Demonstrating Impact Through Storytelling with The Schneck Foundation
Giving & Gabbing is GiveGab’s official podcast, featuring interviews with our philanthropic partners that highlight their unique digital fundraising and engagement stories. By offering this podcast, we strive to educate and inspire fundraising professionals from across the country – and perhaps even provide [a small morsel of] entertainment.
In the first episode of our second season, we brought on Stephanie Flinn, the Schneck Foundation’s Executive Director, to talk about her team’s experience running their inaugural Giving Day campaign, Shining a Light, on Giving Tuesday 2020.
As the local Medical Center for Seymour, IN, the Schneck Medical Center was at the forefront of this community’s fight against the COVID-19 Pandemic. In response to its growing demands, the Schneck Foundation, needed to find a secure way to fundraise online while still creating an engaging experience that would connect donors with their critical cause.
To create a more meaningful and engaging experience for their supporters, the Foundation utilized storytelling as a way to convey the Schneck Medical Center’s most immediate need, purchasing Diversey Moonbeam™ 3 UV units. These high-power sanitizing equipment would allow them to disinfect patient rooms, operating rooms, elevators, and other high-touch areas in just minutes.
By raising funds for a singular initiative, the Schneck Foundation was able to focus their efforts on informing its donors and community members on why this purchase would be so critical to the Medical Center’s fight against COVID-19. Their site offered informative videos explaining what this equipment was and how it would benefit the Medical Center. The foundation understood that it was important to be transparent with its donors and for them to understand exactly what their gift would go towards.
Stephanie and her team also shared incredible stories of impact on their Giving Day site. On the homepage, they showcased a pre-recorded video that included a powerful testimonial from a former patient who heroically battled COVID-19 at the medical center.
The interview included the patient, her daughter, and her primary Nurse. This interview not only showcased the quality of care that the patient received, but also gave hope and inspiration to the community when it was needed most.
Due to the creative and impactful approach they took when coordinating the Shining A Light event, the Foundation was able to raise $125,050 through the generous gifts of 247 donors to purchase the Diversey Moonbeam™ 3 UV units for the Schneck Medical Center.
In this episode of Giving & Gabbing, our guest Stephanie Flinn discusses:
- The biggest influences in their decision to run a Giving Day for Schneck Medical Center on Giving Tuesday
- The planning, logistics, and lead time for Shining a Light, and who was involved
- How fundraising for a specific initiative helped focus their Giving Day efforts
- The benefits of working with a dedicated Project Manager throughout their first Giving Day
- How they used storytelling to create engaging content for site visitors and supporters
- Advice to Hospital Foundations who may be considering running a Giving Day of their own
Check out the full interview with Stephanie Flinn on Providing Relief Hope Through Story Telling During your Giving Day by:
Watching the live interview video recording
Listening to our Giving & Gabbing Podcast episode
Giving & Gabbing is now available on popular podcast streaming sites such as:
Podcast episodes include nonprofit communication and marketing strategies and interviews with fundraising professionals from across the nonprofit and education sectors.
Katie: Hi, I’m Katie Thomas, and I’m the Brand Marketer here at GiveGab. I’m thrilled to share that we have another very exciting Giving & Gabbing episode ahead of us today. Our special guest today is Stephanie Flinn, the Executive Director of the Schneck Foundation. Stephanie and her team hosted their first ever Giving Day campaign, Shining A Light, with us on Giving Tuesday 2020.
In lieu of their annual in-person gala, Stephanie launched a 100% virtual campaign, benefiting the Schneck Medical Center. During this event, over $125,000 was raised by nearly 250 donors. Joining me from the GiveGab team, we have Laurel, one of our Project Coordinators, and Molly, our Relationship Management Team Lead. Both Molly and Laurel worked closely with Stephanie and her team throughout the Giving Day planning period to ensure they were successful on the platform.
During this episode, we’ll be talking about the various strategies that the Schneck Foundation utilized when planning its first virtual Shining A Light campaign, and advice for other hospital foundations considering doing the same. And with that, I will hand it off to Laurel to get started with the first question.
