Success in fundraisers is invariably related to return on investment (ROI). While a campaign may be fun and attract a lot of attention, ultimately, performance drives interest and continuity.
Fourteen percent of participating nonprofits took the post-event Give to the Max Day survey. Eighty-seven percent of surveyed nonprofits said they were likely to participate again. Further, 60 percent said they would take the giving day concept and apply lessons learned to their topic-specific fundraiser (for example, a giving contest focused specifically on efforts to end malaria).
Thirty-nine percent of nonprofits who took the survey raised $2,500 or more, faring better than the average Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington nonprofit. The average amount raised by a participating nonprofit was $1,681.
“Give to the Max Day was a great idea,” said Jessica Hazlett, Development Systems Manager at the 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.”
Give to the Max Day Success versus other Fundraisers
Respondent data also shows that nonprofits’ Give to the Max Day efforts resulted in fundraising totals that rivaled results from their prior best one-time giving campaign. Sixty-nine percent of survey respondents said they had raised $500 or more, 37 percent raised $2,500 or more, and 20 percent raised $5,000 or more. In prior online fundraisers, 64 percent of respondents said they had topped out at $500 or greater, 41 percent raised $2,500 or more, and 28 percent raised $5,000 or more.
The giving day did more than just raise money for nonprofits. Fifty-eight percent of nonprofits recruited new donors, and 56 percent said they increased public awareness of their organizations among people in the region. The public relations value was also validated by the 96 percent of surveyed donors who said they would give more money in the future to participating nonprofits.
“We’re a pretty small player in the Washington, DC, nonprofit community,” said Andrea Messina, former 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.”
Nonprofit Resource Requirements
Most nonprofits did not spend a great amount of time on the contest— 89 percent spent 30 hours or less, and 60 percent spent 10 hours or less. However, there was a correlation between time spent and success in fundraising. Sixty-two percent of nonprofits who spent 10 to 30 hours on the contest raised $2,500 or more, and 67 percent who spent more than 30 hours raised $2,500 or more. Conversely, only 23 percent of those nonprofits that spent less than 10 hours netted $2,500 or more.
Only 31 percent of respondents reported creating special messaging for the Give to the Max Day campaign. Most preferred to leverage communications created by the contest organizers; several of the winners did not create their own unique story, and found the event’s publicity to be enough of an umbrella for their marketing efforts.
A popular nonprofit, Miriam’s Kitchen, said at a Social Media Club event hosted by organizers that they didn’t invest in the event because it conflicted with their annual fundraiser. Forty-five percent of nonprofit survey respondents agreed with Miriam’s Kitchen’s statement, stating that Give to the Max Day presented a conflict with other fundraising activities happening around the same time. Sixty-one percent of nonprofits also asked for more awards with higher dollars available to participants.
Low Participation by Large Nonprofits
Interestingly, most of the larger nonprofits in the area did not participate in Give to the Max Day, and those that did primarily sent out an email and a tweet, choosing to employ fairly passive participation. This was not an anomaly associated with Give to the Max Day. As noted by the Fundraising Journal, small nonprofits tend to participate more in contests than large nonprofits, which cite processes and rules that prevent them from being successful.
Several other factors may have driven the lack of large nonprofits’ participation, including competing annual fundraisers; the requirement that dollars generated by national nonprofits be used for locally-serving projects; and comparatively low award dollars in contrast to their usual funding streams.
The larger nonprofits that did participate saw fundraising performance tied to the amount of time they spent promoting the giving day. Larger nonprofits that spent more time on promotion, such as the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation (both featured as case studies), fared well. Others that chose not to invest significant time did not place on the leader boards.
Nonprofit Suggestions for 2012 Contest
When asked what they would do differently next year, 80 percent of nonprofits asked for new categories in the competition. For example, environmental organizations could compete against each other rather than simply participating in the larger contest against every other nonprofit from the region. In 2012, Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington will feature category leader boards if they are funded by the local business and grant-making communities.
Another 61 percent asked for more awards with higher dollars available to participants. In addition, 37 percent of the surveyed nonprofits stated they would allocate more resources to future Give to the Max Day fundraising efforts. In consideration of the format, 60 percent said they would continue supporting an award structure that equally rewarded nonprofits for recruiting the most donors as well as raising the most dollars. Forty-six percent said they would support a donor-centric contest, but only 16 percent would support a contest focused only on most dollars raised.
Finally, nonprofits expressed experiencing several challenges with the contest. Fifty percent of respondents said they had significant to very strong difficulties with the challenge due to lack of time to prepare and implement their programs. For 2011, nonprofits had two months to prepare for the giving day, and many found out about the contest with just weeks to go.
In addition, 45 percent felt this initiative presented a conflict with other fundraising activities happening around the same time. Twenty-nine percent of responders reported that Give to the Max occurred at an inconvenient time of the year. However, when asked what time of year worked best for such a contest, answers were fractured. November was the most popular month with 27 percent responding. Overall, 50 percent of respondents deemed autumn months to be the most popular for a giving day (including November). Contest fatigue—reports that donors complained of too many campaign-related solicitations—was cited by only 12 percent as a significant or very strong difficulty.