Turning the Corner Toward Community Health: Vaccine Distribution Initiatives

Last week, in the midst of a pandemic, Texas faced an unprecedented winter storm. Millions were left without power or water; for those who had water, it was often unsanitary. Our own team sought solutions to keep us safe and warm, which we compiled here. We saw local organizations leverage GivePulse to fundraise hundreds of thousands of dollars to feed vulnerable members of their community, and collaborated with the City to help with warming centers and shelters. We continue to work with churches and local authorities to ensure everyone has access to showers, safe drinking water, and laundry services. If we can help with any immediate needs, please let us know at warm@givepulse.com. 

As we turn the corner, with warmer weather signaling safety to those in our home state, we know that COVID-19 remains a challenge to be overcome.  In these challenging times, we have continued to be inspired by the speed and efficacy with which the scientific community stepped up to develop vaccines that will allow our communities to begin moving toward normalcy. As vaccine rollout progresses across the country, our team at GivePulse have been collaborating with health authorities and institutions to coordinate volunteers and facilitate the safe, secure, and accessible distribution of vaccines. These efforts are central to our mission of empowering social good. 

This post highlights a few of the institutions and partners we’re working with to facilitate vaccine distribution, from our home City of Austin to organizations and institutions across the country. 

If you have any questions about whether GivePulse can support your vaccination efforts, please contact us at covid@givepulse.com. 

Austin: Vaccine Distribution in Our Home City

In the aftermath of an unprecedented winter storm, the City of Austin is continuing to recruit qualified individuals to serve as patient representatives and administer vaccines for their COVID-19 response. The initiative, dubbed “United Against COVID” by Austin Public Health (APH), will be imperative to the city’s operations as they find, train, and manage the thousands of volunteers required to build immunity against COVID-19.

“We never imagined we’d be faced with a once-in-a-generation winter storm during a global pandemic, but we’re glad we can play a part to keep our hometown and other communities safe, whether that’s by supporting warming shelters, showering facilities, water disbursement sites or facilitating vaccine distribution.” 

The United Against COVID initiative will also center on the recruitment of volunteers to their appropriate Points of Dispensing. Points of Dispensing (PODs) serve as community locations for the distribution of medical countermeasures such as vaccines, antibiotics, and more. The City of Austin will create a virtual hub for local PODs from which they can manage different locations at the same time, displaying vacancies for volunteers in locations near them. From this hub, APH will also coordinate communication and reporting to ensure that health administrators can seamlessly control, audit and access data to distribute the vaccine throughout the community. 

Once they have found the appropriate POD for their location, volunteers can submit their availability and qualifications, along with any other information required by APH to ensure safe and effective vaccine distribution. APH will review these applications to screen potential volunteers and offer qualified applicants access to volunteer opportunities. With this designated group pre-selected, administrators for the PODs can easily message out any immediate needs via email, SMS, or SNS. This ensures that, should more volunteers be required for any situation, administrators have a list of available and qualified individuals at their fingertips. 

Working With Partners Across the Nation

GivePulse is proud to be working alongside our hometown’s leadership for United Against COVID.  We are taking our learnings in Austin, TX to activate other cities, states, institutions, organizations and public health authorities to get folks vaccinated.

For organizations, institutions, cities and municipalities who would like to collaborate with us, let us know how we can launch vaccination appointments, symptom checking, patient statuses, volunteer signups, community fundraising and more. Email covid@givepulse.com for more information or to set up your public health portal. 

Join us on March 31 at 2pm CT for our Vaccinations and Public Health webinar. Register here

Stay Safe Texas: Resources and Guidelines for Winter Storms and Power Outages

The past days have been devastating for many communities in our home state of Texas, leading to the declaration of a state of emergency. As of Thursday morning, hundreds of thousands in Texas remained without power in the aftermath of an unprecedented winter storm. Our own team has been significantly impacted by power outages, water shortages and contamination, and below freezing temperatures. Right now some members of our team are staying at the office, where we are lucky enough to have consistent power; others are bunkering with their friends and neighbors. In tandem, we’re working with the City of Austin, in collaboration with Austin Disaster Relief Network, to provide support for the shelters and warming centers available. 

It’s been tough tackling a pandemic; it’s unprecedented to lose power and water at the same time on this scale. In these times, we want the community to know we are here to support you in any way we can, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. As we pick up our vaccination efforts, and we see the temperature showing signs of warming, we know we will come out of this stronger with you. 

In this post, we reflect on some actions we’ve taken personally and at the office that we believe will be important for those also affected by these conditions now and in the future, and how you can access or share resources from anywhere in the country. 

