Tag Archives: Causes

Finally! Online Community Giving Blitz Comes to Sacramento

#artsdayofgiving

In 2011, I wrote about Washington DC’s “Give to the Max” online fundraising blitz, and I’ve been anxiously waiting for something like that to come to Sacramento. This Monday, April 29, that moment arrives as Give Local Now, the Sacramento Region Community Foundation, For Arts’ Sake, Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission and the Nonprofit Resource Center bring us the Arts Day of Giving. As happy as I am for the arts organizations that will benefit, I’m even more excited about what it potentially means for all local nonprofits. I caught up with Susan Frazier of Give Local Now to learn more about the event — and the progress of Give Local Now’s efforts to energize local giving.

Let’s start with the basics: what do you want people to do on April 29?

We want them to go onto givelocalnow.com, where they will be redirected to a special giving page. The page will be up over the weekend but they won’t be able to donate until 4:29 a.m. on Monday, April 29. It’s very simple and quick to get to a list of nonprofits and pick the one you want to donate to. The page can handle 10,000 transactions a minute so it’s not going to slow down. Check out the tutorial about a minute in:

You can also help by spreading the word. Local arts organizations stand to win prizes including $1,000 for the organization that generates the most posts on Facebook and Twitter during the 24-hour-period, but posts must be public and use the hashtag #artsdayofgiving.

Is this the first 24-hour online giving event in the area that benefits a group of nonprofits?

It is. You have to have sophisticated technology in place, which we now have, thanks to the Sacramento Region Community Foundation. The next online giving event will benefit the full sector of nonprofits, in May of next year.

The Sacramento Region Community Foundation has been terrific. The amount of labor and investment that they’ve taken on has been stunning. It’s a real gift to the region. They both funded and staffed the development of the technology.

Technology is more and more important to nonprofits. What technology was required to make this online giving event possible?

We integrated two pieces of existing technology: a database and an ecommerce/campaign tool. The database comes from Guidestar; they branded it as DonorEdge but we renamed it GivingEdge. The secure ecommerce/campaign tool provides the landing page for the day, which will instantly track and display each donation and all kinds of statistics as the day goes along. You’ll be able to tell which nonprofits are getting what and how we’re doing against our goal.

The database allows donors to see really robust information about a nonprofit’s programs, financials, management and governance. We only have the arts organizations profiles now but by fall we hope to have good representation of all sectors of the local nonprofit community. While Guidestar includes all IRS-registered nonprofits, those organizations will have to choose to complete a profile for GivingEdge. The database shines a lot of light and transparency on organizations.

What do you hope will be raised for the arts?

We hope to raise as much as $500,000. We have $100,000 in matching donations from a variety of corporate sponsors and businesses and restaurants that are offering discounts or freebies to contributors who show a receipt for their donation via print out or on their smart phone. And this was just added: Bistro 33 locations are offering a 20% discount to donors and Harv’s Car Wash will provide a free wash. We’re deeply grateful for the support of the Sacramento Region Community Foundation, Western Health Advantage, Wells Fargo Bank, Barry and Lynda Keller, Enlow and Mel Ose Endowment for the Arts, Safe Credit Union, Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, and the Jean Runyon Endowment for the Arts Fund, which will give a cash prize of $1,767 to the arts organization that raises the most overall during the event.

Why the particular focus on the arts?

The original initiative idea came from “For Arts’ Sake,” through Mayor Kevin Johnson’s office. They thought it would be a great use of their initiative and they knew they couldn’t do it alone.

What are you hearing from local nonprofits about their fundraising success as the local economy begins to slowly improve?

I’m hearing about a slight uptick, but there’s also a lot of concern among donors. As one donor said to me, “Darn, I thought this economic downturn would get rid of some of these nonprofits.” What’s behind that is some skepticism about whether the sector has too much duplication. Nonprofits are really frustrated with that, that they may not be able to attract donors, often because of a misperception. That’s something that this database can help with. It may show that they fill a need that other nonprofits do not, or suggest opportunities for collaboration.

What’s next for Give Local Now?

