Kelly Velasquez-Hague discusses social giving

Episode aired August 19, 2021: Social Giving

The 2021 Giving Experience Study, published by OneCause, showcases the changes philanthropy, fundraising, donors and comms have undergone during Corona. As Kelly Velasquez-Hague notes, those changes aren’t going away when the pandemic does. In this episode Kelly discusses 

  • how lockdown made giving more accessible and diverse
  • what will determine whether people want to return to in-person events
  • what motivates social donors to give again
  • the positive changes in Millennial giving
  • how to make giving easy for social donors and
  • what fundraising trends will continue after corona ends.   

Below you can listen, watch or read this podcast episode.

Ephraim: Welcome to this edition of the Your Weekly Dose of Nonprofit podcast, the podcast that delivers actionable items you can implement at your organization right away. I’m your host Ephraim Gopin of 1832 Communications. Today I’m really happy to have with us a nonprofit pro and content marketing strategist, Kelly Velasquez-Hague. Kelly, how are you doing today?

Kelly: I’m doing great and this is the best part of my day so far, so I can’t wait to just start talking.

Ephraim: Woohoo! I’m glad to hear that. Let’s introduce you to our listeners, watchers and readers.

Kelly brings more than 20 plus years of fundraising nonprofit management and sales and marketing experience to her role at OneCause. Prior to OneCause, she was in nonprofit fundraising as a director of development for a private school in Chicago. She has chaired and participated on many charitable boards and fundraising events over the years. As VP of content marketing and brand engagement at OneCause, Kelly manages the company’s content, including webinars, blogs, ebooks and case studies. She’s passionate about empowering great missions and loves that her current role allows her to continue to help nonprofits reach new donors and raise more funds.

What Is Social Giving?

In today’s episode, we’re going to discuss social giving. Let’s dive right in. Kelly, how do you define social donors and social giving?

Kelly: So this is interesting and before I answer that, I’m going to back up and this is a continuation  that… the Giving Experience Study is a continuation on a study we did in 2018 on social donors. It was really this new group of donors that we saw emerging and we defined them as people who give to events or peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns. They’re really motivated through social giving, whether that’s social media or hearing about opportunities to their friends but they’re giving centers around social relationships, social connections. And so when we define social donors, what we’re specifically saying in this study is somebody who donated or attended a fundraising event, someone who sponsored or participated in an event- such as a run, walk or ride- or somebody who donated or requested donations as part of a fundraising challenge or an occasion giving or a giving day. So really it encompasses everything from events to peer-to-peer social fundraising.

How Social Giving Improves Access To Philanthropy

Ephraim: Okay. That’s pretty broad. So now we’re gonna dive into the details. As you mentioned, OneCause conducted a large research study into social giving and the next couple of questions I’m gonna ask are based on that study. One of the many findings was that social giving and virtual formats improve access to philanthropy. How so and for who?

Kelly: So this was super interesting. What we really did… a little bit more about the study before I answer this question is, we wanted to see how did the pandemic impact this group? In 2018, social donors were 27% of the giving population, like 56 million people. In a time of social distancing, how was social giving impacted in a pandemic?

What we found was so surprising. It was like the lockdown actually opened up giving to more people, virtual and online campaigns, virtual online events made giving and philanthropy more accessible, because people didn’t have to pay for large ticketed events, get in their cars. They could cross geographic distribution channels that they had never gotten into before. I mean you could go from Israel and tune into an event in Spokane, Washington. It really broadened up.

But what we learned is that it really made it make giving more accessible for younger groups and more diverse groups. And what do we mean by that is, I’m going to start with the diverse groups and diverse giving and then I’m going to jump down to the younger. But we found that during the pandemic, in the last 12 months, Black and Hispanic donors were giving at higher rates than they had in the past. Hispanic donors were up to 22% had given and considered themselves social donors. 19% Black donors and then…and that’s up significantly. When we did the same survey in 2018, Black donors only made up 7% of the social donor population. So they went from seven to nineteen percent. So really this idea of accessibility and what I really like to say is inclusivity in giving, in a virtual and online environment, was huge during the pandemic and that’s a plus. I mean as nonprofits and fundraisers, we want to bring as many people to our causes as we can and we found that the virtual and the online format of fundraising worked very well to do that.

