Building on our work on the Make it Your Own Awards and America’s Giving Challenge, the Case Foundation sponsored a study on how giving contests can promote donor engagement, skills development, and new online marketing opportunities for nonprofits. Read about the results from Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington, and learn tips for giving contest organizers and nonprofits that participate.
Building on our work on the Make it Your Own Awards and America’s Giving Challenge, the Case Foundation sponsored a study on how giving days and giving contests can promote donor engagement, skills development, and new online marketing opportunities for nonprofits. Read about the results from Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington, and learn tips for giving contest organizers and nonprofits that participate.
Giving contests are becoming an increasingly common tool for cities and regions to increase donations to nonprofits. One recent contest—Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington—was conceived to strengthen the area’s nonprofit community, not only financially, but also through improved online fundraising skills and better donor-nonprofit relationships.
To achieve these goals, organizers built the event with three key components: a contest structure that supported individual giving with a higher priority on individual donors versus size of dollars; a nonprofit training program that would help organizations not only to perform better during the giving day, but also acquire long-term online fundraising skills; and a significant marketing program deployed to heighten the awareness of the nonprofit community and facilitate the event.
The results were notable. Including prize money, Give to the Max Day raised $2 million for 1,200 nonprofits from 18,000 donors on November 9, 2011, its inaugural effort. Read the report on Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington to learn about how giving contests can benefit your community.
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Since the launch of America’s Giving Challenge in 2007, online contests have become a popular tactic for philanthropists and cause marketers. One form of the online giving contest is the giving or match day, where local donors and nonprofits come together for a day of giving, unifying a state, city, or region.
The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, the United Way of the National Capital Area, and Washington, DC, based social online fundraising platform Razoo decided to create a giving day on November 9, 2011, for the Greater Washington DC region’s nonprofit community.
The effort sought to bolster charitable giving to the region’s nonprofit community, a core aspect of its mission. This giving day sought to heighten awareness of the region’s entire nonprofit community, provide new opportunities for individual philanthropy, and strengthen the nonprofit community’s ability to fundraise year-round.
Washington, DC, became one of the first major metropolitan regions to host a multimillion-dollar local giving day, Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington. Almost 18,000 people participated in this online fundraising contest and raised more than $2 million for 1,200 participating nonprofits.
This 24-hour fundraising effort was clearly a success for local nonprofits, but organizers were interested to know if it signaled a beginning trend in national philanthropy: giving days as a form of regional nonprofit development.
This report, commissioned by the Case Foundation, analyzes the impact of Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington through a series of research methods:
The report seeks to show how a giving day contest impacts a metropolitan area’s nonprofit community. In particular, can these contests provide a financial boost during tough economic times, strengthen relationships between donors and nonprofits, and serve as an online capacity-building moment for participating nonprofits, all while strengthening the general nonprofit sector? Or are they another giving gimmick that fatigues donors and distracts nonprofits from vital mission-based activities?
Giving days like Pittsburgh Gives, the North Texas Big Give, and Give to the Max Day: Minnesota raised tens of millions of dollars and generated significant publicity for their nonprofit communities. Now more states, regions, and cities are considering this model of philanthropic giving.
This research examines how a giving contest impacts a metropolitan region by analyzing the data available from Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington in contrast with other giving contests. Whether you are considering organizing a giving contest for your community, or thinking about participating via your nonprofit, this research will help you.
Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington was conceived to strengthen the area’s nonprofit community, not only financially, but also through improved online fundraising skills and better donor-nonprofit relationships. To achieve these goals, organizers built the event with three key components:
The contest results were notable. Including prize money, Give to the Max Day raised $2 million for 1,200 nonprofits from 18,000 donors on November 9, 2011, its inaugural effort. The event also generated a significant amount of grassroots word of mouth publicity.
Donors were happy with the event: 96 percent said they were more likely to give additional monies to nonprofits as a result of participation in the day. Nonprofits performed well, with 37 percent of survey respondents raising $2,500 or more. Forty-one percent of nonprofit respondents said their best prior online fundraiser was $2,500 or greater, showing the event rivaled most nonprofits’ prior efforts.
The training program, a series of online and offline nonprofit boot camps which took place in the months leading up to the giving day, achieved its overarching goals. Eighty-eight percent of nonprofit survey respondents felt the training program helped, and 84 percent reported that the training increased their ability to interact and fundraise online. The training did reveal a social media and online fundraising knowledge division in the Washington nonprofit community, between those who are experienced and comfortable with related tools, and those still learning basic social media outreach.
