The wise and knowledgeable John Baker, Executive director of the Community Foundation of Central Missouri, shares the story of the past 7 years of the CoMoGives Online Fundraiser. In this interview, he discusses what to expect and how it has grown each year.

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What to Expect from Your Online Fundraiser with Guest John Baker

The wise and knowledgeable John Baker, Executive director of the Community Foundation of Central Missouri, shares the story of the past 7 years of the CoMoGives Online Fundraiser. In this interview, he discusses what to expect and how it has grown each year.


Here’s the transcription for the podcast! This transcription has not been edited. Some words and phrases may not be accurately depicted. 

Unknown Speaker  0:05  

If you’re a natural born marketer, you’re one lucky son of a gun. If you’re like most people, marketing, especially online marketing is about as appealing as standing in a police lineup. The makri team of creatives is transformed websites and digital marketing from craptastic to fantastic since 2005. Our podcast marketing with purpose makes sense of marketing so you can make purposeful decisions instead of carrying on with the same old crap you’ve been doing. And now your host, Monica Pitts, founder of may create with another episode on how to make your marketing not suck.

Unknown Speaker  0:47  

So Hello, everybody, and welcome back to our Facebook Live. Today, I’m pretty excited because I have john Baker, who is the executive director of the Community Foundation in Central Missouri. You will see today. And so thank you for being with us, john.

Unknown Speaker  1:04  

Hey, it’s my pleasure to be here. Monica, always glad to work with you on whatever might come to mind.

Unknown Speaker  1:11  

john and i have actually been through a few adventures together. So first off, john, I don’t know if you know this, but your predecessor at the Community Foundation, Roger actually gave me my title. And Chief Creative Officer of may create time and Roger named me boss, which I think is pretty cool. But it’s been an amazing replacement for Roger and now you

Unknown Speaker  1:35  


Unknown Speaker  1:36  

so john, and I started like a million years ago, when you were with the Baptist Church, and you came in you needed a logo, and I remember like this really big group of people sitting around in a circle, and all of us talking about this logo, and that is like my first encounter. And then years later, I was excited because you gave us the chance to work with you on como fans which you know, started out as something small It’s a little campaign that could, right. And then. And now that like has come full circle, and really kind of brought us to where we are today, which is helping nonprofits solve their communication challenges through technology and marketing. So for those of you guys who don’t know, Hogan is a month long giving campaign, there are 140 local nonprofits that last year gathered more than $956,000 in donations. So it’s been a lot of work like a long journey, right? This will be our seventh year this year. And john has many stories to tell about it. And so every year we have a series of meetings that lead up to the campaign to onboard and rally our nonprofit. And every year john gives this great explanation about what people can expect from their participation in the online fundraiser. So I invited him today to share that same glimmer of knowledge with all of us, so we can hear it like right from him. And also this year, his experience with running such a big campaign, like there are so many moving parts to it from, you know, onboarding the nonprofits to finding the right sponsors, and it’s just, it’s a pretty amazing event. Um, so before we dive into that conversation, I just want to remind everybody that if you have to jump off early, and you can’t hang out with john and i, for this whole 30 minutes, you can always listen to our conversation on our podcast, which is marketing with purpose, because we’ll pull this audio out, and we will put it out on that podcast for you. And you can find [email protected] create calm, and then also this conversation will live like pretty much forever on our Facebook feed. Okay, so, john, first, why don’t we start by you introducing yourself to everyone and the Community Foundation and tell me what is the foundation?

