Category Archives: Nonprofit Story

2017 MVP: First Time Donors!

Posted on December 27, 2017 by Jen Marcuson

This month we are looking back at the unsung MVP of the 2017 BFG tournaments: The First-Time Donor (FTD).

We logged a dizzying 31,898 donations throughout the 2017 tournaments from over 14,000 donors and across over 500 participating nonprofits. Over 8,600 of these donations came from donors who identified as not having ever donated to the nonprofit that they were supporting in the tournament before. These FTDs packed a big punch, scoring over 640,000 points across all tournaments at an average of 74 points per donation.


Who are FTDs?

First-time donors skewed female, Millennial and Generation Z aged, and came from far and wide, representing over 1,300 towns and cities, in every state in the union.  

2017 demographics graphic

Where did they score
Our new expansion markets faired the best with FTDs, with over 34% of the number of donations in the new markets coming in from FTDs. The veteran tournament still held strong, with 28% of donations registering from new donors. Even Indianapolis, our longest-running tournament, had a 29% new donor rate in 2017.

Younger nonprofits (under 10 years of operating age) fared slightly better than more established nonprofits in attracting FTDs in the tournament. These younger nonprofits collected 34% of their donations from new donors vs. 30% of longer-running nonprofits. Almost 10,000 transactions were processed from FTDs to these younger nonprofits, helping establish and support them both in the tournament and in their overall missions.

The top cause categories for the FTDs were Arts, Culture & Humanities; Youth Development; and Human Services, all top categories overall for BFG donors. The single nonprofit that collected the most individual FTD donations was Get Schooled, from the USA tournament, with 211 donations (or 21% of their total donation count) coming from new supporters.  The nonprofit that scored the most FTD points was Allied Arts, also of the USA tournament. Over $104,000 or 29% of all their points scored came from FTDs- and helped them secure the USA championship and the big $100,000 prize!

Brackets For Good 2017 tournament logos


When did they score?
The first round of the tournament easily leads the way with the highest number of first-time donations scored for nonprofits. With so many nonprofit competitors, it casts a wide net of interest and attraction for new philanthropists to get in the game. As the rounds progressed, the number of first-time donors decreased, however the amount those new supporters gave did not – in fact as the championship round heated up, rookie donors came in hard, with an average of $221 dollars raised per donation, compared to $46 in the first round.

rnd 1 vs championship rnd first time donor amounts graphic

There is no doubt that raising new awareness and support is one of our most important focuses at BFG. We are so proud of our amazing FTD MVPs and we cannot wait to see how many more we can help attract to your missions in 2018!

Posted in Brackets For Good, Fundraising, Nonprofit Story

All Star Spotlight: From the Basketball Court to the Giving Court

Posted on September 27, 2017 by Rachel Purviance

Summer Search

The 2017 USA tournament was a big first for BFG – a coast-to-coast philanthropic contest pitting large national organizations with huge star power against each other for a $100,000 championship prize. While BFG has traditionally operated on the local level, the national tournament was a chance to showcase our Fundraising Madness on a large scale.

One energetic competitor in the tournament was Summer Search – an organization whose mission is to help low-income teenagers develop the skills they need to become college educated leaders who give back to their families and communities.  Summer Search was a perfect candidate for the USA tournament since they have locations in several US cities and a former collegiate basketball player on staff! Game on!

Stephanie Davis, National Senior Development Associate with Summer Search and former college basketball player for Beloit College confirmed for us that there are definitely similarities between college basketball and Brackets For Good. She said, “hours and hours of preparation were necessary for success in BFG, just like the hours you need to put in practicing in order to run plays correctly, hit a game winning jumper, or have the endurance to make it through an entire game. The final few hours of each round in the BFG tournament definitely gave me the same kind of adrenaline rush that I would get during games! I’d never experienced that kind of heart-pounding excitement in fundraising before.” Aha! We thought so!