We’re gearing up with a bunch of different strategies. One of them is the nonprofit capacity piece, working through the Nonprofit Resource Center to build fundraising skills of nonprofits and their Boards through training, and to make them better stewards of the resources they have. We can help them with their message about why they’re worthy to invest in, as opposed to “help us because we’re desperate.” We’ve written a grant for a series of training sessions that will bring executive directors and Boards together to help them understand fund development better – their different roles and responsibilities as well as best practice strategies.

Another focus is measurement. In September 2011, we announced three ambitious goals: to increase the regional average of households that give to charities; increase the average household contribution of households that give; and increase the share of giving that stays here in the area vs. benefiting national or international charities. To help us track progress, we’re developing a set of measures using nonprofit partners’ results as the data source. But first, we need to get local nonprofits on the GivingEdge tool.

The third thing we’re doing is developing a whole suite of new tools that will help local nonprofits connect with donors. We are changing out the website to have a lot more donor tools on it, and to enable donors to get a lot more information about local nonprofits.

The fourth strategy is just an awareness and outreach strategy, with an underlying idea of building regional pride. If information about the cool things that are happening here were more broadly known, there would be a greater sense of pride in philanthropy.

What are some of the cool things you’re seeing?

One example is “Reason to Party,” which organizes events benefiting a cause they select as a way for 20-somethings to have fun and donate. It’s pretty inspiring. Another is the El Dorado Giving Circle, a group of several hundred women in the foothills who contribute individually and pool their donations to make an impact on a cause they select together. The Metro Chamber’s Project Inspire is another innovative way approach to philanthropy, where anyone who donates $250 or more can participate in supporting an exciting project benefiting the Sacramento area community.

Any parting words?

There’s nothing static about Give Local Now. New ideas come in everyday. I really see it as a snowball rolling down hill that’s picking up pieces as it goes. It’s a catalyst. We’re starting to attract people that can see this as a vehicle for change.

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Sacramento Generosity Project: Check out reasons NOT to give

Maybe this is what we're missing: Glamazons for a cause?

The Sacramento Region Community Foundation released the results of its half-million-dollar research study about charitable giving in the four-county area yesterday, as reported in the Sacramento Bee.  Our region was compared with San Jose, Riverside, Kansas City and Indianapolis.  (Full report will be made available at a future date.)

Among the nuggets that came out of the research were several about the reasons people state for NOT giving charitably:  high administrative costs (76%)… and “not sure what charities did with their last gift” (51%).

Another that caught my eye: While 91% of households surveyed agreed that it’s important to give locally, only 63% of donations were made to local organizations.

I don’t believe that Sacramentans are less empathetic about causes that ask for support.  Nor am I convinced that the problem is a lack of habit when it comes to charitable giving and involvement.  Active 20-30 and Junior League, just for two examples, were virtual engines of charitable leadership for a very long time.

I wonder if Sacramento’s charities behave too much like small businesses that are trying to survive by cutting expenses to the bone, which includes funds for marketing.  I see billboards from national organizations asking for gifts; one of them doesn’t even spend collected funds locally – but its marketing is highly effective.

Sacramento’s philanthropies have to find efficient ways to get their messages out, and they have to have effective messages.  It’s inexcusable that people would stop giving because they don’t know how their money was spent.

So while the gist of the article may be “Step up, Sacramento,” my takeaway is this:  “Step up, charitable organizations.”  We all have to do a better job of giving people a compelling reason to care, and enough love to keep them giving.

We just don’t the celebrity star-power to raise money the way they do in Manhattan, or the corporations that can write big ticket checks.

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Don’t skip to tactics until you know what you’re trying to do

The Camppaign for Female Education took 13 years to build its list to 10,000 supporters and is now picking up 5,000 members a day on Facebook Causes

The Campaign for Female Education took 13 years to build its list to 10,000 supporters and is now picking up 5,000 members a day on Facebook Causes

Non-profit social media rock star Beth Kanter is making a cross-country move.  Rather than taking a hiatus from blogging (as I did last month), Beth wisely lined up some cool guest bloggers.  A post today by Brian Reich, author of Thinking About Media, got me thinking about what’ s been missing in several non-profit marketing plans I’ve seen lately:  a hypothesis about what will cause a desired action to happen (be it donations or advocacy) and a strategy about how to achieve that momentum.

