Turnstone: How Storytelling & Powerful Peer-to-Peer Software Drove Year-End Success
For almost 80 years, Turnstone has had one mission: To provide therapeutic, educational, wellness and recreational programs to empower people with disabilities.
Headquartered in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the team at Turnstone works day in and day out to help people with disabilities gain independence and live with dignity. They fundraise throughout the year to support a variety of offerings to the people they serve including therapy, childcare, sports & recreation, counseling, and specialty programs.
Like most nonprofits, Turnstone relies on fundraising events, in-person and online, to power their mission year-round. They are always looking for new ways to elevate their events and fundraising approach, which brought them to Raise, OneCause’s Event & Online Fundraising Conference, in 2019 where they learned about peer-to-peer fundraising.
We went to the Raise Conference, and we were blown away by the capabilities of a peer-to-peer fundraising strategy. I turned to my colleague and said, ‘We can totally do this!’ and it saved us during the height of the pandemic,” said Lauren Widenhofer, Digital Fundraising Specialist at Turnstone.
As year-end was approaching, Turnstone’s goal was to increase their reach and revenue with an online peer-to-peer campaign, but the key was planning a campaign that really connected to donors and came to life online.
They had been using OneCause Peer-to-Peer & Online Giving for a few years and wanted to design a campaign that would cut through the noise.
OneCause changed the game with the fact that we could do everything through one site. We moved all of our online giving to OneCause,” said Widenhofer.
In a time like year-end, nonprofits all over the world are making asks as the year comes to a close. Turnstone knew they didn’t want to risk creating donor fatigue, and they didn’t want to just put out a blanket ask at the end of the year – so they brought their teams together and brainstormed a solution.
That brainstorming cooked up the ‘It Can Be Done’ campaign. After they launched the site on November 1st, they drove all donors to one giving site with storytelling, a strong brand, and fundraising incentives.
Especially with an online campaign, compelling storytelling is vital to connecting with donors and supporters on social media. Nonprofits know this, and so did Turnstone!
To celebrate the season of thankfulness that leads into Giving Tuesday, Turnstone wanted to honor a variety of groups within their Turnstone Family who continue to invest their time, talent, and treasure into Turnstone.
They curated 19 stories to share throughout the 2-month campaign. Two to three times a week they would rotate story spotlights on their OneCause Online Giving site to keep the content fresh and have donors visit the giving site multiple times throughout the campaign.
By bringing storytelling to the center of their campaign, they started moving donors from passive to passionate. Turnstone would post the stories on social media and within email campaigns to share these stories of impact for their mission.
In these communications, they didn’t make a direct ask. Their first ask was actually on November 30th, Giving Tuesday—30 days after the campaign started. By this time, they had already raised more than they did in last year’s end-of-year campaign with storytelling alone.
Elevated Campaign Brand
The idea of consistent branding isn’t new for nonprofits. But with the power of social media, email, text messaging, and peer-to-peer, it’s even more feasible.
With OneCause, Turnstone was able to brand their fundraising site to look as if it was an extension of their own domain.
They were able to customize:
- Event Description
- Branded Logo & Colors
- Impact Statements
- Video Embed
- Branded Donation Thermometer & Form
- Social Media Integration with Template Posts
I loved that I could have all the branded content and resources right there with the donation button right next to it,” said Widenhofer.
Their embedded video was something new they tried on their fundraising site for this campaign.
Turnstone knew visual storytelling would be a powerful tool for this online campaign. Along with their storytelling approach, they were able to leverage a compelling narrative in a visual experience to put their donors at the heart of the story and make an emotional connection.
They were able to budget for a professionally done video, but also create organic videos themselves through social media networks or directly from their phone.
There’s a time and a place for a clean-cut, professional video, but there’s also a time and a place for organic videos that are made on your phone. Each approach has room in the online fundraising world and typically yields great results,” said Widenhofer.
By sharing their brand consistently and using the tools that OneCause provided through Peer-to-Peer software, Turnstone was able to develop a cohesive campaign that donors, new and old, could recognize as genuinely Turnstone.
When they did make their donation asks, Turnstone caught their donor’s attention with two matching gift incentives. On #GivingTuesday only, the AWS Foundation matched all gifts dollar for dollar up to $10,000, and the Chaffee Family Foundation also matched each gift up to $50,000.
Matching gifts have plenty of untapped potential, and Turnstone took advantage of this fundraising tool thanks to generous matching gift donors.
Word spread fast on social media, and donations came rolling in through their Peer-to-Peer & Online Giving site. One donation even included a $100,000 out-of-the-blue gift to Turnstone—completely driven by sharing the matches and campaign online.
The campaign allowed us to blend our online strategies with our major gift efforts, and OneCause Peer-to-Peer has increased our online reach, number of new donors, and online giving engagement astronomically,” said Widenhofer.
Showing recognition in the nonprofit world is an essential tool for retaining supporters and creating long-term donor relationships. Not all donors are recognition-motivated, but all donors like to receive some sort of acknowledgment that their donation was received and appreciated.
Enter: The Donor Wall. The OneCause Online Giving Solution includes a donor wall that showcases who donated, giving digital recognition for each donation. Turnstone made sure to take advantage of this peer-to-peer tool.
The Turnstone team found donor recognition to be a powerful motivation tool that drove deeper donor engagement and repeat donations.
The “It Can Be Done” year-end campaign was a smashing success. Turnstone was ecstatic with their results.
- $220k+ raised
- 360% to campaign goal
- 34 new donors
- 19 stories told
Online fundraising is not going away anytime soon, and this year’s year-end campaign proved its potential and success. We even switched my whole job title to ‘Digital Fundraising Specialist,’” said Widenhofer.
Connect with a Cause
To learn more about Turnstone, please visit their website.
- Year-End & Giving Tuesday Resource Center: To make year-end fundraising easy, we’ve put together the ultimate resource center, filled with tips, tricks, and templates
- 2024 Fundraising Outlook Study: Learn where nonprofits plan to invest their time, effort, and technology budget in the coming year.
- 9 Tips for Recruiting Peer-to-Peer Participants: Proven tips to help your nonprofit recruit and retain more peer-to-peer participants.
I don’t know how I would do my job as well as I do without OneCause and the resources they offer. We’ve even told other nonprofits around town that OneCause has been our go-to for everything fundraising strategy,” said Widenhofer.