Big, hairy, audacious goals can be terrifying, but that’s no reason not to set them.
Nycky Miller is the Director of Development at Gospel Rescue Mission where their goal is to end homelessness in the state of Oklahoma. Which to some may sound all but impossible, but not to Nycky. Once she and her team were able to functionally end homelessness in their county, they set their sights even higher.
In this episode, Nycky shares the social media strategies that helped the mission almost triple donations in her first year. Listen in to learn what techniques she’s used to gain traction online and how you can benefit from setting your own “impossible” goals.
Dreaming big for your nonprofit can be intimidating, but creating a donor survey can help you get a handle on who your supporters are and what they want to see. Regardless of what you choose to say “yes” to, though, technology should be at the heart of your strategy. If you’re considering fundraising software, our eGuide walks you through some questions to guide your consideration.
To ensure we’re delivering the best listening experience, whether or not you have listened, we’re interested in your opinions on Network for Good’s Accidental Fundraiser podcast with this five-minute survey!
- Be fearless, try new ways to engage supporters – you never know what might resonate
- Set audacious goals and get your whole team to buy in
- Own your mistakes but, learn and grow from them
Episode 8 Transcript
Nycky: It takes one person being like, okay, I’ll be fearless. And then they do the research on, is this a beneficial move for the mission? And then they sell the staff on it once we’re all, all bought in, then it’s just it’s game on after that.
Kimberly: sometimes in fundraising, you have to step outside of your comfort zone, dive in and learn something new. I’m Kimberly O’Donnell. And this is Accidental Fundraiser. The show from Network for Good, that shares radically authentic stories from the trenches. Gospel Rescue Mission is a center for life change specializing in serving people in.
Through the healing and transforming power of the gospel, their guests are able to address the root issues of homelessness and rise above poverty to rediscover God’s purpose for their life. Nycky Miller Director of Development had zero fundraising experience. When she joined Gospel Rescue Mission. In this episode, she joins me to discuss the challenges she’s faced and how the team at Gospel Rescue Mission has learned to lean on each other’s strengths.
Through it all. They functionally ended homelessness in Muskogee County with audacious goals to eradicate homelessness in the state of Oklahoma. Now let’s join the conversation, starting with the big obstacle Nycky faced during her first weeks on the job.
Nycky: So when I came on board, we were all like, Okay, what am I supposed to be doing?
And so then we worked with a lady who was my one-on-one coach and mentor, and she would give me tips on like, okay, this week, this is what I want you to focus on. And so the, the first few weeks, it was all about events because we had a big event that was coming up in a month from the day that I started.
Okay. This is the biggest event of the entire year, and I’ve got life six weeks to get ready for it. And so it was all about fundraising, all about making connections and trying to get sponsors and things like that. And so that’s what I was focused on, and that was all I was focused on because I didn’t really know what else to do then social media was another big, important piece of the puzzle.
And so I think probably my first week there that’s really what I was working on. Trying to figure out, okay, what are the kind of posts that are going to work best for this mission? I have a background in social media. I’m a social media manager outside of this. I have my own little side business. And so I looked at their demographics.
I looked at what kind of posts had been performing for them already. I looked at what people seem to like most that they would. And they had several different types of posts. They had videos, they had photos, they had posts that were just words. They had posts that promoted the guests. They had posts that promoted events, posts that were just about social matters.
Pest social matters are very important to us. And so I looked at. What do they, like, what is our audience like to see? Well, they don’t really like these kinds of posts, but they do like knees. And so then it was, I’ll just make more of those. So our whole social media strategy turned into analyze and execute.
So every week I would sit down and analyze the previous milk’s activity on Facebook and see, okay. What, what posts really popped off. What can we do to amp those that then we started sharing posts to the community pages. So now Gospel Rescue Mission is affiliated with like 50 something community pages from around Oklahoma.
And so we look at what posts perform better for Muskogee groups. And then we took those posts and the ones that do the best are the ones that we send out to the further areas. Some of our other surrounding me. And so we use Muskogee is like our test market. And then we send the best of those out to outlying communities and that’s helped us get a lot more reach and grew our Facebook page.
The first year that I was here, we doubled our Facebook followers. And I think it’s been really about just finding out what’s working and then just keep doing more of that. A lot of more. Now
Kimberly: in your first year, you also doubled the fundraising right from individual donors or, or was it across the board with sponsors and other.