Unknown Speaker  3:56  

All right. Well, again, i’m john Baker. I’m the executive director. The Community Foundation, Community Foundation is in its 10th year. And so we have been here while but yet we’re still not, you know, a long lived Community Foundation like many of them, community Foundation’s follow a model that it’s 108 or nine years old now. So it’s been around a while. First one was in Cleveland, Ohio, second one in St. Louis, Missouri, by the way. So they’re not unknown to this part of the world. But we just started ours in 2010. And so here we are in 2020. We’ll have our 10th anniversary in November of this year. We work from a standpoint of trying to do one main thing and that is to facilitate philanthropy, so big polysyllabic words, but it’s pretty good description of what we do. We facilitate philanthropy. We try to make it easy for people to give money and to give it charitably to have maximum tax saving impact for them as far as maximums service provision impact for the nonprofit’s which they seek to support. So we do that by establishing what we call components or segregated funds for donors, where a family like yours, Monica could open up a donor advised fund at the Community Foundation, or your business could have a charitable fund that the community Foundation’s or anything like that along the way, designated funds deal of interest funds, scholarship funds on restricted funds, we do all that kind of thing. And then we were thinking in 2012, what could we do that was going to be different that would have a direct impact on the nonprofit’s that could involve them, support them and really help out perhaps the smaller nonprofits that might not have a lot of staff members or a whole lot of money, or a whole lot of their own creativity. What can we do to help them and voila, the idea of como Gibbs was born. We got the idea from one of our friends in the community who opened up a donor advised fund with us and he had a sister who lived in Kentucky. And so she came back from a family excuse me, he came back from a family trip to see her and brought back what was called the giving guide. And it was a two month long giving effort of the Bluegrass Community Foundation in Lexington, Kentucky. So we studied that we looked at it, we figured it all out. They did some things that we didn’t feel we could do. We didn’t want to do some things they were doing. And we came up with como gifts, and that was in 2013. And so this will be our eighth iteration of the campaign this coming December. We have seven campaigns under our belt. The first year we had 30, giving opportunities and collected $62,400. Last year, we had 138 giving opportunities for organizations and collected almost $956,000. So it’s had great growth, and we’ve enjoyed it every step along the way. You don’t really have Monica, you guys have really helped.

Unknown Speaker  7:04  

It’s been our pleasure, really, it’s one of her favorite projects to work on. Now, I’m not going to say that Tyler always loves the very first two days of the campaign where we figure out everything that we could see into the future about each of the little glitches that happens. But everybody’s always been so patient behind. And it’s been great. I mean, it’s been a good motivator for us we love getting back with and also, it’s been a great opportunity for us to kind of challenge ourselves as programmers and developers, and as marketers to figure out how to get the ball. So one of the neat things about this campaign, I feel like is the fact that you’re doing it on such a limited number of staff members. I mean, you do have people they get paid to work at the Community Foundation, but there are not very many of you. So what is your staff look like? Tell me, tell me.

Unknown Speaker  7:59  

Well, this is going to be very Short answer, you are looking at the only almost full time employee of the Community Foundation. And then we have a 15 hour a week, part time administrative assistant. And so between the two of us we are pretty much the staff of Community Foundation, which is why we are very careful with choosing the best partners that we can find to do things with us. And so we have a tremendous investment and back office partner that few miles of the highway we have the website brain trust with may create designed for our como goons website, which is a very complicated and sophisticated website which you all kind of have built from the ground up and added to every year as we have made requests of you to expand your services. And every year you all come through. But we do you know we do a lot of our own creative work here in the office, we Janet, our administrative assistant. She’s versed in some InDesign software, so we can do some borrow print materials. But as far as you know, really creative stuff we rely on folks like you to help us get through daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. So we appreciate what you do. Well, we are.

Unknown Speaker  9:23  

Um, so every year at the como kids, well, really at all of our gatherings. You give us a pep talk, where you explain what people can expect from the energy that the investment is and tell us, you know, pay organizations are going to get out what they put into it. And I feel like the organizations that participate in the campaign kind of fit into three categories or three buckets of fundraising people. I feel like there’s the people who sit back and they utilize the campaign you get the word out about your nonprofit. And then we have those who use it to get their feet wet and start generating donations online. Or they use it as a small kind of year end supplemental fundraiser. And then we have these people who like just go all out and all in and it’s become like a mainstay and staple in their fundraising every single year. So, I would love you to touch on these different types of fundraisers, and tell us like, what do they get out of there?

