Breakthrough Miami





“About ninety‐five percent of donations come through our online donation channel. Before Arreva, the number would have been closer to one percent.”

Elissa Vanaver
Breakthrough Miami


The Breakthrough Miami provides an academic enrichment program that uses a student-teaching-students model to ensure that motivated, under-resourced middle-school students have access to excellent high school opportunities, graduate from high school on time, and attend college.

The vision of Breakthrough Miami is to provide all motivated, and under-resourced students of Miami-Dade County with access to excellent educational opportunities, graduation from high school and a chance to attend college.


In 2012, Breakthrough Miami was at a crossroads. For more than two decades, the nonprofit's academic enrichment programs had enabled talented middle-school students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds to "break through" the barriers of race, culture and socio-economics by graduating high school and attending college. Now, with a key grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation about to end, Director of Strategic Development Elissa Vanaver and her team were urgently seeking new sources of funding to offset the shortfall or face the very real possibility that the organization would have to scale back its educational programs or even close its doors.

Vanaver knew that the group's primitive fundraising infrastructure was inadequate to the task. The donor list was still being managed using Excel spreadsheets, so fundraising campaigns couldn’t easily be targeted or personalized. The Website had no capability to capture information about visitors or accept online donations. Website updates were difficult and costly to make and even a routine task, such as sending thank you notes to donors, was a tedious, manual process. All in all, it was clear that a new online fundraising and event management infrastructure would be needed—and soon—to ensure the group's continued financial viability.

Then, in the summer of 2013, Vanaver and her Executive Development Director, Galia Pennekamp, found the solution they were looking for at a Leonard Turkel NonProfit Network event held at the University of Miami. Arreva founder and CEO, David Blyer, had just concluded a presentation on fundraising best practices, followed by a short demonstration of the company's fully-integrated suite of cloud-computing applications for online fundraising, event registration, website content management, email marketing, peer-to-peer fundraising, volunteer management and donor tracking.

Vanaver and Pennekamp were intrigued. Arreva seemed to be exactly what they were looking for, and with the added bonus of affordable subscription-based pricing. They scheduled a meeting with Blyer to learn more, and within a month, Breakthrough Miami had signed on as a client.


The Arreva implementation team’s first assignment was to deploy the intelligent Website that would allow Vanaver and Pennekamp to access all of Arreva applications through a secure, online portal and to update the Website with copy-and-paste convenience. In turn, Website visitors would now enjoy an improved design, streamlined navigation and site-wide access to all of the social networking sites associated with each of Breakthrough Miami’s five campuses. The “powered by Arreva” Website was up and running within 10 business days.

As expected, the seamless integration between the new Website and the Arreva suite of applications has streamlined the entire fundraising lifecycle.

According to Vanaver, "Previously, we relied on volunteers to enter donor and event attendee information into multiple Excel spreadsheets, so our lists were full of errors and redundant entries. Now, our lists are consolidated and managed within a secure online database that’s updated automatically whenever stakeholders interact with us through our website. This has been a huge timesaver."

The team proceeded to launch a series of highly targeted and personalized email campaigns based on detailed stakeholder profiles, with automated alerts and real-time reports providing instant feedback on campaign results. Next, the team deployed Arreva’s Event Manager to automate the marketing, ticketing and reservations process for its first annual Support-a-Scholar celebration.

The event was a huge success.

According to Vanaver, "In the past, we spent countless hours sending out event invitations, processing ticket payments, entering attendee information and sending out confirmations. With Arreva, the entire process was streamlined and efficient, increasing our team's event management productivity by 90% or more."

"This allowed me up to focus on my core mission, which is to meet with major donors and cultivate new donor relationships," adds Pennekamp.

Now, a year later, Breakthrough Miami's investment in Arreva continues to yield major dividends. In the first 3 months of marketing the second annual Support-a-Scholar celebration, the organization has already met half of its $200,000 goal, which will be allocated to fund scholarships for 200 fortunate students.

"About 95% of these donations came through our online donation channel," says Vanaver. "Before Arreva, the number would have been closer to one percent."

For her part, Pennekamp is delighted with the sharp uptick in online activity the organization has enjoyed since its "Powered by Arreva" Website went live. "We've seen huge increases in donor engagement, online donations and community awareness," she says.

"We're well on our way to achieving the sustainable, long-term funding stream we need to continue serving our communities," agrees Vanaver. "We couldn’t have done it without Arreva."


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