At a recent training event for Community Foundation of the Ozarks’ (CFO) nonprofit agency partners, the mood in the room was of almost palpable enthusiasm. Representatives from 20 nonprofit agencies took turns sharing their goals for 2018, the compassion in each of their voices hard to miss.
One representative spoke about her agency’s need for funding to support musical therapy students, particularly those with learning disabilities. She noted to the group that because April happens to be Autism Awareness Month, it’s a great time for her agency’s campaign to ask for the funding. Another representative of a county food pantry explained that its industrial-grade fridge—used to store meal prep ingredients—was in utter disrepair and needed to be replaced with a new model. “It’s not for ice cream,” she joked.
The needs of each agency, which are more so needs of the people they serve, will soon be represented as a cohort of fundraising projects on Cause Momentum, CFO’s fundraising platform. In anticipation of the cohort event, which is launching April 1, CFO joined forces with Springfield digital agency Mostly Serious to give the platform an overdue facelift.
Backed by the new and improved Cause Momentum, the upcoming cohort event has a lot of exciting donor possibilities in store for the community. We sat down with CFO’s Director of Communications and Marketing, Matt Lemmon, and Mostly Serious’ President, Jarad Johnson, to learn a little more.
Matt, tell us a little more about the role of Cause Momentum as a longstanding fundraising tool for CFO.
Matt: That’s just what it is—a tool. It’s a value-added opportunity to our Agency Partners when they “join,” which is our term for 501(c)3 organizations that open a fund with us. For the last five or six years we’ve tried to prioritize well-rounded fundraising, promotional skills, and digital literacy for local agencies. Having a certain degree of comfort with social media and digital marketing when it comes to successful online fundraising is very important for both nonprofit professionals and donors.
Why is that literacy so important given all the methods of fundraising available to nonprofits?
Matt: Online giving has increased 300 percent in recent years… it’s not going away. We hope to help people along that path, even though it may be new and a little bit scary.
It sounds like you’re also hinting a little bit about the future of online fundraising in general, which is that it is quickly becoming a permanent option for nonprofits.
Matt: Yeah, I think we’re seeing it. Slowly… very slowly… the checkbook is becoming the payment of the past and donors are becoming more comfortable with online giving. Obviously, planned giving is the bread and butter of philanthropy and will need to continue to be, but the sooner digital becomes the norm, rather than a trend, the better off we’ll be—and the more effectively (and affordably) we’ll be able to share our stories.
Jarad: Not to mention the fact that younger donors, particular Millennials and the generations following them, are results-driven givers. They don’t give because they’ve always gave, or just because you called them on the phone. They want to know what you’re doing to measure your impact and they want to feel like their gift, however large or small, is making a difference. Platforms like Cause Momentum make it easier for nonprofits to engage with younger audiences.
Matt: That’s very true. Young donors want to give back to their communities and nonprofits want to reach them. With the right education for nonprofits in terms of messaging, online fundraising bridges that gap pretty seamlessly.
Online giving has increased 300 percent in recent years… it’s not going away. We hope to help people along that path, even though it may be new and a little bit scary.
This is the inaugural year for CFO’s cohort event. Matt, can you explain a little more about it?
Matt: The original purpose of Cause Momentum was always to be a year-round, project-based fundraising platform for our nonprofit agency partners, available at any time. That said, the 2018 Cause Momentum cohort will feature 20 nonprofits that will have the opportunity to create and promote Cause Momentum projects simultaneously to fund a specific need for their agency. Those 20 nonprofits are currently beginning the training process and will promote their live projects during the month of April.
So the cohort event is a new way for members of the community to give back and help agencies in need based on some specific goals they have, which is not unlike Give Ozarks, the one-day giving event that CFO presented from 2015 to 2017.
Matt: Definitely. The community excitement around Give Ozarks, as well as the financial successes of the 300 or so nonprofits that participated over the years, was beyond our wildest expectations. However, as with any high-profile fundraiser, we worried a bit about donor fatigue, and and also about tapping out the many generous sponsors who made our Give Ozarks prize pools possible.
Jarad, talk to us a little about the overhaul of Cause Momentum and why 2018 was the time to do it.
Jarad: We launched the original Cause Momentum with CFO in 2012, which is roughly 100 years ago in Internet years. While we've made updates to the design and features of Cause Momentum over the years, it was definitely time to dive into a complete overhaul. We streamlined a number of pages for donors, including a simpler sign-on process and enhancements to mobile layout and performance.
Matt: A lot of the improvements are in the tools agencies and donors use every time they visit the site. The reporting back-end was completely overhauled to better represent the workflow we now know agency representatives prefer.
Jarad: Exactly. Mostly Serious’ part in supporting the success of these agencies and their projects was to simplify the process at every identifiable point and give them more structured data to measure the results of their efforts.
You both have worked with nonprofits in a lot of different ways over the years. What success stories stand out to you both?
Matt: Personally, I always like to tell the story of Leonard Burton, who runs the two senior centers in Cedar County, in Stockton and El Dorado Springs. The first year of Give Ozarks, Leonard spent most of the first training in the front row at the art museum, his head in his hands, shaking his head at what we were saying from the stage. At every training, he stayed after and asked questions, and often had questions via email or phone.
But during year three, I didn’t hear as much out of Leonard until one day when I got a voice message asking me to call him. When I dialed him up just a bit later, he told me with no small degree of delight in his voice that he had solved the problem, which actually involved a video embed code, by finding some local help. This might seem like a small step, but by having the courage and insight to look for a local partnership—of his own volition—when he had an issue embodied pretty much everything we were hoping volunteers like Leonard would get out of Give Ozarks. It made my week.
Jarad: From Mostly Serious’ end, we’ve loved hearing about and seeing all the creative promotional ideas that the nonprofits break out to communicate their message. What sticks out to me is some of the campaigns from Give Ozarks Days past, like the Springfield Ballet’s nonstop social media promotion or the Moxie’s all-night screenings. The passion and empathy so many great people bring into this city has been spotlighted time and time again.
Matt: Those examples are the kind of innovation we hope to continue year round with Cause Momentum.
Jarad, you’ve said before that it’s been a privilege for Mostly Serious to help CFO offer an incredible tool for area nonprofits. How does ownership of Cause Momentum benefit Mostly Serious? How is it an extension of the company’s culture?
Jarad: We've witnessed the powerful impact of Cause Momentum through our partnership with CFO over the years and couldn't be more proud to be involved. Ownership of the Cause Momentum platform means we get to embody one of our most important core values at Mostly Serious, which is community. We don't take our obligation to improving our community lightly and we definitely feel honored to have been included in the journey of online philanthropy CFO has undertaken over the past five years.
Our communities are extremely lucky to have both of giving nonprofits a voice through Cause Momentum. Matt, do you have any final words for our readers before April’s cohort event kicks off?
Matt: It’ll be as great an opportunity as ever to help area nonprofits fulfill the needs of our community through the arts, education, preservation, and health and social services. Based on the incredible support I’ve witnessed in the past, I think our agencies are in for a great experience and I’m counting down the days to the event launch.
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