Unknown Speaker  10:30  

All right. Well, we have, as you say, that’s pretty good way to describe three main categories of como gives organizations and really any organization and I do want to begin by saying that nonprofit work is very much difficult work. And it requires leadership that is self starting leadership. You know, nonprofit organizations, we all have boards that we have to answer to and they have certain goals and expectations of employees, but the people Please really have to be engaged and they have to be self starters to really survive and to excel in the work, have to be passionate about what you do, you have to want to provide the services that you claim that your organization provides. You have to want to engage in fundraising, which is not always, you know, the world’s most fun thing, but it’s really incredibly noble work. Because without fundraising, the dollars don’t come to the organization which are then transported into the surfaces and the products that you provide, that the IRS and everybody else was expecting you to do for your nonprofit organization. So let’s think about como gifts just for a minute and the wide variety of organizations that sign up hundred 38 last year seven main categories of service from cultural and arts to animals to education and everything in between. The range of donations for organizations is from $60,000 in past campaigns down to $60 in campaigns, and there’s just a great array of one could say creativity, or effort or steadfastness or, you know, whatever you phrase you might want to think of that create some of those differences. One of it is I want one of the differences is, you know, who’s on your contact list? You know, not every organization has wealthy people on their contact list. So that can make a difference with who gives come much they receive. But other parts of it are like, how strategic Are you being in working the campaign? Are you really sending out those invitation to give emails? Are you really posting creative stuff on Facebook or Instagram? You know, are you tweeting and effective times of day and doing it enough? You know, do your best Members give Are you engaged in reaching out to certain people who might do a peer to peer fundraiser for you? Again, this is all that intentional self starting kind of work that really makes a campaign work, whether it’s something that you run, or whether it’s something that you glom on to, like cocoa gets weak consider cocoa gives to be like the skeleton of a campaign that is effective for whoever signs on. We provide the bones but the organizations have to then provide that meat of marketing, you know, the sinews, the muscles of, you know what we’re going to do the strategy to get our word out so that the donations will come into the campaign. As I tell everybody every year, there’s really very little virtue financially of just signing up for the campaign. Now, there is some notice virtue in setting up for the campaign. You know, 10s of thousands of people will go to the como gift comm website. And many of them will stumble across or intentionally look for your organization’s donation page, and they will read about you what it is you do. You know why you’re great, why you deserve, you know, public financial support, who your leaders are, that kind of thing. pictures of you doing your work in action, there’s virtue in that, you know, 20 30,000, paper copies of our printed giving guy, those are distributed all around Columbia, you know, smaller organizations can participate in that just like the bigger organizations can. And so there’s this sense of equalization that every organization is important when somebody picks up that giving guy and looks at it for the first time. So you do get all manner of good publicity, thousands and thousands of impressions about your organization. But are you converting those impressions and those visits to donations? That’s really the work that is required to make the real financial contribution different So, you know, if you just want to sign up to be recognized to be in the campaign, you will broaden your marketing footprint and there will be more people who learn with you. You know, that’s good.

Unknown Speaker  15:15  

If you do some things along the way, you will get some donations along the way. That’s the way the campaign works. But you’re exactly right. There are some who have taken the como gives opportunity. And they have really turned it into a significant part of their annual fun, give it perhaps 25% 30% 50%. And if it weren’t for como gives now you know, they would really have to scramble to find some way to get those dollars in because the campaign has been so effective for them. Now, we didn’t start you know, as you mentioned earlier, we didn’t start at $956,000. We started at 62. So you know, we’ve learned along the way Organizations have learned along the way. And I want to throw some public kudos your way, Monica. Because the marketing, seminars and workshops that we’ve had in past years, have really done a lot to help these nonprofits with their marketing year round, not just for como gives. So part of your company’s impact has been to help educate, and to train the organizations that are willing to go through the work of self evaluation and self reflection and strategic planning and putting stuff on calendars and really doing it with people. You’ve really helped them move forward. And so, you know, we thank you very much for your good work.

