Tag Archives: Sacramento Region Community Foundation

The Veggie Return On Investment

Food Literacy Center

Philanthrophile (a.k.a Betsy C. Stone) hasn’t dropped off the face of the planet but she has been detained as she works on a nonfiction-something-or-other through Bennington’s College’s M.F.A. writing program. And – shock face! – the local nonprofit world seems to be surviving just fine without her ministrations.

She did, however, participate in a listening sessions sponsored by the Sacramento Region Community Foundation where there was some interesting dialogue about measurement and evaluation. Philanthrophile (perhaps I should stop speaking of myself in writerly third person right about now) is a fan of measurement. In Washington, D.C., for example, Venture Philanthropy Partners has been using their investment and advocacy power to make measurable differences in the lives of youth.

So I (see? first person! I’ve got this point of view thing nailed!) was delighted to see the evaluation findings in Food Literacy Center‘s annual report, drawn from three years of findings from Capitol Heights Academy:

  • 87% of kids can provide an example of a healthy vegetable (the report notes that in the first year, the kids had never seen broccoli or plums);
  • 91% of kids agree healthy snacks taste good;
  • 80% of kids know how to make a healthy snack and read a recipe;
  • 87% know how to save money by selecting foods that are good for them; and
  • 80% of kids know how to read a nutrition label.

Are these outcome measures? Has Food Literacy Center proved that kids are really eating healthier at home, achieving healthy weights, feeling more energetic or doing better in school? No… but give a small nonprofit a break. I appreciate Food Literacy Center’s commitment to evaluation.

Carrot-y congratulations and broccoli bravos to the staff and volunteers leading California – and now the country! – in food literacy.

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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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The Best Big Day of Giving Promo

 

Big Day of Giving

Tomorrow, May 6, is the BIG Day of Giving here  in Sacramento (a.k.a. #GiveBigDOG) – our first full-blown effort! And we are not alone…. BIG Day of Giving has been growing nationally as part of a promotion to give charitably.

After Sacramento put its toes in the water (before the drought) with the Arts Day of Giving in 2013, I’ve been keeping my eye peeled to see how charities would fire up their support base for this online giving event.

My favorite promotion thus far comes from… ta da!… Bainbridge Island. Our friends in the rainy north shared this short and clever Millennial-meets-Boomer video with their supporters:

I’m in quite a few nonprofit databases, between the support I regularly give to a few, and my “test” donations to Arts Day of Giving. Email and a few snail mail promotions started showing up almost exactly two weeks ago:

  • I received oversized postcards from the Sacramento Ballet (splitting its message between #GiveBigDOG and its upcoming Modern Masters performances), the Sacramento Children’s Chorus and the event’s sponsors, Give Local Now and the Sacramento Region Community Foundation. That one promoted the availability of matching funds.
  • The first promo email from a local nonprofit arrived on April 22 from the California Food Literacy Center. They did a great job (as always) with their brand-centric message, with bits like, “We have reason to jump for Juneberry joy!…Help us put the pepper pot in their day!” The email went  on to give a short, compelling reason to give (a short story and a couple of powerful statistics). It also gave specific instructions about how to participate and made the “ask” (“give $100 or more to Food Literacy Center and other nonprofits that are important to our kids and our food system” and tell your friends). This was interesting: they not only gave the link to the BIG Day of Giving donation page but to their own website. P.S. who doesn’t love pictures of kids playing with their veggies?

California Food Literacy Center Big Day of Giving Promo

  • Next in my email inbox was the Effie Yeaw Nature Center with a straightforward announcement and Q & A’s about the event…
  • …Followed by River City Food Bank’s colorful  5 Good Reasons to support its mission beginning with this: “From nine weeks to ninety years, folks need to have healthy food to grow and maintain good health.  River City Food Bank cares for everyone in need through Sacramento County.” Rather than asking people to give a certain amount, RCFB shared its goal to raise $10,000 and encouraged people to give during two “challenge” periods that could earn the emergency food nonprofit extra prizes for raising the most money: the noon to 1 p.m. lunch time blitz, and the 6-7 p.m. chowtime blitz.
  • On its heels, United Way announced it would be crowd funding community gardens although its “ask” was simply for community members to make a donation to #GiveBigDOG
  • More emails flowed in that week: Volunteers of America, the Nonprofit Resource Center, B Street Theater (that one was kind of hard to read), the Nehemiah Emerging Leaders Program (which asked for a donation of $25 or more) and the Davis Arts Center.

You can learn more about how to participate tomorrow with this quick tutorial from BIG Day of Giving folks themselves:

Which of the 400 participating nonprofits will YOU give to? I hate shopping, but I love it when it benefits people in my community!

 

 

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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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