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Today the Case Foundation in conjunction with the Razoo Foundation released "How Giving Contests Can Strengthen Nonprofits and Communities." The in-depth analysis of Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington, in context with other giving days and general social good contests, demonstrated that giving days can become regional philanthropic engines. 

Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington was conceived to strengthen the area’s nonprofit community, not only financially, but also through improved online fundraising skills and better donor-nonprofit relationships. 

To achieve these goals, organizers built the Give to the Max Day with three key components: a contest structure; a nonprofit training program; and a significant marketing program. The results were notable. Including prize money, Give to the Max Day raised $2 million for 1,200 nonprofits from 18,000 donors on November 9, 2011, its inaugural effort. The event also generated a significant amount of grassroots word of mouth publicity.

The Case Foundation funded the analysis of Give to the Max Day DC because it has been involved in testing the benefits of various online giving platforms and initiatives since its work with Make it Your Own Awards and America’s Giving Challenge. Giving days appear to be growing in importance, and the Case Foundation and Razoo wanted to be able to analyze the impact of a new initiative in the Washington, DC area.

Many insights were revealed from capacity building and tensions to increased fundraising skills and strong word of mouth, including the following 16 Tips for a Successful Giving Day. Most importantly, we found that organizers can build a contest that serves their communities’ nonprofits with an easy fundraiser, an online fundraising capacity building exercise, and regional visibility for locally serving nonprofits.

As the organizer of Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington event, I can tell you that one of the most important aspects of a giving day is training. When I think about the time I spent working with Beth Kanter, I consider how she taught me that training drives increased capacity. Training is the investment an organizer makes in the nonprofits, not just for giving day performance, but for year round success.

When you create a strong training program for a giving day, it turns the event into a win-win for all parties involved. It's what builds capacity and creates a better donor experience. Strong online giving experiences can make giving more enjoyable.

We spend a good deal of time in the report talking about training, but there are many other insights, best practices, and lessons learned to be gleaned.   With that, here are the 16 tips, some for participating nonprofits, and some for giving day organizers:

6 Tips for Participating Nonprofits

1.  Fundraise under the umbrella of the giving day’s marketing campaign and participate in the overall community’s effort instead of creating a completely unique campaign. 

2.  Plan to invest 10-30 hours of staff time in a campaign to perform well in an online giving day.

3.  Develop success metrics before the day that include more than winning a prize. For example, treat the giving day like a capacity building exercise; use it to highlight a program, or to cultivate new donors.

4.  If free training is available, take advantage of it to advance your online fundraising skills.

5.  Use contest awards to create a sense of urgency that excites your team, donors, volunteers, and advocates.

6.  The giving day should not conflict with your larger efforts. Incorporate messaging to support your annual drive or amplify programmatic objectives into the giving day effort.


10 Tips for Potential Giving Day Organizers

1.  Time is a critical component to organizing the event, notifying nonprofits, and garnering support from grant makers and cause marketing partners. A suggested timeframe for planning is six months or more.

2.  Gamification yields more donation dollars per prize dollar than matching grants. Consider adding contest elements to your giving day.

3.  To maximize impact, marketing should be split into two tracks: nonprofit marketing and consumer outreach. 

4.  Give NPOs tools such as logos, tip sheets, templates, and sample press releases to fuel nonprofit marketing success.

5.  Providing training and turning the giving day into a capacity-building exercise for nonprofits significantly boosts local nonprofit capacity and makes the event more valuable to NPOs.

6.  Consumer outreach helps prepare the market for the giving day by engaging donors early and preparing them for solicitations, while fostering a sense of community.

7.  In order to effectively market to a region, multichannel marketing is needed. Consider traditional advertising and PSAs, media relations, social media, and word-of-mouth events.

8.  Create a way for nonprofits to include the giving day as part of their overall annual fundraising drives. For example, encourage them to include messaging about their specific campaigns.

9.  Ensure the event can serve as a publicity and marketing platform for giving day partners.

10.  Select an online giving platform that is secure and user friendly. 

Read the full report on Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington.

Geoff Livingston is an author and marketing strategist. He also serves as the Vice President of Strategic Parternships at Razoo.

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