Nycky: It was across the board the previous year, we had brought in like, $450,000. And that was about our average for the previous three years. And the year that I came on board was September of 2019. And when we looked at our fiscal year dollars, we had reached over $1.2 million. So it was a phenomenal growth and it wasn’t, it had nothing to do with campaign like campaign fundraising, where we were capital campaigns and stuff like that.
It was. But business as usual for the most part. So it was really exciting to see that kind of growth so quickly that again, we, we were working on building up a bigger team and we really focused on working together to try to accomplish the bigger goal. And we’ve got some big, hairy, audacious goals that Gospel Rescue Mission, for sure.
Kimberly: So tell me about those big, hairy, audacious goals.
Nycky: So our biggest one right now is ending homelessness in Oklahoma, which I know sounds outlandish. And it sounds crazy. But when we first started, the big, hairy, audacious goal was ending homelessness and Muskogee, and we thought that was impossible. But over the course of the last two years, we worked very diligently to make sure that we’re working with community agencies to get those.
They are just a victim of circumstances, maybe a few bad choices here and there, but the ones that they don’t want to be on the street, they don’t want to live that kind of lifestyle, but they just are really having a hard time breaking some of the cycles that they were in. We worked with local agencies to help those folks get ahead and that way they could get out of their current crisis.
And we saw a lot of success stories. From that though it helped get people off of the streets. But then we worked with other agencies to build more beds, build more room. So that way, if everybody in Muskogee county that was experiencing homelessness at the time we did our study. If they all came to any of our agencies that housed individuals, there would be a bed for every single person.
And so we reached a functional zero in homelessness and Muskogee county for the first time ever. And we’re the first city in Oklahoma to say that we’ve done that. So it’s very, very exciting. And if we were able to do that in Muskogee county, then why can’t we do it in the entire state? So now we are working on an expansion project to another city, and we have a couple more cities plan now after that, that are still in the works, but we are really hoping that with this expansion project that we’re able to reach that big, hairy, audacious goal.
So we’re very excited about it. We’re very passionate about it, and we believe that in our lifetimes, we will see homelessness eradicated and open.
Kimberly: Wow. Congratulations. That’s incredible. It’s a huge accomplishment, as well as the, you know, major increase in your fundraising over the last two years and all of this happening in the midst of a pandemic where there’s even more need than ever.
Can you share how that affected some of the work that you were doing and the fundraising in which you had in place?
Nycky: probably my favorite story since I’ve at the mission. when COVID hit,We had an event that was scheduled for April.
It was my very first event. was a brand new event that we came up with and it was called experiencing homelessness. It was supposed to be a live event. We had 10 businesses that were lined up to participate.
And we were going to build camp sites for each of these businesses on our campus. And so one person might be sleeping in their car and another person was going to be sleeping in a tent with a blanket and a pillow. And another person was going to be sleeping on the sidewalk with nothing really except for like newspapers.
So there were various degrees of. Like homeless shelters set up the whole idea was that these business owners would come and their business had to buy in to do this opportunity. So each ticket was going to be a hundred dollars, which could be raised among their employees that they wanted.
And the employees could do another fundraiser. In addition to that, HC which shelter their manager was getting get. So the more money that their employees raise, then they got to pick in order of how much money they raised, where their boss would get to sleep at. We had all kinds of challenges set up. Like they were going to have to make their own food. They were going to have to figure out how to open a can with no key and opener, how to make coffee when they had no coffee maker, how to charge their cell phone going back or riding on public.
These were all of the things that we looked at from our guests that they said that were really challenging to them. And we wanted to duplicate that in a more fun sort of atmosphere. And then COVID. And so when that happened, we realized that we would not be able to do the big event. Like we had hoped there was talk, canceling the event, but we sat down and prayed about it and we really felt like God was leading us to be adventurous.
And so we thought, okay, Why don’t we take this super awesome and venture and do it virtually everything else is going virtual. Why can’t we do it? And this was March 18th, 2020. And so less than five weeks away from when our live event was supposed to launch, which we already had planned out, we already had businesses involved.
