6 Tips to make the most of giving days

Whether it's the Seattle Foundation's GiveBIG, National #GivingTuesday, or your local community foundation's campaign, giving days are hot and here to stay. So, how can you make the most of them for your mission? Here are 6 tips from fundraisers who have found the secret sauce to giving day success:

1. Set Clear Goals!

Before you do anything, you have to know WHY you are participating and you have to determine HOW you will know whether you've met your goal. You'll want to set a clear external goal that you can share widely (for example, say you want to raise $5000 dollars or you want to have 50 donors, etc.). This should be simple, meaningful, and BOLD (but reasonably possible!).

To make the most of a giving day, however, you can't just focus on the number of donors and dollars. You want it to make you BETTER at fundraising. So, you definitely should also set some internal goals -- things you won't splash around on social media, but that you do recognize are important to growing your organization's fundraising capacity.

Examples of giving day goals include:

    • Engage more volunteers -- a measure of this would be how many people helped spread the word.
    • Increasing the number of donors --  easily measured!
    • Increasing the number of donorwho increased their gift or made a second gift this year -- easily measured!
    • Getting our name/mission out there -- measure the number of media mentions you get or the number of clicks to your profile on the giving page.
    • Experimenting and learning -- can you point to two or three things you tried that were new and how did they go (for example, maybe this is just the push you need to finally try Facebook or Instagram, etc.)
    • And so many others!

2. Build a Strong Team

Whether it's a team of two, a team of ten, or an army of ambassadors, you want to surround yourself with a group of enthusiastic people willing to maximize your success and push you toward your goals.

It is ALWAYS better to have more than one perspective when planning a giving day strategy. Giving days are all about momentum, and the more people who feel ownership and responsibility for the day's success, the momentum you are going to have.

3.Create a WRITTEN game plan

Your team should get to work on creating a game plan for the lead-up to the big, for the day itself, and the all-important follow-up after the day. Your game plan can be as casual or formal as your organization's culture, but you should focus on some of these key elements:

    • Set clear goals and measures of success - start your plan here, since this is the foundation for everything you are doing!
    • Establish your target audience -- of course, you want to reach everyone, but who specifically do you need to reach to meet your specific goals, AND who will you purposefully not reach out to (e.g., those who gave right before the big day, etc.)
    • Create a theme -- giving days are short marketing bursts of energy and they work best when you have some organizing theme, either focused on a specific need or service area or on a concept that is key to your mission (for example, a preschool might focus on something like "give joy" and then theme all their stories and pitches around the way their programs help young children see joy in learning). 
    • Set the tone -- every organization has its own personality. Some are serious, some are witty, some are emotional, and some are grounded in science. Determine your organizational personality and then clarify how your outreach for the giving day will match that tone. 
    • Develop strategies -- define the methods of outreach you think will work best for your target audience and your goals. Most organizations rely heavily on digital and social media outreach (Facebook posts, emails, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) but, if you know your audience well and you know that's not where they are, then don't be shy about using other methods that reach them. One organization ran a successful online giving day campaign by sending out a snail mail letter before the day -- they knew their audience.
    • Confirm a timeline -- be deliberate about how much noise you want to make and for how long. Be realistic about what you can manage well. Clarify what communications you'll do before the event, during the day-of, and after. Organizations that have successful giving days have put a lot of thought into how often they are going to reach out to their audience. Find that perfect balance between frequent communication and letting the word spread so that you can build and sustain momentum without crossing the line into just plain annoyance.

4. Support your strategies & be prepared

Figure out how you can pre-load your strategies for success. What can you do ahead of time to make it easy to take action when the time comes. Sure, you want to take advantage of the spontaneity of the day, but that is way easier to do that if you have some basic templates to work from. Plus, if you can lay out the full communications templates from pre-event to day-of to post-event you can anticipate what it would "feel" like to be the donor receiving your messages and you can double check then that your theme and tone are working for you.

Here are a few helpful examples:

    • If you are going to rely on an army of ambassadors to send out emails to their friends, draft one or two templates for them to use before the big day.
    • If you plan to do hourly Facebook posts on the day, prep them ahead of time.
    • Know ahead of time how you will personally thank everyone.
    • Plan your #hashtags if you will use them. 

5. Follow up

One of the easiest and biggest mistakes you can make is thinking the giving day is done when the clock strikes midnight. Yes, you will be exhausted and exhilarated, but really your relationship-building work with the donors has only just begun. Continue your success after the big day!

Make sure you make as big an effort thanking your donors (personally, not just through the computer-generated receipt from the giving day). In the two to three weeks that follow your event share information with donors. Tell them how their gifts are positively impacting on your organization. Ask yourself constantly, how can I show my donors they made a difference? And, of course, celebrate with your team and make sure they know they made a difference and will want to join you again in fundraising.

6. Make it last!

Now that you've tasted success on your giving day and your team is pumped up with excitement, leverage that energy to take your fundraising efforts to a whole new level year-round.

Right after a successful giving day is a perfect time to update your annual fundraising plan. Bring in new ideas based on what you learned worked (and what didn't). It's a great time to thank your team and find ways to engage them going forward. Take a look at your case for support and see if you can add or change anything (if you don't have one, use what you learned in the giving day process to make one). Plan a new thanking and donor stewardship effort.

Some of the resources below can help you think through how this one day becomes the start of something much, much more.

Resources specifically about giving days:

Resources from the AFP on taking your fundraising to the next level:

Advancement Northwest Events