In this video, Ryan from 6AM City shares how the seven cities that make up the 6AM family came together to raise over $40k to ensure southeast communities stay informed, engaged, and entertained during these challenging times. He also explains how they hit over 1,000 supporters in a single day with Givebutter Team Fundraising. Ryan also shares:

  • How they fostered friendly competition to increase campaign support
  • Why their 24-hour Givebutter campaign was such a huge success (Hint: Distribution strategy!)
  • Tips, tricks, and lessons learned for creating community conversations around powerful storytelling on Givebutter
“One of the really unique things about Givebutter is the way that it allows people to pay the processing fee, and it's almost a built-in component. Almost every single one of our donors covered that processing cost for us, so we were able to take the full value of their contribution, rather than just taking a percentage of what they donated.”

Keep reading for worthwhile fundraising strategies!

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Full video script

‍Rachel: Hi everyone! Rachel here with Givebutter. Thanks for joining for another inspiring Success Story from within the Givebutter community. And trust me, you're not going to want to miss this one. Today we are featuring 6AM City which–get this–hit 1000 supporters in a single day on Givebutter. Ryan, co-founder and COO of 6AM City is joining us to share how the seven cities that make up the 6AM family came together to raise over $40,000 in that same timeframe to ensure that southeast communities stay informed, engaged, and entertained as we get through this challenging time. Ryan’s also going to share what made them turn to Givebutter for their fundraising efforts as well as tips, tricks, and lessons learned. So if you're watching this and you're looking for peer-to-peer or team fundraising inspiration, look no further. Ryan, thank you so much for representing and joining us today.

‍Ryan: Hey Rachel! How are you?

Rachel: Great! How are you doing?

Ryan: Awesome. We are having a lot of fun at 6AM and enjoying being in the media space right now. It's a lot of interesting stuff going in the world, and we're happy to be part of the Givebutter family.

Rachel: Thank you so much for joining. Well, to start, why don't you go ahead and share a little bit more about who you are and what 6AM City does.

Ryan: Sure! 6AM is kind of like a hyper-local version of The Skimm or Morning Brew or Axios for people that are familiar with those daily digital newsletters that show up in your inbox and tell you about the most relevant local news and events happening in the country. We do it on a hyper-local level. So we serve seven cities across the southeastern part of the United States and are one of the fastest growing local media companies in the country. So we're pretty excited about our ability to participate and support our local communities and educating and activating people across the country.

Rachel: Exciting! So I mentioned your campaign at the start of this, and I'm wondering if you could share a little bit more about what inspired you to start this, essentially one-day campaign.

Ryan: Sure. A lot of traditional media companies and other businesses hold fundraising campaigns all year round, and they're always asking for their subscribers, members, partners, etc. to be giving and giving and giving. This model wasn't necessarily always the best, specifically in the media industry, to get contribution from its readership base. We saw others who have done short-term sprints, where they've done campaigns in a day or 24 hours that seemed to be performing better. So when COVID hit we saw an opportunity not only to help make sure we were supporting and retaining all of our staff, but also to test what this fundraising campaign might look like. And we didn't know where to start, so we reached out to a couple other folks, quickly were introduced to Givebutter, saw how easy it was going to be to get set up and rock and roll, and we pulled the trigger on a one-day campaign that proved to be very, very successful.

Rachel: And it was! So it sounds like this was, “Let's just try and see. It seems like the time is right, let's go for it. And this platform looks like it'll make it easy enough for us to get started.” So walk us through a little bit more about when you got the ball rolling. What was the set up process like? When you were thinking through your fundraising strategy, what was the conversation like on your team?

Ryan: So we were kind of kicking around the idea of doing a campaign for a while, and we really weren't actively seeking very hard. I think we searched the Internet for maybe about five minutes, came across a couple of different options, and hopped onto the Givebutter site. Some of the case studies and examples and stuff that we were able to see, it looked very intuitive. I'm an engineer by degree working in the media space, and I was quickly able to pick up some of the intuitive nature of how it would work. Created an account, played with it for about five minutes, and decided it was what we were going to do. It was that easy for us to set up. Our team took the platform over the next, maybe 48 hours. We put together an actual campaign of marketing materials that we were going to use to push it. We set it up to go live I think the next week.

