followers on Facebooks. People are connected to you globally. What does your engagement strategy look like? Do you have a plan for how you nurture relationships with donors?
Jeff: You have a better watch, but I have a newsletter that goes out. And what I’ve done to try not to do is I don’t try to raise money all the time. So I’ve really tried to tell stories about the. If it’s in the fall and maybe I go, I go to the state forest, which are close to hit here. I’ll take some of the dogs or we take trips to the Jersey shore.
So I’ll have an article about the Jersey shore with some pictures in the newsletter. It’s really to keep them engaged, but I don’t want to be asking them for money. Um, none of the big things that I do near the end of the year for some bigger donors. If I haven’t heard from them, I won’t, I won’t go out and ask them familiar.
What I do is I, we have Coronas every year and that’s another way we’ve raised money. As counters of the dogs, I will send them a calendar. They just say, oh, thanks for your support in the past and cinema calendar or the book that I will, I’ll send them the book. I’ll personalize the book and send them a book.
Next thing you know, they send a check-in. So I think in end, it’s just kind of keeping a good relationship with your donors, but not asking them for something all the time.
Kimberly: That’s a great way to look at it. you are inviting your supporters to give to you and they can give to you during any period of the year.
And I love that you are sending them things that kind of keep them connected to Monkey’s House by showing them pictures and telling the stories through the calendar and your book. Do you consider yourself an accidental fundraise? I think
Jeff: I am, you know, years ago, before we even had Monkey’s House, I do a lot of cycling.
So I, and now all of a sudden I started doing all these, you know, charity bike rides in some of the bigger ones for cancer ones. And I started, I think because I work at a corporation and a lot of people I’d asked people for some donations and they give them to me. I was up to other sellers six or $7,000.
And it just, uh, maybe four or five years, I’m like, Hey, you know what? I can probably hit $10,000. So I’m thinking like, okay, now I’m, I’m almost like into fundraising now. And I did hit 10,000 and then I said, you know, I had this 10x rule, it sounds crazy, but I think everybody can do 10 times better than what they think they can.
So I said, let me do the 10x rule, let me get to a hundred thousand dollars. Well, then we start at Monkey’s House and every city I raised most of the money because I’m running the campaigns and doing all that. The other day, I looked maybe about six months ago, I looked over a million dollars that we raised.
So not that I hit the 10,000 thousand now I hit a million. So I guess my next one will be 10 million. I don’t know. That’s right. I think people can do a lot more than they think they can.
Kimberly: Absolutely. It does take the mindset. And in some ways it also takes the confidence overcoming the fears that you have within yourself.
Was there anything that you were nervous about as you stepped into being a chief everything officer starting, the nonprofit, what was daunting for you?
Jeff: I think, and it’s still, it’s still, I’m still working. You’re constantly walking to this. You never been calm, like so complacent and okay. Everything’s great.
I’m just, you know, sitting in. ’cause I still, you don’t where management is. You know, you have the campaigns, your campaigns are kind of fun because you can make them fight. And you got your user phone in that you can put different pictures on, but we’re willing to the whole core pieces is a donor management, which people have to understand.
Those are the ones that you need to keep them engaged. Right? You need to keep kind of grooming that. And that’s the hard thing. So I still need to do a better job. I feel I need to do a better job at that. Really keep communicating with. I think my wife thinks I’m crazy. I would get some of the bigger donors instead of some numerous.
And once in a while, cause I get, I also have a lot of phone numbers. I call them up, I call them up and say, Hey chef, I just wanted to go. Like, I, again, I’m going to ask me for money. I’m just appreciative of people who are going to help us with our dogs. And I call them mother, just talk to him. I think most people already enjoy that.
So think about that. Um, yeah, literally you’re bothering somebody, you know, either. So it’s kind of, they’re happy meeting.
Kimberly: Right. And, you know, you can also just leave a voicemail that says, Hey, thank you. Thank you for supporting our cause. It’s, it’s making a difference. You’ve made an impact. You mentioned that people who are new to fundraising should really think about platform, that they have the software, the database, where they can communicate with their donors and supporters through multiple channels.
What other advice would you give?
Jeff: That’s a big, that’s a big one, I would say. Yeah. It’s finding the right tool for you. I would say when you’re just starting out and I know you have to do these fundraisers where maybe you only bring in $50 or a hundred dollars or $200. You got a, once you start going.
