Coming together for Georgia Gives Day 2016


This year’s theme is “Come Together.” Not only does it evoke one of our favorite Beatles songs, it captures the spirit of what Georgia Gives Day is all about – a message that has never been as resonant as in this election year. What better way to counter the polarization of a heated political race than evoking the positivity, and the possibilities, generated by Georgians rallying en masse to support the work and worth of nonprofits?

We’ve proven the value of a statewide day of giving by raising more than $9.3 million, from more than 54,000 donations, in the first four of our yearly online fundraising blitzes. How do we do it? Through a massive cross-platform marketing effort, powered by a multi-sector coalition; increasingly smart and creative Gives Day campaigns that activate cause champions and engage first-time donors; and an ever-growing list of participating nonprofits.

The kick-off for this year’s campaign, held September 16, brought together more than a hundred nonprofit representatives to rally and prepare for Gives Day success, starting with a group photo-shoot in Woodruff Park where GCN President & CEO Karen Beavor led the group chant, “Come together now!”

That teed off a full morning of “Strategies to Maximize your Georgia Gives Day 2016 Campaign,” including a panel discussion featuring leaders from two nonprofits with highly successful 2015 campaigns – Senior Connnections and Girls Inc. of Greater Atlanta – and representatives from GCN’s partners, SunTrust Foundation and Edelman Atlanta. Attendees also covered an idea board with their Gives Day plans, and shared their questions and perspectives in four topic-specific breakout sessions: social media, new donors, leveraging incentives, and campaign planning. 

Why, and how, to run a social campaign

Social media is a vital tool for any fundraising effort, but especially an online-exclusive opportunity like Georgia Gives Day.

Andrew Moon, Senior Account Executive, Edelman: Social media can be everyone’s opportunity to contribute – not an effort that should be put on just one person. Coach people in how to snap a quick photo or share inspiring words they heard from a donor or client. Which social channels? The three we always look to are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Facebook, to reach the general population: people logged in to their phones, who will forward things to their moms, are really going to drive your donations. Twitter is helpful for engaging news outlets: If you tweet to WSB-TV or 11Alive about something you’re doing, more often than not they’ll retweet you, expanding your reach. They always want to know what’s going on, and they always want content. LinkedIn comes into play when trying to reach a corporate audience: They’ll research you once you’ve made contact, and your LinkedIn profile is a great opportunity to communicate your mission and impact.

Sally Eggleston, Manager, Donor Relations, at Senior Connections: We knew we needed to figure out the social media thing – apparently, it’s not going away! Many of our Senior Connections donors are older, and still sending checks in the mail, but our message is now reaching more 30-to-50-year-olds, helping us raise more than $8,000 in last year’s campaign.

Jolie Maxwell, Vice President, Community and Government Affairs, SunTrust Foundation: About the same time Georgia Gives Day started, SunTrust changed from a mission-driven to a purpose-driven company, focused on lighting the way to financial well-being. We’ve used Georgia Gives Day to help us align our giving with that purpose through the SunTrust Financial Wellness Challenge, giving participating nonprofits with financial literacy or well-being programs the chance to win extra funds. Social media has played a big part, helping us reach nonprofits we didn’t know, showing our constituencies how we’ve shifted our giving priorities, and sharing with our clients how we give back to the community.

Corby Herschman, Director of Development, Girls Incorporated of Greater Atlanta: We work backwards from the date of Georgia Gives Day, creating a campaign calendar that paces out our social media efforts. We take a fun approach that’s engaged a lot of different people. Our favorite thing to promote is the Georgia Gives Day “#unselfies” campaign. We provide “printables,” signs they can customize with a message about why they give to Girls Inc., then print out and take a photo with to post online. It’s helped us grow our followers from 1,000 to 3,000.

Alex Brizzi, Assistant Account Executive, Edelman: Think of key posting times. People are busy all day long—they’re at work, they’re at school—so they might not be on social media. If you're trying to get a higher reach for something important, it’s usually best to aim for early morning, lunchtime, and right after dinner. For instance, I'm a typical millennial, so I wake up in the morning and check social media like it's my newspaper.

Moon: Social media can seem daunting, but it’s as easy as sending a tweet from your phone. Don’t overwhelm yourself or expect too much: Try making three Facebook posts and three tweets a week. Watch the number of likes that roll in, and ask friends who follow your social media channels what they remember from your feed. Use the posts that resonate as examples of how to approach your content. Partnering with influential people – even other nonprofits, if your efforts are complimentary – can help drum up a following.

Brizzi: Tagging someone or another organization helps increase your reach, especially on Facebook, because it’s going to put your post in their timeline as well, which then goes to their followers.

Moon: The beauty of hashtags is that they plug you into an existing conversation. Find a hashtag that has a lot of activity around it, but be sure it aligns with your organization.

Engaging donors through giving incentives

Matching funds make small donations more meaningful, prompting people who might not otherwise give to take action.

Maxwell: Georgia Gives Day is a great opportunity for a company that wants to give back, so look beyond individual donors. If there’s a corporation or foundation you think might be interested but hasn’t yet given, reach out and ask them to partner with you. Use any metrics you have from last year to make the case that their matching or challenge grant can amplify giving for your cause.

Eggleston: I asked people who give end-of-year if they would give a little early, so we could use their gifts for matching funds. Try getting creative with your challenge – for instance, my sister, who lives in Pennsylvania, decided to find a donor from every state, and is up to 33 states in just three years.

Audience member insight: A board member at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute volunteered to give his year-end gift early, as a Georgia Gives Day matching challenge. Social media outreach to promote the challenge was as easy (and as fun!) as getting staff to take selfies in front of a whiteboard with handwritten updates like, “Just $150 left to go!”