Rachel: Wow.

‍Ryan: We built the entire thing–it took no more than 24 hours for us to set up our entire campaign. We actually have it built out where our parent company oversees the campaign and then each of the markets, the cities that we operate, are their own individual team members. So each of those team members got to kind of compete with each other, so the cities also saw some competitive nature. I always think back to my days doing Relay for Life, which I think is where I really first had those competitive contributions happening. We kind of took that model here, and played off of that with our different cities to get them to compete to see who could raise the most money, and it seemed to work very well. Once we got set up–I mean, there wasn't a lot to it. We hopped in, uploaded some header images, set the goals for the different markets, shared our story: what were the challenges that we were facing as a company and how we were going to use these funds to support our editorial staff. And we were done! We went and then executed on our marketing campaign to get the word out and the conversion was incredible.

Rachel: Amazing. Let me go ahead and share your beautiful campaign that you were just referring to so everyone can see. As you were just mentioning, you have all the different cities represented right here where we're looking. You better believe I read every word of this story because it is so well done. Anybody who's watching right now, if you feel really stuck and you don't know where to get started in terms of storytelling, this is an awesome example. Why don't you walk us through how you told the story? Because that can be tricky for people.

Ryan: Yeah! Well, so I didn't write any of it.

Ryan: To be very candid, we have an incredible team of editors.

Rachel: Right.

Ryan: One of the things that we do is create media in a short, digestible format. There's another company called Axios that calls it smart brevity. So the ability to take the story, make it compact, highlight with bolded headlines the things that stand out and are most important–as we know, most people don't read everything. But really pulling out the most important, relevant pieces about the brand, the hooks that are going to get people excited and interested, and make sure that you give them a reason to make an impassioned donation to support the business was really, really important. Being open and available to those who are contributing to our brand was also really important, but we were able to share and elevate our challenges and the opportunities for the community to support us and they came out in a big way.

Rachel: Agreed, yes! So since your team fundraisers were so successful, you had over 1600 people that contributed during this timeframe, which is an amazing success. Could you share a little bit more about what it was like to coordinate multiple teams as well?

Ryan: Sure. We naturally have management over all of our different markets, we have staff in each of these different cities, and we put out a product every day. So for us, we actually only had one person who helped to oversee the distribution of this. We actually created a Google Doc that had all of the assets for each city linked to a Google Drive folder with the assets for each city and the marketing copy to use in each of the different markets. We had links to each of their specific team pages. So we had someone administratively on our side. The pages for each market are all set up to be uniform and consistent, you'll see the same story on each page. Everything was kind of pre-packaged. We had one person do it, and it did not take very long at all. Leveraging Google Docs and just sharing all the links to the assets let the distribution work very seamlessly for all members of our team. Then they were able to push that in their local market on the day that we pushed the campaign live, and it worked very well for us.

Rachel: Yes!

Ryan: What you just pulled up on the screen might be worth talking about. We love this. This is probably one of the biggest reasons that I fell in love with this as an engineer-mind. The ability to donate and to support the individual markets was so easy and seamless. To be able to just select a price point and a market and hit go converted very well for us. I really liked the engagement and the comment section here. I'd like to talk more about that in a second; there's some really good stuff in the commentary. That was the most valuable piece of this entire thing for us, having people be able to submit messages and send pictures and stuff was pretty cool. And then as they move on through that process, one of the really unique things about Givebutter is the way that it allows people to pay the processing fee, and it's almost a built-in component. Almost every single one of our donors covered that processing cost for us, so we were able to take the full value of their contribution, rather than just taking a percentage of what they donated. So what you see right here in this example–our staff love this, I love this–but it really helped us to take home a lot bigger chunk of cash for our business versus losing that piece off the top, which is a necessity in any of these campaigns. I found Givebutter to be a lot less expensive as generally things go with this process.

Ryan: And it was highly rewarding. There's really not a big fee particularly to use Givebutter as a process. Our donors can support Givebutter, we can support Givebutter. The cost of doing business here was very effective and made the whole entire thing work a lot better for us.

Rachel: Right, I'm so glad to hear that. So what were some of the supporter messages that you were referring to?

