September 3, 2020

Changing Plans for Fundraising Success

2355 Productions
2355 Productions
Changing Plans for Fundraising Success

Show Notes

Episode 08

Meet our guest: Sue Ann Werling

SueAnn is the President of Brown County Humane Society. We met her a couple of years ago when producing a video for them as part of a $3.2 million campaign to build a new facility (view that video here!). They recently reached that goal, and we couldn’t be more impressed and thrilled for them!
Brown County Humane Society is a private, volunteer-supported nonprofit organization dedicated to serving Brown County’s dogs and cats. They are the only animal shelter in Brown County, and accept all of the county’s homeless cats and dogs regardless of health, temperament, or perceived adoptability. They have achieved and maintained an amazing Save Rate of over 95%, compared to the national average of 60%. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram, and check out their campaign website here.

Changing the Original Fundraising Plan

The campaign committee at BCHS originally planned to have several gatherings of 40-60 people where they would share their story and the need for donations. The first of these events had about 35 people in attendance, so they decided to poll their donors to find out how they would like to learn about the project. Were these gatherings actually the best plan, or was there another approach that would be more appealing to their donors? They found that many of their donors struggled to make time for such events, and it became difficult to schedule the gatherings accordingly. 
In response, BCHS decided to shift their strategy by focusing on one-on-one meetings with their donors (and prospective donors). While they did employ some other strategies as well, this was the main way they raised their funds. A major benefit was that it allowed them to have more meaningful conversations with their donors and further build relationships. 

Creating Marketing Materials that Work

The BCHS team created a brochure that they used in all of their meetings, which allowed them to easily walk through the facility plans. They identified 3 groups that would benefit from the new building — animals, employees and volunteers, and the community. Their material outlined how each of these groups would be impacted and showed the corresponding areas of the shelter that would function for each group. This visual and informative tool made it easy for donors to see exactly what their dollars would do with this project. 

Keeping Donors informed

BCHS highly values their relationship with their donors and are striving to keep them informed throughout each stage of this project. Not too long ago, they were able to break ground on their new facility and, unfortunately, were unable to make it a celebratory in-person event (due to COVID). Instead, they have used videos to help keep their donors in the loop. 


  • Be flexible! Don’t be afraid to try something different. If it doesn’t work, move on to the next plan! That’s how you learn and grow.
  • Be sensitive to the needs and desires of your donors. Listen to them…they are the ones who are supporting your mission.
  • If you can secure matching funds, do it! People love to know that their dollars are being stretched — it encourages them to give.

Brown County Humane Society Campaign Video


Episode Transcript

These transcripts are computer generated

Ryan Sarver 0:10
Hello, and welcome to the marketing and engagement podcast brought to you by 2355 Productions. This podcast is all about exploring different tactics for marketing, but also strategies and techniques to create lasting engagement with donors and customers. I’m your host, Ryan Sarver, and this is episode number eight. This week, we are talking with Sue Ann Werling of Brown County Humane Society, located in Nashville, Indiana, the Brown County Humane Society started back in the 60s as just a group of volunteers, as there were no other animal shelters in the county. And that remains to be true today, they eventually were able to get some land and build a small shelter in 1987, that has served them for the past 33 years. This is a really small facility. We’ve been in it a couple times. But the maintenance costs and restrictions of this original shelter this building they’re in right now. We’re starting to hinder their work. And so they set out two years ago to raise $3.2 million in a campaign to build a new modern animal shelter, to better take care of the animals to better take care of their staff and also to serve the community. So with that in mind soon, and I chat about their strategy to raise this money, and how they adjusted the strategy through some of the things that they were seeing to reach their goals. Really interesting conversation. Let’s jump right in. Well, thanks so much for joining us. Suzanne, how are you today?

Sue Ann Werling 1:39
I’m fine. Thank you.

Ryan Sarver 1:40
Yes. Well, again, thank you so much for joining us. As soon as we began, can you tell us a little bit about who you are in your role with the Brown County Humane Society and some of the history of the Brown County Humane Society?