Stay Safe and Warm 

Warmth and safety are the number one priority at this time. Here are some important tips:

  • Wear moisture-wicking material — avoid cotton, which absorbs moisture
  • Wear multiple loose layers to generate warm air pockets 
  • Block doors and windows with towels to decrease drafts 
  • Move into one room and bring everything you need into that room. Seal the room tightly; this will keep any warmth generated by body heat and movement locked into this room 
  • Cars, grills, fuel burning lanterns and generators should not be used in or near the home to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning
  • During the day, uncover windows to allow sunlight in. When the sun has passed the window, block off with towels or heavy blankets to insulate 
  • Consume hot foods and drinks 
  • Layer blankets and bedding 
  • Exercise gently, but not to the point where you sweat 
  • Run your car (away from the garage) for a minute or so each day, and charge your phone from there
  • If your city is on a boil water notice (for example, Austin, our home city), boil any water that comes out of your taps before using
  • Conserve water usage and follow your city’s instructions to avoid pipe bursts

If you do have power, turn off unnecessary appliances to conserve energy and avoid using large appliances. 

Share and Request Resources

Water shortages, difficulties accessing food, and lack of power have led to significant needs for resources. A good portion of our team right now do not have water and are conserving as much as they can. Those with water also are under boil notice! We urge you to connect with neighbors who might have extra sanitary water and resources. We also recommend looking at crowdfunded resource lists, such as the ones here and here, as well as threads that are staying up-to-date with resources. 

As we mentioned above, we are working with the City of Austin to coordinate their response to the community’s needs for the homeless and those without power. To see how you can volunteer and assist, contact us here; to access resources and centers available, visit here

If you have extra supplies, you can donate to mutual aid funds, food banks, and similar organizations. We’ve compiled a list at the bottom of this post. For any organizations hoping to set up a donation drive where you can see needs requests and gather resources in Austin, go here. Other cities, please reach out to us here and we are happy to help. 

Our friends at Good Work Austin’s Community Kitchen also have a donation page here – donations will expand their capacity to produce meals. In the past 6 months, GWA has produced over 300k meals and procured 5 contracts.

Maintaining COVID Safety 

This winter storm has been magnified in some regards due to the ongoing spread of COVID-19. We urge you to maintain COVID safety to whatever extent possible, even if you are sharing homes with friends and family to share resources and warmth. Maintain a supply of potable water in containers so you can wash your hands. Wear masks when around those outside of your bubble (this can also help keep your face warmer). If you are leaving your home to gather supplies, maintain physical distancing measures. 

Our team is in this weather with you, and is dedicated to supporting our home community in any way we can. Reach out if you have any questions or need any assistance in setting up pages for donations and resources. Stay warm, and stay safe. 

Additional Organizations to Donate to: 

The Gift That Keeps on Giving: How Recurring Donations Can Transform Your Organization

This post is part of our Spotlight series, where we spotlight our incredible partners. We are so thrilled that GivePulse has been able to work with these nonprofits, institutions, and corporations!

Scott Russomanno runs a small nonprofit powered by volunteers. As the only full-time employee of the organization, he manages all programming, outreach and fundraising efforts for All-Stars Club Central, an organization providing a place of belonging to community members with developmental disabilities and nights of rest for parents and caregivers. All-Stars’ programming depends greatly upon the generosity of their community and their financial lifeline, both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, has been recurring donations. 

In this spotlight, we will share how recurring donations can be a sustainable foundation for organizations to make an impact, as well as how your organization can develop a consistent base of recurring donors just like All-Stars. 

Recurring Donations Make for Better Planning

Recurring donations make All-Stars’ work easier by providing a steady stream of income that allows them to plan programming and ensure that their constituents receive important and necessary services.We encourage our donors to make recurring donations because it allows us to plan for growth far more accurately since we can rely on a base of income each month” says Russomanno. “One time donations are great, but can make it much more difficult to project. Focusing on growing our base of monthly donors allows us to be smarter in our financial projections and far more accurate in our decision making process.”

“Focusing on growing our base of monthly donors allows us to be smarter in our financial projections and far more accurate in our decision making process.”

Recurring Donors Give More

Recurring donations have been proven time and time again to increase giving, engagement and donor retention. Although a donor may set up a monthly recurring donation at a lower amount than a one-time donation, the cumulative effect of those smaller monthly donations will quickly surpass the amount a donor would’ve given with a one-time gift. The average recurring donor gives $332 annually to All-Stars Club Central’s general donations page, while the average one-time donor gives $204. National statistics show that average online recurring donors give 255% more than one-time donors.