Now let’s talk about getting younger. This is actually probably one of my favorite stats from it. As you know, we have rung our hands in fundraising for the last decade and a half worrying about what would happen with Millennials as Boomers age out and Matures age out and we as a society sit on the cusp of the largest wealth transfer in history. We have worried will the Millennials show up and the answer in this study is, they showed up and not only did they show up, we call them the ‘caretakers of the pandemic.’ Millennials gave to more nonprofits, they gave more money, they gave to more new nonprofits. They also gave the most to sustain nonprofits during the pandemic. So this idea that we worried, were Millennials going to become a part of philanthropy? They are and they’ve demonstrated this over the last year and they now represent, Millennials and Gen Z represent the majority of social donors.

I think what’s super important about this is not just the fact that they showed up and stepped up, but how are we as nonprofits thinking about because the time is now. Are you capturing them? Are you talking to them? Are you directing your campaigns and your events to include not just younger donors but also the diverse donors I spoke about earlier?  

What Motivates Social Givers To Give Again

Ephraim: That’s fascinating results from the study about those groups and certainly encouraging in terms of the inclusivity and bringing more people into the world of philanthropy. That’s important for nonprofits to hear and then to focus on and start building that out. Another thing from the study: 31% of social givers in 2020 were first-time givers to the organization they donated to. What motivators impact a social donor to consider giving a second time or even becoming a recurring donor or a monthly donor?

Kelly: I love this one. … publicity, there is the best advice. We all as fundraisers and as human beings, has to be incredibly complicated to be profound. Sometimes it’s the most simple things that are profound and when we ask donors, what does it take for you to give and give again? The three factors- and I feel like we all know this but to have them tell us this and then construct our programs accordingly is one thing- but they said they want to know that their donation makes a difference. That’s the number one factor. I give to you because I know that you will be a good steward of that resource and that you will go and drive impact with that. So helping them make them feel like their donation makes a difference and understand, that is number one. Number two that the process was easy. Number three that they enjoy the campaign or the event.

So I wanted to just take a minute to break these three things down, because again, super simple but what do we do with that information? We need to make sure, in order for them to feel like their donation makes a difference and this makes sense, right? We were all socially distanced. We wanted to know with those things that we did that we were creating impact. And so what do we need to do as nonprofits? We need to make sure we’re embracing impact statements. We need to make sure that in our social posts and also in our email communications that we’re bringing the mission to the forefront, that we’re talking about what happens with a gift and really connecting them to the fact that what they do not just sustains your cause but creates a positive impact on the other end. So really getting very clear and granular with that. 

As far as the second thing, the process of donating was positive and easy. I kind of go like duh but it’s so true when we think about this. We used to think that there was a divide between… we put on our donor hat and we’re willing to tolerate a really bad giving experience. It’s no longer the case, especially in the pandemic where we did everything on our phones, from ordering our groceries to registering for programs. Whatever. Everything is this and we as donors are also very sophisticated consumers and so we’re used to click buying experiences on Amazon. Donors want the same thing from their giving experience. So as nonprofits we have to examine our giving experience through the eyes of our donors, go through our processes and make sure that it’s easy to give. Make sure that there’s not 52 steps from the time they land on your page or go from your social post to clicking donate. So ease has to be at the center of everything we do.  

And then enjoying the campaign or the event it has to be fun and this is going to continue past the pandemic. People do things because they enjoy them. It’s neurological. It’s the human condition. You have to make fundraising fun and we saw in the pandemic nonprofits getting incredibly creative. We have a group called “The Shower  Strike.” It’s out of Texas. Their campaign is you don’t shower for a week until you reach your fundraising goal. They are able to have huge amplification and bring in so many new donors because giving is fun and it’s unique. As nonprofits I think we need to take a step back and learn from these virtual challenges and virtual campaigns, about ways to truly make giving enjoyable. 

Ephraim: I like that that example, although I’m glad I don’t live in Texas anywhere near those…

Kelly: They get little kids to do it, they get octogenarians to do it. It’s really about making it fun.

How To Make Giving Easier

Ephraim: I love that. I love that idea. Today’s actionable item: Based on the study, the three top reasons social givers cited for donating was one, ease of giving; two, mission of the organization; and then three, the impact that their gift would have. Could you share with us please three things that nonprofits need to do in order to make giving easy for new or current donors.

