Tag Archives: Sacramento nonprofits

Sacramento Gave BIG!

BIG Day of Giving SacramentoI was so excited when Sacramento put its toes in the water last year with its first online giving blitz, Arts Day of Giving, catching the wave of national enthusiasm for this viral approach to inspire charitable giving. But (to stick with the beach metaphor) I was blown away by the tsunami of support.

The headline: Sacramento raised over $3 million — $3,020,000 to be exact — from 18,915 donors, benefiting 394 local nonprofits.

One of the striking findings from this region-wide philanthropic event was the diversity of the nonprofits that were attracting donations. In late morning, I tweeted that @PlacerLandTrust, @TFTGreaterSac (The First Tee of Greater Sacramento), and @YMCASuperiorCa were all rocking it.

According to the Giving USA 2013 report, food banks and human services grew disproportionately during the Great Recession, but donors began to return to their historical preferences in 2013: education, arts, environmental and animal nonprofits. (Religious organizations continued to rank number one in donations, receiving 32% of all giving.)

Look what categories “won” in Sacramento (based on a cursory review of nonprofits receiving over $20,000): public media, animals, arts, human services, health (a yoga collective), land/environment (including the Sacramento Tree Foundation), libraries, programs serving low-income kids, the LGBT community (yay Sacramento LGBT Community Center!), legal assistance programs, housing, adoption programs, and a museum (The California Museum).

In terms of dollars raised, the biggest winners were:

  • Sacramento Ballet — $91,776 from 334 donors
  • Placer: Placer Land Trust — $54,896 from 246 donors
  • Yolo: Winters Friends of the Library — $20,799 from 184 donors

But it was clear from the leaderboard throughout the day that lots of nonprofits — big and small — were “winning” in terms of energizing their base and achieving their goals.

  • Effie Yeaw Nature Center, for example, had a timid goal of $2,500. They raised $12,200 from 136 donors. I bet they’re in shock!
  • River City Food Bank set a goal of raising $10,000. They surpassed that even before the lunchtime challenge, one of two challenge prize periods that they encouraged existing friends to support. Now it was my turn to be timid. I tweeted, “@RCFoodBank, “Time to set a new goal! $12,500 is in reach.” At that moment, their tweet came through setting $20,000 as their new goal, along with this explanation of their thinking to me, “Go big or go home!” They finished the 24 hours with $25,460 from 162 donors.
  • I thought the California Food Literacy Center was overly ambitious in its out-of-the-chute goal to raise $10,000, but they, too, surpassed their goal by mid-day and set a new $20,000 target. They expressed their joy with brand-centric posts that were so cute they made your cheeks hurt: “We can’t wait to give you thanks with a double pea pod cartwheel!” They ended with $18,145 from 99 donors. This, for a nonprofit that’s only been around two years, has California in its title and isn’t obviously dedicated to kids (although childhood nutrition is its primary programmatic focus).

As I watched the action on the leaderboard and my Twitter feed, this question burned in my mind: How were some of these nonprofits succeeding? What was their tactical strategy?

Clearly, some nonprofits had donors in the wings, ready to snap up those matching funds when the day began (at 12:01 a.m.!). At 11 a.m., Placer Land Trust already had $30,646 in the kitty. I suspect the same was true of a few others who had a fast start to the day, raising more than $20,000 by 11 a.m. before leveling off: Cottage Housing, YMCA of Superior California, St. John’s Shelter, and The First Tee of Greater Sacramento. I’m pretty sure that Social Venture Partners of Sacramento also encouraged its shareholder partners to take advantage of this opportunity to leverage their support for its portfolio of nonprofits (clue: they only had 17 donors).

Watching the numbers jump during the 12-1 hour, it became obvious that some nonprofits had encouraged their supporters to donate during certain challenge periods. Capital Public Radio and Sacramento Ballet were among those I noticed had big jumps during this period. I plan to ask both whether they nudged their fan base, or it just fell out that way.

In the days ahead, I’ll connect with a few nonprofits — hopefully Sacramento Ballet and the DCI Sacramento Mandarins (an expected star and an underdog, both of which were big rainmakers) — to see if I can get some insights into their position going in and their tactical strategies. I know many nonprofits made good use of pop up windows on their websites, mailed materials, emails and social media, but what worked best for which kinds of charities and fan bases?

I’m also curious about which charities didn’t do as well as I expected. With the exception of the Mandarins, a drum and bugle corp, where were the music nonprofits? I would have expected WEAVE to have a little stronger total, so I’m curious if they didn’t push the BIG Day of Giving. Same with Sacramento Habitat for Humanity, WIND Youth Services and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Sacramento area. Hospice and disease-related organizations (such as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society) typically have pretty loyal bases, so I wonder why they didn’t generate much interest.

When I think about it a bit more, I realize this is such an unknown beast for nonprofits. Strategically, they may wonder if this will cannibalize their existing base of support or if they’ll lose control of it by having it go through the Give Local Now online donation system. Or they may not know how to organize an integrated communications plan — and staff it — so that they can succeed.

For those who did succeed, how much did they have to invest in staff time or out-of-pocket costs (e.g. for a mailing)? How did they feel about the ROI? They may not know until they see how many new donors they attracted, or how many lapsed donors they woke up.

As the then-director of Give Local Now told me last year, online giving events were part of a strategy “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 versus benefiting national or international charities.” She went on to say, “If information about the cool things that are happening here were more broadly known, there would be a greater sense of pride in philanthropy.”

Sacramento certainly has reason to feel proud this morning. I’d say Give BIG got the word out!

 

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Arts Day of Giving Made History! Way to Go Sacramento!

Final Results Arts Day of Giving Give Local NowOn 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:

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.

The Technology

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.

Give2Max home pageBut 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).

Arts Day of Giving home page with categoriesI 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.

Philanthrophile tweet stream #ArtsDayofGivingAs 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

Twitter traffic Arts Day of GivingAn event like this leaves me salivating with more questions than answers:

  • 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.)

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