Increasing Community Dedication & Donor Retention

Many of All-Stars’ recurring donors also serve as volunteers with the organization. Russomanno encourages all volunteers to set up monthly recurring donations of any size or sponsor an “All-Star” for $20 a month. In doing this, he has noted increased engagement and dedication from volunteers. Volunteers who donate are generally far more engaged with our programs. Those who give of their time and financial resources feel a stronger sense of ownership and thus more likely to stay involved for the long term.” 

In addition to being a tool to increase engagement among volunteers, recurring donations are a great way to keep your existing donors from abandoning your cause. Donor retention rates across the country run low with the average around 45%. Increasing donor retention allows your organization to focus on growing programming and support long term instead of worrying about how you’re going to meet your end of year fiscal goals. Industry research shows that recurring donors have an average retention rate of 90% and are six times more likely to leave an organization in their will or make a legacy gift. 

“Volunteers who donate… feel a stronger sense of ownership and thus are more likely to stay involved for the long term.” 

Sustainable Funding During Unpredictable Times

COVID-19 has caused economic uncertainty for millions of people, creating a challenge for nonprofit organizations. Most nonprofits need financial support now more than ever but feel uneasy asking a constituency potentially facing financial hardship to increase their giving. Recurring giving is a simple way to create sustainable financial support that is realistic for donors on a budget. While some donors experiencing financial uncertainty may hold back on giving a gift of $100 right now, donating $10 or $20 a month can feel like a more manageable way to support your organization, allowing them to continue support and actually donate more than they would have otherwise. 

Business Partnerships

All-Stars has also harnessed the generosity of their community and the power of recurring giving through a local business partner. Local businesses who commit to your mission are incredible resources for potential donors,” says Russomanno. “We have established a relationship with a local business who offers a monthly service package but requests payments are made as donations to our organization. This is a win/win/win as the client receives great service, we receive a base of monthly donors, and the business receives an additional touch point to help diagnose larger issues that bring in greater revenue.”

Community partnerships with local businesses and corporations can be extremely beneficial to your organization, especially when it comes to recurring giving. Find businesses whose values align with the mission of your organization and rather than asking for a one-time donation, encourage them to start a recurring giving program that deducts from employee paychecks or sets up monthly gifts from customers in exchange for services. This will allow you to create a sustainable funding source and build stronger relationships with businesses and donors over time.

“Local businesses who commit to your mission are incredible resources for potential donors.” 

Takeaways and Next Steps

You may be wondering how you can tap into recurring giving to reach and maintain a strong donor base like All-Stars has. Here are our top three takeaways from Russomanno’s experience: 

  1. Start a membership or sponsorship program: Just as All-Stars encourages donors to subscribe to a $20 per month sponsorship, you can create a membership program to help donors recognize the impact of their giving. Consider implementing multiple donation tiers and specifying the milestones that can be accomplished, showing the direct impact the donor’s contribution will have on the community. For example, food banks might include different tiers to correspond to a number of families that can be fed through a monthly donation. 
  2. Start a volunteer giving program: Russomanno noticed that volunteers who donate are likely to be more engaged with the organization overall. Encourage volunteers to donate by including links in communications and reinforcing how recurring donations relate directly to their work in the community. 
  3. Partner with a local business: For All-Stars, a partnership with a local business has been key to their recurring donations program. Consider partnering with local businesses to reach new donors and stay connected to your community. These businesses may even ultimately find additional ways to give back to your organization, such as volunteer time off programs, payroll deductions, and gift or hours matching

Start Accepting Recurring Gifts

Recurring giving programs are easy to maintain through online giving platforms such as GivePulse, which offers recurring giving to all users of the platform. For Russomano, the flexibility and customization of giving pages has allowed him to bring in more recurring donors. “GivePulse has allowed us to create specific fundraising campaigns that we can use for each of our fundraising events or programs. It allows us to offer targeted campaigns with recurring and one-time options as well as opportunities for our volunteers to get involved and lead their own fundraising page.” 

Here’s how you can start accepting recurring donations for your organization: 

  1. Create an ongoing fundraiser
  2. Attend a Fundraiser 101 class this spring

No matter how you set up your recurring giving program, we know that it will create a base of sustainable funding to help you and your organization make an even bigger impact in your community. 

Questions? Set up a fundraising consultation meeting or email fundraising@givepulse.com

Thank you so much to Scott Russomanno and the whole team at All-Stars Club Central for your dedication and service to your community. Your work provides valuable services and a place of belonging that makes our world a better place. Learn more about All-Stars Club Central and support their work here