Friday, September 24, 2010

Online Fundraising in MN and Pittsburgh: How Did They Do It?

By Angela Bevacqua, communications specialist at Community First Foundation

One year ago, when the team at Community First Foundation began germinating the idea of a Colorado Gives Day, we knew we were fortunate: we weren’t re-creating the wheel. In fact, six regions in the U.S. had successfully launched an online giving day.

We were especially intrigued by Give to the Max Day in Minnesota and Match Day in Pittsburgh. What we learned helped us shape Colorado Gives Day.

We wanted to bring the advantage of learning from experience to Colorado nonprofits, too. So in August we conducted a webinar called “Giving Days: Fundraising Techniques That Work.” It featured nonprofits in Minnesota and Pittsburgh that successfully raised money during their states’ online giving day. It was a chance for Colorado nonprofits to ask questions and start thinking about their own plans for Colorado Gives Day.

An All-In-One Campaign
Betsy McDermott Altheimer, development program director for Springboard for the Arts, in St. Paul, Minnesota, participated in Give to the Max Day through GiveMN.org. Here are the techniques she shared with Colorado nonprofits, who were eager to learn from her success:

  • Created one end-of-year marketing campaign that integrated their annual appeal with the giving day promotion
  • Created a memorable theme called “BOUNCE” for the marketing campaign
  • Reached out with social media, e-mails, print letters and linked them all back to the campaign
  • Focused on online communication since the giving day was an online giving initiative
  • Encouraged small donations (They added up!)
Cheaper, Easier and More Successful Than an Event
Bob Phelps, principal at Pittsburgh Urban Christian School, participated in Match Day through pittsburghgives.org. Here’s what he told us the school did to bring in big dollars:

  • Saved time, money, and resources by replacing their annual fundraising dinner/auction with a giving day promotion. Raised $50K vs. their usual $25K!
  • Highlighted the needs of their school
  • Emphasized that the PittsburghGives incentive meant they would “have access to additional funds” if people donated on Match Day
  • Created their own, additional incentives: a challenge grant from a foundation they recruited and a match from their board
  • Started planning early. Let people know 3 – 4 months in advance, increasing frequency as the day drew closer
You can access a recording of this webinar here. There are other great tools, information, and another webinar recording about PR Strategies on the Colorado Gives Day Nonprofit Resources page. If you are a nonprofit on GivingFirst.org, here's how to access the page:

1. Sign on to GivingFirst.org as a nonprofit.
2. From the “Menu” navigation button, select Nonprofit Resources.
3. Click on the first item: Colorado Gives Day.

Angela Bevacqua is the communications specialist at Community First Foundation. Her volunteering interests revolve around the arts and health. She currently volunteers at Operation Frontline, a cooking-based nutrition education program that teaches families how to prepare healthy, tasty meals on a limited budget. Last winter she volunteered as an event assistant at the Boulder International Film Festival.