Laurel: Thanks, Katie, and thanks, Steph, for joining us today. The first question we have for you is, what were the biggest influences in your decision to run a Giving Day for Schneck Medical Center?
Stephanie: I would definitely say the pandemic. That changed our world dramatically, and being a medical center, we were one of the first to react to the safety of our communities. That includes the safety of our volunteers, and our foundation is structured with over 100 volunteers. And so, those are people who are engaged with us, and meet with us, which we had to stop. We had to change a lot about our world, and so, the decision to move to a virtual fundraising event was obviously because we wanted to do whatever fundraising were were going to do safely, but also, we were able to identify a huge need that was brought to us because of the pandemic, that our community could engage in and understand. They were working so hard to find a way to participate, when no one could do anything. And they knew what our staff was going through. We would get phone calls, you know, what can we do? We can’t leave home, we can’t…you know, so we wanted to make sure that what they were allowed to do was something that they could then quickly see the impact of. And so it all came together mid-year last year, just in conversation with our Director of Environmental Services, who was standing a little flabbergasted in the hallway, looking for the two UV units that we have, and he couldn’t keep up with the demand. And just in conversation, and knowing the phone calls and things that had been happening in our community, it was the perfect opportunity for us to get the community engaged and try our very first ever virtual event, so it was a pretty fun project.
Laurel: Well good, I’m glad to hear that something kind of fun to work on came out of such a dramatic time for everyone, but especially hospital foundations, no doubt. So could you tell us maybe a little bit more about your decision to change your fundraising strategy in 2020, and how Giving Tuesday specifically played a part in that?
Stephanie: So…I have now been a part of healthcare and Schneck Medical Center for 16 months, and so my background comes from product development and marketing and sales. And so, it’s very different, and so while I was learning, I…was able to kind of apply the four P’s of marketing, and say you know, the Product, Place, Price, Promotion. You know, it’s pretty simple. So we had the opportunity to capture a pretty solid plan around each of those pillars, because it was really the only fundraising opportunity we had for the year. We were not in a pledge year, we were not in a capital campaign year, so we didn’t have the opportunity to be gathering pledges and looking more long-term, so we were looking for something short-term for that engagement. And that’s how we decided to go virtual.
I’ve been part of other volunteer organizations that have performed in Giving Tuesday, and do it a little bit differently than we did, but the communities that I’m engaged with are becoming more familiar with the Giving Day, because there are a lot of people doing it, for a lot of different reasons and a lot of different needs, and a lot of different dollar requests. So, our decision to go that way was because we knew there was a need for our medical center, we knew there were people who wanted to give, to support, and our only opportunity was virtual, and so we jumped in with both feet with GiveGab, and I think we met for the first time in July or August, and set the wheels in motion.
Molly: It was a whirlwind to start, in getting…starting something so new like that, and just jumping in. Even before that prep time, how many staff members and volunteers and board members were taking a part in your planning for that campaign? And what did the logistics of that look like on your end?
Stephanie: Because our medical center had not been a part of Giving Tuesday before, there was a lot of education to talk to each committee as we met, from scratch, here’s what Giving Tuesday is, here’s what it does, here’s what we think it can do for us. And so, we had a…I mentioned…plan your work and work your plan, and we planned the work, laid it out for everyone, and we had to do a lot of educating on what it was going to look like, and what did it mean, and how does that work virtually. And so we engaged our marketing department at Schneck, who did a phenomenal job assisting us, and three staff members assisted me and the Foundation.
And, we have nine committees, nine volunteer committees, and so we engaged them. We made a plan for each of them, and told the story, we had very specific, what we called “pop-up meetings,” that were…all we talked about was the Giving Day. You know, what is it, how are we gonna do it, and what is your specific role? So each of our committees had different goals, so our business relations committee went out and worked with businesses to let them know what we were doing and how we were gonna do it and how they could participate. The community relations committee helped us engage the community. They worked sharing messages and helping us tell stories, and so each committee, again, had their own plan, and we communicated with each of them on a weekly basis. You know, here’s some more information for you, here’s some successes that we’ve heard from other committee members, hey, we had this question asked that was a great question, we’re gonna share it with you from another committee. So we worked very hard to keep them engaged, and keep them learning and understanding, and they did a great job of sending comments and questions back to us.
