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Nonprofit life

A chat with YWCA Lethbridge about nonprofit fundraising and grants.

July 12, 2023

Meet Catherine (Cat). She’s been at the Y in Lethbridge, Alberta for about a year now. As External Relations Director Cat’s responsible for, well, a lot: fund development, social media, media relations, government relations, donor relations, event planning, grants, and even marketing. Needless to say, we were curious to get to know her a little better.

YWCA Lethbridge has been using Zeffy’s 100% free fundraising platform for nonprofits for about a year now. We wanted to better understand their reality and how they use Zeffy tools and services. So, we booked a Google hangout.

David (Zeffy): Hey Catherine! So, I hear Lethbridge is in Alberta. I have family in Calgary! Do you know… Just joking. I’m sure you don’t know my Aunt Marla or Aunt Lana. Anyways, can you please introduce yourself.

Catherine Champagne (Cat): Insert a polite laugh here. No, I don’t know them. But Calgary is great! Okay, so I’ve been at the Y (YWCA Lethbridge) for about 10 months. I’m the External Relations Director. No one was doing the role before, so, it’s kind of been an evolving position. So far, I’ve bee responsible for: Fund development, social media, media relations, government relations, donor relations, event planning, grants, and even marketing.

It’s a lot… But don’t worry, I just applied for a grant to be able to hire a helper.

Zeffy: And what about life before the YWCA?

Cat: Prior to the Y, I worked for a woman’s shelter for 5 years. (Same job.) Before that, at Alberta Justice for about 15 years. I’ve been working in nonprofits for about 6 years now.

Zeffy: Can you introduce us all to YWCA Lethbridge?

Cat: There are 4 Y’s in Alberta, 30 across the country. Here in Lethbridge, we have a women and children’s shelter. We run a youth program (Hestia Youth Homes) that supports and empowers young adults who have experienced homelessness or have the potential of becoming homeless. We run a safe visitation program. (Safe visitation is court mandated supervised visits for parents going through court.) And our Amethyst Project supports current and historical sexual assault individuals and their families.

We have a staff of around 50 with an annual budget of around $5 million. A chunk of that comes from donations, it could be more, but we don’t capitalize on it yet. So, for now, most of our funding comes from government grants.

Zeffy: What drew you, to the YWCA?

Cat: Well, I think it’s because I wanted to stay in the nonprofit sector. My last job was taking over my life. I knew I wanted to keep focusing on women and women’s shelters. This job came up and it has all the good parts of my last job, without a lot of the stress.

There are also YWCA’s everywhere, which opens up a lot of possibilities.

Zeffy: What kind of fundraising campaigns/events do you normally host?

Cat: Here in Lethbridge, the Y is currently figuring out what works—what events work and what works with donors. Money comes to us and maybe we send a thank you card. (Which is horrible.) But we do host or participate in a few events every year:

  1. We host our Women of Distinction awards every March. We sell tickets (and we use Zeffy for this), but, it’s really a recognition event. So, for now, it’s not a huge fundraiser.
  2. Our Royal Gala is our biggest fundraiser of the year. It’s hosted by Royal Lepage in November and brings in around $100K for us.
  3. We run a Christmas stocking event every December that lets donors adopt a stocking.
  4. We tried to do a golf tournament last year… It failed. (A lot of people are feeling the pinch in terms of money.)
  5. We host a casino night every three years and we’re hoping to start a bingo night soon.

We also take part in quite a few third-party events. For example, GirlGang Kindness hosts an event for us every year.

Zeffy: That sounds like a lot.

Cat: Insert a real laugh here. That’s because it is! Especially for the size of our team.

We also get quite a few donations coming in monthly and randomly—especially around the holidays. Other than that, YWCA Lethbridge is funded through the Government of Alberta. (Most of our funding is grant based.)

Zeffy: I’ve heard that the nonprofit grant application process can be quite something.

Cat: Insert a pretty epic sigh here. Well, it definitely depends on the grant. Some are online, two pages and pretty straightforward to apply for. Others are 20 pages, require at least one reference letter, financials, etc.

