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Give to the Max Day: An Overview
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:
- One set of Grand Awards that rewarded nonprofits for garnering the most donors
- A second set of Grand Awards that encouraged nonprofits to raise the most money
- Awards for small nonprofits with less than $1 million in revenue that garnered the most donors
- Awards for nonprofits with the most active individual fundraisers that garnered the most donors
- Ten Golden Tickets hourly awards, given to nonprofits that successfully garnered the most donors during a series of one hour competitions in the afternoon and evening
- Five Platinum and Diamond Tickets, also hourly awards, given to nonprofits that garnered the most dollars raised during afternoon and evening hours
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.
Capacity Building via Training
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.
Marketing and Promotions
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:
- NBC 4, Clearchannel Radio, The Washington Post, and Hubbard Radio all donated PSA air time or print media
- Public relations – led by the Community Foundation for the National Capital and the United Way of the National Capital Area – garnered several big pieces, including coverage by The Washington Post, NBC 4, and WUSA 9
- Social media via Razoo garnered more than 20 blog posts from the likes of Beth Kanter, The Huffington Post, Frogloop, and others
- Word-of-mouth initiatives like a flash mob on K Street, a rally the night of the event, and deep integration into a local internet festival, DCWEEK
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.