Sue Ann Werling 1:52
Yes, I’d be happy to. My name is Sue Ann Wherling, and I’m the president of the Brown County Humane Society, wonderful shelter in Brown County. We were founded in 1966. So we’ve got some years behind here. Our role here in the county is to take care of the cats and dogs. We are an open admission shelter, which means that any animal that a resident of Brown County brings it in brings in we will take it in and and care for that animal. Our goal is that we hope to get every animal that comes through our doors adopted. So we do full on adoptions. And we are here to serve our community.

Ryan Sarver 2:43
Yeah. And when you and I met, it’s been a couple years ago, there’s a pretty amazing statistic about how many animals that you save in your shelter annually. like can you can remind what that is like how many animals that you’re able to save that come through your shelter?

Sue Ann Werling 2:56
I yes, consistently. Since 2009, we’ve been able to save 90% of the animals coming into the shelter and our recent rates in the past. Oh, gosh, percentages in the last few years have been in the 97 98% range. So we we truly believe we can take them off.

Ryan Sarver 3:21
Yeah, incredible. Well, I wanted to chat with you a little bit today about big campaign that you just wrapped up. And first off, I want to say congratulations on completing your campaign. Thank you. Yes. And so for everyone to know. So we start working with a with you. A couple years ago, you’re getting ready to launch a campaign and you were trying to raise $3.2 million to build a new facility. And you just when did you just hit that mark within the last month? When did when did you hit that mark?

Sue Ann Werling 3:52
Right around April. We hit that mark. Wow. And that was that was amazing. Because here we are in the midst of something that our country has never been through. And we were able to finish it off in a social media campaign Blitz, finish off our our final number to reach the 3.2 million. So we were just absolutely thrilled and very, very excited that we were able to achieve that.

Ryan Sarver 4:25
Yeah. And just so everyone knows, you guys. This is not meant to be derogatory. You’re pretty scrappy organization. You’re a small organization. You don’t have a huge team here. But you’ve got a lot of great volunteers and you’re working out of a very small, very age facility now and you took on this really big, audacious goal of raising 3.2 and

Sue Ann Werling 4:45
you hit it. Absolutely. And it was, Wow, what an undertaking. You’re You’re absolutely right. When you say scrappy, I believe that we literally use every single end of our current Rent shelter the best we can. And our current shelter is over 30 years old and it’s tired. And so many things in today’s environment and animal welfare are so different than they were 30 years ago. So having and being able to raise this kind of funding, to be able to build a new shelter and have the appropriate environment, for our animals, for the people walking through the doors, and for our staff and volunteers is really very important.

Ryan Sarver 5:33
Yes, absolutely. So I want to talk a little bit about how you raised $3.2 million. That’s a big number. And you know, when we first met, we were talking about we produced a video for you. And we went through some messaging things, and we produced a really nice video, and the plan was for you to use that like in small group settings. I think the original plan was like to do some meals, and invite people over watch that. And and so it was it was originally designed in small groups. But that’s not necessarily how this all turned out. So Suzanne, tell us a little bit about what you did and and how you raise this 3.2 because the plan kind of changed.

