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Case Study: A Unique Way To Collect Donations on Your WordPress Website

Nice Work LogoI am excited to announce that I recently formed a joint venture called Nice Work, LLC with Evelyn Powers of Design Powers (a future blog post about that is coming!). Evelyn and I have kept our own successful businesses, but have also partnered to expand the scope of what we can offer to small and medium businesses. By collaborating and combining our skills we are able to provide more strategic digital branding, marketing and website services. Our collaboration was born out of exciting work we did together for a local non-profit, the Arlington Food Assistance Center.

Here’s the story

(Also shared last week on the Give website.)

Hunger isn’t just a global issue. Facing the reality that children in U.S communities go hungry every day is difficult, at best. The Arlington Food Assistance Center in Arlington (AFAC), Virginia distributes groceries to more than 2,200 families every week to take on this challenge in their community. Over 35% of the people they serve everyday are children.

Prior to working with us, AFAC was using a third-party donation software to collect online donations. This meant they were losing about 10% of each donation to fees. To make matters worse, as the third party collected donations from AFAC donors, those same donors were solicited for support from the vendor for its own charity upon checkout and throughout the year.

Gravity Forms and PayPal:

In 2014, I removed the third-party system and created a donation platform on AFAC’s website which used Gravity Forms to collect online donations via PayPal. The result: a 33% increase in web gifts for AFAC, and AFAC retaining sole propriety of their donor data.

Building our Personal Fundraising Plugin:

Since personal fundraising is popular with third-party donors, earlier this year Evelyn and I proposed that AFAC create a program to allow users to create their own Personal Fundraising Campaign. As well-known charity in the region, people in the community were looking for ways to help AFAC. Some held food drives, others volunteered their time in service, doing things like bagging food or collecting food from donation centers. We knew that AFAC sometimes turned away volunteers because the volunteer spots filled up so quickly, and that the community was eager to help feed those in need.

Why We Chose Give:

Many third-party donation systems offer a personalized “peer-to-peer” fundraising program, but setting up such a system via Gravity Forms or Give was not an out-of-the-box solution available for AFAC’s WordPress website. So we enlisted the help of Tom Ransom, of One Big Idea, to create a Personal Campaign Plugin that works with Give to offer the front and back end functionality for personal fundraising campaigns.

We chose Give as the basis for this plugin because it already contained a solid donation platform and reporting, so it was relatively straightforward to extend the donation system with custom fields and code to create a separate plugin that works with Give to allow donations to be registered on a per-campaign basis. One Big Idea did an excellent job of writing code that works seamlessly with Give, integrating the reporting of Give with customization which shows donations for each personal campaign.

The AFAC website uses a Gravity Form, and Gravity Form Custom Fields, to allow a user to create a personal campaign, with a featured image, a fundraising goal and short description. Once submitted, this form triggers the Personal Campaign Plugin to create a new campaign in draft status, until an AFAC administrator approves it.

Integrating Personal Fundraising with a Genesis Build:

AFAC Create a Fundraiser

Upon approval, an automatic email is sent to the organizer, giving them a link to share their campaign page with friends and family. When donations to the campaign are made, the organizer, as well as AFAC staff, receive an email notification that a donation was made to that campaign.

A thank you email is also sent to the donor. The gauge on the campaign page shows the fundraising status, as well as a list of donors.

Personal Fundraiser Campaign

On the back end, the Give Plugin transaction list shows these donations, and a new column has been added to show which campaign the donation was for.

Personal Fundraiser Report

The AFAC site is built with Genesis, so One Big Idea also built a custom widget, similar to the Genesis Featured Posts widget, which allows selected “Featured” campaigns to be featured in the widget area on the Home Page.

Personal Fundraiser Widget

AFAC Personal Fundraisers

Now that the new website is up and running, AFAC is planning a marketing strategy to promote the new personal fundraising campaigns and get the word out.

Email campaigns and marketing materials like bus signs have been proposed for later in 2016.

AFAC Bus Tail

Check out our personal fundraising campaign and share it to help feed hungry people in Arlington, Virginia!.

Plans for the future of a more general, public-use version of the Personal Fundraising Campaign are still evolving.

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