Unknown Speaker  16:40  

It’s always fun. It’s definitely a landslide, getting to the workshop, but then we get there and it’s great to hear everybody’s input. And I especially like, like one year we had less nonprofits, so we had more space to work with and everybody broke out into individual I love walking around and listening to all the conversations going on in the group, because I felt like I learned a lot about the other challenges that I needed to help solve. And we could go through, you know, communication, through marketing, technology. And so kind of to piggyback on what john was saying, I feel like, you know, the people who participate in promo games for some of them, they’re super, super small. And that giving guide is like the only piece of printed content that they have about your organization. And they’re always really proud of it. I love to hear them tell the stories about how they go give it out to all of their potential contacts. And it’s kind of great because it gives them a reason to go out and talk to people because there’s only this giving window. I feel like for those of you who are runners, you’d like it or not records maybe you’re thinking about running like one of the first things that I did when I got into running was signed up for a five k because they had a deadline and I had a reason that I had to train. And then I signed up for a half marathon set a deadline, and I had to redo the train. And I feel like como give kind of gives that, that incentive for people to go out and talk to people when they maybe weren’t as comfortable in that role before. And it gives them that like, you know, to go out and out. And into, there’s a lot of people that come in, and this is their first year with online giving. And so they, their constituents or donors, they’re not used to this yet. This is a new thing for them. And so the first year, you know, they might make a couple of thousand dollars, but they’re not doing anything amazing. And then the next year, they’re like, Oh, I get how this works. And then they do so much better. And I think that regardless of whether you’re doing a fundraiser, or you’re doing it on your own, that same transition can happen like you just kind of got to go in and get your feet wet and try it and realize that first time In the perfect time, and everybody knows that right because the first time, but then I love to see him succeed. And you guys even started offering a challenge grant for the people with the most improvement in their campaigns year over year. So that way you could motivate them to come back and try again, even if their first year wasn’t the best year for their new adventure, and online giving so. So tell me about some of the things that you’ve done along the way that helped build cool moments into what it is now. Because, I mean, you’ve had so many meetings and had so many brainstorming sessions and just brought ideas all the time. What are some of the things that you’ve done?

Unknown Speaker  19:46  

Well, it was more simple, certainly a years ago than it is now. And a lot of the simplicity was that the website was also simpler. And you know, giving options were simple. It’s a digital campaign, we need for it to be digital. Because as I’ve taught the size of our staff is limited. You know, we do not have the human power to send out a whole lot of thank you letters for 510 15 $20 checks to people that, you know, are really affiliated with other organizations. So when you can automate that through technology, and people will give their well intentioned gifts of 510 15 $20, then they can get a well worded meaningful, thank you email that has all the magic tax language in it, you know, it just makes sense that that’s, that’s what you do. And that’s all that people should really need for their taxes. Now, you know, we’ve encouraged organizations to continue to build relationships with their donors. They struggled with that at the beginning. They’re much better at that now, because they know that the donor gets the tech serviceable email from the community foundation for their como gifts gift, but the organizations are now much better for Following up themselves and thanking their donors and building that relationship, and I can’t help but think that repeat donors for como gifts to an organization are partly the result of that relationship bridge that’s been built by the organizations thanking their donors for their for their gifts. One of the things that we’ve done in recent years is to try to get organizations more comfortable and donors more comfortable with the idea of a peer to peer or a friend to friend campaign. So what that is, in essence, it’s a mini campaign within the larger campaign. So a organization leader can perhaps identify a good supporter there’s already and to see if that person might be willing to do a peer to peer campaign within the como gifts campaign for the benefit of their organization. So we’ve tried to get this idea across at our Kumu gives meetings or meetings. Gonna be July 22, by the way, Monica at 10 o’clock in the morning, and it’s going to be virtual. And that announcement will go out either today or tomorrow. Oops, I just made the announcement today. We’ll send out an email to everybody here real soon about that July meeting. But peer to peer can be a very powerful and productive effort on the part of the organizations, if they will think it through and plant the idea seed in the right community leaders mind who might do a peer to peer for them. So the peer to peer leader puts out a challenge. Like I’m going to, you know, drink two gallons of lemonade in an hour. Please don’t do that. It wouldn’t be good for you this creating something if my friends will give, you know $12,000 to my peer to peer campaign. So they get their own little donation URLs link that they share with their friends and their friends make their gifts through that donation page. That link is on our website, and all those donations and show up on that person’s peer to peer page on the campaign, but also on the organization they’re supporting on that main donation page. And the website keeps track of all of that and then the person does appear to appear can track the progress of their challenge. And then you know, when that $12,000 is given, then they can drink that two gallons of lemonade or, you know, eat that very large hamburger or falafel sandwich, whatever it might be that they promised they will do. So that’s one thing that’s very complicated thing to do, really, you know, to educate people about this, to have the website work about this the way we want it to, it’s very, very complicated. But it’s also not rocket science, at least on the publicity part on the encouraging of peer to peer donors, part of getting friends to participate parts. It’s not rocket science. It’s part of the That intentionality, that dedication, that determination to see some of these clans and opportunities through. So right now we feel that we have a good number of giving options for people. And it’s a matter of the organization’s really, absolutely absorbing them accepting these possibilities as their own, and then reaching out to some of their supporters and other kind of community leaders to actually implement what is available to them as far as giving to come with gifts is concerned.