We couldn’t have done it without them. Not only did they volunteer and support, but they stepped up financially, and they just became a huge part of the event, and so I think they’re all pretty excited about what’s coming this year. We haven’t planned it out quite yet, but we will. But one of the key components for us was having that micro-site. And we just had wrap-up calls, believe it or not. We only meet quarterly, so our…this week has been our February meeting series. And so, I’ve been hearing in meetings this week as I’ve been sharing some of the data that came from the day, more feedback like, you guys, anytime I talk to someone, I send them to the site so they can watch the video and they can see the story and they can…it’s quick and easy, and it was. I mean, the micro-site made it so concise, and very little navigation, and clear, and so it took people just a matter of minutes to get it.
And we coupled that, again, marketing with social media and just short clips of videos to share, but…one of the most critical things about it is, we were coming into a time of “red,” again, because our COVID numbers were peaking at the time of Giving Tuesday, which, no one could have known that. It hindered motion, going out and talking with people, but it drove home the message that our medical center hadn’t been without a COVID patient since March. And, you know, the story-telling that went around that, to be able to encourage people to continue to do what they’d been asked to do, that we’ve all heard a million times, social distance, masks, all that. But we highlighted an individual, in fact, our very first COVID-positive patient, who was here for over a month, and was willing to share her story and talk with us and her daughter. And people could understand…they could relate to the daughter’s situation of not being able to be with her mom, and with mom, who at the time, was still trying to…still struggling to get her voice back and speak. And we had her care team engaged. One member of her care team hadn’t seen her since she was released, so when we recorded our videos together, it was quite emotional. We were able to share a story that is very difficult for medical centers to do, with HIPAA laws, but she was so excited about the opportunity to say, “I’m alive because of Schneck, and this is what they did for me.” So, lots and lots and lots of primary, secondary marketing messaging going on, but our volunteers were able to grab ahold of that, and not memorize it, but send people to it and say, here, this is what we’re doing, this is what it’s about, and click through and you’ll see the actual items we’re going to buy, and do you want to be a part of this? So volunteers from all different levels and all different ways, so it was phenomenal. We have 32 people who gave to the Foundation for the first time ever, they’ve never given, and so the engagement was phenomenal.
Molly: So heart-warming.
Katie: That’s incredible.
Laurel: Yeah, thanks for sharing that. That video you had on the front page of the site was really powerful, having that patient and, you know, her family members and her care providers from the hospital all speaking about, kind of, the journey that she had, it was a really powerful story to be able to highlight and to kind of put that right on the landing page of the site, right above the donate button, I think was quite effective, in addition to how you used it in the marketing campaign as well.
So, you did have kind of a strategy…more strategy, like you said, in terms of the multiple sort of like marketing campaigns that you were running, and one of those was around the fact that funds raised during this campaign went towards purchasing the Diversey moonbeam UV units for your medical center. So I was wondering if you could maybe tell us just a little bit more about what those units do, for those who don’t know, and also how fundraising for the specific initiative really helped you focus your Giving Day efforts?
Stephanie: So, we have two units in our hospital now, several years ago, I believe…if I’m right on this, it was 2012 when MRSA kind of…really jumped into the spotlight. When that happened, we bought these two very large UV units that are used to go into spaces and basically kill all the germs that it can see with UV light, and we use those…we use those everywhere. We were looking to buy more of those and then we kept researching and found some smaller units, that kill in about half the time, and which provided us, as a foundation, the opportunity to buy more of them, and also the staff to be able to move them easier. I believe the units we have now are 75 pounds or somewhere in there a piece, so when they have to move them, I’m off-site, I’m not inside of the hospital, I’m outside of the medical center, and it takes two members of their staff to move that to areas where they need some germ eradication. And so, as we were researching these, we did online demos, we talked to organizations who had purchased them, and we made the decision that that’s where we were gonna go. And so, we set our goals based on how many we needed, how many bulbs we needed, because bulbs are another part that are quite expensive, for both the old and the new unit, and then set some goals around maybe some disinfectant backpack sprayers and the chemicals needed for that, and let’s see where this takes us.