Kelly: Absolutely. I think the first tangible thing to do is to map out your donor journey, your donor experience. I talked about trying to…. … it out. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Get post-it notes and stick them on the wall and be like literally from the time… and I would even do it by channels. From the time they click on a social media post and go to our donation page, what happens? From the time they receive an email from us and they go to our giving page, what happens? What are we asking them to do from the time they are on our website? Whatever channel. You get this and you got an ebook that we’re featuring, coming out. You got to look at it channel by channel. But you got to map it out as well and really understand that journey and understand not just what you’re asking them to do but also how you’re communicating what your impact is at every step along the way.

I would say the other thing that nonprofits really… I hope they do is focus on improving the mobile experience. Mobile and text donations in the study increased three times, threefold, between 2018 to 2021. People are doing everything on their phones including giving and they’re giving any time of the day or night. In the Starbucks line, at the grocery store, in their bed, dropping their kids off in the carpool line. But you got to make sure the mobile experience is easy. That’s not to say that they won’t be on your website but make sure you’re testing what is that giving experience like for the phone user. There’s some crazy stat out there that’s like… I forget. I’ll get it wrong but let’s just do it anyway, like 90% of the day your phone’s within two feet of you um and so the phone is central to giving now. Then also, I think the most important thing… what we try to derive from the study is okay, what did we learn about giving in a time of social distance?

But it’s not an extinction moment like, oh we’re gonna stop and then we’re going to go back to the way things were. This is going to continue on and we hope that some of the trends will continue on and in the 143 nonprofit interviews I’ve done since the pandemic, they’ve all said one thing which is our third recommendation: We will keep a virtual element in everything we do and so yes, we’re really encouraging nonprofits yes, go back to the ballroom, go back to the golf course, go back to the race track but make sure you’re keeping virtual in the mix so that you can reach those younger donors that we talked about, so that you can make it accessible for more diverse audiences and so that you can also make it comfortable for your older donors who aren’t necessarily going to want to get back in person anytime soon. Keep that virtual a part of your mix and make sure that as you’re mapping out your calendar, you’ve got your in person and your online and your virtual experiences as part of your strategy.

Learn More About Kelly

Ephraim: Perfect. I like all three of those. Very important. Let’s move to the lightning round and learn more about you. What got you started on your corporate, slash nonprofit, career path?

Kelly: So real quick before I answer that. I was so excited to hear that you were doing a lightning round, because I’m a huge Brene Brown fan and I listened to all of her podcasts and so she does at the end of her podcast speed lightning questions, Rapid fire I think she calls it and I’ve always wanted to do rapid fire.

So to your question, what got you started on your corporate career path. I have a really random background. I was an English major, came out of college in the 90s without really very high career prospects, like most English majors back then and a lot of regular majors as well. I decided to go to grad school because I was going to be a professor. To go to grad school, I worked for a management consulting company. It was called Anderson Consulting then but now is called Accenture and I did writing for them and a bunch of other things. Hacked my wares so I could pay for grad school. One of the principals who’s now an exec at Amazon said to me at the time, don’t go to grad school. You can think, you can write, you can do all this stuff. Be a management consultant and so that’s what started me on my corporate career path. Then when I decided to have kids, we made the choice to stay home with them.

So I then found myself sitting on charitable boards and fundraising and doing galas and doing events and putting together silent auctions. Then came the decision, they were like hey, you’re really good at this. You want to be a fundraiser? As a director of development, which all then led me to the time I said, this is crazy, putting all this effort into auctions. It’s like a full-time crazy job. Somebody’s got to make it easier. Along came in Bidpal which is now OneCause. I was one of the first customers on their technology platform in Chicago. After I got done being a fundraiser, they said hey, you can write, you can think and now you know fundraising. Come work for us and so now I get to take my passion for all those things and most importantly talk to nonprofits every day, to help them figure out ways to be better, smarter, faster fundraisers.

Ephraim: So life takes sometimes a circuitous route until you find what… that’s all good. As long as you get to where you’re supposed to be going.  

Kelly: Stay passionate about what you’re doing, I think.

Ephraim: Yes exactly. So given all your years now in the nonprofit world, if there’s one thing you could shake up in the nonprofit, world what would it be?