That’s not worth our time anymore, but when you start out, it is because you don’t have any money and you do have to raise money and awareness. But that’s the thing. It’s not always about raising the money, but it’s a reason to wear this and the mission, because if you, with people to spread the word, right, even if they don’t donate, but they’re spreading the word, then you might get some donors down the road because the main mission is not about bringing money in, but it’s about people living your mission.
Like our mission is for people to understand that senior dog. With medical conditions still have a lot of love to give and to receive that’s our mission. When we want people taking them and dumping them, dumping them at a shelter and where they’re going to be euthanized, you know, you can keep them, you can enjoy those dogs all the way through the end of their life.
That’s our mission. Now the money helps us spread that mission and the money helps us bring the dogs in here that we save and, and live out their lives.
Kimberly: Do you ask for certain dollar amounts that are tied to the impact that that dollar can make? Sometimes that’s a great way for organizations to show very, in a tangible way, a hundred dollars will go towards X medical treatment or something.
Jeff: I have done that in the past, but I kind of steer away from that. Some people will say, they’ll ask people for certain amounts of money. Like, can you, we’re looking for a hundred dollars or we’re looking, or even if someone gave me a hundred dollars last year, I know some organizations will go out and say, Hey, can you give us more than a hundred dollars this year?
I don’t actually do that. I am thankful for everything I get, but I do not ask people to give me more money than they gave me last year. Or push somebody to give me certain dollar amount. I know a lot of people do this as well as if you give a certain dollar amount. If you give $500, then you get this. If you give a thousand dollars, then you get you.
You’re the platinum donor. I stay away from that. Just that’s my philosophy. Because if you give me $25 versus $2,500, maybe the person who gives me $25 has a harder time giving me that 25 versus the person who gives me 2,500. And
Kimberly: so is your philosophy to ask all, to support you and then they can make the decision as to how much they want to give.
Jeff: That’s correct. That’s how I do it here at Monkey’s House.
Kimberly: Some organizations will go, but this person doesn’t have money. And it’s like, well, they could still give you a $10 if they wanted. Right. Don’t make that decision for them. Let the donor make the decision.
Jeff: You absolutely right. You should never make that decision for them.
You know what, when you give, if someone gives $10 and if it’s a struggle for them to give $10, you will not do it. They feel that makes them feel good. They’re helping save where these dogs by giving $10, I would never take that away from.
Kimberly: Let’s talk about some practical things I hear often from other envious charities.
Yeah. We’re not an animal rescue organization. We don’t have cute puppies. We don’t have these beautiful, adorable senior dogs to put all over our fundraising materials. It’s harder for us to fundraise. What would you say to them?
Jeff: A couple of things. They have to know their target audience and. Focus on them, focus on what benefit they’re going to get from donating to you and how you’re going to help out that community or that mission, whatever that is.
Kimberly: All right. So you’re nearly six years old as an organization. You are scaling, you mentioned that you scale what is important to you? What, what are some of those other things that you’re working towards right now?
Jeff: Our big platform is Facebook. Uh, you know, and again, that kind of does match up with our audience, which I said was, you know, over fruit, fruity or over is more of a Facebook crowd.
We do have an Instagram account. We do have a few thousand followers on there as well. I think building up the other platforms and I think the biggest. Everybody has to know is that they have to have a good website. That’s kind of your foundation on the website. You can put a lot of things on your website, some of the different pieces, it’s kind of hard to say, but you have to work on all of them.
I really do like the website has to be good. Cause you can get a lot of good information on the website and then you can collect don’t or just collect emails from people coming to a website by giving something away. When they come to our website, if they want a couple of chapters of the. Then they can get a couple of chapters. The book, all they have to do is give me the email address. So now I have that email address. I can put it into the donor management system. Again, I can, you know, they maybe didn’t give me money, but I can put them in that system and then track, and communicate back out to them to try to get a donor in the future.
I have a real summary of on the back of my phone and I don’t have my work business card. I had . Wherever I go. I’m telling you if I go into the convenience store and I see somebody with a shirt that may have a dog on it, I’ll start a conversation with them. I’ll give them my card. I’ll tell them about Monkey’s House, unlike an Welkin salesman.
And I think you have to, you have to be that way. So, you know, once a day, you need to talk to somebody that you don’t know about your mission, about your nonprofit. That’s. What I would say is that you have to keep pushing it out.
