Two Nonprofits Reflect on Their Growth from Email Marketing, One Year Later

At Constant Contact, we love sharing success stories from our email marketing customers.

We recently checked in with two nonprofits we had previously featured—Winter Park Harvest Festival and Fairy DogParents—to see how they had grown since we last spoke with them.

They’re both relatively new organizations, having started in 2010 and 2009, respectively, so we were curious to learn what this year had brought.

How far had they come since 2011? Where is their organization now and where is it heading in the future?

As you set your own goals for 2013, we hope these stories will inspire you as much as they inspire us!

A celebration of local food — Winter Park Harvest Festival

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Winter Park Harvest Festival was founded in 2010 as a way to celebrate the local food scene in Winter Park, Florida.

When we first talked to founder John Rife, he had just completed the second annual festival. Armed with a $4,000 marketing budget and his staff of three, he used EventSpot to manage the event online and Email Marketing for promotion. That year the event played host to 3,000 people.

When we followed up with John to see how the festival had grown over the last year, we discovered that Winter Park Harvest Festival had joined forces with A Local Folkus, another organization dedicated to highlighting the local food scene of Central Florida.

Here’s what John had to say:

Where is your organization compared to where you were around this time last year?

We probably use Constant Contact about 80% more, because our audience and organization are growing.

We’ve gone from one festival to one to two festivals in difference cities. That means bigger ticket sales and bigger management needs. Because everything is going through the ‘A Local Folkus’ newsletter, we’re using that as a platform more often, too.

We’re dedicating a whole new building to the festival’s mission. It will be like the festival, except it will be open seven days a week.

The building will be called the East End Market and it’s going to incorporate the spirit of the festival with a kitchen, farmers’ market, and also function as an urban farm.

We’ll be doing a lot of programming, films, classes, and events. We’re going from four to five events a year, with the most major being the two festivals, to six or seven individual events a week.

What significant barriers have you seen over the past year?

Most challenges are smaller, technical ones in the office. Other than that, the hard part is over.

We already put in the work in creating our email marketing templates and we have the workflow down, so it’s really just a matter of copy-and-paste now.

How has the economy affected your business?

It hasn’t really affected it. Being in local food, you’re in a market when the conditions are often in your favor.

When times are good, the festival is something special to do. When times are bad, local food and farmers’ markets are a cheaper alternative to Whole Foods. People can make a special occasion out of coming to a farmers’ market and there’s no entry fee.

Year-to-year, we’ve done very well. We had about 80 vendors and 5,000 attendees last year [up from 3,000 attendees in 2011].

What do you have planned for next year?

Our multi-million dollar deal to have the indoor facility for the East End Market is big, but I think it represents something even bigger.

What we’re seeing in Florida, and what we’re part of, is a Main Street revitalization. The local food scene is an opportunity to position ourselves as a local business with the rest of the local community. We’re starting to branch out and make that connection.

With local food, you know the owner, and the same goes for most small businesses. There’s a big shift to small boutiques and at the heart of that is the relational economy. That’s what we’re trying to champion moving forward.

You might find something on the iTunes store for cheap, but you buy it in-person, because the owner is there and will have a conversation with you and give you curated content and value that you can’t get anywhere else.

Would you say your use of Constant Contact has changed over the year?

Early on, Constant Contact was a way for me to organize vendors and set up a framework. It would have taken me so many hours if we didn’t have it. There’s no way in the past that I could have managed a lot of the ticket sales and vendor applications by myself.

We weren’t getting paid, we were just doing it out of raw passion. The first year, we didn’t have a whole lot of money, either.

In the second year, with the stuff in place, all I had to do was copy and paste. Those first two years were really about logistics.

Now, Constant Contact is the cornerpiece of how we communicate with consumers and constituents. The first year, I spent six to eight hours getting through the software and setting things up. The second year, it took about an hour.

How has Constant Contact contributed to the information about your upcoming brick-and-mortar store, East End Market?

It took us a year and a half to get 400 fans on Winter Park Harvest Festival’s Facebook Page. The East End Market won’t even be open for five months, but we’re already at 600 fans.