Sue Ann Werling 6:12
It did we envision when we first started this, this whole project, we had a group of four of us, that was part of the quote Capital Campaign Committee. And so the four of us had these big plans that we were going to have several large gatherings where we could have 40 to 60 people, we could show them the video, of course, the dinners, and really, really work the crowd in the way of sharing with them what our story is sharing why they need to give, why why do they need to donate to us and do that in a big way. So we have several events planned. And none of them really except for one. And it was it was probably attended by maybe 3540 people. Other than that the other ones that we thought we were going to have we decided not to have. And the end, the very reason was as we were going out to our donors, and pulling them in terms of what what would they like to see how would they like to learn about our project and the new exciting projects we’re bringing here to our community, many of them had other things that they had to do, I mean, we all have lives. And it was really hard to sync up everyone’s schedule. And so where we thought these events would again, be a lot, a lot more people attending them, the groups became smaller and smaller. And of course, a lot of the venues that you want to have an event like this in you need to have a certain headcount. So it really, it really wasn’t working. And what we’ve found to work, the very best was to actually produce really great marketing materials, and tell the story through our marketing materials, so that we could sit down in front of someone one on one, and really walk through our history, our story, and then why we feel that a new filter is needed, and then walk them through those plans of that new shelter, what is the new sales are going to bring to our community. And so we focused on three different groups. And again, all in our marketing materials. And then from that point, we walked through why they should be giving to this particular project here in our community. So we found that to be so much more successful. It’s a small community here. So we know on a local level many of our donors, so having a one on one seemed to be everyone’s needs, seems to very much engaged back and really wanted to get to meet with us. So we can meet at their home. We can be we can meet to have coffee, we could meet to have lunch, we can meet out in the park, if need be literally many of us on that small Capital Campaign Committee had these brochures, in our car, then even when we would see someone that would want to talk to us about it. Because we’re seem to travel and people became very interested in our project, we would pull out our booklet and we could start talking and talk to literally anyone about what we wanted to bring to our community and to this organization.

Ryan Sarver 10:00
Wow, yeah, and I’m looking at your brochure right now, which I will share with everyone on our website. But I loved you know, you kind of talked about this and that you talked about the different audiences is that you’ve outlined the problem on one of your pages, like the current shelter is no longer available, and then you give the breakdown, like what it brings to the pets, what it brings to the community. And then what also brings the staff and volunteers like what this new facility does, like it’s, you’ve kind of taken this multifaceted approach no matter who you’re talking to, there’s something in for that in there for them where they can latch on to it.

Sue Ann Werling 10:36
Absolutely, absolutely. And, and really, I think this project specifically needs to speak to what are we going to do for those, those people for those animals, for our volunteers that walk through those doors every single day? What is this building going to bring to the table for, for any audience, really any person that has touched us in the past, and we felt like this was a good approach? We did work with a local designer here, to make it very succinct, very specific. So that there was really no guessing game. Yes, we did that color coding for silver animals were in purple and, and we had our floor plan laid out. So everything in purple, were for ourselves, our pets, and what we were going to do for them, and then everything in teal was for our community, and what we were going to bring to the community in the facility, and then our yellow was staff and volunteer. What are we going to bring to the table for those folks? Because right now, our staff and volunteers, there’s so little space in our current facility, it was really important to share all of those special things we were going to do really for each group that we serve.

Ryan Sarver 11:56
Yeah. And I think what what’s great about this is you’re showing that it’s not just about pets, it’s you’re talking about you’re you’re helping people see the broader scope of what you do. And I that’s a lot of what we do. As we work with nonprofits. It’s not just talking about what your program does, but what it does for those around the program, as well. And I think you guys have really done a great job of that here.

Sue Ann Werling 12:19
Thank you. Yeah. I’ll tell you what I can I the the the furniture here, it’s very practical. It’s not real glitzy. But it really tells the story. And it’s very succinct. So literally, anyone on our team, including our board members, or our staff could literally pick up this brochure and sit down and have a very meaningful conversation with a donor.

Ryan Sarver 12:48
Yeah, so everybody can be a part of it.

Sue Ann Werling 12:51

Ryan Sarver 12:52
Yeah. So were you surprised by this? Everybody’s got plans, when they start a campaign, I think we’re, you know, we’re gonna have these events, and we’re gonna do this. And then, you know, things weren’t working out. And so talk to me a little bit about how you were feeling when things weren’t working out. And just like the mindset of like, we’ve got a shift here. And then how did you feel when you started to see like, you’re getting this tractions a lot more with those one on one interactions, versus your, your original idea of having these gatherings to kind of build some momentum?