So, um…I know from some past experience in other organizations that if you can tell people exactly what they’re buying, and exactly what it’s going to do, and how it’s going to work, not only for them, as a patient coming in, or their family and friends who might be in here, that needed support, and team members. Our team members, I mean, to keep our staff healthy and safe so that our community does have a place to go, it just resonated with them, and they understood the importance and how much more work we could do, not only with the current COVID pandemic, but MRSA, and anything that’s coming in the future.
So those were the really important components, that we could tell the story, and help people understand, and help them tie that back to Rita Hinners, our first patient, and who might be coming ahead of her, and everyone in between. An interesting thing that has happened since…so, as you mentioned, we initially set a goal of $50,000. We hit it probably six weeks before, and so then we doubled our goal. So we reached for $100,000 and got $125,000. During about the week before, I was getting several comments from donors like hey, I want to do this, I’m going to do it on Giving Tuesday because I want my dollars matched, but could you designate my dollars to place one of the moonbeam units in the cancer center? Because, you know, several people said, that’s where I feel like, long-term, it should be all the time, like, they should just have one. And so the really cool part of that is that, I didn’t know how to tell them that, oh sure, we could do that, I mean, I can’t make that decision, so I told them, I’ll let you know. You know, we’ll work on this, I’ll let you know.
We were able to buy another unit because we raised enough money. We’re going to be creating a video next week in the cancer center with the moonbeam unit, where it has permanent placement because it’s so easy to use that the staff, they can use it, and be trained on it, and so it did get permanent placement. So…it resonated with our donors and they can understand and they got to see that every dollar they gave us went straight back into exactly what we were buying. So I think that was…that might have been the most important part of this, to give them something to buy. Not something to just put their money into, but they physically bought things for us, $125,000 worth of things for us. And every donation that came in counted, because we were able to fulfill all of that. So our $10 checks to our $12,000 checks, I mean, it…they all mattered, and the community got to engage with us at the level that they could. And it was heart-warming, it was quite a phenomenal end to a very challenging year.
Molly: I can’t wait to see that video. It was yet another incredible story, and you’re absolutely right, seeing that, showing your doors the impact of their gift is so impactful. And you were just the absolute master of that, you know, engaging, telling stories, and it’s hard to believe that it was your first year running an online campaign of this size. And outside of everything that you did on your own, what benefits did you see working with GiveGab and having Laurel as a dedicated Project Manager to assist you?
Stephanie: Well, I would say that I pretty much did nothing alone, because I couldn’t have done any of GiveGab without Laurel’s help. It was, um….you know, we have a website, we can accept donations, it’s not super interactive, but again, being our first ever virtual request/fundraiser, it was critical for us that we had GiveGab. Um…the ease of it, that Laurel, I know in the back of her mind, knew this was a huge project, and was thinking, alright, alright, alright, but we’re gonna spoon feed this. Let’s talk about this, this week, and then don’t worry about that yet until next week. And so it helped walk us through it very slowly, and…through some of the things, now, our marketing representative’s way more savvy than I am with all of the social media and all of that fun stuff. So she caught on and I’m sure she’s probably like, yeah, I knew that, but I didn’t. And it was phenomenal to have two members of my staff meet, and really, our data coordinator, who was going to be calculating the back end and needed to understand how everything worked logistically, Laurel was able to talk to all three of us at the level that we were at, and get us through to meet our goals. And timelines were set, timelines were met, nice soft, gentle reminders…we couldn’t have been anywhere close to the numbers that we were able to bring in without GiveGab.
Laurel: That’s really powerful to hear. And of course, working with you was such a pleasure, I know when we started our kick-off call, you already came in with lots of plans and goals, so I know I said this a lot too, but I was so surprised to hear that this was the first virtual Giving Day or campaign of its type that you all were running, because you could tell that there was a lot of thought and strategy put in to this ahead of time, even before we had our first kick-off meeting in terms of working together. So, it was certainly a fantastic partnership.
Stephanie: It was, it worked out beautifully.
