Cause Vid is Making Donor Communications Come to Life With Their Video Messaging Software

CauseVid Nonprofit Donor Communications

Adam Wilbur and Sarah Mclellan joined us on the podcast to talk about Adam’s company Cause Vid and using it as a way to send personalized messages to donors. Sarah is the Director of Development at the Rowan-Cabarrus YMCA and a client of Adam's. Both have many years of nonprofit experience and shared how they use video to better communicate with their donors. 

Official Transcript: 

Sabrina: Hello and welcome to Fundraising Superheroes! A podcast celebrating nonforprofit organizations and all the people that work to make the world a better place. This podcast is brought to you by Donor Engine. You can save hours of time and do so much more for less with their all in one nonprofit software. Visit today to learn how your organization could spend less time managing your nonprofit, and more time focusing on your cause.

I'm your host and today we have two guests joining us, Adam Wilbur from Cause Vid and Sarah Mclellan from the Rowan-Cabarrus  YMCA.  Adam is the co-founder of Cause Vid and Sarah is one of their clients. She's also a director of development and in charge of community engagement at the YMCA . Cause Vid helps you create and track personalized videos that are sure to wow your donors!

Thank you so much Sarah and Adam for being on the show today! 

Sarah: Thanks for having us, glad to be here!

Adam: Thanks Sabrina. 

Sabrina: So can you both start off by telling me a bit about yourselves and how you got started in the nonprofit industry?

Adam: Sure, I'm happy to start that one. So Adam Wilber, I kinda got into nonprofit fundraising I guess as a volunteer and I don’t think that’s uncommon. But I started doing some fundraising for a local organization right around when I graduated from college, and then for a period of time was working in a sales role. And then eventually kind of had been intrigued by nonprofit fundraising as a profession, and ended up entering into it as a development director at the University of Connecticut. I was there for a period of years and then just a few years ago decided to start my own consulting practice as a nonprofit fundraising consultant and helping small and mid-sized nonprofits. But then we kind of fell into this video thing and Cause Vid has taken over our lives from there.

Sarah: And I also kind of stumbled into nonprofit work. I started as a student caller when I was a student at the University of Connecticut and I just love being able to talk to people and connect people with causes that they cared about within Yukon. And so I worked under some great professional staff there as a student and ultimately learned that you can turn that into a real career. 

So I loved that and they took a chance on me. When I was graduating from Yukon an entry level position opened up in the annual giving department, so I started there and then worked with Adam in individual giving and major gifts later on. Was there for almost four years and now I for the last three and a half years have been down in North Carolina working for the Rowan-Cabarrus YMCA . So it's a small mid-size "Y”, running their development program where there wasn’t previously a big emphasis on that, so it’s been a lot of fun kinda growing into that role and helping guide some of our professional staff through that process too. 

Sabrina: Yeah that's fantastic, a lot of people on the show always tell me they kind of stumble into it, you know. Or they say "oh I never knew that you know this could be a full-time position” but it's really cool once people get into it how they become passionate about things and it works out. 

Adam: Ya it’s funny, you know there's no real undergraduate major out there in nonprofit fundraising and so, I mean, my own bachelor degree is in biochemistry and it's not uncommon for people to end up in this field coming from a lot of different original paths. 

Sabrina: Oh, for sure. So Adam, why do you think it's important to create a service like Cause Vid?  How did you start thinking of that idea?

Adam: Ya so we actually kinda fell into it because as I mentioned I had started doing  some consulting. And one of the clients had been doing something before we started working with them, and they basically would have someone in the field, one of their program staff record a little video. They called it a selfie and a shout out, and they ended up using that to send a little brief video over to donors. And it was intriguing, they had been getting some good results with it and so my business partner and I decided that we wanted to explore it a little more in-depth and started looking  at the available technology to enable people to create and send short personalized videos. And that kind of let us to build the software platform that we currently have available to nonprofits today.
nonprofit donor communication

And why it’s important, I think obviously personal communication is a key piece of effective nonprofit fundraising. And we've seen that these short personalized videos where you essentially look into the camera and say "hi” and thank someone for perhaps a gift they just made, can have a really profound impact on the donor and they often even reply thanking you for thanking them. Which is something that doesn’t happen when you send a handwritten note or an email receipt. And so, we started to see that same response across some of the  customers we had in our beta and then that let us to grow the platform and continue to offer it to other nonprofits like we do today.

