Home > Articles > What we learned at the 2019 GAgives Kickoff, Part One: Planning

What we learned at the 2019 GAgives Kickoff, Part One: Planning

Last month, we brought together more than 200 nonprofit pros from across Metro Atlanta for the 2019 GAgives Kickoff & Summit at the Woodruff Arts Center. Following a rousing pep talk from Channel 2 News Anchor Fred Blankenship and a collective cheer in support of GAgives on #GivingTuesday – caught by WSB-TV cameras – two panels of GAgives veterans took the stage.

Representing 10 nonprofits that achieved big results during GAgives 2018, these panelists tackled #GivingTuesday campaigns from start to finish.

In Part One, below, we present a sampling of their tips for planning out your campaign, getting your supporters engaged, developing tools and messaging for outreach, and more. For their advice on campaign execution, check out Part Two.

Note: Quotes have been lightly edited and reordered for clarity. 

Our two panels of GAgives veterans featured:

How, when, and where to start

Samantha Shelton, Furkids: Start planning now. Identify those donors you want to reach out to. Make phone calls. Talk to board members individually. Share a calendar invite. Set a goal and communicate it – to your staff, to your volunteers.

Grace Murphy, Canine Assistants: We make it a year-round effort. Something will come up in a meeting and we'll realize it'll be good for GAgives. It comes up at least three or four times a month.

Sarah Flake, Decatur Cooperative Ministry: Our first big GAgives announcement is going to come in October with a postcard. We're adding snail mail this year! That will be everyone's first introduction to our campaign.

Susan Bonds McCullough, Dress For Success: We will be starting in October as well, sending out emails with the link to our profile page embedded in it, and also sending out online calendar invites.

Shelton: We also start early asking our board members and our top donors to contribute to a pool we’ll use to match gifts that come in that day. We have a lot of corporate partners who come and volunteer with us, so we reach out to them also.

Kate Kennedy, The Ansley School: Last year, we got several board members and volunteers together to create a pool for a matching donation. We started our campaign by teasing that: "We have a big announcement coming."

Fiona Freeman, International Rescue Committee: Design your profile page – where people go to give – with some concise, strong messaging, including what you're trying to raise money for. Use that exact messaging in all your communications, then add to it: A client story, a data point, or some pictures. Consistency is going to be good for your ask and your brand. Everyone will understand what you're trying to accomplish.

Lee Ann Else, HealthMPowers: Involving others is key. Our tech director helps all the way through. We also have a champion on our staff and on our board.

Murphy: Start scheduling communications now, if you can. If you have a few posts ready, or a few stories you want to share, get them scheduled – even as a draft. Build on it whenever you have time.

Monica Oliveira, Tommy Nobis Center: It's important to remember that not everyone is comfortable with fundraising. Be sure to give them the tools they need, make them feel comfortable, make it fun, get them excited about the campaign that you're running.

Fundraising partners you don’t want to overlook

Else: We connected with corporate sponsors. Georgia Grown, Big Green Egg, and Royal Foods all joined our cause and put our message out into the world.

Shelton: Volunteers. Think about the most passionate people in your organization: Those are the ones who are going to tell a personal story that people can relate to.

Murphy: Those we serve. They don’t always have the funds to give, but they’re all on social media, they all can make fundraising pages, and they can get the word out for you.

Oliveira: I want to give a huge shout-out to our staff: 66 percent of our solicited gifts in 2018 were because of our staff. Forty-five percent of our GAgives donors were brand-new to the organization, also thanks to our staff’s hard work.  

Freeman: Interns, especially for getting younger people, and emphasizing no amount is too small. A $5 gift from the friend of an intern adds another person to your mailing list.

Tools and platforms for activating supporters

Else: We create a custom toolkit for each board member. It has posts to use for all the platforms, based on the #GivingTuesday samples. We don’t ignore email because some of our donors are older, and email has been a great way to motivate them. I also gave corporate toolkits to our partners: I made it easy, and they pushed it out.

McCullough: We also used emails quite a bit and, believe it or not, a lot of good old-fashioned phone calls: Just reaching people and telling them what we do. We’re also on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, because each one reaches different segments of the population.

Nancy Gaddy, New American Pathways: What works for one age group doesn't work for another. You have to be nimble and flexible to put out your message on the platform that works best.

Oliveira: We had 38 fundraisers who set up fundraising pages last year. We sat down with almost all of them to show them how to set up those pages, and guided them through the entire process. Making sure they were supported made a huge difference. 

Murphy: We send "Save the Date" cards by direct mail. 

Flake: One thing we tried for the first time last year was "promoting" a Facebook post. That really increased our reach.

Else: We also held a sweepstakes: Big Green Egg gave us two grills to give away to lucky donors. Board members who were a little shy about asking their friends to donate really had fun saying "Hey, you could win a Big Green Egg!" 

Laura Coates, Pro Bono Partnership: Every year, using free design software Canva, I create a logo that ties in GAgives and links to our GAgives profile. We put it in everyone's email signature, and that way it's in every email they send.

Picking a theme

Else: Last year [at the Kickoff] I heard the #GivingTuesday speaker say, "Pick a theme and land the plane." Do not stay above your cause and look down and say, "Whoa, this is a big problem!" Show them one thing you do, and show it well. We focused on how we teach nutrition to kids at all ages, and how we do it through taste-testing.

Freeman: We've been emphasizing the idea that the only reason we've been able to welcome refugees to Georgia for 40 years is because of the support of our donors, volunteers, and community. Whatever your theme is, tie it back to the people who donate and support you. Make them feel like they're a part of the message.

Shelton: Our campaign for the whole year is "Every Dog's a Hero," so we're implementing that as our GAgives theme this year.

Kennedy: We look at GAgives as a kickoff to our annual campaign. We picked a theme for our annual campaign, and kicked it off with GAgives, then carried it on through the rest of the year. I think that helps.

How to get the board involved

Shelton: Peer pressure. "These three board members are contributing $1,000 toward the campaign, and we're looking for 100 percent participation." We also encourage each board member to set a fundraising goal.

Oliveira: You need to send the message consistently. Our board chair and our CEO did a phenomenal job making that push. There were emails going out constantly, and each had a participation thermometer in it. It was motivating for them to see that we're almost at that 100 percent – it tapped their competitive nature.

Murphy: Four or five of our board members hosted something small at their workplaces, like an ice cream social, to get their colleagues engaged. They had computers set up to make donations, and our volunteers came to help. That was a way our board members felt they could contribute, even if they can't afford to give $1,000. And it was a really good time!

Need more tips? Read Part Two of this story and check out the full range of resources we’ve gathered together in the GAgives Nonprofit Toolkit.

Marc Schultz is communications editor at GCN.

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