On coaching her staff for the tournament, Stephanie reported that it was easy to get everyone on the same page because she had a spectacular, hard-working team, who were all dedicated to the same goal and willing to put in the extra effort in order to succeed. Their strategy was to divide the workload in ways that played to individual strengths. Stephanie said that she just pointed her teammates in the right direction, and let them do what they do best.

While Summer Search ultimately did not win the USA tournament, they made it to the Engaged Eight round, and brought in over $30,000 for their programs. Their average donation amount and average number of times a supporter donated to their run was well above the tournament average. Clearly inspired to give and give again, their supporters brought the points round after round. Stephanie stated that this was due to the incredible staff participation and amazing support from their Board of Directors, who spread the word among their networks and made their own gifts to help them advance.  She reported that the intensity of the competition definitely brought everyone together and made for a rich and memorable experience.  She recalled, “Once the buzzer sounded and the points were calculated, those cheers of victory were the best!”

Their final round in the tournament was a close one – in a match-up that scored over 12,000 points per competitor, Summer Search missed a spot in the Philanthropic Four by only 111 points.  Stephanie said, “That was such a heart breaker! It really did feel like we were beaten by a game-winning jumper. I’ve relived that round multiple times, and would definitely make a few game-plan changes if we could do it all over. One change is that we should’ve asked for a larger gift earlier in the round to see how the competition responded. We definitely learned not to sleep on anybody, especially when it comes to Buzzer Beaters!”

Summer Search score

Oh, Buzzer Beaters? Well since you brought them up….
Stephanie said, “Next year I’d like to see more 3-pointers in the 2018 tournament – and I’m partial to 3-pointers since this was my forte as a player! But a good team always has something up their sleeve! Buzzer Beaters definitely kept us on the edge of our seats and required some fast math in those exhilarating final seconds of each round.”

Posted in Brackets For Good, Fundraising, Nonprofit Story

All-Star Spotlight: “Community Teammate”– Morales Group and Exodus Refugee Immigration #Dreamteam

Posted on August 28, 2017 by Jen Marcuson

Exodus Refugee Immigration Morales Group

Brackets For Good introduced a new strategic feature to the 2017 Indianapolis tournament: The Community Teammate. Designed to pair local businesses with participating nonprofits to help them increase their reach and strengthen their competitiveness in the tournament, the program raised the stakes and essentially created two teams carrying the ball for each nonprofit – but it didn’t mean anyone got any extra bench time!

One such partnership, between Exodus Refugee Immigration and Morales Group Staffing, was definitely a slam dunk. Morales, a staffing firm that focuses on the local immigrant population, has been recognized as one of the fastest growing Hispanic owned businesses in America and one of the best places to work in Indiana. Their BFG nonprofit teammate, Exodus, has been working to resettle refugees in Indianapolis for over 30 years. Pairing up for the tournament was a natural extension of their ongoing relationship.

The two organizations have been working together for many years, working to secure job placements for refugee clients. The desire for Morales to become a Community Teammate came out of the spirit of their Community Outreach program. Monique Charlebois, Director of Human Resources with Morales, stated, “We live our mission every day. We want to build better futures and we want to do that with our partnerships.”  Morales’ outreach includes financially supporting organizations in their community but also provides a deeper level of commitment and activity, including encouraging employees to do at least 25 hours a year of volunteer work, some of which is on company time. Cole Varga, Executive Director of Exodus, wholeheartedly agrees, “This organization walks the walk. They really care about this population.”

CEO Tom Morales said that when they signed up to be in the BFG Teammate program they specifically asked if Exodus had a partner. Once they were paired up, dedicated staff were assigned to work with the Director of Development at Exodus, Liz Standiford, and together they created a strategy with the ultimate goal of winning the tournament. They also wanted to ensure Exodus raised at least $35-$40,000, a huge increase over previous years’ totals for the organization, but a goal they surpassed, raising $44,000 and making it to the Engaged Eight round.

Amanda Franklin, Branding and Digital Strategy at Morales, revealed one in-house engagement tactic they used; the Lids Free Throw points. Earning $2-$3 just for filling out your donor profile was easy and they earned over $100 from doing that. She noted, “It was also a good opportunity for the staff to get a better understanding of what the tournament is about.”

