Located in the Kenora District of Northwestern Ontario, Canada, Dryden is a four-season town with a diverse restaurant and shopping scene, and over 200 service clubs and community groups. The Dryden Regional Health Centre (DRHC) serves a small rural community of 8,000 residents and a catchment area of approximately 20,000.
Chuck Schmitt is the recruitment and fundraising manager at DRHC. He was born and raised in Dryden. After high school he did a year in Winnipeg before heading to Thunder Bay Lakehead University for four years. It wasn’t long after graduation that Chuck felt it was time to come home to Dryden, be close to family, and contribute as an active member of the community.
Shifting gears and taking on fundraising at Dryden
15 years ago, taking on the position of a Recruitment and Fundraising Advisor at Dryden was a huge career shift for Chuck. He didn’t know a lot about healthcare, but he did have transferable skills, some experience as an employment advisor and site coordinator, and most importantly, he knew the community. Once he stepped into the role, Chuck spent a lot of time trying to grasp a good understanding of daily operations. He attributes his success to the support from some wonderful mentors and team members.
“I really do respect and enjoy my team here. There's a lot of familiar faces that have been here along the way—it's comfortable, and I've still had the opportunity to grow.”
One of the many responsibilities that Chuck is responsible for at Dryden is fundraising. The Dryden Regional Health Services Foundation raises money for the purchase of life-saving medical equipment. Prior to the pandemic, DRHC was heavily reliant on traditional, in-person fundraising events such as galas, fashion shows, dinners, auctions, etc. But the pandemic changed everything and compelled them to start looking for some online options that would help supplement monthly donations and meet their fundraising goals.
Giving the online 50/50 program a shot
After a compelling presentation with the Ascend team, Chuck and his board of directors decided to try the online 50/50 program. They decided to give it a year and see how it goes.
Fundraising through online raffles was a major shift for Chuck and his team, especially because most of their donor base didn’t particularly buy tickets online—that made him nervous and stressed. During the initial days, they had to address a lot of questions and concerns, assist with ticket purchases, and be hands-on running the program.
Their stress and anxiety eased as they approached their second draw and started seeing incredible results. With constant support from Ascend and the right people by their side, they were able to run the program smoothly. Going in, DRHC was hoping to make about $25,000 a month (or $250 to $300,000 a year), net of expenses. But the results surpassed all their expectations and exceeded set goals by leaps and bounds!
DRHC had their second 50/50 draw on New Year’s Eve in 2020, and they were beyond thrilled when they were able to raise close to $180,000!
“You get what you put into it; if you're able and you've got one or two people that can help manage your platform on a regular basis, and get a little bit of marketing help, you're going to be OK!”
The success of DRHC’s 50/50 program wasn’t just limited to the holiday season. Over the following 12 to 13 months, with the encouraging results of each monthly draw, Chuck felt more at ease and confident that the 50/50 program would continue to be a very viable revenue-generating stream for the hospital.
Overcoming challenges and exceeding expectations
Thanks to Ascend helping to retool the marketing strategy, redefining the budget, and innovating with email, social, early bird draws and paid media, the buyer base was reinvigorated and DRHC sailed through with exceptional results.
“It was amazing to watch the dollar spin on the meter! In the beginning, it was a lot of work to maintain and respond to the public but as people got comfortable with it, everything progressed smoothly.”
The online 50/50 program has complimented DRHC's fundraising efforts and reduced their reliance on making individual donation requests. In-person fundraising events often meant a lot of repeat logistical work and approaching businesses regularly which led to volunteer burnout. To add to it there was the guilt of having to make asks from a community that was already giving to several worthy causes.
The 50/50 program not only alleviated these concerns, but also helped free up much of Chuck’s time allowing him to focus on other aspects of his job. The program helped engage a broader donor base—which was huge! The return on investment and the customer service from Ascend are other noteworthy factors that Chuck speaks highly about.
Basking in the glory of remarkable results—both financial and emotional
The return on investment (ROI) from the online 50/50 program was one of the best outcomes for DRHC! With a total of 15 monthly draws from November 2020 to January 2022 and approximately $2 million in gross ticket sales, they raised just over a million dollars in the first year—that is about 3 times their expected revenue amount going into the program!
Additionally, the 50/50 program also increased their donor database. They went from 7–8K people to over 20K—which is huge! Thanks to their paid online advertising, they are now able to attract buyers across the province, making their potential almost unlimited.
Apart from the financial ROI, Chuck also discovered an emotional ROI. The 50/50 program led him to connect with, congratulate, and thank several people. Some key heartfelt moments were when one of the 50/50 draws saved a family from losing their farm and on another instance, helped a young man to buy a new car and get rid of some of the debt he and his wife were experiencing. Chuck says that these things are important.
“Yes, you get paid. But this (read: gratitude- and heartfelt-worthy moments) is also part of the paycheck.”
It brought Chuck immense joy to see that people in the community valued healthcare and the hospital—the engagement on their social media channels reaffirmed and validated this.
The incredible outcomes of the online 50/50 program at DRHC has now led it to become their star flagship fundraiser.