It was evident early on that February 11, 2020, would be like no other workday for Director of Advancement Bob Venhousen, Superintendent Matt Davidson, Director of Marketing Michael VanDerAa, Advancement’s Julie Davidson, and Director of Communications Amy Bode.
By 5 am, most of the team were at school, huddled in Timothy’s marketing office. All were in prayer for a very specific purpose. The first ever #TimothyGivingDay, a campaign dedicated to raising gifts for the Timothy Fund, was set to begin.
“We prayed that whatever happened that day, God would get the glory,” Venhousen said. And by all accounts He did. When the campaign was over 24 hours later, Timothy’s community had donated more than $130,000, nearly three times the team’s original goal.
“We really didn’t know what to expect that day, but I said if we are in this, we are in it to win it,” Bode said.
There was a good reason for a laser-like focus on the campaign’s success. The Timothy Fund is a vital resource for the school’s community – offering tuition assistance to families unable to afford the full cost of tuition and bridging the gap between the real cost of educating Timothy students and the actual tuition families pay.
“Our heart behind campaigns like this is to keep Christian education affordable,” said Julie Davidson.
Although the campaign lasted just 24 hours, the genesis for #TimothyGivingDay began more than a year before. “We were familiar with National Giving Day, which thousands of organizations participate in each year,” Venhousen said. “The more we talked about it, the more excited we became about using the concept for a PK-12 school like us.”
24 hours later, Timothy’s community had donated more than $130,000, nearly three times the team’s original goal.
Timothy’s advancement team met with Trinity Christian College’s Caleb Jonkman because the college had participated in its own giving day for several years. “We then began thinking about how to adapt Trinity’s blueprint into something uniquely for Timothy’s community,” Julie Davidson said.
After setting the fundraising date for February 11, the advancement team knew they needed to collaborate with the marketing team to ensure the campaign’s success. “They were amazing,” Julie Davidson said. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”
When Bode committed in late fall to work on the campaign, her first step was to study other successful giving days. “I quickly realized that for Timothy’s campaign, we needed something entertaining, something that informed the community of the Timothy Fund and something to bring our community together on that specific giving day,” she said.
Step two was to call on recent Timothy grad Adrian Van Stee, who while at Timothy was part of Bode’s independent study class called Story Team. “Adrian is incredibly talented,” Bode said. “He knows our community, especially what works for us on social media.”
Van Stee, currently a Calvin University student majoring in film, said that his interest in film dates back to his elementary school days when he would shoot animation using Legos. By the time he was a Timothy senior, he provided photography and video content for Timothy’s Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook accounts.
The plan was for him to work on the campaign while home on Christmas break. With only a week before Timothy’s own Christmas break set to begin, Van Stee knew he had to get right to work. “I showed up at Timothy the same day I came home from Calvin,” he said, stopping at home quickly to greet his parents before driving straight to Timothy.
The advancement and marketing teams met with Van Stee to outline a general plan and again to edit scripts. “We decided to do one post at least every hour on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram,” he said. “Six or seven of those posts would be humorous videos featuring Mr. Davidson, Mr. Venhousen and Troy (Timothy’s mascot). They were totally on board with participating. It was hilarious to see them interacting with a big mascot.”
They filmed on four consecutive 10-hour days. The marketing team continued with video edits and re-shoots through the end of January. Social media posts sharing Timothy’s mission and vision were created. Mailers courtesy of Darwill Printing arrived in early February. #TimothyGivingDay was ready to start.
By all accounts, February 11 was driven by pure adrenaline. With the key members of advancement and marketing all situated in the marketing “war room,” the team watched in real time as the donation numbers climbed. As teachers, students, alumni and parents added their voices to the campaign with posts of their own to encourage giving, the numbers continued to grow. “It was so exciting and so unexpected,” said Bode, who noted that the entire campus could watch the totals increase as results were displayed on monitors throughout the campus. “It was especially great that so many younger alumni and even current students got involved.
The giving day team knew the campaign would reach its original goal by 1 pm. Just as preparation began for a social media update, Matt Davidson dropped by the war room to encourage the group by relaying a call he had just received from a Timothy parent. A mom had called from the hospital indicating that she wasn’t sure she could keep her children at Timothy without the school’s help. “That was a pivotal moment for us as it drove home in a real way that the more gifts we raise, the more families the Timothy Fund can help,” Bode said.
A video posting of Davidson relaying the Timothy mom’s story gave the campaign a life of its own, with donations skyrocketing past the original goal. Even though the giving day team called it a night at 9:30 pm, donations continued to come in via mailers. “It is clear that our community loves the Lord and their hearts are huge,” Julie Davidson said.
Looking back now at #TimothyGivingDay, Venhousen sees that the timing was providential as just one month later, the governor issued a shelter in place order, effectively shutting down all schools and non-essential businesses because of the COVID-19 virus. “This was a critical time for us as this fund will be needed now more than ever,” he said.
With plans already in place for next year’s campaign, Venhousen had a message for the generous Timothy community. “Wow – praise God, and thank you everyone!”