The two organizations came together to create shared social media messages and strategized their Friday night round-end plans together. Each Friday, Morales, Exodus, or the unofficial third partner, Luna Language Services, hosted a party for staff, volunteers, board members, and friends of each organization. Morales hosted the first week, treating everyone to food, the live BFG feed, and a silent auction of donated goods to help raise more money to put toward the last seconds of the round. Each week as they progressed, video feed of the cheering partygoers would be shared online after the round close.

While they worked closely together, they did not work alone. Tom revealed that a key strategy was reaching out to other affiliated organizations, such as Luna. “Overall, we realized there was no reason not to share in the fun!” he added, “I’m not just talking about the financial piece. It was something very different, so that was the first step – how can we reach out and make it entertaining for everybody.” Monique confirmed, “We definitely strengthened our connection with Luna. For many of us that would go to the events, it was good to get to know other organizations that are also so passionate about this.”

Morales acknowledged that their round-by-round budget occasionally got thrown by the wayside due to the fierce competitiveness amongst the team. Tom said, “I honestly believe that had I been there during our final round, we would have gone over because I wasn’t going to lose! I think it’s really important to note, every time I did give, I didn’t feel like I was buying something. It felt like I was giving to something that was really going to be for the greater good.”

The two organizations share an easy camaraderie, joking back and forth about the tense end-of-round moments they shared. The tournament partnership played a role in creating this level of comfort. Monique commented, “Coming together on the Friday nights, and getting to know the team better, it was a lot of fun. We encouraged people to come by giving them volunteer hours for coming.” Cole agreed, “For some of our non-employment staff who don’t interact with Morales all the time, it was nice to have them here and give them a chance to interact.”

Amanda noted the importance of being invested in your partner. She said, “I don’t think it would have been nearly as successful had we been partnered with someone that we hadn’t had a relationship with. A lot of work goes in behind the scenes, and you’re working very closely together. I would definitely recommend that if someone is going to do this, they partner with someone they have a connection with.”

When asked if they would participate again, Monique was quick to jump in, “Absolutely we would do it again! It is such a great cause and it is so much fun. I would advocate for anyone being a teammate to one of the organizations. As soon as it was over, we were thinking about how we were going to do things differently next year. It was a great way to collaborate, be team players, and support a good cause.” Tom added, “Had the competition not been there, I don’t think we would have raised the same amount at all. I think it was the strategic, competitive component that really got us going.”

And of course, when asked about their Buzzer Beater strategy, everyone agreed… “We won’t reveal it!”

Posted in Brackets For Good, Indianapolis, Nonprofit Story, Sponsor Story

Local Giving, Global Impact: Food For His Children

Posted on July 27, 2017 by Jen Marcuson

Food For His Children

Minnesota’s Food for His Children (FFHC) fought their way through 4 tough rounds to finish as one of the Philanthropic Four organizations in the Twin Cities tournament.  While the team was 100% volunteer-run in the US and one of the smaller organizations to participate in BFG17, they are likely the only organization to have board members and staff on the ground in Tanzania!

FFHC provides holistic community development to families living in material poverty in rural Tanzania.  Since their launch in 2008, they have served over 225 families. Through their program, which costs about $21 per month per family, recipients learn new ways of farming, caring for livestock, how to run businesses, and about saving money and providing for their families. Often, this is done through a program of sustainable goat farming.

While they did have a valiant tournament run, and earned over $16,000 for their program, serving a community outside the local community did prove to be a challenge. Co-founder and Executive Director Kerrie Holschbach reflected, “I think it was harder for us to compete against organizations that serve locally because the people they impact are right here. The 1,500 people we are directly impacting are a world away.” Ultimately, their global status offered a differentiation from some of the other organizations. Kerrie added, “We have much to offer people who want to give locally, but impact globally. Many who know they have the ability to transform generations with just $21 per month are fervently passionate about giving and want to do anything they can to make an impact.”