Kimberly: And if you’re an introvert, you just got to start somewhere. Right? Uh, what, what advice would you give the introvert?
Jeff: You said you do have to start somewhere because you know what, it’s not about you. It’s about your mission. So for me, it’s not about me. It’s about the dogs. I have no problem talking to somebody about the dogs I have, you know, even at my worst. Not the day. They actually did an article on me and on the corporate site one time.
So now it’s like, I have free roam. Now I don’t do a lot of things because corporations don’t want you really promoting things outside of the company. I will keep promote some things, you know, to certain groups of people about my, about the nonprofit, because you need to spread the word to get your message out to the world. One they, we didn’t talk about it, which I think is really important.
There is Muslim donors.
Jeff: I handled the lake going out big time and asked for them other than our annual campaign we had.
We gave them that option to be a subscription, a donor. And what’s really nice about those when we had about, I don’t know, 76.
Kimberly: That’s sizable. That’s awesome.
Jeff: Yeah. And I mean, it could be anywhere from, you know, 10 hours to, we have something to even a hundred dollars a month, which is, which is terrific. And that allows the nonprofit, but us or any nonprofit to know that you have X amount coming in per month to help run your organization.
So if you can get a small group of people that are going to be donating it to that subscription plan, you’re going to know how much money you have every month to work. Uh, on top of the other things that you do to raise money,
Kimberly: so helpful, to be able to know that you have a certain amount of dollars that are always coming in.
It’s great for you as you plan, you know, your annual goals, knowing the X dollars are our monthly gifts. How do you set your fundraising goals for the next year?
Jeff: Well, I look at my annual expenses and let’s just say out now, example, I know expenses are a hundred thousand dollars. That’s throwing that out there, then how much do I need to raise during my annual campaign?
Cause I know I heard the other fundraisers that I do through the year. I always suggest that the best thing is to have a calendar, and sometimes maybe even have a calendar on the wheel and you’d know exactly when your fundraisers are going to be, or your different events are going to be and lay them out for 2022 when you would have more laid out.
And what I also suggest, Is that make sure that you have enough space between fundraisers, that they’re not too close to one another, because most of them, the donations will come from the same people and you don’t want to be asking them for money over and over and over again.
And example, I try to do my calendars early in the year earlier, get done selling them by October early October, if I can, because my annual campaign then starts at the end. I don’t want to be selling calendars in November and then turn around and ask for a donation at the end of the year, because of him.
I said, well, you know, I already donated through the calendar, so you really have to space them. Just a couple of two or three months in between. If you can fill your major fundraisers, you, and you can have all the other type of things where maybe something that a restaurant can go anywhere, but for your major, major things, like my t-shirts has to be in the spring.
Again, I’m trying to avoid getting too close to anything else. One year, it actually pushed back to late in the fall in the early fall. And now it had my shirts, my calendar in year end. So I said, no, I’m never doing that again. It really didn’t get to be careful of when we started getting, we went from 10,000.
The 50,000 followers and we were on mini everywhere. Next thing people are knocking our doors down to give us a portion of their sales of things. So someone who maybe made their own clothes, let’s say, so there’s a company that makes dog clothes, that all of a sudden, they seem that you are pretty popular.
They want you to donate 10% of their sales to you. I stayed away from most of those. I’ve done just very few of them. Because again, it’s like almost, you’re constantly asking people for money as you go through through, through the year. I don’t want to do that. I want to tell people our mission. I’m going to give them a dog stories.
Oh. And by the way, this time of year I asked for this, or they knew about the t-shirts they know about the calendar. So I try to really not focus on asking for money. I focus on our mission. I focus on our dogs. And then, oh, by the way, my annual campaign is here. My goal was $75,000 this
Kimberly: year. And how are you thanking your
I thank them through emails, so it’s all email based, but we also have checks that come in. So the people that we do send checks in, I will write out a hand note to them, thanking them.
Kimberly: And you mentioned that you’ll call people as well. Now I’ll
Jeff: call people as one now, and then I can say that I have, so when I left my book came out last, my first book came out last year.
So I said, anybody who donate X amount light, I sit it down a copy of the book. I personalize it and I send it out to them, not even asking for money. And then next thing you know, you know, they’re donating.
Jeff: So I try to do things like that show and I appreciate them. And you want to be appreciative of that of everybody, no matter how much or how little they give.
Kimberly: Absolutely agree. Okay. I want to ask you about how important storytelling is in your communications and what that strategy is like. Do you give updates every now and again on certain dogs?
