Introduction

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The 2009 America’s Giving Challenge, presented by the Case Foundation, Causes and PARADE Publications (with additional matching funds provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation) was a national online competition that enabled passionate individuals and nonprofit organizations to easily leverage their online and offline personal networks to increase awareness, attract new donors, and encourage people to get and stay involved with causes they care about. This was the second America’s Giving Challenge; the first ran from December 2007 through January 2008. Both Challenges were effective in helping the nonprofit sector become more skilled in its use of social media and inspiring other corporations and foundations to launch similar online contests.

The 2007 contest pioneered the million-dollar social media-driven philanthropic contest era. The 2009 contest rode the crest of the contest wave amidst other mega contests like the Chase Community Giving Contest and the Pepsi Refresh Project. There were two primary differences between the first and the second round of the Challenge. The first difference was a shortening of the total time of the contest from fifty to thirty days. The second was the change in the rules concerning donors. In the first round an individual could only donate to a Cause once. This was changed in the second round to allow donors to give as often as they wanted (limited to one donation per day), and some Champions did just that by asking their donors to give on a daily or weekly basis.

In total, $1,990,805 was raised from individuals during the 2009 America’s Giving Challenge. More than 82,000 individual donors made 105,000 donations to 7,876 causes with an average gift of $17.73. By comparison, during the 2007 America’s Giving Challenge $1,764,710 was raised from almost 72,000 unique donors to 6,418 causes with an average gift of $24.50 overall with the use of the PARADE Magazine site for giving and $17.30 on Facebook. During the first Giving Challenge, the public was able to participate and donate through Causes on Facebook, GlobalGiving and Network for Good. In an attempt to simplify the process, Causes.com was the sole portal for participation and donation for the 2009 America’s Giving Challenge, although a platform upgrade was made that allowed people to donate without having to be a member of Facebook. This change in platform, the economic downturn and the proliferation of online giving efforts all may have played a role in the difference in dollars raised and average gift size between the two challenges. However, there is not a enough data to draw specific conclusions.

Contests have evolved with awards given for a wide variety of criteria, from popular vote and best concept to tournaments and the America’s Giving Challenge format, which rewards cause Champions who raise the largest number of friends. Since the Case Foundation and its partners first pioneered the giving contest concept, nonprofits have made great strides to embrace social media and online fundraising. There are now so many contests that nonprofits need to vet these opportunities to make sure they are in line with their mission and fundraising goals.

The following report encapsulates the main lessons extrapolated from the 2009 America’s Giving Challenge and the data collected to assess the Challenge including a survey of cause champions, four Conversational Case Studies hosted on the Case Foundation’s blog: Darius Goes West: Inspiring Fans to Share Their Stories with Pride and Joy, Students for a Free Tibet: A Mindful Social Media Strategy for Campaigns and Contests, A Special Sauce for Contest Success, and Reflections

Note: The average gift size in 2007 via Networked for Good and Global Giving was $24.50 compared to $17.30 from Facebook Causes.