We spoke with Bedina from St. Austin Catholic School about how St. Austin has adapted it’s fundraising strategy during the COVID-19 era.
Q: How long have you been with HelloFund, and what made you choose our platform?
Answer: St. Austin Catholic School is a small downtown school offering PreK3 through 8th grades in the center of Austin, Texas that has been working with HelloFund since 2018. Our school runs a very fiscally responsible budget and while searching for a new credit-card processor for our philanthropic endeavors, I, as the Director of Advancement, interviewed Phil Sanger, Hellofund’s Owner and Founder. What I saw in the company was a local, functional, support-based, economically responsible option to alternative platforms on which to build our School’s online giving program, event and school shop processing, and take the school to the next level through our friend-raising and fundraising initiatives.
Q: Can you share a little bit more about St. Austin?
Answer: St. Austin Catholic School is the second oldest Catholic school in downtown Austin. Founded in 1917, by the Domincan Sisters and Paulist Fathers, it is the parochial school to St. Austin Catholic Parish. Our School has a very diverse population of students hailing from very diverse backgrounds throughout more than 40 zip codes in and around Austin. Families travel to St. Austin from neighboring counties (Hays, Williamson, Burnet and Bastrop) as well as all over Travis County to avail of a quality, affordable, faith-based education that offers a safe and enriching environment for students to excel academically, socially, emotionally and physically. St. Austin Catholic School meets each child where they are in their scholarly journey and exhausts as many resources as needed to ensure that every child is offered excellence in education following 4 core principles: Honesty, Integrity, Dignity and Community.
Q: How has your messaging changed during COVID-19, as new fundraising needs arise?
Answer: St. Austin Catholic School has been planning the messaging for the 2020-2021 school year since March 2020 when Covid19 first became part of what we now know is a new norm and vernacular for Schools and Non-Profit Fundraising. The radically different social and philanthropic circumstances generated by quarantine, mandated closures, unemployment and general malaise regarding economic, health and social conditions throughout our local, state and global environment have caused an upheaval not only for schools, but for all non-profits. That has had an immense impact on the welfare of communities the world ove. Therefore, because St. Austin Catholic School has been built on the foundation of a strong and long term sense of community, and our families associate our school as being their home away from home, we have moved from fundraising events to digital friend-raising get-togethers, such as dinner drive throughs, online dances, bingos and the like. Aside from more digital stewardship and creation of community, digital solicitation of gifts, more digital receipt of gifts (online giving has now overtaken cheque and cash gifts) and a sharp transition from transactional (event-driven) to transformational (philanthropic) giving has taken root in a small amount of time. Messaging also includes outlining fully and clearly the needs of the School, the options and methods for giving and direct solicitation through phone calls and handwritten notes as well as digital messaging. Updating the Giving page on the school website, with more accessible information on how to give gifts other than by cash/cheque has also been integrated into our online presence. Social media outlets have been more fully utilized to communicate and create community. A swift and effective response to our community’s need for support, especially our family proprietors of small businesses and other missions within our parish and school community has also been effective in maintaining a connection with our families and extended families.
Q: How has your community responded during COVID-19?
Answer: The St. Austin Catholic School community has been very receptive to our stewardship endeavors. Our parent community recognizes all the efforts the school and fellow parents, alumni and parishioners have made to ensure a safe return to school, to support the school for the short and long term, and to support our community’s businesses. They remain involved in the life of the school by sitting on committees, participating in online fun and games as well as through philanthropic gifts of support and gifts in kind.
Q: Are there any specific HelloFund features you have found to be particularly effective in reaching donors?
Answer: At St. Austin we have adapted our fundraising strategy during the COVID-19 era. With that, we have more fully integrated HelloFund into the life of our school. The features that I prefer to use are options for the shop (particularly to create order forms for community breakfast and dinners), the ticker tape on the fundraiser tab – which makes the experience of giving online so much more relevant to the donor and the ability to create individualized pages for our students to advocate on behalf of their school. The automated return receipt of a thank you and tax receipt helps immensely as the Advancement Office becomes more effective at stewardship, reducing environmental waste and being fiscally more responsible. While mailed notes of appreciation are also utilized by the Advancement Office and School Administration, the immediacy of HelloFund receipts ensures donors are confident that their gift has been received and acknowledged.
What makes HelloFund different from other fundraising platforms you’ve used in the past?
Answer: HelloFund is so user-friendly that it is hard to find any reason why not to use it. It is also economically responsible for small-shop Advancement Offices and large non-profits alike. The support system that Phil and his staff have created is second to none and the team works diligently to roll out new updates as the fundraising world adapts to a new set of standards.
Q: Are there any specific examples that working with HelloFund has had a positive financial impact on your organization?
Answer: Yes. The growth of our online giving has been remarkable since we transitioned to HelloFund. The ability given to HelloFund users to customize giving pages, and the user-friendliness both on the non-profit end and the donor end make the giving and reporting experience fast and effective.
Would you recommend HelloFund to a similar organization?
Answer: Yes, I would recommend HelloFund to similar organizations and have already done so. Some have already made the transition.
Bedina O’Neill is the Director of Institutional Advancement at St. Austin Catholic School since 2014. She has more than 15 years of Fundraising experience.
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