Yesterday was almost as good as Christmas morning when I was a kid: I woke up to see that more than $400,000 was donated to local arts-related nonprofits (more about Arts Day of Giving here). And just like a kid, my next question was, “Is there more?”
I think there is. If Give Local Now is successful, they will radically change the culture of giving in our community. I’ve always thought of Sacramento as involved; the amazing contributions of service clubs like Active 20-30 #1, Junior League of Sacramento, Rotary and others have made this a great place to live. But do Sacramentans give? Not at the same level of other communities our size, according to the Sacramento Generosity Project. I can make a difference but I can’t do what a well-run nonprofit can: make a real impact on a problem that is too big to be solved by a few well-intentioned people.
Technology-enabled charitable giving is a great way to attract new donors to the party.
What could that mean for Sacramento nonprofits? With a sector-wide giving day, we should be able to generate millions for nonprofits — but even more importantly, expose thousands of people to the experience of giving charitably. Fortunately, such a sector-wide giving day is in the planning stages for next May.
Here are my suggestions of things to do and not do as online giving events get rolling in Sacramento. Some of these are directed to the organizers of Arts Day of Giving, but others are directed to the nonprofits who participated.
1. Close the feedback loop. Now that new donors have said “hello” by stopping by to donate, what can nonprofits do to make them feel really great about what they did? Thank you is always nice, but according to previous research by Giving USA, one reason that people don’t give is that they don’t know what happened as a result of their donation. I don’t know what access nonprofits have to donors who gave during Arts Day of Giving (presuming that the donors did not ask to remain anonymous), but ideally the nonprofits would be able to send a personalized email explaining how the new donations will be put to work. [Author’s update: This just in! My first thank you note just came through from Capitol Public Radio. Looks like they matched my email to donor info since the email came through thanking “Mr. and Mrs…” See ***below.]
2. Learn more about the giver/nonprofit experience and build on it. The Case Foundation/Razoo report about Washington DC’s experience with its Give2Max campaign included results from post-event surveys of donors and nonprofits: “A whopping 96 percent of donors said they were likely to give more money to their selected nonprofits as a result of their participation in Give to the Max Day,” according to the report. This finding was also encouraging: “Fifty-eight percent of nonprofits recruited new donors, and 56 percent said they increased public awareness of their organizations among people in the region.” If there’s no funding to support a follow-up survey with this go-round, it would be great to build quick post-interaction survey technology into the website for the planned May 2014 event.
3. Start getting nonprofits “socially” ready now for the May 2014 event. Looking at the websites for several of the established and successful one-day, sector-wide giving events, they appear to have secured the involvement of more media partners and more outreach partners (also known as “activators”). If April 29’s top-earners were more effective on Twitter (as I suspect), then it’s important to start building that capability now among nonprofits who are interested in the May 2014 event. It takes time to build connections.
I know what leaders of nonprofits are thinking. Twitter, ugh, who has the time? It’s a hate-love relationship at best. Until now, nonprofits haven’t had much evidence that there is a linkage between social media and donations. Online events like this one have the potential to change that dynamic.
4. Start now building relationships with more activators. I know the Arts Day of Giving folks had an event for people with the potential to be ambassadors and influencers for the event. And that tweets sent by @SacRegcf and @GiveLocalNow were re-tweeted by friends like @3FoldComm. But almost certainly more could be done to tap into Twitter users who create lists and use hashtags to “share the love” about causes and organizations that fit with their interests. Another great under-utilized communications resources in town is bloggers. Right here in River City there are political bloggers who write about causes; food bloggers who care about hunger, food literacy, health and nutrition; Mommy bloggers who write about things that affect children and the future of our community; fashion and thrift bloggers. Power Twitter users and bloggers could have even more impact that traditional news media for the one-day giving event; people who see their posts or tweets are already online and can most easily click to donate.
5. Cultivate more media partners. In Minneapolis, for example, their Give to the Max Day (which raised $16+ million from over 53,000 donors) really pushed hard to for outreach partners and media partners.
I fret about a few things when I ponder the future of online giving events here in Sacramento:
1. Save us from contests, and don’t over-saturate us with Day of Giving events! I agree with this Forbes article that contests (“help us get the most votes to win $1,000!”) have largely worn out their welcome. As I was sniffing around the Internet, I noted that some communities, having proved the success of sector-wide giving events, are now planning multiple events per year. At that point, I think it could cannibalize donor sources of nonprofits or cause people ignore such events.
2. What will happen to the user experience when hundreds of nonprofits are listed? The online tool set up for Arts Day of Giving was dead easy to navigate in part because there were only 80 organizations, and they were sliced into sub-categories like Visual Arts and Arts Education. It’s hard to imagine how easy it will be to surf and scan when potentially 10 times that many nonprofits are listed. I do know that some will exclude themselves by not getting around to creating profiles. But there are lots of nonprofits in Sacramento!
3. The risks of cannibalization – or losing donors to other organizations. As more people “get” what these online giving days are about, and nonprofits adopt social media more, there are some downside risks. More people may donate through this channel rather than to the nonprofit directly, with slightly higher administrative costs. (Razoo.com, which supports many of the online fundraising events around the country, is nearly doubling its admin fees — from 2.9% to 4.9%, noting that great technology costs money to keep current.) However, we know that as many as half of the donors coming in through giving events are new to the charities AND that Sacramento lags national averages for giving. For a long while to come, all boats should rise with collaborative online giving events.
4. Think twice or thrice before allowing individuals to fundraise. Razoo allows nonprofits or individuals to fundraise via their platform leading to tweets like the one at right. Razoo is a for-profit company (not that there’s anything wrong with that) that benefits from anything that increases contributions through its sites. I doubt that the Give Local Now folks would allow such individual appeals but I hope they continue to wave the banner of transparency for nonprofits. Raising awareness and promoting the integrity of nonprofits is just as important to this effort as is the actual money raised.
***As just added in “Do’s” #1, I did receive an electronic thank you with this bit at the bottom: P.S. “Your official donation acknowledgement/reciept from Capital Public Radio will be arriving by U.S. Postal Mail.”