Sabrina: Oh definitely, what I love about video is that you could get to actually see the person because when you're writing a note or when you're sending an email you lose that emotion that comes with seeing a person's face and hearing their voice. So I think it's such a good point that you made that in order to really connect with those donors sending a video is a great way to do that.

Adam: Well, I think the coronavirus pandemic has only amplified that right, we knew that this video messaging was an effective way to thank and engage donors and started talking recently about the ability to communicate with someone face-to-face when you can't be face-to-face. And we've seen services like Zoom and gotomeetings really take off since all of the social distancing and quarantining happened so we've been able to continue to offer this concept of a personal video message that gets delivered as a video email. Kinda like a voicemail but with your face on it. 

Sabrina: So Sarah, as a user Cause Vid, in what ways has it helped you connect with your donors? How does it go beyond other media like what we were discussing like  emails, phone calls or handwritten notes?

Sarah: Yeah so, I mean to your points from before it's basically like a voicemail with your face. So you really get to put a face to a name that maybe you've received, you know appeal letters from. You’re responding to that, make a gift, and then you get this thank you video from the person that actually asked you for the gift in the first place.

So it really does personalize kind of, the annual giving process for a lot of our donors. So you know we used to use more kind of highly produced videos and we spend a lot of time, energy and money putting a really beautiful impact video together. We put up on YouTube and our social media and then maybe you get a couple hundred views. With this it’s personalized, we’re saying someone's name or referencing a specific memory or gift or something that really ties them into our organization. And they get kind of that warm and fuzzy feeling about why they gave in first place, or that event that they attended or whatever the reason for the video maybe. 

So it's just a lot more personal, we’ve seen a lot of fantastic responses like Adam was saying. People thank us for thanking them which typically doesn't happen through other channels of communication. And it’s just been a really positive experience and I think kind of a secondary benefit to using Cause Vid has been a lot of staff and volunteer engagement so as a primarily volunteer-led organization, our YMCA you know, we have a development committee like a lot of nonprofits on our board. And we sometimes struggle with actionable tasks for that group to really get involved in, so Cause Vid has actually been a great volunteer tool for us too because we've engaged them in the video recording process through thank-a-thons, solicitations and event invitations and things like that. Where now our board members and some of our staff who weren’t previously super comfortable with the fundraising aspect of their job are getting involved in a way that's meaningful to them. And they're having fun with it which means they're just going to get out and ask for the "Y” a little bit more than they would have before. So I think from an external perspective, it's been super impactful but even internally with our teams too it's been a great benefit.

Sabrina: That's really cool, so would you say that sending a video gets a lot more responses from donors in terms of thank-yous and communication then like a handwritten note would? 

Sarah:  I think so and I don't mean to say that the handwritten notes should be replaced in every case by a video but being able to, what's cool about the Cause Vid Software is when that  video gets sent out they can reply directly back to whoever the video comes from. So you can really start a real-time conversation with someone where a handwritten note typically kind of ends there unless someone is willing to look up the phone number or if you put your card in it or whatever it may be, so it’s kind of like the modern-day thank you note. And certainly it's not the only solution but it’s a great, it’s is our primary solution for stewardship in our organization right now. So it's definitely opened up that dialogue a little bit better than your typical thank-you's would. 

Sabrina: Oh definitely, so when I was looking into Cause Vid, one of the things that really stood out for me was that not only do you help make the videos but your service also offers a way to track the progress of your videos. So Adam, can you explain briefly how that works?

