How Sydney Story Factory Grew Its Recurring Donor Base By 30% In 3 Months With MoonClerk
Posted by Dodd Caldwell · Mar 23, 2016
Jayne Wasmuth, Development Manager for Australia-based nonprofit, Sydney Story Factory, talks with us about how her base of donors who give on a recurring basis increased by 30% in just 3 months.
Can you tell us a little about your organization?
Sydney Story Factory is a not-for-profit creative writing centre based slap-bang in the heart of Redfern on the fringe of the Sydney CBD. Redfern is considered the traditional heart of urban Indigenous culture in New South Wales and many who live her locally have had personal experiences of disadvantage. We run crazy, mad, fun creative writing workshops for Indigenous and marginalized young people aged 7 to 17. Everything we do is about turning things around for the kids and teens most at risk of losing confidence in themselves and their writing abilities and switching off at school. We make writing fun and rewarding and help them find their voice.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
As development manager I’m responsible for all aspects of fundraising and donor relations. We’re a small team so when I say “all” I mean everything from donations data management, to fundraising campaigns, to website content, to major donor prospecting, to event planning, to corporate partnerships, to grant writing and acquittals, oh and sometimes taking the rubbish out. I work closely alongside our co-founder and executive director, Cath Keenan, to do whatever’s necessary at any time to ensure that we have the funding to keep the creativity pumping. We’ve been very lucky in that we enjoy the support of some wonderfully generous donors and a great community of supporters. They’re a pleasure to work with. Hooray for each and every one of them!
How did Sydney Story Factory get its start?
We’re one of many creative writing centres around the world inspired by Dave Eggers’s 826 Valencia in San Francisco. Our co-founders, Cath Keenan and Tim Dick, visited 826 in 2011 and came back to Sydney bursting with excitement. They consulted widely with the community – kids, teens, parents, teachers, community groups, and locals – and there was a huge enthusiasm for the idea. We threw open our doors in July 2012 and have never looked back.
How did you get started with Sydney Story Factory?
I was in the book industry (both publishing and retail) for many years and then in the major donor team with a large charity. I was a big fan Story Factory right from the start and when I saw they were looking for a development manager I leapt at the chance. I’ve been in the role for a year now and love it to pieces. Who wouldn’t?
What have been some key factors in your nonprofit’s growth?
In just over 3.5 years we’ve gone from start-up to flourishing social enterprise and are continuing to expand at a mighty pace. There is a definite need for what we offer, and we know we’re making a very real difference in kids’ lives – they can’t get enough of it.
At the beginning of this year Cath Keenan was named 2016 Australian of the Year Local Hero. This is a huge recognition for all that she and everyone involved in the Sydney Story Factory has achieved in a short time. It also brings huge opportunities for us to grow this year, and we’re exploring a number of options, including the possibility of opening a second centre in Western Sydney. Watch this space!
What do you use MoonClerk for?
MoonClerk powers the donation form on our website. We process all donations, including regular giving (our Sydney Story Factory Inkwells) through this form.
Before MoonClerk, did you use another payment system?
I came on board at the time that our old website had (already) passed its use-by-date, including the donations form. Our previous payment system was completely inflexible and we didn’t have any ability to modify or amend it. In a rapidly changing organization, not to mention a rapidly changing fundraising environment, where we need to be nimble and flexible as we continuously explore new ways of doing things, we had to be able to adjust and change things ourselves. We certainly didn’t have any budget to be able to bring in a web developer every time we wanted to tweak something or make a change. We were stuck. And frustrated.
How did these problems affect your organization?
With our old payment system we had to manually create and send a receipt for every donation received. Needless to say this took up a lot of time that our Mission Controller (Mr. Admin) could have better spent booking school visits or coordinating the printing and production of our students’ sensational stories – definitely less than ideal.
Also, the payment process experience, for both us and our donors, felt like it was performed by robots whose personality chip had been set on stun. For an organization that is all about creativity and character, it just wasn’t us.
What made you decide to use MoonClerk?
A fabulous grant from Google allowed us to completely rebuild our website (thank you Google!). We knew we needed to find a new donations platform. The creative agency that took us on – Grumpy Sailor, who weren’t very grumpy at all, quite the reverse – did loads of research into the best options for a secure donation system. Once we established that MoonClerk a) would automatically send receipts, b) was ridiculously flexible, and c) allowed us to tweak and fiddle with every bit of text so that it truly sounded like us, we were in – all systems go.
What was your experience when switching and getting started with MoonClerk?
The MoonClerk set-up experience was great. As with any new system, I fully expected plenty of hiccups and problems as we tried to figure out how it worked, and how exactly we could modify it to suit our needs. I don’t consider myself especially techie. Actually, let’s just say it, I’m a complete rube and often feel like a dullard as I bumble my way through setting up yet another new app or program or system. It very quickly became obvious however that MoonClerk is extremely easy to drive – changes are quick and easy to make and are implemented instantaneously. Everything is in plain English, things do what you expect them to do and there are no penalties (or pain) for simply changing your mind.
Perhaps the most important reason that I feel so warmly about MoonClerk is that the support from the MoonClerk team has been excellent. For us, in Australia, it’s a matter of sending off an email and hoping for an answer overnight. MoonClerk has not let me down yet, coming straight back with practical straightforward answers that get me straight to where I need to be. The morning that I came back to an email where the founder had not just pointed me to where I needed to go to change my receipt setup, but had actually written the code for me, ready to copy and paste, I think I laughed deliriously. How good is that? Too easy.
What do you like about MoonClerk?
Simplicity. Flexibility. And service. Easy.
How has MoonClerk improved or helped your nonprofit?
We’re still in the very early days (we launched our new website 3 months ago) but I can say with confidence that introducing MoonClerk has allowed us to radically transform our donors’ experience of giving to The Sydney Story Factory. When every interaction is so critical to building relationships, and the very first donation is the most important of all, that’s a huge step forward.
In launching our new website, we also relaunched our regular giving program – our Sydney Story Factory Inkwells. Our MoonClerk form makes it extremely easy for people to commit to set up regular giving plans that they stay in control of at all times. Since we launched we’ve increased the number of Inkwells who are giving to us every month by 30%, a big boost for a small non-profit like us.
Any advice for others who are in similar industries?
I have to say that I have no hesitation at all recommending MoonClerk to any other small non-profit that is still feeling its way. The flexibility of the platform – being able to introduce, modify, move and switch out fields and variables is just fantastic, which means you can ask to collect as much, or as little, information as you like with every donation made. The back end – reports and donor management – is just as simple and effective as the front end, which makes the whole experience pretty darned painless.
I do love too the sense that behind MoonClerk is a small team of people who understand the importance of the human experience in any financial transaction. And that, in my book, counts for a lot.