Laurel: Yeah, so you mentioned that there were donors who were reaching out saying, you know, they wanted to wait to make their gift on the Giving Day to make sure that it was matched, so I would love for you to talk a little bit more about how your matching strategy on Giving Tuesday had an impact on, kind of, your overall success.
Stephanie: Sure. And you probably remember this, Laurel, I had a lot of questions around it, because there are so many ways that this can happen. And we didn’t know what we were doing. And so, we wanted to be very careful and strategic. And so we reached out to some of our community members who are very supportive and are deeply committed to our community, who we had seen, through COVID, were taking it very seriously, were working hard to take care of their employees, and everyone around them. And so we sat down and talked through, that we thought it would be best to have three or four partners on our original, our very first ever, because we wanted them…we didn’t know how successful we were gonna be. We wanted them to be able to watch those dollars climb, too, and hit those goals.
We didn’t want any of them to say, oh, well I committed $5,000 and you only raised $500 during that power hour. So we were very careful in the hours that we set with them, and talked with them and gave them a lot of information ahead of time. We gave them some of the media packet information and they shared it on their pages to kind of drive people. And we, you know, we were able to highlight them, we were able to highlight them on the page, and give them some recognition for what they were doing. We also coupled that with email blasts. At the beginning of every hour, I emailed blasts from our database out to all of our donors to say it’s starting, here’s whose hour it is, and if you want it matched, now’s the time. And so we had done enough publicity up front that people knew those hours, they knew when it was going to happen. So, you know, looking back, we probably could have had more sponsors and built up those hours more, but we most certainly learned that people want their gifts matched. And if they have the opportunity to give in those windows, they’re going to do it. And so we did, we had several people say hey, what are those hours again? Or are you going to remind me? Those were some of the conversations and so our staff was emailing out saying hey, I think you said you wanted to do this, so we spent the day doing nothing but talking about raising funds.
Being a virtual event, I was surprised that there weren’t more phone calls, being our first one, but people got it, and they worked virtually and some of that was in email, which is perfectly fine, but we were able to direct them and they understood, and that was an exciting thing for our community partners in this to see as well, how important it is that there are other people joining them in support of this medical center, too.
Laurel: Absolutely, I mean, you had three total, sort of, matching timeframes, and I remember we looked at the trends of how donations were coming through online during those matching periods versus the times outside of the matching periods, and the difference was really remarkable. People were absolutely compelled to give when there was a match available, so that was a fantastic strategy that you were able to employ, and it sounds like you did an incredible job communicating that ahead of time so that people were…they were ready to go, they were probably setting their timers for you know, 7am, to make sure they were ready to get their gift matched, so it was a great strategy that you were able to employ.
Molly: You’ve already started to touch on this, that having those matching funds, and even growing that pool for future Giving Days, do you have any other…now that you have your first year behind you, any other engagement strategies that you’re really excited to implement or hoping to implement next year?
Stephanie: Exciting, and hoping, I would say, I am so nervous, but we are going to implement some live events, live engagement, um…you know, I jumped on a webinar with you guys probably a month ago now, and got to listen to a couple groups that did it successfully and were both able to clearly communicate that it’s okay to mess up, I mean, it’s okay, just keep going, and that was probably my biggest fear that really held me back, plus, honestly, time. Like, we really needed to keep it simple our first year so that people could engage and understand, and now we can throw some more bells and whistles in. And definitely live, it will be one of those things that we will implement, and I think there’s a sponsorship opportunity there as well. So if we have matching hours and then we have live hours where we’re doing some type of engagement, we’ll look for some donors for that, too.
Molly: Awesome, I’m so excited about the livestream. I saw Laurel do a little clap as well, we’re big fans.
Laurel: Absolutely, that’s great, and you’re so right that that’s another way to start to engage sponsors and give them a spotlight. And it just, you know, having that virtual event, it just helps people feel like you’re still there and it is still an event, you know, so there’s a lot of great ways to sort of generate that excitement and that urgency around giving on that particular day by going live. Awesome, I’m glad to hear that you’re gonna do that. Great, so finally, just one last question for you today, do you have any advice for hospital foundations who are considering running their own Giving Day?