It was like, okay, it’s go time. How can we turn this around really, really fast and make it a huge deal. And so we decided, okay. We’ll do everything through Facebook live instead of opening it up to only businesses and only having 10, maybe this is an opportunity for us to bring in even more than what we thought we were going to do and open it up to everybody.
They don’t even have to be a Muskogee. They could be in new media. And doing, experiencing homelessness. And then they just live stream all of their challenges through Facebook or whatever social media platform that they chose. And then we would just do hashtags. So we did hashtag experiencing homelessness.
And so anybody that did a challenge, then they would just live stream themselves doing the challenge. you would make a Facebook post, do a live stream, and then you would hashtag it experiencing homelessness. And so all of those videos would pop up in our hashtag and then we would take the videos from each challenge and pick a winner. Whoever had the best video won a special award.
it was a really funny event. We ended up raising over $3,000, which. Our goal was 5,000 for the event, but considering our super quick shift and how fast we needed to turn things on a dime. I still think that the event ended up going really great.
Nycky: We had a lot of great feedback from it. A lot of Facebook coverage, a lot of support from the community. And so I think that it was a success. you have been an accidental fundraiser for two years now. I am sure that you have some stories to tell some lessons learned. What would you tell our listeners who have either been where you are or are striving to get there? What advice would you give? Don’t be afraid to try new things and don’t be scared when they fail.
Sometimes a great idea. Isn’t going to be as great as you think it was, but you should still keep pushing forward and just look at correcting it. Some of the biggest. Inventors of our time, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, they didn’t start off with a great idea and it went great the first time. It failed a lot, a lot, a lot of times before they finally got it right.
And when it comes to fundraising, it’s the same thing I have recently botched a sponsorship deal inadvertently by. Accidentally allowing two gyms to sponsor. And one of the gyms was our biggest sponsor. They were covering the entire cost of the event. Plus writing us a check on top of that. And we also had allowed a smaller gym to sponsor as well on a very small scale, but the bigger Jim was very offended by the fact that we went out and found another sponsorship with a competing gym.
And we ended up losing that sponsor. And that was a big mistake on my part. But, you know, I’m not going to let it scare me I’m brazen enough that I’m going back to that sponsor here in the next week and asking him again, if he will sponsor our event and coming to him with a plan on this is going to be our plan for how to sponsor your event and promote you guys the best that we can.
And we will not. Calling any other gyms or anything like that and giving them the plan of action, like this is what we’re going to do for you this year. And that’s how it’s going to be better than what we did last year. And hopefully sitting down with him and having that conversation, he will continue to do that sponsorship with us and not afraid to have the conversation I’m not afraid of.
He says, And that’s the worst that can happen. He’s not going to hurt me. He’s not going to take me to jail. I’m not going to fund-raising jail because I made a mistake. And so I just have to know that in the back of my mind, and that does not make the conversation any easier. I’m terrified I am, but I know that it’s for the best.
I know that it’s what the mission means, and I just have to be brave enough to face my mistake and own it and deal with it. Head on. I can’t run from. And so that would be the advice that I offer is don’t be afraid of it if it fails and it might, it probably will. Just look at it again, regroup and come at it with fresh eyes, involve some of your other team members too, because when you get insight from the people that you work with and the people that are around you, sometimes they can give you a perspective that maybe you didn’t see, and that can sometimes change the course of how an event turns out or fundraising efforts.
If you’re scared of going to a new donor that maybe you’ve never spoken with before. Do a little bit of homework, look them up on Facebook. See what kind of things they’re interested in. And if you can find something that you can relate to, you’ll feel a lot less nervous going into the conversation because you know which direction you can steer that conversation from the beginning.
Talk about playing tennis, you know, talk about you both have dogs. Try to keep it lighthearted, but just don’t be afraid to fail. And if you lose one, guess what, there’s 10 more to replace them. So don’t be afraid to have the conversation. Even if you lose it, you can still try again and just keep changing it, keep working on correcting what it is that you’re saying.
So that by the time you get to the next person, every mistake you made in the first meeting, you can fix it in a second.
Kimberly: I have a question for you about social media and when you are doing a fundraising campaign, first of all, how many specific fundraising campaigns do you do a year? And then what is your strategy for kind of building them into the social posts that you already have?
Nycky: I would say, shake it up. Don’t make it all the same. The more variation you have then the better you’ll do. And it will really help you analyze again. I like to look at our data at the end of every week and look at what posts did well and which posts. The ones that didn’t do well, I don’t necessarily scrap them because sometimes they’re posts that are necessary.