Unknown Speaker  24:32  

Hey, we were just so some of the things that I know that we’ve done along the way is from like a management perspective, we have definitely streamlined the way that we onboard all the organizations and that has been a godsend to be able to get people into the website and do it efficiently. And everything that I know we’ve done is with With some of the emails and that kind of stuff, we automate some of that for our participants, so they don’t have to do it on their own. And then, like for ourselves, we benchmark and we understand where we need to be each day of the campaign. We look at past performance, and we understand where giving spikes are going to be so that as we’re going through the campaign, we know, do we need to, you know, move advertising dollars Do we need to send another email like what needs to happen? And I know that one of the most valuable things that I come out of every year is when you do the wrap up breakfast where everybody comes in and maybe read and I just, I love hearing the nonprofit. I love hearing them say what they like about it. I also love hearing them complain like it’s so great, because then we know like, what worked and what didn’t work and and they tell us what your donor told them and really like a good campaign has to have that you have to have your debriefing. You have to have your data and and I love it. Like, I love how we just went from something that was no one, to adding all these things in every year to now, you know, we have multiple planning meetings in the middle of the summer, starting like this week, right? Actually, we started three weeks ago to be able to run this thing in December. So it’s not like a small endeavor. But I think that any fundraiser can learn from those, you know, little progressive steps and and especially the debriefing.

Unknown Speaker  26:36  


Unknown Speaker  26:38  

all right. All right. So our wrap up question, what I want you to help me with is, if you could give advice to a nonprofit that is considering an online fundraiser right now, what would you tell them, but people will?

Unknown Speaker  26:57  

Well, I would tell them, first of all that right now in this very moment, online giving is a tremendous option for them. Because you’re not able to hold your events like you’re used to, and collect those physical checks at the desk as people registered you know, we are still having limited public engagements because of the pandemic. We’re in a very different time than we’ve been in before. And online giving is an excellent option. Perhaps holding a virtual event and there are you know, guides online as to how to do that or people could contact you Monica to get some advice on how to do an online event. But to include the giving portion, you know, during that online event, so that you actually can you know, talk about gifts that are coming in and have goals set along the way during the event whether it’s 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, and then you have something to celebrate you know, when the when the event is over. Or you do something more like you know, combo gifts where you find some That’s existing already. And then you get your organization involved with that the beauty of como gifts is it’s local. All of the money that’s given through como gives this local community foundation keeps nothing back from como gives gifts we don’t. We don’t feed ourselves from the como gifts campaign. In fact, the comal gifts campaign is operated last by us every year. It’s a service that we offer the community, yes, we charge a fee for it. But the campaign itself costs more than the aggregate total of all of those fees. And so, you know, it’s a great opportunity and everything stays local, with Come on, get it. So you’re not doing GoFundMe, you’re not doing Indiegogo, you’re not doing any of those other kinds of platforms in other cities that are going to keep a portion of the money that’s coming. It’s all here locally for local benefit. So we’ve been encouraged organizations to be part of that if they have not before. Think about that and contact me we can talk about it. But as far as online giving goes you have to have a belief that it is something which is 40 You can happen will yield results. And I would say that in most every circumstance, unless you’re just a brand new small organization that does not know anyone, online giving can be very effective for you. If you know just a few people, online giving can be effective for you. So you should give it a try. There are all kinds of available and affordable ways for you to get income from an online efforts.

Unknown Speaker  29:29  

Lots of

Unknown Speaker  29:31  

clickable credit card processor options for you out there. Let me put it that way.

Unknown Speaker  29:37  

I just did a whole podcast today because I’m a tech dork. And I was like people are going to need to know they’re going to know need to know how are you going to accept money. And so I need like this crazy comprehensive listening. I am by myself. You can listen to my words later on this month.