Overall findings demonstrate that giving days offer regions an opportunity that bolsters their nonprofit communities with short-term funds, long-term online fundraising skills, and an increase in awareness of their important work. Other findings show how different factors can impact the health of a giving day. These factors include different event structures such as contests or matching grants, the strength or weakness of a region’s identity, and multichannel marketing that addresses nonprofits and consumers.
Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington was a 24-hour online fundraiser held on November 9, 2011, for the metropolitan Washington region’s nonprofits. Organized by the Community Foundation for the National Region, the United Way of the National Capital Area, and Razoo, the event featured a platform for fundraising and a contest that provided cash awards to nonprofits that performed best during the contest.
Most giving days have unique elements that match the funders’ programmatic goals. For example, the North Texas Big Give featured nonprofits that successfully met the giving day’s approval process, so donors knew the organizations they were funding were vetted. The Big Give for Central Ohio featured matching grants instead of a contest. Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington had its own unique program elements, which included a contest, training and capacity-building for nonprofits, and marketing support.
The contest structure used gamification to reward nonprofits for certain behaviors, primarily the cultivation of the most donors. Gamification is the use of contest design techniques and mechanics— or prizes—to achieve programmatic objectives and engage audiences. For example, Give to the Max Day had a strong programmatic focus on encouraging individual philanthropic action.
A majority of prizes rewarded nonprofits for garnering the highest amount of donors and individual donations rather than dollar volume. Prizes were given out from a $148,000 award pool that consisted of:
Gamification added a level of excitement to a contest that is not typically present with a traditional match. Nonprofits felt a sense of competition and motivation to win awards, small and large, which in turn increased giving. This concept built upon lessons learned from America’s Giving Challenge, where much energy and excitement and action was created through daily prizes between $500 and $1000.
The training program treated the giving day as an exercise in best practices. Core elements included using the Razoo giving platform, content best practices, online storytelling, social media strategy, and donor cultivation. Live events included a training conference with nonprofit social media expert Beth Kanter as the keynote, and a series of seven simplified half-day training “boot camps” in Prince William County, Arlington County, Prince George’s County, and Montgomery County.
The in-person events were complemented by a free, comprehensive online nonprofit toolkit. Components included video tutorials, local expert sessions, suggested calendars of activity, sample materials, frequently asked questions, logos, and a Twibbon for Facebook and Twitter use.
The marketing program sought to unify the region’s citizens and nonprofits in a collective day of action. Washington is a fractured region, which creates a stronger need for collective marketing than would be necessary in a state like Wisconsin or a metropolitan area like Denver, both of which see themselves as holistic geographic regions. Furthermore, marketing was essential to the success of the actual event, forming the backbone of nonprofit participation and donor excitement.
The marketing was divided into two tracks. One was a consumer-focused campaign that sought to unify the metropolitan area and prepare donors to “give to the max.” The second program encouraged nonprofit and individual fundraiser participation in the event.
The consumer outreach was very similar to a traditional nonprofit fundraising campaign. In particular, marketing sought to provide enough branding for the event to educate and prepare the consumer marketplace for solicitations. By familiarizing local donors with the giving day, nonprofits were empowered to fundraise as a part of the giving day without creating their own unique campaign. They could simply say they were participating in Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington. Nonprofits could then participate without investing excessive time.
While there was some paid advertising, most notably Facebook ads and train and bus advertising secured through a United Way of the National Capital Area relationship, the bulk of promotion was garnered through donated public service announcements (PSAs), public relations, and social media:
Nonprofit outreach occurred primarily through the auspices of the three organizing partners as well as the extended group of regional nonprofits who supported the effort, including the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the Center for Nonprofit Advancement, and the Greater Washington Board of Trade.
In total, Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington efforts netted participating nonprofits $2,034,434, which included 17,838 individual donations totaling $1,886,434, plus the prize money contributed by five foundations to be awarded to the giving day’s winners. The event fueled significant word-of–mouth marketing for regional nonprofits, and served as a proof point to many of the area’s nonprofits that social media can produce significant donations.
Survey results show that both donors and nonprofits were impressed with Give to the Max Day. An impressive 96 percent of donors said they were likely to give more money to their selected nonprofits as a result of their participation in Give to the Max Day. Ninety-one percent of nonprofits said they would refer Give to the Max Day to a sister nonprofit.
