June 23, 2013

Nonprofits Aim to Build on Success From the 1st Giving Tuesday

A HEAD START: The American Diabetes Association had only three weeks to prepare for last year’s Giving Tuesday and raised $21,000. This year it is planning a full-fledged online campaign.

Right after Thanksgiving, charities nationwide will learn whether Giving Tuesday, a daylong national effort to help charities raise money online during the holiday shopping season, can really make a difference. Last year, the first Giving Tuesday drew donations to about 2,600 nonprofits.

But now everyone has bigger ambitions as they seek to make the idea as popular as the Black Friday sale days that start just hours after most Americans have had a chance to digest their turkey and cranberries.

“It’s something we can build on,” says Shana Masterson, national associate director for interactive fundraising and engagement at the American Diabetes Association. “I imagine there is going to be even more competition on Giving Tuesday this year.”

Ms. Masterson’s organization raised about $21,000 through its Giving Tuesday campaign in 2012 even though the group had only about three weeks to prepare.

Because last year’s Giving Tuesday was a first-time, grassroots-style event organized on the fly, the American Diabetes Association, and many other groups, didn’t have an opportunity to communicate with donors in advance and create a fully fleshed-out campaign.

This year’s event, to be held December 3, will be different. The central organizers of Giving Tuesday plan to unveil a new Web site and logo this week with the goal of doubling the number of charities that participate in the effort, says Henry Timms of the 92nd Street Y, who created the event. And charities are being advised to start planning and communicating with their supporters now.

Strategy Important

As with most fundraising events, groups that strategize in advance have an advantage. Fundraisers should consider publicizing their campaigns along with their annual appeals or gala events, says Dana C. Nelson, executive director of GiveMN, a group that helped 4,300 nonprofit groups in Minnesota raise $16.3-million during a one-day online fundraising event last November.

Groups should also create goals for the giving day that include how much they would like to raise and what type of donors are most likely to give.

“All a giving day is is an excuse to go out and make an ask,” Ms. Nelson says. “Take advantage of the excuse and figure out what makes sense for your organization.”

'People Asking People’

Devising a schedule for when to communicate with donors and reaching out now to the most involved volunteers and donors is a good way to begin, says Geoff Livingston, a marketing strategist.

“I don’t think there is anything wrong with a weekly communication to ask people to come on board, evangelize to them, and ask them to become part of the core fundraising team,” he says. The group’s biggest supporters are then prepared when the event arrives to raise money on the organization’s behalf.

“What usually works well, particularly on the social-media side and crowd-funding efforts, is people asking people,” says Mr. Livingston.

That approach helped the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, in Washington, double its fundraising goal for the first Giving Tuesday.

The group raised $10,715 from 48 donors by asking its 27 board members to tap their networks of friends and colleagues for donations. Theater staff members sent board members sample e-mails asking for support and reminder e-mails for the day of the event.

As gifts rolled in, staff members posted updates on the group’s Facebook page reporting on the amount of money that was raised. When donors gave, they were encouraged to post comments about why they made a donation.

“People want to see other people involved,” says Sarah Slobodien Dovere, the group’s director of development. “When you see three friends have given to Woolly Mammoth, you want to give to Woolly Mammoth too.”

The group plans to use a similar strategy in 2013.

“Anything that brings in $10,000 in one day is great,” she says. “Core stakeholders who can be your ambassadors seems to be a winning combination.”

Integrated Approach

Many groups that had successful Giving Tuesday campaigns last year were able to weave the daylong appeal into their existing fundraising efforts.

Africare, which provides development aid for Africa, linked Giving Tuesday to an existing campaign that encouraged people to post messages on a special Twitter account and a Facebook page expressing what they were thankful for.

One person tweeted: “Today I’m thankful for water. It’s a luxury not all have.” Another said: “I’m thankful for Africare taking care of Africa.”

Although the overall campaign was not explicitly about raising money, it drew attention to the group’s mission and produced an 11-percent spike in donations on Giving Tuesday, says Kasi Gardner, who was the group’s digital media and communications specialist at the time. The group plans to use social media again in its Giving Tuesday campaign this year and hopes to raise $15,000.

Ms. Nelson says live events, such as a theater group performing 24 hours of improvisation, are helpful to groups that want to stand out from other organizations that are working the same day to raise money.

Mr. Livingston, the marketing consultant, agrees that live events work well, even in the Internet age. “It’s a dirty secret about social media,” he says. “The relationships online get so much stronger when we meet in person.”

However, a creative event can require months of planning, which may be difficult now for the fall campaign.

“The beauty of a giving day is that it is really simple; a couple clicks and hopefully you have got a new donor,” says Ms. Nelson. “A live event will complicate it.”

Matching Gift

Panthera, a charity devoted to the conservation of wild cats, used a matching gift to stir interest in Giving Tuesday.

The Recanti-Kaplan Foundation agreed to match gifts made that day, and Panthera sent numerous e-mail blasts to supporters before and during the national event, alerting donors to how much was being raised and informing them that each dollar would be matched. It also promoted the message on social networks, including Facebook and Twitter.

“We weren’t shy about letting them know how much we were raising,” says Andrea Heydlauff, Panthera’s vice president.

Donors responded by giving more than $300,000, which was matched by the foundation, increasing the group’s haul to $600,000. Forty percent of the 450 donors were new to the organization.

“We were blown away by the response,” Ms. Heydlauff says.

Adding Incentives

With better planning, the American Diabetes Association hopes to reach its more modest goal of raising $26,000 this year.

The group stretched Giving Tuesday into a four-day online fundraising campaign that encouraged its supporters to thank one another for their help with the group’s mission.

The organization sent nearly 100,000 e-mails on Giving Tuesday and again three days later asking its supporters for an online gift of at least $26—representing the 26 million people with diabetes—in the name of someone who participated in its Step Out fundraising walks the previous year.

The group called the effort “Pay it Forward” and explicitly asked each person who received the gift to give $26 to someone else, Ms. Masterson says.

The unexpected and unasked-for donations also came with a surprise sweetener for the recipients: a chance to win a free trip to Hawaii, donated by a corporate sponsor.

The possibility of winning a vacation “had a psychological aspect that made people feel good about an action they were taking,” says Ms. Masterson. “You were probably going to make that person’s day.”

The four-day effort raised $21,000 from 333 gifts—a total that fell short of its $26,000 goal.

Ms. Masterson believes the shortcoming occurred because the fundraising effort was put together just three weeks before Giving Tuesday.

This year, with more time to prepare, the charity expects better results. It also plans to coordinate efforts more closely with its local chapters, which are more in touch with individual donors. The group is also planning more advance publicity, such as including information about the effort in e-mails, newsletters, and phone calls to supporters.

“This is something we can build on each and every year,” she says.

Start months ahead of time, and other tips from fundraisers for Giving-Tuesday success

  • Establish aggressive but reasonable goals for how much to raise and the number of donors to reach.
  • Send messages to supporters months ahead of Giving Tuesday and follow up with them regularly to ask them to raise money on behalf of your group.
  • Urge donors to post messages about their gifts on social networks to encourage their friends to give.
  • Hold in-person events to complement appeals, such as parties or concerts.

Raymund Flandez contributed to this article.