The plans I’ve seen are a bucket used to hold a bevvy of popular tactics (including social media) – with no educated guesses about how they will contribute to the desired outcome, and no prioritization.  I’d call them a listing more than a plan.

Brian’s post is focused on Facebook Causes, about which he’s skeptical, but his comments go to the heart of my concern about lack of strategy:

You can’t expect your audience, no matter how passionate they are about your work, to make an online contribution only because you ask – or to continue to make donations after they became involved through an event or opportunity.  Those are all actions that you, as an organization define.  Your audience, and particularly those who donate, want to be directly involved in your work and empowered to help support your efforts in the ways, and using the tools, they feel most comfortable with…. Stop developing new features and tools until you have found ways to get your users more invested in the setup you already have.  Find ways to better educate and support all your nonprofit members, as well as the users that power your success. I’m not suggesting you stop innovating or improving your tools, but the needs of your audience should drive that work, instead of the technology driving how the users are able to get involved.

Many of the organizations I’m working with as a pro bono consultant haven’t clearly defined why the world needs to support their organization or cause, nor have they raised awareness.  To use Brian’s suggested five-part process, they have to start by listening, introducing and educating their target audiences before they turn to engagement and mobilization.  His process is a variation on a traditional marketing communications pyramid model (from awareness building to preference, trial, use and loyalty) but it’s a nice update for the non-profit world.

If you’re thinking about Facebook Causes or any other form of social media, read Brian’s post first.

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8 things I learned about Facebook Causes at NTC 09

Our local United Way just launched its "Live United" campaign on Facebook Causes

Our local United Way just launched its "Live United" campaign on Facebook Causes

With nearly three-quarters of nonprofits having a presence on Facebook, I was curious:  so what’s the big deal?  Susan Gordon, Senior Nonprofit Coordinator for Causes, the free Facebook application, enthusiastically offered best practice tips during the very last time slot of the recent NTEN Nonprofit Technology Conference in San Francisco.

But wait (you say)!  Didn’t I just read a big article that Causes is no good for raising moneyShouldn’t I spend my resources on something with a better return?

After the dissing of the article died down (blogs abuzz…), many users of Causes at the NTEN conference spoke to the value of Facebook as a part of their marketing mix.  Look, no nonprofit has a lot of time OR money, so when these fundraisers tell me it’s a critical part of their toolbox, I listen.  Many believe that people learn about them through Causes, begin to care about the cause or organization, and give through other channels.  By the way, Causes takes a fairly hefty cut  (Facebook takes a small cut of donations, and there’s a transaction fee charged by Network for Good, which processes the money) — but you’re likely acquiring new donors that you wouldn’t have reached any other way.  For small donations, it compares fairly well to the administrative cost of mailing appeals, sending thank you’s, etc. (postage and cost adds up for snail mail donor acquisition, too).

But wait (you again?)!  Doesn’t it take too much time to keep up with Causes?  Angela, who maintains the “Save Darfur Coalition” Causes page (along with a lot of other responsibilities), says she only spends 10 minutes a day on Causes — and they have 1 million Facebook friends.  She says she takes a hands-off approach, checks out new users (and thanks them), and does a little moderation of members’ posts.

