quilts per month
When the Russia-Ukraine war broke out in March 2022, quilters Gina Halladay and Beth Hawkins put out a request for quilts to send to Ukrainian refugees. They expected a couple hundred quilts, but to their amazement, donors sent thousands.
“We didn't intend to start a charity,” said Beth. “It really just happened and happened quickly.”
Because they already knew about Keap and automated their processes from day one, they were able to keep up with the unexpected demand, sending over 20,000 quilts in the first 10 months with only two full-time volunteers.
The seeds of the venture were unknowingly sown in 2021, when Gina’s husband Hal went on a bicycle ride through Ukraine and Poland and made connections with locals. When the war started in Ukraine a year later, one of the women he’d met, Nataliya, told Hal and Gina that she and her friend were leaving with their children, while their husbands, older sons, brothers and fathers stayed behind to fight. They were only able to take a small bag of belongings with them when they left home to travel toward an uncertain future.
Gina is a quilter, and she and Hal were moved by Nataliya’s story and wanted to send comfort in the form of quilts to Nataliya and her fellow refugees. Nataliya was touched by the compassion of these near-strangers halfway around the world.
Gina told the story to her friend Beth, who is also a quilter. They knew from their years of experience in the quilting industry that “quilters are givers,” so they decided to put out a call to the quilting community. They hoped to collect a couple hundred quilts to send to Nataliya to distribute to the refugees.
To their amazement, the response from quilters was enthusiastic. They sent out around 4,000 quilts in the first two months alone. That’s when they knew they had accidentally created a nonprofit, and they wanted to keep going. Since then, they’ve steadily continued at a rate of 1,500-2,000 quilts per month.
As impressive as their numbers are, the most inspiring part of Wrap Ukraine with Quilts’ story is the impact on individuals in the Ukraine and in the U.S.
“We see quilts as a way of saying, “We see you, we care about you, and we want to keep you warm,’” says Gina.
The Wrap Ukraine with Quilts (WUWQ) team included a QR code with each quilt, which the recipient could scan to send a message of thanks to the donor.
Refugees in Ukraine and Poland sent stories of:
“There's a picture from a soldier,” says Gina, “He's in his bunker with his hot pink quilt. He said how thrilling it was to get a quilt that shows that we care. It'll keep him warm, yes, but I can also imagine that he's going to be excited to give it to his daughter when he gets home from the war. There’s a sense of hope. But most of all, it’s sending the message that somebody out there sees what they're going through and that we care about them.”
Keap’s automation software was part of what made it possible for Wrap Ukraine with Quilts to foster deep connections between so many individuals on opposite sides of the world.
From the beginning, the WUWQ team used Keap, a CRM and marketing automation software designed to help small businesses and nonprofits automate repetitive processes and grow quickly.
They knew about Keap and the power of automation, but needed help building their systems, so they reached out to Tyler Garns, a long-time friend who also happens to be a Keap Certified Partner.
“We knew that we needed a landing page to get our information out there,” recalls Gina, “We said, ‘Hey Tyler, can you help us build a landing page for this charity that we just started? P.S. We need it to be for free because we have no money.’”
Tyler recalls that “They had some images, some copy and a video and they asked if I could just toss it up on a webpage real fast. And I was like, ‘Sure, no problem.’ But once I started to understand what they were doing, I was like, ‘Okay, there's an opportunity here to make this way cooler and better for you guys.’ I knew that if this thing blew up, they wouldn’t be able to manage all those quilts. I knew that Keap was the perfect tool.”
Tyler asked questions about what they were trying to accomplish, and realized that, in addition to the webpage, they wanted a way to:
Using Keap’s CRM, pipeline, and automation features, Tyler created a system to accomplish these goals.
Here’s how it works:
This process ensures donors and the WUWQ team know that each quilt gets to its destination.
To provide a way for refugees to connect with donors, Tyler created a second QR code that a refugee can scan to open a webpage and send a message to the donor. It’s conveyed anonymously through Keap, but if the refugee wants to share their contact information, they can do so in their message.
Tyler also created a quilt counter on the WUWQ website that automatically updates every time a new quilt donation is entered into Keap.
“The great thing about Keap — and the way that it can interact with websites and other systems — is that the data is live,” says Tyler. “So if you go on the website and the counter says 16,000 quilts, then you enter in your quilt donation and come back to the homepage, it’s now going to say 16,001. So you realize that data is real, and you’re making a tangible contribution to the cause.”
Gina feels having this process and data builds trust with donors. “They know that we got their quilt and we've sent it, and then they get a message back from the person who receives it — very loving messages.”
Eliminating “unnecessary overwhelm” for visionaries is a big part of why Tyler loves what he does. “Some overwhelm is unavoidable, but what's so great about Keap is that it can alleviate a lot of the overwhelm that's unnecessary. Overwhelm such as the volume of quilts, that's fixable. Keap can help manage high volume. It will do all those little things for you so you don't have to.”
Keap’s automation didn’t just save the WUWQ team time, it made their venture possible in the first place. “Without automation, it would be impossible for a team of two people to manage this massive worldwide project,” says Tyler, a sentiment echoed by Gina, Beth and Hal.
Keap empowers Gina and Beth to have time to connect with others, which is what keeps them committed to their accidental charity nearly a year later.
“It really does the mundane part of this job,” says Beth, “And allows us to take the time to meet with people who are dropping off quilts, to go to events and speak, and really have that personal connection with people face to face, because we're not stuck behind a computer all the time. We have Keap doing that work for us.”
Gina agrees. “It’s been an amazing experience to not only give quilts to refugees who need them, but also to meet all of the people who are donating quilts that are giving of their talents and their skills.”
“We wouldn’t be able to have that personal connection between the quilt maker and the recipient in Ukraine or Poland without Keap,” says Beth.
Keap also helped the WUWQ team keep track of key milestones, like their first 10,000 quilts, so they could easily report them out to their donors and the public.
For example, back when they had donations from only 30 states, they could easily tell which states were missing and put out a push on social media to encourage donations from the remaining states.
In under a year, the WUWQ has racked up some impressive stats:
Keap also keeps track of individual information. “If someone wants to know how many quilts they donated or what their financial donation for the year was for tax purposes, we can quickly go and look that up,” says Beth.
And while the nonprofit is thriving, so are the founders.
“We’re just two women trying to get something done,” says Beth. “We don't want to be stuck behind a computer. Keap does all that stuff for us so we can go out, meet people, talk to people, further our vision of human connectedness.”
Box Out Marketing is a premier service provider of Keap implementation and training. Managed by Tyler Garns, former VP of Marketing at Keap, Box Out Marketing has unparalleled experience and expertise in the small business marketing automation space.
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