Stephanie: Um…do it! It’s pretty simple, just do it. Um…if there’s hesitation, I think that I learned very early on, in fact, I was introduced to GiveGab by a hospital fundraising network, our foundation network, Hillary Lyons, that, um…you know, I jumped on a call and listened to Lou explain, you guys, this isn’t that hard, I know you all don’t do this, but let me tell you how you can do this, and…I think the thing that made me more comfortable is that I knew that since we signed on, we would get Laurel and Molly, who would hold our hands and make sure that we didn’t fail. It’s…you can’t fail. You can…you can maybe not meet your goal, but that’s not failing. The amount of PR and other things that come with that, you can’t put dollars to. And so, in fact, two weeks ago, we got another check from someone.
Yes! So, it’s still in their minds, and they still understand it, so I think that any hospital who is contemplating it should make the call, set up a time to talk about it, it will help everyone get comfortable. And then plan early, because if we would have started on this a little earlier than we had, for it being our first year, we would have been able to do some more things with it. But, you know, knowing that we had about two months to really pull it all together, um…those two months for us, this year, will more focused on the actual campaign, than trying to explain to everyone what it is and how we do it and so we’ll be able to dig in a little bit deeper.
So, I guess to hospitals considering, you can start simple, and you can work the plan that you’ve made, and don’t forget the engagement of staff and volunteers and if you have the ability, a patient or two. Get them engaged, get people who are in the trenches in the conversation, our employees got very excited about it. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it in this call but I think Laurel probably knows that our hospital giving group is called EPIC, it’s a group of employees, it’s actually 80% of our employees, that give back to support causes with the Foundation. And so, highlighting them and them knowing that what we were doing was going to help them as well as our patients, really motivated them, and that group chose to give us $25,000 to buy a unit. And so, without us engaging the employees in our organization, they wouldn’t have known and understood that. So we really were able to do a 360 degree plan here, and it was huge and it was so worth it, and…I think more hospitals could benefit from this.
I know it’s probably not typically what has been done, but definitely moving…the world that we’re moving into, these galas and fundraising events where there’s a number of people in a room are…it’s gonna be a while. It’s gonna be a long while. So we, as philanthropic leaders, don’t want to lose that momentum with our donors and this is an opportunity to help keep them engaged. And we really kind of made it our year end appeal, so there’s lots of ways to go with it, so just go!
Laurel: That’s awesome advice, thanks for sharing. And I think one thing that’s great that you’ve alluded to so much is that once you have that first year, kind of, behind you, you can really start to strategize about how to build on that campaign and what to do next year and, you know, where to focus resources. So, while the first year, there might be a little bit of a hurdle to get started and to get that recognition of this, you know, new fundraising strategy, once you have that, it really serves as the foundation for really successful fundraising moving forward, and like you said, even if it is your first year, it still can be easy and it still can be successful.
Stephanie: Yes, absolutely, and, like I said, we had 32 new donors, but we keep them engaged, and we will be talking with them and touching them in some way all year long in hopes to build that habit of giving around Giving Tuesday every year, and so, you know, now our job is to do exactly that, so they’re ready to do the same thing again this fall. But now that they know that we are an option for them, and every year it will be something new, we touch more people than just large donors. We touch people who might have left our hospital a week ago after appendicitis, and just had great care and want to give us $25. Again, it all counts, and we want to be able to talk and engage and the platform allows for that. It’s important that everyone can feel invited and the opportunity.
Katie: Thank you for being on our show, I…this was an incredible opportunity to learn more about your campaign. I thought the site was beautiful, like beautifully branded and designed and very clear, and so it was exciting to learn more about the strategy that went behind it and, like Laurel kept saying, you would have never known it was your first year, so I am very excited to see what comes next year, because I can’t even imagine how it gets better.
Stephanie: Oh, we don’t know right now, either, so…
Katie: Before we close, I would like to again thank Stephanie for sharing her Giving Day experience with us all today. If you’re looking for more tools like this to take your digital fundraising to the next level, visit our resource library to stay up to date with our podcast, webinars, downloadable content, and more, at info.givegab.com/resources.