Without further adieu (now that you’ve stopped interrupting), here are Susan’s best practice suggestions:

  1. Get the name right.  The name should use an active verb and grab attention, like, “Educate girls in Africa,” or “Stand up for hungry children!”
  2. Find the exclamation point key and use it often.  Susan says that part of the culture of Facebook is enthusiasm.  Exclamation points sell!
  3. Turn it into a campaign.  Set an achievable goal – like raising $10,000 — and find a creative way to engage people to invite their friends.  The “Power of Ten” campaign asked 10 people to invite 10 other people to send $10 each.  One of Susan’s co-speakers, Ryan, noted, “Always have a fundraiser up” (not just a generic cause/organization page).
  4. Consider an incentive, like a drawing to attend a conference, a free downloadable CD, etc.
  5. Use the announcements feature and keep followers in close touch.  Susan says you can’t announce too often, but make the content different each time (and short) – oh, and with exclamation points!
  6. Post on the wall.
  7. Activate your offline network.  Tell people what you’re doing by email and at events.
  8. Reach out to the hall of famers — those that recruited the most friends to the cause — and message them on the Care Wall.  Facebook is VERY careful about not allowing you to message people you don’t know, but Causes found a way to allow nonprofits to communicate with followers through the Care Wall.

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I’m on safari: isn’t there a fundraising tool/site for individuals that takes a smaller cut?

Safari helmet and machete in hand, I’m crashing through the jungle of the Internet looking for tools that make it easy for enthusiastic individual fundraisers – like my son and his classmates at Jesuit High School in Sacramento – to raise awareness of causes and collect money from people who like to give electronically.  But alas, the tools I am finding – cool as they are – take a pretty hefty cut of the action.  Talk about a wet blanket, at least for student/fundraisers.  Here’s the two I’ve examined.  Got any better ideas?

I haven’t found what I’m looking for yet – which would be something like firstgiving’s pages but with a smaller cut of the action.  As one does in the jungle, I did stumble across some unexpected stuff – this white paper written by Katya Andresen and and Stacie Mann of Network for Good with great info about the potential of individual fundraisers who are powerful emissaries for their causes AND who successfully motivate their friends and contacts to give.

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Facebook causes: not there yet

MS Society Awareness Week Causes Page

MS Society Awareness Week Causes Page

I can understand why the Causes application of Facebook hasn’t been very successful as a fundraising mechanism for charitable causes and organizations.  (Under the “Find Causes” feature, you can look at the “lifetime” results for specific causes in terms of members joined and money raised through Facebook.  Four-and-a-half million members have joined the most popular cause, “Support the O Campaign for Cancer Prevention”, but only about $83,000 has been donated – through Facebook, at least.)  Earlier this week, I received an invitation from a friend, Frankie Harper, to join the National MS Society MS Awareness Week.  I followed the invite and was taken to a fairly sparse page (obviously a template), the right column of which was created by the national organization to promote their awareness week in early March (read more here).

What didn’t I like about it?  Lots – but especially the lack of a “because”.  It did not give me a reason to care about this cause other than the fact my friend encouraged it.  I wasn’t sure what you were supposed to do next, but I found the subtle “join” feature and clicked it.

MS Society Causes Confirmation Page

I liked the confirmation page a little better.  It encouraged me to invite others with a large, easy-to-understand application.  But – note this – I didn’t encourage others to get involved because nothing had really moved me other than the desire to support a friend.

I also had the option of adding a bookmark on my own profile, so I did that.  But again, pretty disappointing when I looked at the changes on my own page.  Yes, I can find info about the cause, but only if I click on one of the many options that Facebook gives me or a friend.  I thought it might be more prominent if I added Causes as a tab, but that requires me to create or list my own cause.

The fact that I joined the cause was prominently displayed on my Wall, and I got to add a comment, but (at the rate of Wall messages) I know that will be invisible within a day or two as it drops from “Today” to “Yesterday” and then “The Dark Ages” (no, it really doesn’ t have a dark ages category, but it might as well, at the rate of Facebook Wall updates).

What would be better?  How about the ability to pick a Facebook profile layout that is made for people who want to promote Causes?  How about the option to include a badge on your Profile page?  How about a much more compelling way to describe the Cause and present it – from the invitation through the landing page through the confirmation?

For now, anyway, Facebook is sticking to its knitting – which is connecting friends.  Period.  It doesn’t seem to be trying to compete with Twitter as a means of raising money.  And if you’re looking for a web-based tool to ask your contacts to give, you’d be better off considering something like firstgiving.org, which claims to have helped 1.5 million people raise almost $84 million for 21,000 nonprofits.

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