Ryan: Yeah, the coolest thing right? So the 1600+ contributors in literally about 24 hours gave us about 1200 comments on the side. One of the things that works best as a business is the ability to provide this validation to our advertisers or sharing about why people should participate with us–comes directly from these comments about how we’re a resource to the community, how we've helped their business, etc. There's a lot of different pieces of feedback and commentary that we captured over time that really helped to support more so the sales efforts for our business than anything, and also on the fundraising side. A lot of people think about a fundraiser as a nonprofit venture and you're weighing different nonprofit-giving platforms. And then you have the for-profit side which is, you know, maybe more GoFundMe, sometimes.

Ryan: I found that Givebutter really fit in a good model that works for you whether you are a for-profit or nonprofit business. You're able to withdraw the funds immediately out of the platform, you're not waiting to achieve some sort of goal. It really lets you put the money to work quickly within your business. So I do think that Givebutter fits really well no matter what type of business or nonprofit structure your set up in. It was very seamless in that capacity and to be able to draw the money out was greatly beneficial to us. But yeah, again, the comments were a wonderful addition and tool set and set of resources that allow us as a business to give that back to our community. We're literally going to publish all of the comments that we got back in something called a Mailbag to share with our followers all the great feedback we got from them afterwards.

Rachel: I love that idea! That's really unique. I haven't heard that from any other campaign before, that they’re recycling the awesome copy and feedback that they're getting on the supporter feed, and I think that's a wonderful idea. So if you had to give a word of wisdom, I should say, to any fundraiser that's watching: for-profit, nonprofit, individual–really Givebutter’s built for anybody raising funds for a good cause. What would you say would be your words of wisdom for them as they're running their fundraiser?

Ryan: I think the most important thing that we did that made this successful was a strategy about distribution of the fundraising platform. The platform itself is amazing and very easy to use, but if you're only sending out your fundraiser to a small list of maybe 1000 or so followers or friends, you're not getting the reach and impact by reaching a larger number of people. We, by the nature of our business, have access to a much larger audience across different cities. But I think finding strategic partnerships and alliances with people who have large email distribution lists–the ability to push your fundraiser to a large number of people in an efficient manner, where they can click immediately and be on the donation page–is really important. Also making sure that you're sharing it equally on social media. We even found that you could pay to promote the giving campaign through social media.

Ryan: There's a lot of opportunity for the distribution, but if you don't lever all of your angles to get the message out in front of the largest audience possible, you're going to naturally fall shorter than your expectations. But our marketing campaign pushed this across every single social platform that we work with, and through our newsletter products. To put some numbers on that, we distributed this to about a quarter million people at one time, at 6 o'clock one morning, and didn't push it additionally. And it brought in about $40,000 for the campaign.

Rachel: Yes. Thank you for reminding us all the importance of distribution and what we do to publicize our campaigns–it cannot be overstated. So I am wondering, to close, what is the future of fundraising for 6AM City.

Ryan: I think that we're looking at using fundraising in a campaign style probably on an annual basis for our business. I think we'll see a greater impact in that capacity, being in the media space. Then we've also looked at fundraising to support other businesses that work with our company. Several times people are looking to have outreach through our platform, and I think there's a model here where we can help support local businesses who are trying to fundraise. Many times you'll see local businesses who are raising for their local gala or nonprofit event. I think that there's a bigger opportunity, as a publisher in the media space, to partner with the nonprofits to get greater distribution. And with a platform like this, the conversion was so easy that we can help elevate this and create this as an opportunity for some of the people who we work with in our different cities. We will be using it. We're big fans of the platform. It worked very well for us and will be advocating that others continue to use it as well.

Rachel: Well, thank you so much for your support. We are so proud to have you in the Givebutter family. Congrats on all your success that you've had in this campaign. We can't wait to see 2021: what you're going to come up with, what you're going to do next. I think you gave everybody who's watching, listening, or reading so much to think more about and talk more about on their teams and strategize. You gave us some new ideas that haven't been shared yet. So thank you for offering that to all of us and we wish you all the best during this time.

Ryan: Sounds good. Thank you so much, Rachel. Have a wonderful day!

Rachel: You too!

Ryan: Bye bye.

View campaign: Wake Up Local + Join the Conversation

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Rachel Mills

Rachel Mills

Givebutter Marketing & Contributing Writer

Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.

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