Adam: Yes, so you know our software has a level of automated video production like you just referred to. When a simple video that someone might record with their iPhone or webcam gets recorded our system will automatically produce that video a little bit, add a background sound track, add a logo even combine multiple videos together all in the background without the user having to know anything or really do any actual video editing or combining. So we made that simple and fast. On the other side of it these videos get delivered as video emails and when someone gets one of them they receive an email, there’s actually an animated preview of the video itself within that email. And when someone than clicks that preview they go on to watch that video. And so within our system a user can see and monitor the video emails they sent and see whether or not people who received them have opened those emails, whether they've clicked to watch their videos.  And then on the page where someone watches a video we’re also able to track things like how much of a video someone has watched and whether or not someone takes an action after watching the video, like maybe clicking a button that’s there below to make a gift.

Sabrina: That’s fantastic. Yeah so when I went to school my background’s actually video production. I've done some work for nonprofits where I’ve helped them make videos, but for the every day video production of like thanking a donor sending a quick video, I've seen especially in the Facebook groups right now that everyone's indoors for covid-19 a lot of people have tried to hop on this video trend. And it's really hard to explain to somebody how to edit, how to export, how to do all that technical stuff that comes with making a video if they've never had experience with this before. So, it's fantastic that your software is able to help with all of that. 

Would you say there's a lot of training that goes into somebody who's approaching the software for the first time or is it easy to pick up?

Adam: Yeah so, we offer a live one on one training call with any new client so during that 45 minute to an hour call we’re able to walk them through all the things they need to do within our platform to either send a video email or create a larger video campaign. And you're absolutely right about the editing. When you're  sending these short personalized videos, going back to that concept of a voicemail with your face on it, and I think we've all voicemails for  people and realize that the  voicemail was good enough I'm just going to send it. But maybe from time to time when you left a professional voicemail for someone you decided to listen to it again or maybe rerecord it before you send it on to them. Our system gives you the same ability to do that with a video, so you don't necessarily have to edit those short videos you can simply just re-record that 30 second clip right there within the recording widget that comes from our platform. And then be able to submit the final version of a continuous video clip recorded. 

On the other side of it, we also give people the ability to create video campaigns and in some cases provide a light level of a video editing to help with that. We actually just did one of these for Sarah over the past couple days where the CEO of her YMCA basically came on to a video call with us. We conducted about a 30 minute interview with him and our team was able to take pieces of what he said in that Zoom call and edit it into a 4 minute video in which he talked about their decision to remain closed at that YMCA due to the ongoing epidemic. 

So sometimes with editing week we will even help someone create a little more of a produced video if they're trying to send the same video out to multiple people like they were doing in that case. 

Sabrina: Yeah that's fantastic, that's probably helping a lot of people especially right now. 

Adam: Yeah, I think you're right. As a nonprofit, prior to now was reliant on a lot of in-person events and relying on major gifts fundraising, you know those things are still up in the air right now. I think you know major good fundraising is usually done in their face-to-face meeting and events with hundreds of people at them are currently on hold. And I think a lot of nonprofit professionals have really strong skill sets in doing those things, but having to adapt to the current environment is certainly going to be challenging for a lot of folks. So we’re certainly happy to help navigate this new normal we’re facing now when it comes to the need to communicate more digitally.

Sabrina: So Sarah having this software available to you and being able to see how people interact with the videos, has this feature allowed you to better your organization? Was there a way that these metrics affect how you make decisions and how you send your videos?

Sarah: Yes actually just this week I sent an analytics reports to one of our executive directors because he was interested in seeing you know who responded the most. Who watched it multiple times, who may be forwarded it to somebody else. So we’ve definitely used it just to see what works. It's kind of like a real time example of the segmentation process and direct mail and things like that. You can see it and see who's responding, if people seem to really like it you know that maybe there's a little bit warmer of a leave there to set up an in-person visit or to you know go that extra mile for that person. So it's definitely helped guide some of our decisions with that. 

And then on the flip side like many nonprofits our data isn’t great. So we don't always have the best email address, we don't always have the best way to get in touch with someone. So that analytics report flags you know some of those people that it wasn't delivered to so then we can go dig into that and maybe update that information. So even just for us as a membership organization having accurate information on how to contact someone is really critical and we've actually used Cause Vid as a mechanism to update some of our info for our members and donors. So it’s actually working on both sides.

Sabrina: Yeah that's really cool, so it not only helps you send videos but also helps you see what donors best respond to and kind of tweak your methods of communication with them.

