Stonehill Communities

Stonehill Communities Raises 27% More Money With AskGenius

Stonehill Communities knew they could improve their appeal, but they needed a simple, and scalable way to do it. Here’s how Stonehill Communities raised more money and increased their average gift size using AskGenius.

Case Study - StoneHills Top Card

Increase in money donated


Of donors increased their gift


Increase in average donation amount

Stonehill Communities is a nonprofit healthcare organization in Dubuque, Iowa offering an array of health services to seniors, fitness center members, and caregivers of loved ones with chronic illnesses.

Stonehill mails two appeal letters each year to an audience of approximately 5,000 constituents. Like many non-profits, Stonehill felt they could improve their appeal, but they were not sure where to focus their attention. Stonehill saw AskGenius as an opportunity to upgrade their direct mail ask strategy and get a little more sophisticated with their appeal. They also realized they could save time by having AskGenius set personalized ask amounts instead of asking staff members to pour over the data and do it by hand.

Using AskGenius raised Stonehill an additional 27% more than the previous year. Incredibly, 34 percent of donors increased their gift, and the average donation increased from $168 to $266.

The Story of Stonehill Communities

Stonehill Communities offers independent and assisted living, memory care, long-term care options, post-acute rehabilitation, outpatient therapy, a fitness center, and a resource center for caregivers.

In 2019, Stonehill Communities launched a capital campaign and successfully raised more than $3 million to add a new service line of assisted living memory care.

Stonehill has approximately 1,300 active donors each year and a donor retention rate of 59%.

The Challenge of Personalizing an Appeal with a Small Staff

Stonehill was using several best practice strategies in their appeal letters. They were following our best advice on How to Write an Appeal Letter and had a good donor retention rate. Stonehill’s appeal letters had personalized salutations, their pledge card had ask strings low to high, and they had a plan for increasing giving each year.

While their Executive Director of Development knew upgrading gift amounts was going to be important for their continued success, they were attempting to incrementally increase gifts by placing donors into standard ask amounts, such as $50, $100, $250, $500, or $1,000. While they were increasing the total amount raised a bit each year, they knew there was more potential. They had detailed data on donors, but the challenge was the staff time it would take to turn that data into personalized ask amounts. Stonehill knew how time-consuming it is to set personalized ask amounts manually.

Like many non-profits, Stonehill has a small development department, a full-time executive director of development, and a part-time database administrator. During COVID, roles and responsibilities shifted, and they reduced hours in the development department. The reduced hours forced Stonehill to evaluate processes to be more efficient and effective. Everything they spent time on had to have a good return on investment.

Why Stonehill Communities Chose AskGenius

The Stonehill Communities Executive Director of Development knew that online tools and automation were the answer to staff time challenges, and she was inundated with calls and e-mails promoting products every day. Through a local connection with the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Stonehill Communities’ development staff heard about AskGenius, and agreed to be one of the first users of the new service.

As Stonehill began to collaborate with the AskGenius team they also engaged in our webinars and learned how minor changes, like adding an affirmation statement and monthly giving ask amounts could improve giving.

Executive Director of Development, Amy Schauer, told us, “I was impressed with the level of customer service offered by AskGenius. We knew with a new app there might be challenges to work through, but any time we encountered a question, the AskGenius team quickly responded. Nic Prenger, and his team were so excited about this product, it was very encouraging. They had real data from diocesan clients to back up what the app promised to do. It offered a cost-effective option for organizations like ours that could not afford to hire more staff or a consultant to do this work manually.”

She also shared that they were impressed with the number of resources, such as pledge card examples and webinars offered to everyone, not just AskGenius clients. Schauer shared, “the whole team at AskGenius genuinely cares about fundraisers and wants to share their knowledge. We saw how their values aligned with our own core values.”

Stonehill Communities shared that initially, they were not sure what goal to set for using AskGenius, but they hoped that through their first appeal it would pay for itself. They were thrilled that the first couple of gifts covered their cost.

How AskGenius Responded

From day one of working with Stonehill Communities, we knew they were the perfect client for AskGenius. They had a well-established donor database and good donor retention, but there was an opportunity to increase their appeal performance with minor changes to their pledge card and personalized ask strings. They were open to our team’s suggestions and dove into our resources, reading blog posts and participating in webinars.

Based on goals they wanted to achieve, we helped determined that the best AskGenius strategy for them was Secret Sauce. A moderate increase for donors at all levels based on a combination of past giving and wealth indicators.

Our team stayed connected with regular check-ins on their progress and provided updates as we adjusted our algorithm. Together we discovered opportunities for improving things like how soft credits are managed. It was a mutually beneficial relationship from day one.

The Results

Stonehill Communities staff and board of directors tell us they were beyond impressed with the results. They raised 27% more than the previous year’s appeal. The average gift size increased from $168 to $266 – an average growth of nearly 60%. Additionally, over 34% of donors increased their giving, simply by using AskGenius to set personalized ask strings.

Stonehill Communities is planning to continue to use AskGenius for all appeals going forward. The integration with their donor database saved time running their mail merge and the different options, like Swing for the Fences, helped them segment donors for their staff to do additional outreach. Stonehill feels this new tool will continue to assist them in raising more money and stewarding donors. The additional funds raised help to provide benevolent care to residents with financial needs.

Ready to try AskGenius? Our team is here to answer any questions you have about using this app to save time and raise more money on your non-profit appeal.

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