Rob Williams, Executive Director of The Sheridan Story, shares with us about the advantages of switching from his previous donation platform to MoonClerk.
Can you tell us a little about what your organization does?
Over 200,000 children in Minnesota live in food insecurity – they don’t always know if they will have food for their next meal. While these children have access to meals when at school during the week, the weekends present a gap when kids often go hungry. Children who are hungry struggle to learn and pay attention in class – not just on Monday mornings, but all week long.
By providing a bag of food at the end of every school week, The Sheridan Story is fighting child hunger by closing the weekend food gap ensuring children have the nutrition they need to learn and grow. Students who live in food insecurity but participate in a weekend food program show significant improvement in their grades, test scores, attendance, social interactions with peers and adults, self-esteem and more.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
I helped start the program as a project of Mill City Church in 2010 working in only Sheridan Elementary School in Northeast Minneapolis. In 2013, I founded The Sheridan Story as an independent non-profit organization and we piloted the program in multiple schools, starting with 5 schools serving 450 kids weekly.
My title is Executive Director, which is a somewhat inflated title as we only have one other staff person. I do any and everything. In one day I could have a meeting with one of the largest companies in the world to request their support of our program, and a few hours later I could be cleaning the bathroom or unloading a truckload of food.
How did you get started?
I’m a logistics guy. Prior to running The Sheridan Story, I worked for a Fortune-500 logistics company. When I learned from the Principal at Sheridan School that kids were stealing (the Principal’s word, not mine) food at lunch on Fridays because they didn’t have enough food on the weekends, and then weren’t able to concentrate well in class on Monday until they had some nutrition in their system, I had to help.
My perspective on hunger, both domestically and internationally, is that it’s not a supply problem; it’s a distribution problem. In other words, we have plenty of food (or are capable of making plenty of food); the food just isn’t in the homes of all the people who need it. The Sheridan Story is a distribution solution to a distribution problem. I can’t drive around to the homes of 3600 kids to give them food, but I can go to the 70 schools at which they all congregate and give them food to take home.
All that to say – my skillset fit well with our solution to the problem at hand.
What have been some key factors in growing your organization?
Our sponsorships model, which enables the creation of an easily-scalable network of weekend food programs has certainly helped. The Sheridan Story leverages an innovative and replicable approach to fighting child hunger. We develop and support successful partnerships between sponsoring community organizations and schools in need. Meanwhile, we manage the operations of the weekend food program such as food sourcing, inventory management, packing events, and storage and delivery of the food. Our role allows community groups, who would otherwise be unable to manage the program, to fight child hunger
What do you use MoonClerk for?
All online donations go through Moonclerk – both one-time and recurring donations. Donors can select a specific school to which they would like to donate, or they can donate to our general fund. We also have individual forms set up for several of our programs so our organization can link people directly to a form to donate to the program to which they’re most interest in giving.
Before MoonClerk, did you use another payment system?
When we first started, we used another donation platform. We used them mainly because we didn’t have the organizational structure to send receipts and such to the donors. They handled all receipts, which was nice for where we were as an organization.
Did you encounter any issues?
The main problem with the other system was that donors technically aren’t donating to The Sheridan Story; they are actually donating to the donation platform, which takes a cut and then sends us a check monthly. I didn’t like the potential detachment that our donors may feel in donating to a third-party organization and not directly to The Sheridan Story.
How did these issues affect your business?
Receiving donations from individuals is all about relationships. Some I may know personally, but most I don’t. We have to develop the relationship through communication including branding on receipts, direct marketing, programmatic updates, etc. Donors who have to provide their information to a third party are harder to engage in the mission. Plus, our previous donation platform took a higher percentage of the donations than we liked.
What made you decide to use MoonClerk?
We looked around for a while for a donation platform and landed on Moonclerk mainly because of the ability to customize the UI, the ease of use for the donor (and us as the administrators), and the recurring transaction capability. The biggest reason we switched to MoonClerk is the donor experience. If a donation form is clunky or confusing, a donor is less likely to complete the transaction. By providing a clean, simple, and friendly transaction, we improve the potential donor’s experience, increasing the likelihood that they donate.
What was your experience when switching and getting started with MoonClerk?
Super easy. It literally took about 10 minutes.
What do you like about MoonClerk?
What I like the most from the admin side is the ability to create custom forms with ease. I can set up a form for a new program in less than 5 minutes.
Any advice for others who are in similar industries?
Moonclerk is a great option to consider. When comparing products, make sure you aren’t only looking at transaction cost. Also make sure you prioritize the donor experience.