The COVID-19 crisis has thrust many development professionals into a remote work situation, and more than ever before we’re seeing how the digital space can greatly support our usual fundraising practices. Well before this moment, the rise of online giving has been significant, and the importance of engaging your existing and potential donors online has never been more essential. The best giving day strategies begin at least six months in advance, so now is the time to look ahead and plan for success.
Giving days—24-hour digital fundraising challenges—are worth the investment, especially in this time of uncertainty. Executing a giving day strategy can be a useful tool to raise awareness and funds, as long as you make the right preparations and have reasonable and achievable goals. The organizations that are succeeding in their outreach have robust strategies that align closely with their wider institutional goals and include investments in time and staff resources.
The purpose of participating in a giving day is to offer new and established donors a special reason to engage with your cause. Getting involved is essential, as they are increasing in popularity year after year. #GivingTuesday, the best-known giving day that takes place annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, is growing exponentially. According to the NonProfit Times, #GivingTuesday raised a total of $511 million online in the United States. This was an increase of over $100 million from 2018, an increase of nearly 28 percent.
There are opportunities in every nonprofit sector on #GivingTuesday. For example, #iGiveCatholic, which was deemed “the most successful Catholic crowdfunding event to date” by the National Catholic Register, has taken online Catholic stewardship practices to the next level. #iGiveCatholic is a bishop-led initiative in partnership with lay leaders in Catholic philanthropy that offers assistance to Catholic organizations as they build their outreach strategies for the online giving event. Through this service, organizations gain access to training, toolkits, and materials to execute a successful plan. In 2019, the #iGiveCatholic campaign raised nearly $7.5 million from over 29,000 donors across the country.
There are also regional giving days to investigate in your own area. Whichever days you choose, follow our three steps to maximizing your giving day strategy.
The Three Keys
Making the most out of a giving day takes planning. Many organizations stumble by jumping into the giving day conversation without proper outreach strategies, branding, or realistic goals. It is a best practice to create an outreach plan over six months in advance. You should have a calendar filled with strategies for:
- Content creation (i.e. branded templates, videos, images, testimonials, podcasts etc.)
- Email marketing to your database to build momentum
- Social media posts across channels that tell a consistent story of impact
- Website enhancements to serve as a “home base” for giving day promotion
- Public relations/media outreach
The preparation stage also gives you an opportunity to survey the people who gave the previous year. Tap into your network to ask them what compelled them to give, what content they found most effective, and what they would want to see improved. This will help you create a new strategy that resonates with your core audience.
- Standing Out Above the Crowd
As the popularity of giving days grows, the chances are good that your audience will be inundated by pitches from many like-minded organizations. Therefore, the way you present your mission can make all the difference. The first question to ask here is, Why should people give to our cause? Consider the elements of your case that stand out, and boil those differentiators into a ten second elevator pitch to grab attention and clearly present your case.
Once you have narrowed your focus, create professional-looking content that support your case. Think about using campaign-specific graphics and colors in emails and on social media. Remember that you will be attempting to attract new people who may not be familiar with your cause. Your messaging should aim to clearly underline who you are and why this day is special.
While it is important to communicate your strategies well in advance, outreach should be ramped up a month before the giving day. This includes communications through all of your social media channels and your email database It is also important to activate your strongest supporters to raise awareness. Pull a short list of your most active volunteers and major financial supporters and make personal calls to ask them for help in spreading the word.
When promoting your giving day, it is also essential to strike a balance between underwhelming and overwhelming your audience. Be purposeful with your outreach and avoid redundancies in your content to keep your audience engaged. For example, sending the same emails several times without adding something new to the conversation could slow momentum as you get closer to the day.
Following Your Giving Day Campaign
The first thing to do after your giving day is to track and publicize your results to celebrate your success. It is also useful to do an immediate internal evaluation to determine which parts of your plan worked and which parts didn’t. This audit will allow you to identify the outreach channels that were the most effective which will help greatly the next year. It is valuable to thank all donors who participated in elevating your cause through all channels.
If you’re just getting started, here are some reminders:
- As you think about your strategic plan for this year and beyond, it may be tempting to participate in as many giving days as you can find, but you could risk spreading yourself thin. Take a look at your calendar, identify all the giving days you might want to participate in, and then see which ones fit your organization best. Try a few the first year and then assess which one(s) worked best for you.
- It’s okay to start small. Consider a reasonable goal to create an early win.
- No matter how far out your next giving day is, it is worthwhile to assemble your team to begin strategizing today. Take a look at the organizations who are doing it well, and brainstorm what it will take for your organization to exceed their success.
This post is an update from a previous published article which can be read here.
During this challenging time, we are continuing to offer our perspectives and lessons learned from over seven decades of nonprofit advisory leadership. Click here to access our Strategies During COVID-19 page. Here you will find resources that provide best practices and optimal strategies to help your organization build a path through this crisis and beyond.
CCS Fundraising is a strategic fundraising consulting firm that partners with nonprofits for transformational change. Members of the CCS team are highly experienced and knowledgeable across sectors, disciplines, and regions. With offices throughout the United States and the world, our unique, customized approach provides each client with an embedded team member for the duration of the engagement. To access our full suite of perspectives, publications, and reports, visit our insights page. To learn more about CCS Fundraising’s suite of services, click here.
About the Author
Dan Altano is a professional communications and marketing specialist who leads the corporate marketing department at CCS Fundraising. He has spent his career creating, executing, and overseeing marketing strategies for companies that aim to leave a positive impact on the world. He has advised nonprofits from all over the country on digital strategy and best practices as they pertain to fundraising.