On April 29, Sacramento held its first online fundraising blitz and generated $411,907 for ~80 arts-related organizations with programs spread across the region from Davis to Roseville, Placerville and Stockton. Even though another big local news story threatened to eclipse the attention being lavished on the event — the vote of the NBA Committee not to allow the sale of the Sacramento Kings to Seattle, posted by the Bee at about 2 p.m. — Sacramento proved it could multi-task. People tweeted about the Kings while the Arts Day of Giving continued to generate email, Facebook and Twitter traffic.
The event was a big darned deal for a number of reasons:
- It brought to Sacramento a powerful piece of technology that could benefit all local nonprofits
- By creating buzz for philanthropic giving, it introduced community-minded people to worthy nonprofits, many of which had a very limited public profile
- It demonstrated all this while focusing just on the arts sector, which received just 4% of charitable donations nationwide in 2011 according to the Giving USA report
Looking at the experience of other cities that have deployed similar technology, it also successfully demonstrated how much more opportunity we have. I’ll blog some thoughts soon about where we might go from here.
There’s no doubt about it: many people want charitable giving to be dead easy. But technology costs money. Even if you acquire off-the-shelf technology, as our local organizers did, it takes a ton of time to wrestle a project like this to the ground. The software has to be modified, and nonprofits have to agree to participate and create profiles, all of which takes more time. Susan Frazier of Give Local Now credited the Sacramento Region Community Foundation with contributing resources – time and money – to build the engine of Arts Day of Giving. No doubt the collaboration with the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission and For Arts Sake made a difference, too.
But the results seem to be worth it for communities taking advantage of this new approach. In 2011, I blogged about Give2Max Day in the Washington DC area, which raised over $2 million in a 24 hour period from nearly 18,000 donors. Online giving blitzkriegs are picking up steam with events in places as far flung as Seattle (Big Give upcoming event on May 15), North Texas (Get Up and Give! which raised over $14 million from almost 28,000 donors) and Columbus, OH (The Big Give raised $8.5 million from over 10,000 donors).
I decided to test the technology by making several small donations. Dead easy indeed. If you knew which organization you wanted to donate to, you used the handy search field. But what if you didn’t know and wanted to “shop” for an object of your affections? The brain trust behind Arts Day of Giving created easily-digestible categories of arts organizations from arts education to dance, music, arts education, visual art, media and more. In each of those categories, you might see as many as a dozen nonprofits. You could click on a profile and learn more about them; seeing them in a consistent, complete framework made it a cakewalk.
As you can tell from my tweet stream, I made a series of seven rapid-fire small donations between 8:05 and 8:28 p.m. At the bottom of my first purchase screen was a link to allow me to select another charity. When I selected one, all I had to do was re-enter my credit card. Within seconds, I had an email receipt in my inbox.
The reason I tweeted my donation (which I normally wouldn’t) was to help charities vie for a social media prize worth $1,000. They had to be mentioned on a public post or tweet along with the hashtag #ArtsDayofGiving.
Who benefited most?
The Leaderboard (which is still visible) allowed charities and donors to see exactly who was winning the donation race. Sacramento Ballet received almost $50,000.
My informal visual survey of the Twitter stream during the 24 hour event revealed that Sac Ballet was the most active. They may have done a bang up job of promoting the event to their members in advance of April 29, but I suspect that the event brought them new supporters, largely through Twitter. And this is strange: Sac Ballet doesn’t promote its Twitter “handle” on its website and doesn’t seem to have a Facebook page. My advance prediction was that the Crocker Art Museum would raise the most funds because of its highly public profile. After all, it’s a place — and a place has the advantage when it comes to building relationships. Drop in anytime! But the Crocker also has a big social media footprint with nearly 18,000 likes on Facebook and almost 1,000 followers on Twitter.
But in some ways I think the biggest winners were organizations with lower profiles. The technology provided them with a way to raise visibility that they never could have achieved on their own. Case in point: @DDSOorg noticed me tweeting and sent me a message thanking me for supporting the Arts Day of Giving. I looked at their Twitter profile where they turned out to be the Developmental Disabilities Service Organization which “champions the creativity & potential within the hearts & minds of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities using innovative strategies.” Then I looked them up on the Give Local Now event homepage. Then I gave.
Another surprising winner was the Sacramento Mandarins, a drum and bugle corps, which raised $16,000 from 78 donors.
Inquiring minds want to know
- Did Twitter have the most impact on traffic to the event page?
- What happened to traffic on nonprofits’ own websites during the event?
- Did landing pages like the one on Capitol Public Radio convert traffic to Give Local Now visits?
- Did nonprofits mostly find new donors, as has been the case in other cities? Or did they see old friends come back in a new way?
- What were nonprofit’s best practices (IMHO) on Twitter during the event?
- Why weren’t more individuals engaged (as opposed to organizational tweeters)? There were a few voices out there but some of the most active social media adherents (some of whom work for public relations agencies) didn’t seem to be involved.
- Where was United Way? In some other cities they seem to have been involved in giving events like this one.
Tomorrow (I hope): Opportunity knocks! How this online giving technology could become an even better thing for Sacramento nonprofits? (And I might throw in a little about the risks – like rising administrative fees, wearing out the market with fundraising contests, or failing to let people know what happened with their donations, a leading reason that people don’t give.)