From a marketing standpoint, Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington generated significant attention. Consider the following results:
Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington was small in comparison to leading 2012 state and regional giving day totals – Give to the Max Day Minnesota ($13.5 million), the North Texas Giving Day ($10.7 million), and the Central Ohio Big Give ($8.7 million). However, each of these events were already well in their third or fourth year of existence. With the exception of Minnesota, which grossed an incredible $14 million in its first year, each giving day has grown with time.
Dollar totals don’t necessarily reflect population size. For example, Ohio has a population of 11,500,000, while Minnesota has 5,200,000 people. Instead, giving totals have much to do with a region’s character, cohesive identity, and the type of contest it has—match versus gamification—with gamified contests faring slightly better.
Perhaps a fairer comparison is Pittsburgh Gives, which, like DC, is a giving contest based on a metropolitan region centered on a city. During its inaugural campaign in 2009, Pittsburgh Gives netted $1.5 million. In its third campaign, which took place in 2011, participating nonprofits netted $6,448,448—a more than fourfold increase.
Additionally, Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington achieved $13 donated for every $1 in the prize pool. In comparison, the North Texas Give Day garnered $9.70 to every $1 matched ($1 million in matching grants), and the Central Ohio Big Give netted $8.70 for every $1 of matching grant money.
Perhaps the true barometer of a social good movement was the organic spread and traction of the event messaging. Give to the Max Day clearly inspired the DC metro area. Word-of-mouth performance directly fueled half of the giving day’s donations.
Word-of-mouth and the use of social networks were also effective in bringing non-local donors into the campaign; 19 percent of donors came from outside of the Greater Washington area. In comparison, 10.3 percent of donors to GiveMN were from outside the state in 2011.
Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington also experienced a higher non-local giving rate due to the city’s highly mobile and connected population. Further, one of the more popular efforts was the IMAlive fundraiser, which featured nationally acclaimed PostSecret blogger Frank Warren. Warren’s marketing of the giving day significantly boosted non-local participation.
The marketing program, which focused on consumer outreach and support for participating nonprofits’ communications, created a successful inaugural event. Looking ahead, the 2012 Give to the Max Day event will continue the two-track approach.
A tension exists between online fundraising and the time and resource investment that it takes. Nonprofits must successfully use social media and online tools for fundraising to succeed in a contest or online fundraiser. However, this presents resource difficulties for nonprofits who want to allocate staff time and resources consistently.
Give to the Max Day sought to counter some of those tensions with a training program that provided skills and turned the contest into a capacity-building exercise. Eighty-eight percent of nonprofit survey respondents felt the training program was very helpful, moderately helpful, or just helpful. And 84 percent of nonprofits reported that the training increased its ability to interact and fundraise online.
PostSecret’s Frank Warren, who raised money for his preferred nonprofit—the Kristin Brooks Hope Center—participated in two virtual town halls and the team used the training materials on the site. “The virtual town halls were useful,” said Frank Warren. “People are participating in them, and it made a difference.”Nonprofit Capacity Gap and the Value of Training
Some nonprofits surveyed felt the training was helpful; however, a clear division was revealed in the base level of nonprofits’ knowledge and their success in training. Experienced nonprofits mentioned that the level of some training components on social media and storytelling was too basic for them, while others felt the training was too complicated, citing a need for more basics. Revealing the ever-present capacity issue, several nonprofits specifically asked for training on time management and social media.
Beyond training, the event succeeded as a capacity-building exercise. The Give to the Max Day contest increased the nonprofits’ general experience with 72 percent stating they would be able to apply lessons learned from participating in the contest. Sixty percent of nonprofits indicated they had increased their awareness of online fundraising tools.
Nonprofits not only cultivated new donors, but they also recruited a significant amount of donors to a new giving platform. Seventy-five percent of participating donors said that Give to the Max Day was their first time using a social online fundraising platform.
In mid-2011, Blackbaud released a report declaring that social fundraising—or social media driven online fundraising—was nearing the $1 billion mark in the United States. The report also predicted that this trend would increase as technology adoption increases. With social media adoption reaching 86 percent in the United States (Forrester Research, North American Technographics Online Benchmark Survey, Q3, 2011), and 80 percent of U.S. nonprofits viewing Facebook as important, the data correlates to increases in peer-to-peer giving. Giving days like Give to the Max are on the forefront of the emerging trends in online giving.