Like it’s the necessary evil. We have to post that we have small groups, you know, X amount of days a week. And then we have to post their schedule. And those posts don’t ever really do well, but I got to put them on there anyways. But if I put a guest story out there and let’s say that the guests didn’t feel comfortable letting me use their picture, then I go with the stockings.
I can look at, okay. Did this post do well, even though I used a stock image, is it going to do better for me? If the guest isn’t willing to let me use their picture and I have to use a stock image, would it be better for me to just not take that guest story and do a different guest story? Instead, that’s been something that we’re working through as well.
Right now, changing the way that we use the pickup. We for the longest time I’ve been taking a profile picture of the guest, just standing there, posing for a picture. And the feedback has been so-so. I got experimental one day because I caught the guest. When I went to go get them further story, they were standing there doing dishes.
Let me just snap a picture of this. And so I took a picture of them. They were putting dishes away on a dish rack and they turned to me and smiled as they were holding the dish wrapped up and I snapped the picture. And you know, that post got way, way more. I don’t know the numbers off the top of my head, And I think that it was just because I caught her in action, doing something productive.
So evaluating the data is super important and you can just glance out. You don’t have to be an expert, or you can just look at it and it’ll tell you, oh, this post got 200 likes. This post only got five. And so we just make adjustments. And now. Make a lot of variation. So you have more data to study, make a few different types of posts, make posts with video, make posts with just photos, make posts with only text.
Although those don’t ever really work well. Lots and lots of pictures, lots and lots of videos. Those seem to get the best reactions and remember that people that are wanting to donate, they’re not necessarily wanting to donate to Gospel Rescue Mission, the brick and mortar building. They are donating to the service that we provide to our community.
So it’s your job as a fundraiser to tell that story the best way that you can. And just experiment with ways that you tell the story, tell a short version, tell a long version, put out the same story three different times in a week using different versions.
So you can see which one your audience like better. It’s just trial and error. And then once you figure it out, you just go with what works.
Kimberly: That’s great advice. I also love how on your website, you ask individuals to invest in Gospel Rescue Mission instead of donate the, the call to action on the homepage says when you invest at Gospel Rescue Missions, you are a part of a life change.
And so it’s very tangible that every dollar is going to change a life. And that’s, that’s very powerful. So I, I love that message. So. You have done so much, Nicki as an accidental fundraising rock star, just diving in and truly, you know, testing and learning as you go. Can you share with me what was most terrifying to you as you started two years ago?
Nycky: It was probably the fact that I had no idea what it was that I was supposed to be doing. I knew that social media was a huge thing that they wanted me to take over. And I knew that day one. So that’s what I focused on. I also knew that my job was going to be event planning and we had an event coming up and it was an event that other staff members already knew.
Like they already had a good system going on. So I. Worked my way into the system and found places that I could fit in. But other than that, I had no idea what the rest of my day was supposed to look like. So I didn’t know anything about donor retention. I didn’t know anything about cultivating new donors.
I just tried to relate everything to sales. And so the most nerve wracking thing I’ve probably had to do was picking up the phone for the first time and calling a lapsed donor. And asking them to renew their donation. And that was probably the most wracking thing because in sales, I never really had to do that.
So that, that was something new to me. And I felt kind of like a collections agent. But I just told myself, this is what you’re getting paid for. This is your job. This is what’s good for the mission.
This is what’s good for the. And if I don’t try to get this donor back, then they’re just going to donate their funds to somebody different. So it’s on you sister, put your big girl pants on and make the phone call. And so nervous, nervous, sweating, and shaking. I pick up the phone and dial the phone number and it was the sweetest little old lady and she was just darling.
And she was in a financial situation that she couldn’t give, like as regularly as she had wanted to give. But she did tell her. That she had $20 for me, if I would be interested in coming by and picking it up and I throw the old adage about, is the juice worth the squeeze out the window? And I say, you know what, I’m going to go talk to this lady and, and pick up her $20 for her.
And this was right after COVID started SAR, brought her a face mask because we had some volunteers that made some for free for us at the mission. And so I brought her a face mask. She gave me $20 and then she cried. And it was the most heartwarming conversation I’ve ever had, but I was so terrified to make that phone call.
