By Robert Evans and Ross Kasper
Nonprofits that overlook #GivingTuesday are missing a golden opportunity to spread brand awareness, increase contributions, bolster volunteerism, and become part of a global movement. August is clearly the time when many Jewish organizations are busy with High Holiday appeals. But if your organization is thinking about taking part in #GivingTuesday – which this year falls on December 1 – then now is the time to start planning and doing. With the first blow of the shofar weeks away, the first Tuesday after November may seem like an eternity away. But, if you want to do #GivingTuesday well, there’s plenty to do.
In case you’ve missed the back story, #GivingTuesday was launched in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y in New York. It follows “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” and is focused on mobilizing both generosity and our collective desire to contribute and volunteer. On #GivingTuesday 2014, nonprofits in the U.S. and around the globe received in excess of $46 million in online donations, according to Indiana University’s Lilly School of Philanthropy. On the same day, #GivingTuesday was a trending topic on Twitter for more than 11 hours.
The movement presents nonprofits with an opportunity to energize existing donors and reach new supporters, especially that ever-important and often-elusive donor group: millennials. Donations on #GivingTuesday occur almost exclusively via social media. The movement brings philanthropy to the forefront of public conversation by garnering coverage on the newscasts, in the pages of The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, and all across the web. Some Jewish organizations have embraced the concept. For example, on Dec. 2, 2014, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore raised a whopping $1.3 million from 388 donors. While this figure is certainly not a realistic goal for everyone – the Associated is one of the most adept participants in #GivingTuesday, Jewish or not – the organization’s success demonstrates the opportunity for Jewish organizations and synagogues of all sizes to participate and succeed. We hope that in 2015, more Jewish organizations decide to embrace the movement.
Here are five immediate recommended steps for your organization to take to create an effective #GivingTuesday presence for this year:
1. Recruit a Committee
A successful #GivingTuesday campaign involves far more than posting on Facebook and sending a few tweets. It starts with setting a strategy, which can take several months to execute. We think this task is best handled by a committee of creative, tech-savvy, motivated, and invested volunteers led by a staffer assigned to the campaign. Creating a committee opens the door to a range of fresh ideas. It also demonstrates that the organization is serious about #GivingTuesday and is willing to devote the time and resources – mostly human capital – to do it right. Alternatively, an organization should at least start by appointing a staff person to oversee the efforts. The point is, somebody needs to be in charge.
2. Set Goals
Establish a dollar goal and state basic objectives; this is the pivotal decision of any #GivingTuesday campaign and will affect every subsequent decision and action step. Does your organization wish to change its profile? Raise money for a specific project? Attract funds for unrestricted purposes as part of the organization’s overall fundraising efforts? Start or complete your annual appeal? By answering these basic questions, an organization will bring its #GivingTuesday program into focus. If this is your organization’s first year participating, you may want to consider taking baby steps and aim for an easily attainable goal: a small dollar amount or slight increase in social media followers. If you have already dipped your toes into the #GivingTuesday waters, you may want to consider pushing your staff and volunteers to strive for a more ambitious goal. In our experience: the more specific the campaign goal, the more enthusiastic the response.
3. Formulate Strategies
Could your organization be in a better position to achieve its goals if it partnered with a for-profit business that has a desire to give back to its community? What about teaming up with another nonprofit and working toward complementary goals? Consider how you will spread the word about your campaign. Will you use only social media or will you incorporate more traditional resources like email and snail-mail?
This is also the time to see what resources your organization can tap into. Be sure to register your organization as a participant on www.givingtuesday.org. It also makes sense to see if your city or county has a local #GivingTuesday group, such as www.givingtuesdaymontco.org. These groups offer avenues to exchange ideas with other organizations and provide additional ways to promote your agency.
4. Develop Your Communications
#GivingTuesday is about narrative. What story, or stories, does your nonprofit wish to tell? Consider which stories your organization would like to share with supporters and the public. To some extent, the organization’s #GivingTuesday narrative should be determined by its campaign goal. For example, if a synagogue wants to raise money for renovations to the classroom wing, the stories it would tell would obviously include the Hebrew school, maybe focusing on particular educators or students. The main idea is to demonstrate a donor’s potential impact and to highlight human stories.
A robust #GivingTuesday program can juggle multiple narratives and reach multiple audiences simultaneously. To return to the synagogue example, different communications can be directed at families with children in the preschool or religious school, single adults, or empty nesters. If your organization has multiple stories to tell or multiple ways to tell a story you should segment your database. This is something your organization should absolutely have the ability to do, whether or not it is participating in #GivingTuesday.
Once you have outlined the general contours of your narrative, it may be time to map out an overall communication schedule. You don’t have to compose every Tweet or Facebook post or have a final draft of your email or snail mail letters. You should, however, have a good idea of what you want to say and when you want to say it.
5. Create a Toolkit
#GivingTuesday is a robust example of peer-to-peer fundraising. When someone sends an email around or posts on Facebook that they are taking part in a walk/run to benefit a particular cause, that individual is engaging in peer-to-peer fundraising. As we saw with the Ice Bucket Challenge, the combination of a peer-to-peer approach with social media has nearly limitless potential. Part of the innovation of #GivingTuesday is that it champions grassroots fundraising – not only for a particular cause, but for the nonprofit world itself. The way to realize your #GivngTuesday potential is to empower your brand/organization champions to do grassroots fundraising. Essentially, you are meticulously planning to set off a snowball effect that no one quite knows how it will turn out.
The #GivingTuesday toolkit offers your supporters suggested messaging options that align with your goals. Ideally, the toolkit should have its own landing page on your website. You should use www.Bitly.com or another site that shortens links to create a customized toolkit link that can be easily shared. The toolkit should contain an overall explanation of #GivingTuesday, a statement about your organization’s goals for the day, and should provide specific guidance about how to promote your #GivingTuesday campaign. The kit should also contain sample Facebook posts and Tweets along with images that users can download and utilize on social media. Most importantly, the toolkit should be user-friendly and straightforward. You want to make it as easy as possible for your supporters to share your message.
These five steps should help get each organization started, but our firm has much more to say about #GivingTuesday. On August 13, we will partner with the JVilliage network on a free webinar, presenting a comprehensive approach to #GivingTuesday. Register here to take part in our webinar.
And, between now and December 1, we will post additional tips on our firm’s blog, Facebook page, and Twitter feed. Have a question? Want to discuss #GivingTuesday in depth? Please reach out to either Robert Evans or Ross Kasper.
Robert Evans is President of the Evans Consulting Group, a firm that helps nonprofits meet and exceed their strategic and fundraising goals. The Evans Consulting Group leads fundraising campaigns, facilitates strategic planning processes, engages in donor research and cultivation, coaches nonprofit leaders and performs a number of other development-related services. Mr. Evans is a member of the Giving USA editorial review board and is also a board member of the Giving Institute. A regular contributor to eJewishPhilanthropy.com, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ross Kasper, a Consultant at the Evans Consulting Group, helps guide innovative campaigns while fostering creativity and building new strategic partnerships. He is passionate about nonprofit storytelling, social media, and #GivingTuesday. Ross can be reached at email@example.com.