 Kelly: Wow I’m stumped, because I would have said before the pandemic that it would be more creativity and fundraising but I think I saw nonprofits all over the world, all over the country rise to the occasion and get incredibly creative. I think the one thing that I would shake up is this desire to run back to what we did before and the desire to forget the pandemic and close the door on it. Let’s forget the pandemic but let’s find the silver linings and let’s bring them forward into our fundraising and I really hope that we can take the best of what we learned, about what engages donors and what’s effective and bring it forward and carry it with us.

Ephraim: Cosign. Which marketing buzzword do you hate the most?  

Kelly: I’m probably gonna make some people mad with this one because it spans into fundraising too but I hate the word engagement, not because I hate engagement. I love engagement and donor engagement and engaging our donors and all of those engagement terms. But everybody has a different definition of what engagement is and so I don’t feel like we’re all aligned on what it is. So I just wish that somebody would have a standard definition of engagement and it wasn’t this kind of amorphous thing that is all over, many things to many people.

Ephraim: Kelly is throwing out a challenge to everyone who’s listening or watching or reading. Get on it. Let’s get a unified definition of the word engagement.

Kelly: Please please. I’ve got some OneCause swag for anybody who can give me a unified definition of engagement.

Ephraim: Now there’s incentive as well.

Kelly: Gamification.

Ephraim: Excellent excellent. Tell me something Kelly. Why Chicago?

Kelly: Chicago is because I went to go to grad school there but now I have a surprise for you, because I’m not in Chicago anymore. I’ve moved to California as of this last weekend and that’s why you see all the sunlight leading into the window. But why California? I grew up here. I went to the Midwest to go to grad school in Chicago and swore to myself that someday I would never witness winter ice again. We just sent our youngest off to college or getting ready to and my husband and I looked at each other and said, let’s go back to California.

Ephraim: Oh this is fun. I’ve got breaking news here.

Kelly: You do.

Ephraim: Good timing for me. You mentioned this earlier. You majored in English language and literature. Now I’m sure you’ve read all the classics and you could discuss them in depth but I’m going to go in a different direction. What’s your favorite Dr. Seuss book?

Kelly: My favorite Dr. Seuss book because it has a social message, which many of them do, is the Star Belly Sneetches. I probably am not using the official title but it’s the one where if you have a star belly, if you have a star on your belly, then you can go to the best beaches and you can go do the best things but if you don’t have a star on your belly, you get excluded from all those things. I think that Dr. Seuss had a beautiful way and I hope we still continue to read this to our children and we read it ourselves, encouraging us to create a more inclusive society and set aside our biases.  

Ephraim: Excellent excellent answer. I like very much. Lastly let’s turn the table. You get to ask me a question. I have no clue what’s coming. It can be about anything, not just nonprofit world. Go ahead.

 Kelly: So I know from a previous conversation with you that you are an 80s music buff. If one was going to create an 80s mixtape or Spotify playlist, what are the five must-have songs that would need to be on that playlist?

Ephraim: Let’s see. I have to think. I’ll tell you why. I’m trying to jog my memory very quickly. So last summer for my birthday I did a 24-hour zoom-a-thon. I kid you not. 24 straight hours on zoom and I counted down the top my favorite 48 songs of the 80s. I was turning 48, so I counted that. I can already tell you that the top two… one is the song ‘Invincible’ by Pat Benatar and for those of you who are wondering why that song specifically, not just because it’s a great song but it is the first video I ever saw on MTV in the summer of 85. So that’s why it sticks in my head and it’s my favorite 80s song. Anything by a Canadian band by the name of Glass Tiger. I was in high school in Toronto in the 80s. Their first album literally just came out 35 years ago, 35 years and 12 days ago. Don’t ask me why I know that. So anything by Glass Tiger would end up going number two. I cannot tell you if I remember for sure what else was in that top five, although I have to think that Brian Adams ‘Summer of 69’ has to be on that list somewhere in there. I wish I could remember but I will put in the transcript of this, I will put a link to… I put the list online on my website. I have all 48 songs sitting there on the website.  

Kelly: I’ll check it out.

Ephraim: But definitely Pat Benatar’s ‘Invincible’, that’s number one, I already know that. And then Glass Tiger was just number two. That’s for sure.