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More on Seattle’s #GiveBig Online Giving Event

Give Big home screen

I popped over to Twitter to see if #GiveBig was being used as a hashtag for Seattle’s community-giving event since it wasn’t obviously promoted on the home page of The Seattle Foundation, host of the event. Sure enough, #GiveBig was beginning to heat up.

I immediately noticed that my alma mater, the University of Puget Sound, was tweeting about its “One of A Kind” capital and scholarship fundraising campaign. As I did with Sacramento’s Arts Day of Giving, I made a small donation to support the Loggers (yes, Loggers) and learn more about how Seattle/Tacoma is deploying technology to support charitable giving. And naturally I sniffed around a bit to see how different nonprofits were using the opportunity.

Not all tweets were created equal

Some nonprofits seemed to use their 140 character message spaces more effectively than others:

  • The Pike Place Market Foundation won my prize for “best Twitter voice.” Twitter messages tend to be a bit cheeky and I liked their “#GiveBig to the Pig” message (“Rachel,” the 550-lb. bronze pig statue at the Pike Place Market is a famous landmark). But I suppose it’s hard to replicate this particular tactic if you don’t have an iconic farm animal associated with your charity. However, this can be emulated: The Pike Place Market folks chose to include a shortened ow.ly link to take people right to a donation page. I noticed that other charities linked to their event profile page, which would have required one more click to donate. A small thing perhaps, but you lose “customers” with every extra click.

Pike Place Market #GiveBig tweet

Seattle Foundation giving page

  • Some nonprofits’ messages struck me as more powerful than others. They moved beyond the obvious, such as focusing on the generic “it’s #GiveBig day” message, the opportunity for matching funds, or a few phrases about what they do (e.g. “serve 5,000+ homeless families ea yr” or “supporting girls and women”). Better examples: @ConservationNW got a little conversation going by encouraging people to list favorite animals. @MakeAWishAKWA tweeted a beautiful image they posted on Instagram.

@Conservation NW tweet

Make a Wish tweet

Make A Wish Instagram Image #WishBig #GiveBig

  • A number of charities asked for help funding specific programs. @IslandWood tweeted: “Every gift of $25 on May 15th funds an outdoor learning adventure,” and @GenderOdyssey made an appeal for funding of a staff position: “It’s true! We want to hire a Conference Director!! There’s just one thing…” (the tweet continued with a link to a blog post about the need for paid staff help).

Technology notes

Communities have assembled the technology for online giving events several ways. Sacramento’s Arts Day of Giving modified Guidestar’s Donor Edge ecommerce tools. Several other high profile online giving events, like Greater Washington’s “Give to the Max,”  have used Razoo.

I know that the Arts Day of Giving folks worked hard to make sure the e-commerce site wouldn’t crash with the volume they hoped to generate, and it looks like Seattle’s behind-the-scenes e-commerce provider, ClickAndPledge, also kept up per the Tweet below:

Tweet about receipts

BUT least two nonprofits posted that their website was down during the event. Nonprofits could experience more intense website traffic than they have experienced previously, since all of the push happens in a 24-hour period. Nonprofits: be ready!

Comparing Seattle/Tacoma and Sacramento:

There were a few things that I liked better about the way Seattle managed its Give Big event, and a few things I liked better about Sacramento’s approach:

Seattle wins:

  • For including the option of a survey (an embedded Survey Monkey link) that popped up right after you make a donation. It might have been a bit long (15 questions), but I liked the additional information about whether these are additional gifts if someone has given before.

Give Big survey - 1st five questions

  • For being able to process receipts that come through with the name of the organization as the sender (the email also had a pdf attachment with a printer-friendly version). The receipts lacked any kind of emotion, but the specific sender did underline the connection to the charity (and tax deductibility).
  • For giving people the option of donating to a stretch pool. Sacramento used matching funds from partners, but Seattle let community members continue to add to those matching funds. I thought this was a nice solution for people who wanted to participate in Give Big, but weren’t attached to a specific nonprofit.
  • For their use of Twitter pics, which looked great on a computer screen. I also noticed that Jimi Hendrix Park made nice use of this feature:

Give Big Twitter pic

Jimi Hendrix Park

Arts Day of Giving wins:

  • For promoting Twitter more visibly on the home page of the campaign. Seattle’s Give Big folks did promote social sharing but you saw the Twitter and Facebook push after completing a donation. This shouldn’t be an either/or. It would be best to promote the Twitter hashtag on the home page and have easy next-steps on the screen that pops up after donating.

Give Big post-donation screen

  • For a better way to list nonprofits. Both cities had a search field that made it easy to find a nonprofit if you knew who you wanted to donate to. But Sacramento created “buckets” — categories — of nonprofits while Seattle offered up a verrrrryyyy long directory of nonprofits. It felt like it took five minutes to find University of Puget Sound.

Seattle Give Big nonprofit list

Should Sacramento be afraid of becoming too successful?

I stumbled across one other important bit of dialogue while kicking around the Seattle event: it may be beginning to wear out some participants. Seattle’s event, by the way, is now in its third year.

Humanosphere, which reports news and analysis of global health and the fight against poverty, noted that it “drives many people nuts” because people are getting deluged with emails from nonprofits who have their email addresses. It’s a big enough issue that a guest column by Joy Portella, a consultant formerly with Mercy Corps, was published in the Seattle Times.

Both note that the online giving event may be especially helpful to small nonprofits that simply can’t get their message to penetrate to the same degree on their own.

If people in Seattle/Tacoma are getting deluged with emails from nonprofits, it suggests to me that there is a cadre of people who are very involved in supporting the community. These people may indeed get a bit annoyed by the “cacophony” as Joy Portella put it.

But Sacramento has a long way to go to get more people to give charitably, on a par with other communities our size.

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Arts Day of Giving: Where to Go from Here?

Is that all there is?

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.

Do!

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.

Give to the Max MN screen shot5.  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.

Please don’t!

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.

Give2Max tweet on home page4. 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.”

Capitol Public Radio Thanks

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