Sue Ann Werling 13:20
Well, you know, again, being a small organization, when something’s not working, you can shift pretty quick. But when you’re when you’re taking, you know, a poll as to how people would like to learn about your project, and, and sitting down in a dinner, a large gathering was just not someone I really honestly with very few people Bagga T, they really, really prefer the one on one. So that’s, that’s when you say, Okay, well, let’s give them let’s give them what they’re asking for. And that’s what you’ve got to be able to be pretty agile in moving about, and, and changing as you need to. And so, you know, what, what’s the heart, what’s going to happen if we, if we change it up, we try to do the one on one. And if that doesn’t work, we’ll go to, we’ll go to plan C, then. So Plan B worked out super, the momentum that we received, almost instantly, the donor very much could relate. And to be very honest with you, this is a very personal thing for so many people. Our community is small. We all care very, very much about each other. And really having that that that informal, very personal approach worked really, really well for us. And so if it’s working, you know why change it up. So we just continue down the bad path and it’s It just continued to work. And then at the end of the campaign, again, we use some social media blitzes and things like that to reach out to us other audiences. And that got us over the top. So it’s pretty exciting.

Ryan Sarver 15:18
Yeah, absolutely. I’ve seen some of your posts on Facebook as the dirts moving and things are going so it looks like things are going really well.

Sue Ann Werling 15:26
They are. And when we broke ground on, that was another thing. That was very odd for us. Because again, that breaking the ground is, is a big, you know, is usually a very big thing. It was for us. But during these challenging times that we’re all going through, we couldn’t even do that. So what we ended up doing is we ended up doing a video I did here at my office. And so it’s like, okay, we have Okay, a stay at home order. What are we going to do? This is super important to our community. And that’s super important to, to our organization, and to our donors, we want to give it the proper respect. But we also want to be real, very respectful of what’s going on around the state and the country. So we we did a video here in my office, me alone and and letting everyone know that we’re breaking ground today. And this is how we’re going to do it. Then after that, we felt like it’s it’s going to be really important for the future just to continue the photos and videos and things like that out there. So people know where we’re going, and how we’re going to get there. And again, to all those wonderful donors that invested in the Brown County Humane Society in this new building, it’s important for them to be updated. Yeah,

Ryan Sarver 16:54
absolutely. I mean, that’s an important part of the campaign. It’s not just raising the money, but keeping everybody let them know that they’re still a part of it and and not leaving them behind.

Sue Ann Werling 17:02
Absolutely. It’s very, very, very important, because it truly is going to take community and affiliates to get this building built. And thus far. That’s the approach we’ve used. And it’s about all gathering together and and doing it all together as a team. And it’s worked out well for us.

Ryan Sarver 17:25
Yeah, was there? I mean, this is a big number. Was there apprehension when you first started this campaign to thinking like, this is a huge ask, was there apprehension in any of how much you were asking and trying to get get going?

Sue Ann Werling 17:39
Absolutely. It was scary. It was actually scary. We had never even Wow, we hadn’t even thought of that number. In that way. probably four or five years ago, when we when we thought about the fact that, hey, this is what we’re going to need to do for the future. We’re going to need to improve our facilities, we’re going to need to build a new building. We didn’t really have that particular goal in mind. It was lower. I don’t I to be honest with you, I can’t recall what that number was. But the 3.2 Yeah, that’s a big number. It’s a big number for small community. But it’s something that it really is building our future. It’s building the future for, for the animals coming into the shelter. It’s building the future for the organization. And it was a big number, but you’re now you just you pick it, you go with it, and you do everything you can to make it happen. Yeah. And that’s what we did.

Ryan Sarver 18:52
So what do you think you learned during this? during this campaign through all of this again, you know, I keep coming back to this, you guys had some you had some big plans, like you got a big number. That’s scary. And you know, you know, what you what you need to do to make the the future of the Brown County Humane Society continue and flourish and so forth. So talk to me about what you feel like you learned as things didn’t always go as you planned. And I think this is a really important lesson, especially right now in the world. As you know, we all can’t do exactly what we want. There’s a lot of folks that are in organizations that want to have big fundraising events that simply can’t, and you know, they might be putting their goals in the backburner. So what what would you What would you want to say to others that you’ve learned through this or how you and your team navigated this changes and and raising this amount?

