Based on lessons learned from the first Challenge, we recommend the following changes for future Challenges:
Only small organizations need apply. We encourage the Foundation to restrict participation in the next Challenge to organizations with budgets in the previous fiscal year of less than $1 million. It would be possible to have categories for cause champions delineated by organizational budget; however, we believe that the impact of the Challenge grants will be far greater on smaller organizations than on larger ones.
In addition, the excitement and creativity generated by volunteers for smaller organizations was palpable and infectious during and after the Challenge. Larger organizations will benefit from watching future Challenges and learning new ways to connect to existing and potential donors using online social networking sites and techniques.
More lead time, less Challenge time. Given the fast pace of development and implementation during this first effort, it is not surprising that many groups wish they had more planning time prior to the Challenge. With more advance notice about the Challenge through traditional media and the blogosphere, cause champions will have more time to prepare their strategy. Fewer than half of the survey respondents believed the length of time was right. This was echoed by those who said that a month would have been sufficient for such an intense effort.
Champions who were interviewed and surveyed were split on whether the end of the year was a good time for the Challenge. Larger organizations were more likely to feel it could interfere with their planned fundraising activities at that time of year.
Streamline the contest. The Challenge structure needs to be simplified and streamlined in the future, at least publicly for the cause champions, to one contest with one name. In addition, future donation software should ideally:
Provide additional help. The technical assistance needed by some potential champions and donors was significant and required enormous amounts of time by cause champions. It may be helpful to develop a wiki to house various resources and “how-tos” and for participants to share questions and answers. It might also be worth exploring setting up a Twitter account to answer technical support questions in real-time.
With these recommendations in mind, this assessment and reflection report hopes to inform not only future iterations of the Case Foundation's Giving Challenge (such as the one slated for 2009), but also serve as a guide for other funders seeking to replicate the Challenge.
As such, the report doesn't end here. Rather, it's the starting point for continued innovation and experimentation across the board, as the nonprofit sector seeks to empower more people to hone their tech skills, connect with others, and take action on causes they care about.