Sarah: Yeah absolutely,  and if we see that someone loves a stewardship video but they didn't necessarily open an ask more than once that helps tip us off on where they are in their donor journey with us. So that's definitely helpful. 

Sabrina: Yeah, so throughout the interview we’ve kind of touched base on this but now that we're all stuck inside for quarantine and a lot of nonprofits have either closed their doors or changed how they’re operating- How can non-profit organizations use this time to connect with their donors whether that be through softwares like causes or other ways that they communicate. I know Adam, you can speak from a software perspective and Sarah you can probably speak from your experience in the last few weeks.

Sarah: Yeah so Adam mentioned that we just sent out a video from Cause Vid, like many nonprofits certainly the YMCAs we had to close our facility doors obviously with the stay at home order and just for everybody’s safety, So we’re now reaching out to our community in different ways, we’re picking up groceries for people we are mowing people's lawns who can’t  get outside. 

So we're doing a lot of other great stuff and we really want our donors to understand that their dollars are still going to our community through the "Y”. So by using Cause Vid to be able to reach out and share that message, we've actually raised a little bit of money when we were kind of on a fundraising hiatus. So that was a pleasant surprise, and we heard such great feedback from people in our community that have seen the videos and these communications come out about the work that we're doing. And they're saying you know this is why I'm proud to be a "Y” member and so it's really fostering that culture of philanthropy.  Know that’s kind of a hot topic but it's been great from that aspect. And I also think just the sheer ability to reach out to people I mean you know 20,000 plus members that were able to reach with the click of a button is really really great. 

Especially because when that video comes through you see a little GIF of the person that recorded the video, so you know that it's a friendly face and that really helps because right now when we're having a tough time physically connecting and being around other people, that virtual connection is acting more important now than ever. So to have that friendly face come through and share a positive message about what an organization that these people are a part of is doing in the community has been really beneficial. So, we've loved it. It kind of is a one up compared to our constant contact account that we would typically use for our newsletters and things like that just because it adds that personal touch. So, it's been a real success from my end. 
nonprofit donor communication

Adam: And Sabrina I think from my standpoint speaking both on behalf of Cause Vid but also as someone who still considers himself a fundraiser, I think it's just critical that nonprofits don't stop. Don't stop communicating with your donors, don't stop engaging with your donors, don’t stop checking in on people. There are certain activities that might not be appropriate right now. I’ve seen some organizations that were ready to launch into some major capital campaigns, putting those on hold and re-evaluating month to month to decide when they should actually launch something like. But it depends on what the cause is and whether or not the cause is an immediate need or maybe something that can be delayed a bit. 

I think it's just a question of each organization deciding how it wants to best move forward given its own needs,  it's own impact and its own donor base. But I think even if you do become a little less, I’ll use the word aggressive for lack of a better word, a little less aggressive with your fundraising approach you should still keep in touch with, keep talking to, keep reaching out to those donors. We see obviously some of them may be elderly and living alone and really appreciate that personal contact when they are you know quarantined and unable to leave the house. I think all of us are dealing with that to different levels right now and to the extent that someone is able to and an organization is able to reach out with whatever tool they have available is certainly something that we all want to see keep happening for all the nonprofits out there doing great work. And we hope that our tool and our video recording, our video email solution can help make that a little easier for some nonprofits along the way. 

Sabrina: Ya definitely, this whole situation I know a lot of people may feel like it’s pushing us back but it can also be an opportunity, like you said, to connect with people and show them that you care beyond just a donation. And softwares like yours is a great way to do that, it’s a lot more personal than text or sending a picture and you actually get to talk from the heart so it’s fantastic. 

For our listeners, for more information on Cause Vid please give them a visit at There you can get more information on their services and also get in contact with Adam for more about their software. Thank you so much for listening and we’ll see you next time on fundraising Superheroes! 
Video is an excellent way to send thoughtful messages to donors, and as Sarah mentioned tracking the success of the content can give you some useful donor data. Donor Engine can organize that data so you can keep track of your donor's preferred communication methods. If interested on learning more about the importance of donor data and using a donor management software contact us at!

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