Kimberly: Wow. And look what happened as you did. Incredible. Okay. So two years in, what’s terrifying for you now.
Nycky: Now I would say that it’s just trying to do better than the previous year. How do you top double the revenue? almost triple. Like how do you top that? And so.
That’s what’s scary to me now. How do we keep it going? How do I know that it wasn’t just, COVID pumping our numbers up, you know, how do you know? You don’t know? So I’m just stepping out in faith that God’s got this, he’s got the mission. He’s got what’s best for us in his heart. And I’m just going to continue to do the work.
I’m going to go at it. It’s fearlessly as I can. And yang, I’m going to be scared to try new things. But I’m terrified of take talk. I don’t even want to touch the app, but I know I’m going to have to, because that’s what’s best for mission.
Kimberly: Well, and I also love that you leaned into your strengths at the beginning, and I know that you will continue to do that, but you’re also branching out and really challenging yourself to try new things.
Nikki, if our listeners want to get connected with you and learn more about Gospel Rescue Mission, where’s the best place
Nycky: to do. Probably our Facebook page, which is at G R N Muskogee. They can also check out our website, which is GRM, muskogee.org. So G R M like Gospel Rescue Mission.
Kimberly: Now it’s time for the state of the sector brought to you by network for good.
One thing that I love about Gospel Rescue Mission is the team’s willingness to jump in. Help each other out and try something new when people and nonprofits are busy, pursuing their big goals and executing their mission, they can lose sight of doing just that,
Let’s face it many days are about surviving the day to day, more than thriving, but as a leader and an accidental fundraiser. There was some small things that you can do to create a culture of curiosity and growth leadership and author Galen, Emmanuelle offers three steps towards creating a culture of saying yes, and I have to laugh because one of the themes of the show is to do just that, to realize that yes, yes, you can do that thing.
You’ve been dreaming about So let’s talk about Galen’s three simple steps to get there. First, be willing to challenge your initial reaction. It’s normal to think that, you know, what’s best for your organization.
But as your initial reaction, holding you back and holding your organization back that no, we can’t do this because we don’t have the time. We don’t have the money. We don’t have the expertise. We don’t have the supporter base boy, that list could go on and on. And on other times we use an excuse for our know like, Hmm.
We can’t use donor dollars for that. What we are saying is that we know it is bad. And something new isn’t what’s best. And maybe that’s true. Maybe you shouldn’t use those donor dollars for that initiative, but is that really the answer? Because unless you have asked your donors what they want, you don’t really know what they would say.
The second thing to do is to use the phrase, tell me more to listen and learn, practice diving deeper into the possibility before you make a quick decision.
Kimberly: This could be a great opportunity to learn something new. Remember how Gospel Rescue Mission wanted to start using Tik TOK for communications. If you were the decision maker, what would you have? Many accidental fundraisers may not be well-versed in social media. How can you leverage this idea to learn more?
And please don’t tell me that your base of supporters are older and they just don’t use social media. So you shouldn’t even try it. That’s making a huge generalization. There are so many older individuals who are active on social media today. So perhaps you can survey your base to find out which social media tools they’re using and what you might want to try.
The third thing is, is there another version of yes. That you can use? So, okay. The idea may not be feasible, but you can still say yes to the person who brought it forward, either by applauding their creativity or their initiative. What can you say yes. To in a way that it courages future creativity and future team effort.
If you find yourself prone to saying no more than you. Then ask yourself how you can postpone having an opinion or making a decision, give yourself the time to thoroughly, consider the possibility in both new and positive ways. You know, that might just be the key to creating a stronger culture for trying new things across your organization.
To wrap up the episode, what are the three things you need to take away from this? Let’s go. Be fearless, jump in, try new technology and think about new ways to engage your supporters, to settle a dangerous goals and get everyone on your team involved to create that excitement around it. Three it’s okay to fail.
Keep on trying, keep stepping out of your comfort zone to try new things. There is a quote from Abraham Maslow, the American psychologist who was best known for creating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs the Coco’s in any given moment, we have two options to step forward into growth or to step back, to see.
When faced with a new idea, what will you do?
Yes, you can. I’m Kimberly. See you next time on Accidental Fundraiser and be sure to follow along wherever you get your audio.