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Unicorn Leads Record-Breaking Fundraising Campaign

Ah-mazing! When the May 2016 Give Out Day (national LGBTQ day of giving) was indefinitely postponed, Family Tree Clinic in St. Paul, MN had to scramble to find a way to fund its LGBTQ programs. The Clinic couldn’t risk losing these vital donations. Here, Development and Communications Director Wendy Brovold, shares the evolution, roll out, and results from the Clinic’s unforgettable campaign—The Great Unicorn Quest.


Nancy:  Wendy, I’m awed. How did you pivot from Give Out Day disappearing (temporarily, as it turns out) to launching The Great Unicorn Quest?

Wendy: Well, we had participated in Give Out Day for a few years and needed that support, so I created a campaign that spoke to the same stuff we do during Give Out—reaching out to folks to support our LGBTQ programming.

Because of the late notice on Give Out Day’s postponement, we weren’t able to launch the Unicorn Quest in May— when Give Out Day is scheduled as a ramp up to Pride Month. So we decided to push it into June, as part of Pride Month.

Nancy: So what did The Great Unicorn Quest look like? Definitely not your grandmother’s fundraising campaign.

Wendy: We came up with this amazing three-day event for people to give and get their donation matched (matching has always been a component of our Give Out Day participation)! We aimed to raise $5000 (plus the match, totaling $10,000).

Great Unicorn Quest donors traveled through Consent Country in search of a mystical unicorn: A $5000 match! Questors grabbed their cutest khakis, binoculars, and checkbooks in support of the LGBTQ community.

Nancy: So….what happened?

Wendy: Last year, on Give Out Day, we raised, $3,300. When matched, our total was $6,600.

The Great Unicorn Quest brought in $6,150, which the match doubled to $12,300! Way better; in fact we more than doubled what we did last year.

Nancy: How was your experience working with the Network for Good online donation tool?

Wendy: Let’s just say that without online donations, there would be no campaign. With Network for Good’s online donation page, we knew it would be easy to set up the campaign, and that we could rely on it throughout the Quest.

“Let’s just say that without online donations, there would be no campaign. With Network for Good’s online donation page, we knew it would be easy to set up the campaign, and that we could rely on it throughout the Quest.”

Nancy: What were your success factors, Wendy, in almost doubling your total?

Wendy: Well, to be honest part of the issue is that Give Out Day is a 24-hour giving day, just like Minnesota’s fantastic Give to the Max, which we participate in every November.

To add on an additional giving day like Give Out Day is tough. When we first started participating in Give Out, I was a little concerned about donor fatigue around two 24-hour giving pushes. I think the first time we did it, we raised a little less than $2,000, then it was over $3,000, then it had been progressively increasing each year, which is good to see. Last year we had the five thousand dollar match, but we didn’t meet the match.

This year, I structured the campaign over a series of three days and that really worked. The Quest was way more palatable for our supporters because it was SO different than our Give to the Max 24-hour giving push.

Nancy: I think there’s more. The Quest seems like so much fun, which isn’t a common ingredient in fundraising campaigns.

Wendy: You’re right. It was fun, and folks responded to that. I was watching some of the conversations on social media and people were into it because it was slightly confusing, like a puzzle, and really funny. When we revealed that we had found the unicorn, people were chatting about, “where was the unicorn?” They wanted to know where the unicorn was. Believe it or not, many Facebook followers tagged friends in the post about finding the unicorn.

Nancy: The Clinic basically turned the campaign into a game. Brilliant!

Wendy: Exactly, and that’s fun. It’s also a little cheeky which I find, again and again, our supporters really like. I’m very honest in our communications and straightforward—that’s our organizational personality, and I’m consistent with that with our donors as well. They love it!

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Nancy: How did you drive people to participate in the Quest?

Wendy: We went all out across our communications channels—the website, Twitter, Facebook, and email.  Just to give you a sense of the positive response, we saw an email open rate of 20% over the three days when we sent two emails daily. That’s pretty incredible!

Nancy: It is incredible. How did you shape your emails to motivate recipients to open them?

Wendy: It’s all in the subject line, as you know. We used humorous subject lines to spur people to open and read the emails, which I kept super short—the paragraphs are one sentence, just really short, straight forward, a big picture in the middle, and a giant donate button.

We also asked people to help by sharing the campaign if they weren’t able to give at the moment, providing everyone the opportunity to participate in the way that’s possible and meaningful for them.

Nancy: What else should we know about the campaign? Any other thoughts or recommendations to others hoping to innovate, delight, and raise more money?

Wendy: I think lots of organizations can implement campaigns like our Quest. They can be risky (anything new is risky), but the rewards are pretty great. I’m a firm believer in trying to fail and to see what works because that’s how you figure things out and it’s pretty much how I’ve done most things is just see what’s going to work here. If it works, we’re going to stick with it.

Kudos to Wendy and the Family Tree Clinic. To unicorns!

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