There are no recent benchmark surveys for Greater Washington’s adoption of social media by the population, or by its local nonprofits to effectively judge performance beyond anecdote. However, more than 1,200 nonprofits signed on to the Razoo platform for the first time to participate in the event. Fifty-nine percent of donors were 45 years or older, demonstrating a very strong performance from the demographic that is the slowest to adopt social media and online giving.
Give to the Max Day successfully bolstered nonprofit capacity, provided nonprofits a successful fundraising platform, and heightened awareness of the needs of the local nonprofit sector. Given the fractured nature of the greater Washington, DC, region, the event overwhelmingly proved that city-based giving days can work.
At the same time, given the wealth in the city and its outlying suburbs, there is a significant opportunity to expand local giving in the metro area. The region is home to four of the ten wealthiest counties in the country according to Forbes, including Falls Church City, Loudoun County, Fairfax County, and Fairfax City. Washington’s population of 5.6 million exceeds Minnesota, which is home to 5.3 million.
In comparison to other more mature giving days, Give to the Max Day: DC is relatively small, though still one of the few that has grossed more than $2 million. Washington as a region has not yet been mobilized to the same degree as Minnesota, for example, but this may be due to the nature of the region, its mobile urban population, and local fragmentation between DC, Maryland, and Virginia.
Additionally, as the giving day matures, lessons learned will be applied, more time will be invested in the organization of the event, and the nonprofit community will adapt Give to the Max as a part of its annual fundraising calendar. The success of Give to the Max Day is expected to increase, in line with the trajectory of other giving days.
The primary strategy of gamification of the awards proved to be very successful. In comparison to larger most mature giving days, Washington, DC, participants donated more per award or matching grant dollar available in the contest.
As for the marketing of Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington, the consumer outreach initiated by program organizers worked well. This allowed two-thirds of nonprofits to simply run Give to the Max Day fundraisers using the event’s umbrella messaging instead of creating their own unique stories for the event.
Overall, a majority of surveyed nonprofits found the event to be the same or better than their prior best online fundraiser. Furthermore, half of donations were triggered by word-of-mouth via email or Facebook. Organizers in other cities would be advised to actively market their giving day using multiple channels, including public relations, social media, and transportation, and donated public service and social network ads.
Moving forward, there were a few lessons and challenges learned from the giving day. While the event was successful from a fundraising perspective, more thinking is needed to find ways that a giving day can work to support nonprofits in their overall campaigns.
Furthermore, giving day organizers should find ways to incentivize larger nonprofits to participate. Addressing their lack of participation—whether because of internal approval issues, competition with other fundraisers, or the size of the award pool—is crucial to expanding participation.
Another core aspect that must be addressed is building capacity. Given the different levels of sophistication among nonprofits with social media, fundraising, and time and project management skills, it makes sense to tier training materials and activities for a variety of organizations.
Given the increasingly widespread successes and maturation of giving days nationally, and the success of Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington, would-be organizers should feel that giving days offer them a new source of fundraising potential.
Finally, event organizers for Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington recommend a longer planning cycle for Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington 2012. Expectations for the next iteration of the giving day are higher given more expected planning time and increased participation from the region’s grant makers and corporations. Six to eight months are recommended to plan a successful regional giving day. Planning should include notifying nonprofits at least three months prior to the giving day.
Planning for Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington 2012 is already underway. The three event organizers are excited by their initial results, and see the giving day as an important programmatic vehicle to further strengthen the Greater Washington nonprofit community. Overall, the event demonstrates that giving days are not a phenomena limited to select cities and states in the middle of the country, and that they not only create a great fundraising moment, but can also achieve larger philanthropic goals.
The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation raised $28,735 through 92 donors on Give to the Max Day, and won a $1,000 Platinum Ticket for most dollars raised during the 4 p.m. hour.
“It was a very unexpected blessing,” said Vera Maher, manager, Washington Nationals Dream Foundation. “To generate $30,000, we would normally have to do a jersey raffle or a golf tournament, and we usually net $20,000 for an event like that. When I think of the amount of work we put in for $10,000 or $20,000, it was really impressive to see what could be done online.”
The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation couldn’t spend a lot of time preparing for the event, in part because they had heard about it relatively late in October, 2011. After vetting the contest with local nonprofits and garnering approval from Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM), the Foundation only had a couple of days to get ready.
