Giving Day Tips for Nonprofits

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Giving days can be incredible tools for nonprofit fundraising. We have witnessed this up close through monitoring and evaluating 49 giving day campaigns as part of the Knight Foundation’s Giving Day Initiative and through advising the Sacramento Region Community Foundation on its BIG Day of Giving. We are also the authors of Knight Foundation’s Giving Day Playbook, a how-to guide with resources and recommendations for giving day organizers. Based on our experiences, however, we have also seen that just signing up for a giving day is no guarantee of fundraising success. Here are three key tips for nonprofits participating in giving days and other community-wide online fundraising campaigns:

1. Set clear goals. The most successful nonprofits don’t just see giving days as one more opportunity to ask people for money—they set clear goals for what they hope to accomplish by participating in the campaigns, and align their giving day strategies with their broader fundraising efforts. For instance, when giving days are held late in the year, many nonprofits use these days to kick off their year-end giving campaigns. Other nonprofits use giving days to reach out to new donors or to focus on cultivating a specific donor segment, such as young adults. A plethora of enticing prize and match opportunities also require nonprofits to be strategic about which ones align with their goals and to develop plans to pursue such incentives.

2. Engage your network. Giving days can actually be quite effective at bringing in new donors, but these donors do not generally show up on their own. Ask your current supporters both to contribute themselves and to tap their friends and family for contributions. Share suggested messaging and creative ideas with your network about how to get the word out. The nonprofits that are most successful at raising money through giving days are usually those with the most diligent outreach efforts.

3. Follow up. Giving days are good donation catalysts, but it is important to think about the lifecycle of a donor’s engagement with your organization beyond that one day. Be sure to follow up with thank you’s to all of your new donors and to integrate them into your broader stewardship activities. Many nonprofits focus on bringing in new donors through giving days, but give less thought to how to keep those donors engaged over the long-term, even though donor retention is a major fundraising opportunity.

Giving days are not for every organization, so if a giving day does not align with your nonprofit’s fundraising needs, you may be better off skipping it than trying to get in on the campaign just because everyone else is. But as with most things in life, the more experience you have with giving days, the better you will be at using them to your organization’s full advantage—particularly if you see them as learning opportunities and track donation and marketing data to help shape future efforts.

Good luck, and happy holidays!

Mike Berkowitz and Daniel Kaufman are co-founders and principals at Third Plateau Social Impact Strategies. Whitney Caruso is a director at Third Plateau. They are the authors of the recent report, “Beyond the dollars: the long-term value of giving days for community foundations.”