Being a fairly new organization, the exposure provided by participating in BFG was invaluable to FFHC.  They were featured in a BFG Top 10 Video, utilized the training tools provided, and their team in Tanzania learned creative ways to share their work via short video clips. They gained online fundraising experience and attracted new supporters, some of whom have started volunteering with them since the tournament. As a result, their confidence in fundraising has grown. In the pre-tournament survey, FFHC had stated that they felt they had been only ‘moderately successful’ in online fundraising to date. After their BFG run, Kerri stated, “Today, I would say that we have been very successful in online fundraising!”  She added, “One comment we heard from our donors in the last rounds was that they were ‘pulling for the little guy’ because we were up against organizations that have million dollar budgets and paid staff who can focus on fundraising and communications. The nitty-gritty work for BFG was done with just three volunteers, which should encourage all nonprofits to give BFG a shot.”

While Kerri won’t reveal her top-secret tournament strategies, she said that upon reflecting on their 2017 performance, one thing she would change was the temptation to hold back asking for donations in the earlier rounds due to fear of exhausting their supporter base. She believes they would do just as well if they encouraged supporters to give from the beginning, not to wait until the end of the round or until the later rounds.  Next time, she says, “we will operate from a different mindset and our opponent will be blessed by also raising more money in order to keep up with us!”

Posted in Brackets For Good, Fundraising, Nonprofit Story | Tagged Twin Cities

All-Star Spotlight: A Vision of Redemption

Posted on June 28, 2017 by Jen Marcuson

A Vision of Redemption_logo and beneficiary_Brackets For Good Miami_ 2017.jpg

A breakout star in the 2017 Miami BFG tournament was undoubtedly A Vision of Redemption, Inc., a young but feisty team out of Pompano Beach. Founded in 2012, AVOR is a volunteer-staffed nonprofit whose mission is to enhance the quality of life of families affected by incarceration. Through their programs, which include career coaching, familial support, family visitation, and services to returning citizens released from the correctional system, they aim to ensure that all individuals have the access to the resources necessary to ensure future self-sustainability.

The championship round was the highest-scoring round of the Miami tournament. Both AVOR and their final competitor, the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center, scored significantly more than they had in any of their previous rounds. We asked AVOR what their game plan was going into that nerve-racking round. AVOR founder Robin Figueroa noted that while they were in it to win it, they knew they were up against a strong competitor. She said, “We were really praying that we could win as the organization we were up against was pretty big. It’s a museum and they were founded before we were born. So we knew they had support and money to back them up since they’d been in business for such a long time.”

To rally their supporters, Figueroa said that they adopted many of the tools provided in the BFG locker room; specifically the email tools. She noted that they were able to use these tools to monitor their email opens and clicks. She credits the locker room training with helping them get to second place.

Despite being brand new to the BFG fundraising model, AVOR raised an impressive 42% of their points via Buzzer Beaters. In fact, Buzzer Beaters are what got them through Round 1! In regular play, AVOR was just behind their first competitor but the Buzzer Beaters made all the difference. Figueroa won’t reveal her Buzzer Beater strategy because she plans on winning next year (we love that enthusiasm!).

While they played valiantly, AVOR ultimately came in second and the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center took the Miami title. The disappointment was short-lived however, because the funds raised exceeded expectations and were put to good use – to fix their 20-passenger bus which they plan to use to take kids to visit their parents who are incarcerated. They also used some funds to purchase supplies to support ongoing programs and hire a grant writer.

Figueroa has some excellent advice for prospective competitors out there, who might be thinking about flexing their philanthropic muscles in next years’ tournaments:

“If you are thinking about joining BFG do it!! What are you waiting for?  It’s the most fun and nerve wrecking moments of your nonprofit life. It has you on the edge of your seat, biting your nails, jumping, screaming and celebrating all in the same day. It’s exciting and if you are lucky enough to win, it will give the chance of a lifetime… more importantly, have fun!!”

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Congratulations to A Vision of Redemption on their amazing tournament run!

Posted in Brackets For Good, Fundraising, Nonprofit Story | Tagged Miami

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