As a result, when setting up their fundraiser page, the Foundation simply promoted the larger Give to the Max Day effort with communications centered on their core mission. The requests focused on what Nationals fans would most identify with: teaching boys and girls about baseball and providing academic after-school help through its Baseball Academy. The photo used for their Give to the Max Day profile page featured a boy in mid-air about to touch his foot on first base, and clearly captured the spirit of the Academy.
MLBAM helped launch the effort by sending out an email blast to 100,000 people locally. The Foundation also created personalized emails that it sent to 700 of its major donors, recent gala attendees, and employees of its parent company Lerner Enterprises. In addition to soliciting donations, the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation asked people to update their Facebook and Twitter pages. And the Nationals used their Facebook and Twitter pages to let people know about the event and encourage them to support the Foundation.
The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation dollar per donor ratio of $312 was almost three times higher than the Give to the Max Day average of $114 per donor for the whole contest. The personalized email to established donors made a big difference, and two donors provide substantial gifts in an effort to help the Foundation win.
One annual donor eager to help the Foundation win tickets and grand prizes made her $9,000 annual gift during Give to the Max Day. Another donation of $5,000 came from a Lerner partner.
Generally, it was unclear how the social media assets worked in comparison to the very successful personalized one-to-one outreach. But one thing was clear: enthusiasm was felt across the Nationals efforts in different mediums.
“Based on comments on the fundraiser page, people were psyched,” said Vera Maher. “The one day regional fundraising effort was well explained in the personal emails and the Nationals fan email blast. The competitive nature of the fundraiser made it fun for donors, and clearly several people were excited by it, and left messages on the fundraising page.”
When it came to donations, people gave enough to make the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation the seventh best performing nonprofit overall. In large part, the primary call to action was the photograph of the Academy at work in Nationals Park. This conveys that even without a story, using a strong visual asset that clearly communicates the personal nature of a cause can make a difference.
“The photo worked really well,” added Vera. “That’s one project that was very dear to people. It was very close to what we do, and it’s baseball and kids. Competing against so many humanitarian causes, it showed us helping out in low-income areas.”
Because of the short window, the Nationals did not participate in any of the social media capacity-building training events offered during Give to the Max Day. But they did use some of the web site training materials and pre-packaged templates like the Give to the Max Day press release to get up to speed quickly. And overall, six staffers participated in the effort: two foundation staffers, two Nationals communications staff members, and two Nationals marketing and broadcasting staff members.
What the giving day did do was demonstrate to the Foundation that online giving can be a useful fundraising channel. “We hadn’t had the experience of online being a blockbuster before,” said Vera. “We never raised more than a few thousand bucks in any given point and time. With more power behind Give to the Max Day and the contest’s gaming structure, it was great to see what online fundraising could do.”
Some of the specific lessons the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation learned using the social tools and email included:
As the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation moves forward with its fundraising, it expects to add more online activities. Further, given the nature of the foundation, it may incorporate and expand on the game elements used in the contest.
Next year the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation says it will sign up early, and apply its lessons learned. They look to be a favorite for the 2012 Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington contest.
The Kristin Brooks Hope Center won several awards thanks in great part to the IMAlive celebrity fundraiser run by nationally renowned PostSecret Author and Blogger Frank Warren. The team effort garnered 462 donors and $11,427 on Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington, and won four awards:
Frank Warren and Reese Butler have a long-standing relationship, and have teamed together on several fundraisers before Give to the Max Day. Frank has an authentic interest in the Kristin Brooks Hope Center through a personal loss, and combined with an active and engaged PostSecret community, he brought a considerable effort to bear. The combination of authenticity, an engaged community, and a willingness to activate people are the key components of a successful celebrity fundraiser, according to research conducted by PayPal for Nonprofits.
Frank Warren also began promoting the fundraiser several days before the contest, which garnered additional early donations. In all, between prizes and donors, the Kristen Brooks Hope Center raised approximately $40,000 in funds from more than 700 donors, 90+ percent of which came through the Frank Warren IMAlive fundraiser. “It’s amazing to do that in one day,” said Reese Butler, founder and president of the Kristin Brooks Hope Center. “Our donors came from around the world, different ethnicities and places. They all did it to support suicide prevention. Their comments were substantial, and we are still getting them a month later.”