Everything comes down to trust and our email newsletter is trusted. We don’t sell anything through it, but we’ve used it to build a lot of social capital, which is a currency we can call on that gets results.

Showing up and having a consistent, relevant presence in our newsletters and social media is super hard, because we’re so busy, but it’s one of the things we live or die by. It would be unacceptable not to have up-to-date, relevant news on Facebook or in our emails.

We’ve been big fans of Constant Contact and have used it from the very beginning. Our business has more or less been built around it, and it’s still at the core of what we do.

Helping dogs in needFairy DogParents

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When we first spoke with Fairy DogParents, founder Marlo Manning had just sent one email that had raised over $6,000 in 12 hours to help a family afford the surgery to keep their service dog.

At the beginning of 2012, the organization was really gaining momentum, helping dozens of people pay for food, medical bills, and other supplies for their canines.

We caught up with Marlo to see how the nonprofit had grown and what the organization was planning for the upcoming year.

Where is your organization compared to this time last year?

This year was an incredible year for Fairy Dogparents. We sponsored twice as many dogs in 2012 than in 2011. Actually, this year we exceeded the total number of dogs sponsored from March 2009, when we started, through December 2011.

That’s 220 dogs in one year, which helped us surpass our goal to sponsor 400 dogs by the end of 2012.  And there are still three weeks left this year.

What significant barriers have you seen over the year?

Keeping up with it all was a challenge. We don’t have any staff and all of our volunteers work, so we’re always playing catch-up.

Our community supporters have been really active this year and it takes a lot of attention to properly nurture those relationships.

Fundraising was also a challenge. We went to a lot of events this year and realized that our time is better spent combining email and social media marketing with our own fundraisers.

Cutting costs was tough, too, because only a handful of veterinarians give us a discount, even though we’re a charity and spend over $150,000 per year for treatment at vets.

On the plus side, we tripled our volunteer base and are still interviewing more people who want to be part of our pack.

We were so fortunate to be featured on the CNN Heroes series, because that really opened up doors for us. Our board changed over, but now we have fresh faces with great ideas and the energy to push through the day-to-day challenges.

How has the economy been for your organization this year?

On the fundraising side of things, our number of donors has grown and now we have regular donors who are passionate about what we do.

We haven’t seen a drop-off. Actually, we received two of the largest donations in our history this year: one was for $10,000 and one was for $18,000. It was incredible.

From the perspective of sponsorship, the difficult economy has impacted the number of dogs we sponsor. As I mentioned before, we doubled what we sponsored in 2011. In 2012 alone, we sponsored more dogs in need of financial assistance than we did from March 2009 through December 2011.

What do you have planned for next year?

We have a lot planned. We’ve engaged with a fundraising consultant and are recruiting a few new board members, so we can grow our pack of volunteers to 50 or more by the end of the year.

Our goal for 2013 is to raise $200,000 and sponsor 300 dogs. We also plan to engage with a Preferred Veterinary Network by seeking out vets who believe in our mission and are willing to give us a discount so we can help more dogs.

By doing so, we’ll exclusively use those vets. If we’re going to pay $150,000 a year in vet bills, it should be with vets who want us to succeed.

Would you say your use of Constant Contact has changed over the year?

Yes. We’ve streamlined our messaging, expanded our contact list by leaps and bounds, and we’ve used it to promote educational tips and fundraising drives to keep our supporters updated and bring them closer to our mission.

Looking ahead to 2013

As nonprofits get ready for 2013, it’s important to reflect on what happened in 2012. What worked this year? What didn’t? Did you notice any trends?

Fairy DogParents and Winter Park Harvest Organization grew at a rapid clip, but sometimes growth can be just as big as challenge as fundraising, because now both organizations have to think about how to scale staff, volunteers, and initiatives appropriately.

Whatever happened in 2012, use it as inspiration for what to do— and what not to do!— for 2013.

fundraisernonprofitemailWant to learn about how other nonprofits used online marketing to succeed?

Check out “A Formula For Success,” our free guide that features the stories of six nonprofits. 

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