Trailblazing Big Brothers Big Sisters of America Affiliates Make the Move to Classy

5 min
big brothers big sisters of america
Meredith Kavanagh

When Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) ended their preferred platform agreement with Blackbaud, each affiliate needed to decide if they wanted to pay the full price to stay on Blackbaud or find a new online fundraising solution.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Miami Valley started by checking out the new version of their current software on Blackbaud. “We were already used to the platform, but we didn’t 100 percent love it, so it wasn’t a ‘we-have-to-keep-them-around-no-matter-the-cost’ kind of thing,” said Finance Manager Luisa Hocking.

As the full cost of Blackbaud was out of their budget, they investigated a few additional platforms, but none had the look and feel they were after—until they found Classy.

“I loved the look of Classy right from the get-go. The price was within our budget, and it had everything we needed—from peer-to-peer to customization abilities that allowed our website to look the way we wanted it to look,” Luisa said.

Here at Classy, when we realized over a dozen Big Brothers Big Sisters of America affiliates grew their online fundraising revenue after switching from Blackbaud to Classy, we knew there were valuable stories to share.

Which is why we sat down with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Miami Valley and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago (BBBSMC) to dig into their success. Below, we review how these unique affiliates both grew their online donations, ticket sales, and fundraising events within their first year of fundraising on Classy.

BFKS Miami Valley

Getting Started

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Miami Valley dove in headfirst and launched an aggressive year-end campaign just days after partnering with Classy. They diversified their strategy and added Classy to their fundraising mix alongside their direct mail and email strategies and raised 436 percent more funds in 2017 than the previous year.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago was also drawn to Classy’s user-friendly interface and customization features. According to Stephanie Foster, the manager of special events at BBBSMC, “Classy is easy to use for both our staff and our guests. The clean and simple aesthetic is perfect for all types of events and it’s also incredibly easy to customize.”

BBBSMC saw a 14.4 percent overall increase in online donations and Kate Rhodes, manager of individual giving and major gifts, said she felt like it happened very organically.

“Everything from the one-off things like, ‘Hey I’m getting married and in lieu of a shower gift, please donate here’ to our special events and peer-to-peer grew with Classy.”

With the majority of BBBSMC’s larger donors in the over-50 age range, BBBSMC historically had difficulty with donor adoption of online fundraising, but this improved exponentially after partnering with Classy.

This shift was most notably demonstrated in the increase of online donations for one of their signature annual events, Cops For Kids’ Sake.

Triple-Digit Percent Increase in Online Donations

Bowl For Kids’ Sake (BFKS) is a national event for BBBSA and affiliates can put their own spin on it. Both affiliates we spoke to hosted multiple BFKS events each year—one general BFKS event and one (or more) targeted to specific donor bases.

One of these targeted events in Chicago, Cops For Kids’ Sake, is where BBBSMC saw the largest increase in online donations. For over 30 years, BBBSMC has partnered with the Chicago Police Department for this initiative, and the majority of donations had always been made in cash the day of the event. After switching to Classy, however, this trend took a turn.

[The police department] have never really done online fundraising—ever. I’d always been told ‘they won’t do it, they’re not going to put their credit card in a computer and it’s never going to happen.’ But this year, half of that event’s fundraising was done online.

Stephanie Foster
Manager of Special Events at BBBSMC

In fact, online donations increased by a whopping 592 percent, and the team credits the usability of Classy as one of the main reasons behind this drastic change.

We’ve worked with the Chicago Police Department for over 30 years, but the officers, who tend to be in their 50s, were skeptical at first—they assumed online fundraising would be too hard to navigate. But once they experienced event registration and peer-to-peer fundraising through Classy, they kept coming up to us saying, ‘Wow, you said it would be easy to form a team and take just two clicks to donate, and it really was!’ Classy is so easy to use that it gives us the confidence to push every generation to fundraise online.

Stephanie Foster
Manager of Special Events at BBBSMC

But it wasn’t only the use of Classy that drove online donations. The team at BBBSMC also put a strong emphasis on donor education. “The event has been around for so long that I think we were starting to take for granted that supporters knew what it was and what they’re raising money for,” said Kate. To raise awareness for the event and its purpose they tasked a local marketing agency to create marketing materials that focused on the impact of donations, the background of BBBSA, and information on the event itself.

Additionally, the team focused on activating their own staff members and in doing so their internal fundraising participation grew from 10 to 85 percent and raised a total of $20,000.

BBBSMC spare a night out

A Product Focused on Design, Flexibility, and Scale

For Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Miami Valley, their first Bowl For Kids’ Sake hosted on Classy raised more money than the previous year (on Blackbaud) with fewer attendees across the three sessions. “The key behind success with events is to keep your supporters motivated. Keep sending them e-mails, keep soliciting on Facebook, keep sharing their story and your campaign page. Classy made it really easy to accomplish all of those things,” Luisa said.

In fact, it’s been less than a year since partnering with Classy, but Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Miami Valley has already experimented with four fundraising types and seen substantial growth in online donations and ticket sales. Luisa looks forward to seeing this trend continue as they gear up for their Bright Nights Gala which has already surpassed last year’s total donations.

I love the look of it. If you have two ticketed events you can really make them appear unique to the event itself rather than be stuck with only ten color options or only two layout options and have all of your events look exactly the same. From setting up events to making updates to running reports and finding information on the back end—Classy hits it all.

Luisa Hocking
Finance Manager at Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Miami Valley

Why It’s Time to Consider Classy

While the above data points paint exciting success stories for these two affiliates, when it comes down to why other nonprofits—BBBSA affiliates included—should consider Classy, we thought we’d let them speak for themselves.

A More Current Look

The single biggest reason I could recommend [Classy] is the ease of use for both the administrator on the back-end, as well as the end user. It is much easier to navigate than products we’ve used in the past and Classy has a much more current look and feel, keeping up with what users expect from their online experience today.

Kate Rhodes
Manager of Individual Giving and Major Gifts at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago

The Mobile Interface

People are donating on their phones now, and Blackbaud didn’t really have a good mobile interface. With Classy, it’s just so much easier and cleaner on the phone. Compared to where we were before [Classy], we’ve come light years ahead.

Stephanie Foster
Manager of Special Events at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago

Everything is Intuitive

Overall I love it. All my information comes up quickly and it’s easy to enter things from the backend. From donation checks that come in the mail, to setting up accounts for corporations—everything is intuitive.

Luisa Hocking
Finance Manager at Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Miami Valley

Classy can be customized to meet your organization’s unique online fundraising needs. Want to learn more? Schedule a chat with our team to discover the solution that works best for you. Get started below.


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