Herschman: A board member who is passionate about new donors decided to make a challenge gift of $10,000 to match new donor giving. That was a great way to say to our fans, “If you’ve never given, now’s the time.” We highlighted the challenge grant in all our messaging: every post, email, and conversation. Be sure to repeat your challenge in every communication. You might think you’ve said it 1,000 times, but any of your messages could be reaching someone for the first time.

Work those Power Hours

Power Hours, set up throughout the day, give nonprofits the chance to win bonus funds by raising the most money in a given 60-minute period.

Herschman: We decide on one Power Hour to go after every year by looking at the time of day our social media engagement is at its peak. If you get a lot of Facebook likes around noon, chances are your audience is most active then. Ours is most active in the early morning, so our message was, “Wake up and give to Girls Inc.” We used photos of coffee cups and girls pretending to be asleep to drive giving in the morning. Just be telling people when to give, we won both an 11Alive prize and that Power Hour.

Eggleston: We leveraged incentive dollars from three donors, who each put up $1,000 matching grants and directed people to give during Power Hours, concentrating all our donations between 11am and 1pm.

Audience member insight: To further incentivize time-specific giving, Our House is considering a plan to enter all Power Hour donors into a drawing for prizes, such as branded merchandise or items provided by a corporate sponsor.

Attract media attention

Traditional and online media outlets can increase your reach exponentially, if you know the right way to engage them.

Moon: The best way to engage editors and writers is by telling them stories of impact in the community. Tweet at them: Media outfits all have dedicated social media teams, so they will see it. If we don’t hear back, we’ll tweet a specific reporter. Reaching out to anyone who’s influential with a media source can also help. Don’t discount local media, but don’t be shy about reaching out to national media. If it’s an international story, don’t limit yourself – dream big!

Activate your team and your cause champions

Every one of your stakeholders – your board, staff, volunteers, clients, donors, and even family and friends – can contribute to your Gives Day success.

Herschman: Create an outreach toolbox for your people by taking the Georgia Gives Day materials created by GCN, and make them your own. We created a toolbox for our board members including emails for the entire run-up: a month out, a week out, and two days prior. We also gave them sample tweets and Facebook posts, and guidance on when to post them. On they day of, we monitored each member’s top five contacts and updated them about who hadn’t yet given, so that board member could call them.

Moon: Educating is empowering. For the people I was working with on the HRC Atlanta steering committee, we created a two-page document to make social media outreach more actionable, giving them “guiderails” regarding the types of stories we post, examples of the tone to use, and sample ideas demonstrating where it would be appropriate for them to snap a quick photo and share a message. We also did a long walkthrough of the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram apps.

Herschman: Don’t forget to pitch to volunteers. A good approach is to find out the hourly rate for a volunteer service, and ask them to give an hour of their service time in dollars.

It’s never too early to plan

Though it’s just one day in November, the most successful participants make Georgia Gives Day preparation a part of their annual fundraising plans.

Eggleston: However well you do on Georgia Gives Day, follow up the next day with a staff debrief, and put dates in your calendar right then! Think about what you need to get done each month to prepare. After last year’s debrief, we built teaser dates for the upcoming year, including when to update donor lists and when to start the outreach process around matching gifts.

As soon as we have a date, I use it – it may only be a tag at the bottom of an email or newsletter, “Stay tuned for more information on Georgia Gives Day, taking place Nov. 17, 2016,” but we tell everyone to put it on their calendars. We posted about it several times throughout the summer to thank people who donated last year, but not so often that people got burnt out on the message. We also emailed our volunteers to make them aware, and I spent September reaching out to my corporate groups. In October promotion will be heavier, and in November it will be frequent – and not just letting people know it’s coming, but news about Power Hours and other promotions.

Moon: More often than not, we'll see success just by aligning outreach with something that's really timely. For example, International Children's Day opens up a world of opportunities for children-focused nonprofits. First, set realistic expectations for yourself, then find something to get you moving. Ask yourself, “What's timely? Am I able to get a photo? Is this going to resonate with my donor base?” With practice, you’ll train your instincts for timing and prioritizing messages to create the most impact.

Eggleston: Because we have everything scheduled, including themes for each quarter and every month, I’m very conscious of how a story fits into our calendar: If we’ve got a great picture of Congressman Johnson delivering meals, I know when we’re going to be focused on that topic and how to use that image.

Visualize your story

Because the internet is a visual medium, images and videos can make a powerful impression and call-to-action.

Herschman: We serve young girls, so we need to get parents to sign media waivers to feature images of their children. We get their buy-in by telling them about the opportunity Georgia Gives Day represents, and how fun photos of their kids will help support the organization. We then let each parent know when we’re posting a photo of their kid, and tell them to go online, like it, and share it with friends. We also give parents opportunities to print out materials and take their own photos alongside their daughters. It’s an opportunity to have fun while helping us get the message out.

If you can’t post images of clients due to confidentiality or safety concerns, use photos of staff or volunteers, maybe holding up a sign with a story or a statistic on it.

Beavor: Another option in that case is getting a client to write a message on their hand or arm. Or, rather than an image, you could also use audio.

Moon: Facebook is moving toward prioritizing video content, which makes it incredibly shareable. Everyone has a smart phone, which means everyone can shoot a video. If you pair a 15-second video with your message, I guarantee it’s going to reach more people than text alone.

Brizzi: Ask yourself, “Would I want to watch this?” Tell a story, and keep your video to a minute, three minutes max, if you really have to explain a lot. No one wants to watch video on Facebook that’s 13 minutes long.

Marc Schultz is managing editor of NOW.

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