So yeah, the nonprofit grant application process is kind of all over the place.

Grant writing is a very interesting process. So, when you find a grant with a shorter application, it’s awesome. Others are maybe not even worth the time.

Zeffy: What was your last fundraising event?

Cat: Women of Recognition. And we sold out and came out $2000 ahead. This really is an event about being present in the community, not about raising money.

Royal Gala was the last real fundraiser we hosted.

Zeffy: Did you learn anything from hosting your last event that could be helpful for other nonprofits?

Cat: It feels like we learn something new every year. This year I learnt that working with someone who is not part of my organization can be tricky.

It’s really hard to plan things here (in Lethbridge). Everyone who lives here literally calls it “last-minute Lethbridge”—including me! Insert a friendly laugh here. For our Women of Recognition event, we sold 50 tickets prior to the event and 300 people ended up showing up. If you know how “last-minute Lethbridge” works, you can probably make your event work—but, not always.

You really have to decide if you can plan your fundraising event successfully if you don’t know how many people are going to show up. It’s why we had to cancel our golf tournament. A golf tournament isn’t something you can plan with last-minute ticket sales. The tournament planning is way too important.

Zeffy: What is your least favourite part about running a fundraising campaign or event?

Cat: With all the work you put into these events, you never know if it is going to be successful. The unknown is hard to deal with.

Oh, and always asking people for money. But it’s part of what we do.

Okay, fair warning, this next section is very pro-Zeffy. But hey, we weren’t about to stop Cat from sharing her thoughts on our fundraising platform for nonprofits.

Zeffy: How did you hear about Zeffy and why did the YWCA decide to start using our free fundraising platform?

Cat: When I started at YWCA Lethbridge, I didn’t know about Zeffy, but we had someone working with us who had worked with Big Brothers/Big Sisters in Lethbridge and she told us about Zeffy. I had used Eventbrite before, but it was getting expensive in terms of fees.

We started small and used Zeffy for selling tickets and organizing volunteers for our Bands and Brunch event.

Zeffy: What do you use Zeffy for now?

Cat: Every time I learn about a new feature Zeffy offers, we use it.

Zeffy: Did you know Zeffy recently launched an eCommerce (eStore) feature?

Cat: We just got a Square (point of sale terminal). Before that, we were adding things to Zeffy by creating a QR code for each item that donors could scan. The problem with that was that it was coming in as a donation so people were claiming their purchases as tax deductible. (The automatic tax receipts are another amazing feature.)

I didn’t know Zeffy had a eStore feature. I definitely don’t know everything Zeffy can do. Every time I ask Gaspard, he says: “Yeah you can! You just have to do this and this.”

Zeffy: Are there any features, or services you would like Zeffy to add? Anything you don’t like about Zeffy?

Cat: Honestly, I don’t think so. Any of the issues I’ve had are more user based and Gaspard was able to answer them all.

I do have my next question ready for him though: When I post an event on FB, and paste a link to the event page, sometimes the link shows up as the name of the event—which is great—(for example: “Royal Gala”) and other times it the huge long “”. Why!?

Zeffy: Were you surprised to learn that Zeffy really is 100% free? That YWCA gets 100% of every donation?

Cat: Oh my god yes, and I still am. I thought it would be something that you’d get involved in and then have to commit to paying more later. It’s not.

Zeffy: Can you explain how Zeffy makes money?

Cat: No. I honestly wonder that. I don’t have any idea how you guys make money. I mean there is the part where donors can give extra to cover fees, but other than that, I have no idea.

People I tell Zeffy about, really don’t believe me when I say it’s free.

Zeffy: What do you think of our Voluntary Contribution model?

I think it’s fair. The way it’s marketed explains it clearly and well. I’ve maybe had one or two people who have given a voluntary contribution by accident and reached out and asked that it be reimbursed. (Zeffy was great about it.)

A huge thank you to Catherine from the YWCA in Lethbridge. Oh, and Gaspard, Cat wanted to send you a shout-out for all your timely answers!

”Gasp replied super fast! There is nothing worse than someone taking forever to reply.”
- Catherine, YWCA Lethbridge