How the Neon CRM Helped Turn My Birthday Into a $4800 Fundraiser

Tim Sarrantonio

I have always wanted to give back.  When I was ten years old, I organized an Easter Egg hunt for kids in my neighborhood.  I knew where all the eggs were in my neighborhood but that wasn’t the point.  The point was that other kids got to find eggs filled with candy on their own.  I was a weird kid, always trying to organize something for other people, like a carnival for the neighborhood.

So when my 30th birthday party came around, I knew I had to do something epic — something unique.  Something that might change how people thought about giving back, volunteering, donating to a cause, or bidding on a live auction.  So I turned my birthday into a massive fundraiser that benefited four charities, including NeonCRM client Reading With Pictures.  And it was successful, so much so that the Chicago Tribune owned RedEye featured it both in print and on their blog.

I wanted to give folks the opportunity to have some drinks, food, live entertainment, and a brewery tour while also bidding on amazing live auction packages that included items from Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard and Chicago Cubs tickets.  In short, I wanted to make The Timtacular more than just my birthday party.  I wanted it to be about the community and celebrate the organizations doing good in their communities.

I couldn’t have raised over $4800 in one night without the NeonCRM.

I have worked in the nonprofit sector for ten years, was recently nominated for the 2012 YNPN Chicago Nonprofit Professional of the Year, and have coordinated $1.4 million in fundraising in the past three years.  I’ve worked with lots of vendors and products but was blown away what the NeonCRM did for me, on a personal level.

How did I do it?  Let me tell you.

  1. I created several products in the online store, including access to the event, raffle tickets, t-shirts, and live auction packages.
  2. I used the NeonCRM’s Campaign capabilities to create a donation page with donation levels tailored for those folks who couldn’t come to the event.  My birthday is actually on April 20th, so when I was hit with HAPPY BIRTHDAY messages on Facebook, I thanked them for their wishes and gave them a link to my donation page.  I raised over $800 just from this alone, and easily tracked this using the NeonCRM’s saved reports functionality.
  3. I exported basic information for the event into Excel and had my lovely girlfriend turn it into a dynamically updated spreadsheet to track in person ticket purchases and product sales when cash or checks were given.
  4. People who wanted to pay with cash were given the option to receive a tax receipt at the event itself, since I had formatted our NeonCRM system emails for any purchase or donation to coincide with the campaign.  Since we had a BluePay connection set up, we were processing credit card information in real time, all being recorded directly within the system.
  5. When the live auction came around, I updated the price of the products in the NeonCRM online store to dynamically reflect the event, then added it to the person’s record from the backend to keep things tidy.  This is how I was able to track great donations from places like Begyle Brewing, Atwood Café, and Chicago Comics. If they weren’t in the system, we added them right then and there.  All of these transactions were done on either a laptop or an iPad.  The fact we were able to do this in real time allowed us to cut down significantly on what is typical for auction checkout at events.

I had planned this event since late 2011, when I was working for a school that used The Raiser’s Edge as its main fundraising software.  When I joined the Z2 Systems Inc. team, I didn’t fully understand the extent that the NeonCRM could benefit something like I had in mind.  Now Reading With Pictures, Arise Chicago, The Neo-Futurists, and The Arts of Life have over $1200 in their bank accounts because of what Neon provided.

What about you folks?  Do you want to know more about how the NeonCRM can do this for you?  Do you want your board members or volunteers or major donors to replicate what I’ve done?  I’m here to help, here to listen, here to look at things critically.  Your mission is my mission; let’s talk.

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