Frank Warren and Reese Butler had brought best practices from their past efforts, including coordinating email, Facebook, Twitter, and the PostSecret blog. The team was careful not to say the same thing in each medium. They actively prepared for the event, and developed messages in advance. Further, they thought about after Give to the Max Day: “Looking towards the future, we were careful to follow-up to thank them individually, and asked them how they were going to help out,” said Reese Butler.
“PostSecret is a project that tells hidden stories,” said Frank Warren. “One of those hidden stories is self-harm. Once a person is strong enough to tell that secret, through PostSecret we were able to channel that secret. For us this was part of the relationships we’ve built for years. Asking for help with the Kristin Brooks Hope Center wasn’t a surprise; it was authentic for our community.”
Frank activated the PostSecret community with a special Sunday Secret post on November 6 asking more than 1 million readers to sign up to donate on Give to the May Day. More than 1,000 did sign up, and in addition, many donated before the event. In addition, Frank Warren keynoted DCWEEK on the evening of December 9, which triggered a large amount of donations during the speech and won the Kristin Brooks Hope Center a Golden Ticket.
In addition, the Kristin Brooks Hope Center asked its volunteers to participate in Give to the Max Day.
There was a donation match as part of the IMAlive fundraiser, and Frank Warren tied rewards to the cause, including book giveaways. The campaign fit well with PostSecret followers, and the response was fantastic. By the end of the effort, the Kristin Brooks Hope Center had cultivated more than 700 unique new donors.
Perhaps what was most unique about the response was the symphony of stories that rose up. Frank shared his story, then the volunteers shared their stories, and the beneficiary shared stories, too. A chorus of voices drove the IMAlive fundraiser.
Another example of the giveaways is the suicide prevention playing cards that the Kristin Brooks Hope Center uses, which address ideation and depression. A user wanted to create a video to describe the cards, and the video became a story, which was shared by the PostSecret Community and Kristin Brooks Hope Center during Give to the Max Day.
“PostSecret.com is always attracting unique new efforts,” said Reese Butler. “All the excitement focused on one day was tremendous. It was the single best day we’ve had in getting new donors and exposure. All the components worked together.”
The IMAlive team did use some of the training materials and events that were available online. Frank Warren participated in two virtual town halls and the team used the training materials on the site. “The virtual town halls were useful,” said Frank Warren. “People are participating in them and it made a difference.”
However, Frank and Reese were not able to come to any of the in-person training events. Moving forward to next year, IMAlive asked the Give to the Max Day organizers to facilitate better peer-to-peer communications online between participating nonprofits. One suggestion was a Facebook group.
“Meeting with great people and great charities, and working with other charities and creating connections would be helpful,” said Frank Warren. “People want to know other people involved.”
“We’d like to build a coalition of like-minded nonprofits,” said Reese Butler. “We each have a part that someone else could use. Coalitions are important. The relationships could work year-round.”
The overall experience was a new one for the Kristin Brooks Hope Center, and they will likely continue innovating their approach for Give to the Max Day 2012.
“Give to the Max Day had an energy we hadn’t seen before,” said Reese Butler. “We hadn’t seen that kind of concentrated giving focused on a singular event before. It was an awesome signature event that we can plan for next year.”
One of Washington DC’s premier nonprofits, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, was a Give to the Max Day winner. In all, the Corcoran Gallery of Art had 438 donors who donated $55,189, winning third place for the most dollars raised, which came with a $5,000 award.
“Give to the Max Day was a great idea,” said Jessica Hazlett, development systems manager, Corcoran Gallery of Art. “There was some conversation within the organization about whether or not we could fundraise online like this without Give to the Max Day. I am not sure we can do it the same way. The challenge and the competition made a big difference.”
A Corcoran Gallery senior staff member had participated in a similar giving day earlier in the year, ACT for Alexandria. The Corcoran Gallery of Art used strategies and insights from that three-day contest to develop their approach as it was the first online contest for the nonprofit.
The campaign focused on ArtReach, the Corcoran’s community art program that extends the resources of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the College of Art + Design to underserved Washington, DC, neighborhoods. In particular, they focused on three children’s stories, Kayla, Alex, and Marie, and asked donors to give them, “the opportunity to create something that they believe in.”
The Corcoran decided to release a well-received video about the ArtReach program for Give to the Max Day. “We really feel it was important to focus on ArtReach because there were so many social services competing,” said Jessica Hazlett. For the actual fundraising, the Corcoran built teams internally, and had their own contest. The graphics team, marketing team, and development teams competed for a lunch hosted by the President and Director. Though development won due to professional advantage, the graphics team was dubbed the winner.