Sue Ann Werling 19:39
Well, I think people have to have the flexibility to to change as, as the situation changes, we found out pretty quick upfront, that large gatherings weren’t going to work for us and so What is your next step? Well, we got to get in front of our donors, we’ve got to get in front of people to let them know what our project is all about. That’s how you raise money. And so you have to have that flexibility to move and give it a shot, try it. If it doesn’t work, then then move on to the next plan. Don’t be afraid to try something different. It may not be what what you envisioned. But you know what, that’s how you learn. And that’s how you grow. And oftentimes you grow by just making mistakes. And I, I don’t think that we will make necessarily any mistakes on the campaign. But I think that we learned so much about our donors, I think our relationship with our donors is very, very strong, we try to be be very sensitive to what their needs are, and what their desires are. I mean, they’re the folks that are supporting your mission. And so you really have to listen to what’s important to them, and how they want it done. And then you go from there. And if it doesn’t work, then you try something else. I think we have some amazing people in our community. And we have donors that are not only here in Brown County, but we have donors all over it that we’ve had, with all of our doctrines and things like that, we reached out to literally any group that we touch on a regular basis, we kind of grouped these different donor groups together, and then we made a plan for each one. And again, if if one doesn’t work, then you try something else. I do think that the one thing that helped us greatly in raising 3.2 million is any organization out there that can secure matching funds, do it, do it, people want to give so that they know their dollars are being stretched, far as they can possibly be stressed. So matching funds, were really critical in reaching that 3.2 million. And that’s something I think that was super instrumental in our success there. The other thing is just the community aspect of getting everyone involved, really makes you feel good. It makes you feel just amazing that there are so many people in our community that really see the value that that this organization brings to the community. And that’s such a joy. And we just can’t wait until the day we can open up those doors and invite everyone in. But we’ve learned a lot about really so many different people, donors community, what they want, what, what maybe they don’t necessarily care about. And those things are important. Because that’s how we grow for the future. And I think things are going to be different here in the future. And you’re right, you’re not going to be able to have those big gatherings necessarily. But how can we do it differently to fill the succeed and make our goals? And we were able to do it? For sure. So we’re very excited.

Ryan Sarver 23:45
Yeah. Again, congratulations. So soon, how can we find out more about someone’s listening? How can they find out more I know, you’re still you’ve reached the 3.2. But as we spoke a little bit earlier last week, you’re still trying to raise some more money to kind of outfit what’s going on inside inside the facility. So if someone’s interested, how could they find out more about the Brown County Humane Society and in your campaign?

Sue Ann Werling 24:10
Okay, well, you can do it two different ways. Go to either one of our websites. And that’s one thing I think it’s pretty important to a capital campaign, which we ended up doing and to be honest with you, it was a big question, mark for us. is do you run one website, your your typical website that we’ve had forever with the BC Or do we have a dedicated website for just a capital campaign? We ended up going with two websites meaning our Brown County Humane Society website which is bc humane guide org. And we had a link with there’s a link on there build that you can link to our at least bc dot com. And that’s where they can learn more about the building. And our next phase, we’re calling it kind of the 2.0. Let’s make this a home. And we now raised 3.2 million for our building. But we’re now looking to raise more money to be able to make it home. And those are all those furnishings inside the building that we’re going to need. And so again, you can go to unleash And then you will see a floor plan and you’ll be able to click on the different areas in our floorplan for those items that we will be purchasing for the filter each room individually.

Ryan Sarver 25:45
Well, that’s all we have for you today. Thanks so much for listening to this episode. If you’d like to find show notes and links, visit us at 2355 Please don’t forget to subscribe on your favorite platform to continue to get episodes delivered to you as soon as they are released. In our next episode, we’ll be talking with Adam rife, who is an event Project Manager for marquees rental and staging. Since live events have obviously been shut down. Marcus has been assisting several organizations with live streaming virtual events and learn and I chat with him about what he has seen work with these events, and also some of their challenges. It’s definitely a fun and interesting conversation. We hope you’ll join us. Until then, take care



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