Unknown Speaker  29:56  

But the importance also in getting the word out Yeah. Yeah can give to you if they don’t know, that they can give to you.

Unknown Speaker  30:05  

And there’s so many really simple ways that you can do it now, it doesn’t have to be through, you know, building something as amazing. So, okay, so I do have another question, actually. So, when we started this thing, seven years ago, a lot of people were apprehensive, because there, they felt like their donors weren’t ready to give online. They were, they were kind, they knew that they needed to move that direction with their donors. Maybe we’re older anymore, I’m comfortable with it. Um, and you kind of worked through that, you know, and we and I feel like you’ve done a good job of incorporating some exceptions, but for the most part, every single game getting online. Do you have any advice to give the nonprofit to our kind of meaningful in that same space, have an older donor database and like transitioning those donors into online gifts.

Unknown Speaker  31:01  

Just to encourage them to give it a try. Most all older donors now have a smartphone. And most of all, websites now are mostly in the main, quite responsive, that’s the fancy term for the way that the content is reshaped and shifted on the screen to where it’s simplified. And if they’ll just follow down the screen, they will find that Donate button. And then that form that they donate through is laid out a little differently. And it really is not all that complicated. As long as they have the facility with their fingers, of course, you know, to type and the way to see with their eyes. And they’re willing to trust the modern financial processes of online giving, you know, you have to have somebody who’s willing to enter a credit card number, and just trust the process. You know, the code will give site is secure. You know, our credit card processor that we use is a local bank. It’s very, very secure. You know, so you can have confidence, you know, and giving the como gifts, we would hope that organizations would also choose a established reliable credit card processor and they can talk to their donors about giving with confidence, you know, through that site. But yes, it’s just getting that word out to them and building confidence in them that they can do it. Even though they really do like to write paper checks. Not every given campaign anymore, is it pay per check campaign. That’s the life we live now.

Unknown Speaker  32:36  

You’ve been super patient with so many of them to like even talking them through it on the phone. We’ve done the occasional screen share in a you know, service like this, where we talk them through it. So like we use all avenues of communication to help move them through into this during the online giving. So I feel like Yeah, you’ve been You’ve just been really supportive of them no matter what, like you’re never I think that’s one of the great things about you. You never get like you’re never like super outwardly frustrating at this situation. You’re just home and you’re like, all right, yep. All right, let’s, let’s figure this out. Let’s get this fixed. And I’m sure that especially for the older veterans, they really appreciate that attitude. And I know, Eric. Okay, so, um, thank you, john, for all of your awesomeness and all of your wonderful words today. Hopefully Now, some of yours. Some of my listeners can can understand better what they can expect from their online giving campaigns and maybe learn a thing or two from our story of the como givers journey. And remember that if you’re just joining us, and you didn’t get near the beginning of this, you can catch it on our podcast podcast.com. And, and we’ll have this up next week for you to hear And also if you are considering doing an online fundraising event right now, um, you know, just start with the Wow. Like, let’s start with ideas. And a number of Columbia nonprofit came together along with the brainstorming on my team. And we put together a downloadable a free downloadable offering that’s 14 tech, easy online fundraising. Oh, and DC says do not forget to tell people that if you really want to talk about technology and marketing, your nonprofit or you have a story to tell or want to join us online, we did start a Facebook group that I’m so pumped about everybody is it’s called nonprofit marketing. And so everybody’s been awesome. And sharing their stories and answering questions for one another. Like there was one person who asked, How do I know whether you know how do I know how to diagnose why a Facebook Post did well or not, I can’t seem to figure it out. And a pathway creator jumped on wrote a couple paragraphs, and then I wrote, and then Jason apparently creator jumped in and wrote, like a couple paragraphs and I was like, holy cow. This is like a whole blog post right here. This is pretty amazing. So come join us there because we’re just, you know, trying to support each other every meeting. Okay, so with that, thank you again, john. Really appreciate your time today. Thank you, everyone else for joining us. And we’ll catch you in all the other places.

Unknown Speaker  35:34  

Bye. Bye Bye.

Unknown Speaker  35:39  

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