Another major component of the effort was the faculty and staff at the Corcoran. Both groups had a specific fundraising page where they could direct their students and community. Individual fundraising pages allowed the Corcoran team to motivate “contestants” and at the same time track the faculty and staff’s efforts—which were immensely successful.
An email releasing the ArtReach video was sent on the morning of Give to the Max Day. Pre-programmed Facebook and Twitter updates also supported the effort. Individual fundraisers reached out to their communities, and the Corcoran’s board of directors also supported the efforts.
A strong majority of the Corcoran community reacted very well to Give to the Max Day. “ArtReach took over our website and Facebook that day,” said Jessica Hazlett. “Towards the end, people rallied around the prizes.”
A small number of people reported that they were fatigued by the communication, though the Gallery said it was an internal issue. “We may not communicate it the same way to every stakeholder next time,” added Jessica Hazlett. “Next year we’ll better explain it to our constituency.”
The direct peer-to-peer communications achieved the best results for the Corcoran. Faculty, staff, and board members drove the most donations through their team pages and it was clear that donors responded most to personal, one-to-one communications.
The Corcoran did participate in the training program, specifically a boot camp in Arlington, VA, and watched some of the video tutorials. In particular, the award and procedural discussions and Razoo giving platform training were useful. But like other experienced nonprofits, the Corcoran needed less help on collecting stories.
Suggestions for next year’s Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington from their team included clarifying the awards so they are simpler to understand, and adding individual awards categories. Because of the social service sector’s strong showing in Give to the Max Day, the Corcoran decided to feature a program that had a social service component to it with the hopes of garnering wider appeal for the arts organization. ArtReach helped the Corcoran to win awards for most dollars raised (third place) and most donors (fourth place). There was a realization that other arts organizations may not have such a well-rounded program, and an arts-only prize category would make the effort more attractive.
Next year the Corcoran may target the hourly ticket prizes to rally their donors around them. “I really liked the ideas of the Golden and Platinum Tickets,” said Jessica Hazlett. “Next year, we will plan that out a little better.”
“Give to the Max Day really brought out the best in the Corcoran,” Jessica added. “We all felt really proud to be part of making such a difference for our ArtReach students—they deserve it!”
For Love of Children received $86,948 from 45 donors during Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington, winning the contest’s $25,000 Grand Award for the most dollars raised. In addition, the nonprofit won a $2,000 Diamond Ticket for most dollars raised during the 10 p.m. hour. In all, For Love of Children raised $120,000 including ancillary donations and the prize money.
“We’re a pretty small player in the Washington, DC, nonprofit community,” said Andrea Messina, director of development and communications, For Love of Children. “Now everyone is talking about us. We’re the winners. Give to the Max Day provided a huge public relations value for us.”
A key component that several winners exhibited was the ability to communicate the program in advance of the Giving Day. For Love of Children started messaging two weeks in advance of Give to the Max Day on Facebook, Twitter, and in its November email newsletter. The goal was to alert the community about the giving day, and encourage them to participate.
Like a majority of nonprofits, For Love of Children campaigned using the Give to the Max Day event as its primary reason to communicate, forgoing a unique story. The nonprofit did create unique messaging with three calls to action: “Donate, tell your friends” (via email), and “Get your web 2.0” (on Facebook).
On Give to the Max Day, For Love of Children engaged in a combination of direct communications through email and calls, and social media. Components included a special e-newsletter blast in the morning, social network outreach on Twitter and Facebook, and private outreach to long-term For Love of Children supporters.
“We did ask for $50,000 from our private and major donors,” said Andrea Messina. “Reaching out directly to private donors occurred throughout the day. We were in the lead, and wanted to win.”
The community reacted well, with a general familiarity with Give to the Max Day. Everyone knew what the event was, and there was a lot of buzz in the DC nonprofit community already, said Andrea Messina. Several major donors and board members made their annual gift on Give to the Max Day to help For Love of Children win.
One board member loved the campaign and made a huge deal for her birthday. As an “ambassador” she took it upon herself to fundraise and galvanize board members and friends to support the event.
"Just when I thought I'd run out of ways to reach out to my network about FLOC, the Give to The Max campaign provided a timely and dynamic way to engage folks,” said For Love of Children Board Member Rachel Lerman. “Right down to the last hour! Everyone benefitted.”