Or how do you do your storytelling? And I
Jeff: don’t know that there’s, there’s a strategy so much as it’s kind of common sense. So we’ll have a diet that has to go for surgery because they have a major issue going on. And so we’ll put that out there and we’ll ask for prayers from people. Good thoughts. And then when we come back, so then we’ll update them on how the surgery went and how the dog’s doing.
Usually our stores are not just about one dog, although it could be. Can I focus on one dog at a time, but you also say, oh, so-and-so is doing well or this or that. Also the stories about like, so when we go to the beach, we go to CC and I, one of the thing that we do is Michelle was very educational as well.
So she’s educating, not in every post, but a lot of posts. She is educated as well. When I do the post and more fun, more phone type posts. It’s like we say, well, dogs got to live. People think of hospice as a sad word, but for us, it’s, uh, it’s not. Where these dogs come, they have a great time. 95% of the time.
It’s the happiest place on earth, 5% of the time. It’s very sad, but we want to focus on that happiness and the, that you are that these dogs that love that they get. And the love that we received from them in we’re kind of messaging. We never want to make anything seem sad. We’re always positive. And I think that resonates with our.
Kimberly: Do you have any favorite stories from, uh, one of your donors? Like there’s just, you received a gift and you were so touched by it.
Jeff: Well, there’s a, there’s a couple stories, but the one is, uh, is pat, she fell in love with longer little dogs. Ariel. Everyone was a little white multi-site poodle mix and she is missing her back legs.
We needed to get her a card. And when you get a quote for a dog that has to be fitted just right. They’re not inexpensive to get a really card that’s fitted properly. So pat falling over this dog, she paid for the car. Yeah. She was one that pays for physical therapy. This little dog goes and gets a physical therapy once a week gets in the underwater treadmill, treadmill and moves along.
Pat has been terrific. Um, not just for that. She supports us and other things, but one in my thoughts at one point was to, you know, how you’d like sponsor a child overseas. And so she actually ends basically sponsoring this dog, but I wanted to do that in a way that people could sponsor. And like, I could put the dogs up there now, but that’s another good way I think, because then they really get infested.
I can get the, have the sponsor. And then I wanted to have that dog send out an email once a month, funnel dog on what they did to that select group. And you can do that with a donor management, because then I would know who’s donating to those individual dogs. And so maybe middle 20 people are donating to a Fifi, right?
So those 20 will get the Fifi letter. It said 15 would say, and I’ve made the rose get a volunteer. One of our aides. To write newsletters for these three dogs. So, so it would have the voice, the scene every month, right? So the kind of this, you know, I didn’t really like wanting a normal month and then you were like one or somebody else because by tunes are very different.
So it’s going to seem like, okay, feed this is Fifi. Now who’s writing out and say, Hey, I went to the beach, check out the picture of me at the beach. I think that would be a great, it’s just all editing.
Kimberly: It’s a fantastic idea and you’re right. Everything takes time, but you already have a vision for what’s next from a fundraising standpoint of really elevating what you’re doing. How do you in your head manage what you want to do and what you’re able to do with the time that you have?
Jeff: Yeah. There’s certain things that you have to do to be successful. And then those are other things that would make the devil even take it to the next level, which is the sponsorship type thing to be successful.
You do have to, you have to communicate to the donors. You have to have a donor management system. You have to have good communications. I think you had to have a platform. I think you have to put something out if not every day close to it. It depends, I guess, on the type of nonprofit that you do have, but I think you could put something out almost every day or every other day that people can come and see.
No matter what you have your mission. Yeah.
Kimberly: And your other piece that you’re doing so well is also giving a little bit of content so that people can sign up for something so that you’re able to collect the email addresses. That’s a great way to build your base is to be able to put a little bit out and, you know, any help guides that you have or chapters from your book or, or just any kind of content that you could share can be very valuable.
If you’re trying to acquire new supporters and really grow your base of, of supporters to talk to on a regular basis. As we wrap up, what’s on the horizon for Monkey’s House. You step into 2022,
Jeff: and we hope that toy 22 is going to be a lot like 2019, I think. So we can really get back to normal. We have quite a few volunteers.
We call them aunts and uncles because we want them really engaged with the dogs. So they aunts and uncles, most of them have not come back. So we don’t want to get back to normal to have those come back. We want to be able to take more trips down to the beach where we can go down there and have fun, or even with seeing it coming up this year.