“People rallied around us as the day progressed,” said Andrea Messina “The excitement was great. People were saying, ‘We’re in first place. Let’s go, and make it happen.” It was more than an online giving drive. With a contest there was more incentive [to help]. Our supporters seized the lead.”
The Give to the Max Day training events did not make a big impact for the nonprofit. In fact, For Love of Children had to participate in the main training conference with Beth Kanter via online live stream because it was sold out. They felt overall that it was hard to hear and stay engaged throughout the day.
The online materials and process of setting up a profile were easy and simple. Further, their donors embraced the Give to the Max Day competition, demonstrating that contest fatigue was not an issue.
“The only thing I would change was the timing in November,” said Messina. “Some people asked us not to ask for donations again in December. Others were hesitant about the conflict it could create with the normal end-of-year giving campaign.”
Overall, Give to the Max Day was viewed as a success by For Love of Children. “A lot of people became donors,” added Andrea Messina. “We have a network of thousands, and now 10 percent of them are giving. The value of small gifts became noticeable, and it got us thinking about a peer-to-peer fundraising contest. Now we’re doing it.”
Little Lights Urban Ministries was the Cinderella story of Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington.
With $37,388 from 729 donors, Little Lights won the Grand Award for most donors ($25,000), the Entrepreneurial Nonprofit Grand Award for 501(c)3s under $1,000 in revenue ($10,000), and six Golden Tickets for most donors in an hour ($1,000 each). In all Little Lights won $41,000 in prizes, totaling more than $78,000 in funds raised during Give to the Max Day.
Little Light’s Klout influence score of 10 before the event is important to note. This is an extremely low score, indicating minimal online “influence.” Little Light's performance demonstrates that it’s not the size of an online account or the amount of retweets and likes that necessarily matters when it comes to online fundraising. Rather, the secret formula for success in social media is an engaged community, authenticity, and a willingness to work and activate a network.
“We went all in,” said Jonny Moy, fellow, Little Lights Urban Ministries. “It was incredibly exciting for the staff!”
Little Lights prepared for Give to the Max Day starting six weeks in advance of Give to the Max Day. Though they did not create a unique story of the event, they did develop a significant campaign that treated the event like a two-week contest. The nonprofit targeted the Entrepreneurial Nonprofits Grand Award with a donor-centric message, “Turn $10 into $10,000 for Little Lights.”
The campaign had several core elements:
In addition to preparing for the contest, Little Lights did a great job of activating its core constituents. Two weeks prior, the nonprofit sent its first of six save the date emails. Promotional videos were included in two of the emails.
The nonprofit was actively discussing Give to the Max Day in its meetings with people prior to the event. “We talked to anybody who walked through our doors about Give to the Max,” said Jonny Moy.
Little Lights also discussed the giving day with all of its volunteers in elementary and middle schools. The face time was crucial to getting people excited about the event. Finally, Little Lights promoted a matching gift of $1,000 if it achieved 500 donors to help excite the community.
Clearly, the response for Little Lights was outstanding. Facebook worked best for the nonprofit. Friends shared, and this helped flood news feeds across different networks with links to their fundraiser. “Facebook acted like a safety net,” said Jonny Moy. “It was good at capturing people who would want to donate, but had not heard about our effort via email or other method.”
Communications from staff to their friends received the best return, as they were very personal and unique. But volunteers and friends helped, too. They were eager to share with their friends, too. Central to their excitement was the timeframe of 24 hours and the low cost to donate. The peer-to peer effect was significant in reaching new voices. In total, Little Lights garnered 418 new donors, 57 percent of its overall Give to the Max Day donation base.
Little Lights attended some of the online seminars, which were helpful for the big picture. The minor details offered in the training were note needed, as the organization was already proficient at utilizing social media. Little Lights said the YouTube videos and the online nonprofit toolkit were most helpful.
Staff capacity was an issue for Little Lights, in particular when taking on the work to thank all of its new donors. However, the nonprofit did have a new staffer, which made it easier to focus on the giving day. Without the new capacity, the organization would not have been able to participate.
“The event and training helped us learn what works well, and what doesn’t,” said Jonny Moy. “One thing we really took away from this is the sense of urgency helps. Give to the Max Day did improve our online capabilities through storytelling and relating to donors on a more practical level.”
Moving forward, Little Lights hopes to expand its peer-to-peer activities by getting people to do fundraisers for the nonprofit. “This is a big area for expansion,” said Moy.