And then again, next year. So we’re going to try to get back to normal as much as possible. And that’s, that’s the one thing we do want to grow or other platforms like Instagram or YouTube channel, and actually still build up our first book lives as well.
Kimberly: That’s awesome. Jeff, you’ve been so helpful today in sharing some wonderful stories and just insights on how you have grown your base of followers, how you’ve grown your fundraising over the years.
If listeners want to connect with you, what’s the best way for them to reach out to you so that they can learn more about your mission and just learn more about the dogs that you have at Monkey’s House.
Jeff: So they can go try a website. And we’re on K E Y S H O U S E. We have some information out there. We have FAQ’s they can actually email us if they want to have any specific questions.
And I think both of my books are out there now they’re interested in looking at the book, so yeah, that’s the best way to go to the website.
Kimberly: Now it’s time for the state of the sector brought to you by network for good. Just spoke about the value of recurring giving and how monthly giving can help sustain an organism.
When you have monthly donors, your fundraising no longer starts zero each year. And wouldn’t that be nice. And now work for good. We’ve put a spin on the traditional monthly giving approach and have been testing what we call subscription. Let me set the stage. We live in a subscription economy. People are very comfortable with subscribing to entertainment like Netflix and using services like blue apron, dollar shave club and Amazon prime in the United States.
The average donor retention rate is around 44%. But with subscription-based companies, the average 70%, and then with Netflix, it’s over 90%. Can you imagine what your organization could do if you had a 90% donor retention? Because we live in a subscription economy, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask your donors to subscribe to your organization.
Starting in 2020, we’ve run a pilot program that we launched a partnership with the bill and Melinda gates foundation. And in the first year on average, our participating non-profits raised more than double the total contributions. have those in the control group. They also had five times more subscription donors and six times more recurring subscription revenue.
Why? Because they asked donors to subscribe. There are four components of subscription giving. The first is to segment your donors into prospects one time and recurring donors, and then begin talking to them in those ways.
The second is to make your first ask one for a subscription gift. Remember that most people care about your causes. Year-round not just the day that they make that contribution. So if you don’t ask, you may miss an opportunity to secure a subscription donor.
The third component is to engage donors like subscribers, and this can be via short emails, texts, and videos. You could even have a group on social media. That was just for your subscriber.
Communicating with your subscribers. Doesn’t have to be labor intensive, just focus on stories and make updates related to the impact that your subscribers are making towards your costs. Make them feel special. Like they truly are a subscriber and they’re getting some unique content from you. The last component is to analyze your progress using subscription metrics.
Start by tracking your subscribers, looking at your annual recurring revenue and considering the lifetime value of your donors. Now, the coach in me is asking, what’s stopping you from focusing on your recurring giving, and what’s stopping you from giving subscription, giving a try. Could subscription giving be a tool that you use to move your fundraising forward.
If you’re interested in learning more about subscription giving visit network for good.com and check out our many webinars, blogs, and guides on the methodology
to wrap up the episode, what are the three things you need to take away from this?
first. Don’t look back, look forward. You’re going to make mistakes, but that’s how you learn it.
Two don’t make decisions for the donor, know your target audience and cater to their needs, but don’t get stuck only focusing on your current donors. Think about who you want to support your organization in the future and begin learning about their likes, wants, and needs. Start building awareness with those future support. I worked with the national environmental organization a few years ago. And they were researching the behaviors of who they thought would be their future donors and say the next five to 15 years, they wanted to begin building awareness with them. So these individuals that they were thinking about were in their late teens and in their twenties. And so they wanted to be on their social channels and integrated into their hobbies so that these future donors would be familiar with them when they were ready to give. And that may sound like extra work for you now. but remember when you play in the same sandbox with the same people, you don’t make new friends and you won’t diversify your funding pool. So what can you be doing today to nurture relationships with your future donors?
The last takeaway is to express gratitude frequently. Want to wow. Your donors, thank them in different ways. Give them shout outs on social media. profile some of your donors, large and small Incorporate more video into your acknowledgements. It’s becoming more popular and it works to make the donor feel appreciated.
Donors love receiving short videos saying we so appreciate your gift here is how it’s being used. it really touches them and makes them want to give again. Yes. Yes you can. I’m Kimberly. See you next time on accidental fundraiser and be sure to follow along wherever you get your audio.