Planning

Giving Days are the culmination of hard work, partnerships between a number of stakeholders and a big, coordinated outreach effort.

This playbook is Knight Foundation's effort to support all community foundations interested in planning a Giving Day. It includes best practices, examples and templates from Giving Day organizers across the country in one easy-to-use guide.

The playbook is divided into four sections: Planning, Outreach, Day-Of Logistics, and Follow-Up and Assessment.

The Planning section helps you set goals, define a target audience, and create a timeline, staffing plan and budget.

The Outreach section lays out, step-by-step, what you will need to do to promote the Giving Day among nonprofits, donors, matching funders, community partners, and the media.

The Day-Of Logistics section walks you through what to expect on the big day and how to spend your time during those critical 24 hours.

The Follow-Up and Assessment section provides a blueprint for collecting qualitative and quantitative data to assess your impact and learn from your experience.

We hope you find this information useful when planning your Giving Day.

Good luck!


Introduction

This section lays out in detail what your community foundation needs to do to begin planning for your Giving Day. We recommend that you start the process six months in advance.

Giving Days require detailed planning upfront. The greatest difference between successful and unsuccessful Giving Days is the time and thought that goes into planning. Everyone and everything moving in concert on the big day is more likely with detailed strategic planning at the outset.


What is a Giving Day?

A Giving Day is a powerful 24-hour online fundraising competition that unites a community around local causes. Hosted by the area’s community foundation, the Giving Day raises money through a single online donation platform. A Giving Day is a great way to build community, connect donors to local nonprofits, teach organizations to use digital tools and generate excitement about your community foundation.

Here are the seven most important things you need to do well to ensure a successful Giving Day:

  1. Set explicit, measurable goals and define your target audience(s), so you know what success looks like.
  2. Select a donation platform that is secure and user-friendly.
  3. Create prize and match opportunities to build excitement and incentivize desired actions by donors and nonprofits.
  4. Reach out to nonprofits to explain the Giving Day, assist them in signing up, and train them on social media, online fundraising, media outreach and other Giving Day elements.
  5. Reach out to potential donors directly, through participating nonprofits and through the media to encourage them to contribute.
  6. Create a Giving Day “headquarters” to manage the big day.
  7. Follow up with nonprofits, donors, sponsors and other community partners after the Giving Day to say thank you and evaluate their experience.

For an in-depth look at how to run a successful Giving Day, check out this Case Foundation report on “How Giving Contests Can Strengthen Nonprofits and Communities.”


Setting Goals

The most important first step is to articulate your goals for the Giving Day. Explicit, measurable goals provide strategic clarity about what you are trying to achieve. Goal setting will also enable you to determine whether your Giving Day is meeting your expectations.

1. What do you want to accomplish?

Goal setting should be tailored to your community foundation’s circumstances.  The money raised from a Giving Day is important, but it may not be the only goal you set for yourself. Below are five sample goal frameworks to consider, depending on your overall Giving Day objectives.

If your general goal is to:

An explicit, measurable goal might be:

Grow community giving

Increase total amount donated on Giving Day by 25%

Democratize community giving

Engage 500+ donors to make a contribution on the

Giving Day

Engage a donor segment that is new to the community foundation

Engage 50+ members of new donor segment to make a contribution on the Giving Day

Expand public profile of community foundation

Generate 25+ media mentions about the community foundation

Support nonprofit capacity-building

75% of participating nonprofits reporting that they built capacity through Giving Day trainings and experience

Here are four examples of Giving Days that were successful at achieving diverse goals:

  • The Seattle Foundation’s GiveBIG campaign grew community giving to $11.1 million in 2013, up 50% from the $7.4 million raised by GiveBIG in 2012.
  • The 2011 Greater Washington Give to the Max Day successfully built nonprofit capacity, with 84% of nonprofit survey respondents reporting that the trainings increased their ability to interact and fundraise online.
  • The Miami Foundation’s 2012 Give Miami Day raised awareness about its new Nonprofit Central platform in the nonprofit community, with more than 260 organizations now registered on the site.
  • The Park City Community Foundation's Live PC Give PC campaign has created ongoing engagement between the foundation and the community by participating in local events and remaining active on social media.

2. What structure makes the most sense given your goal?

Giving Days can have a variety of structures. Some are not single days but are multi-day, -week or -month campaigns. Here are other ways in which Giving Day structures often differ:

  • Some are “stand-alone” efforts, while others are connected to statewide or national campaigns.
  • Some are open to the entire nonprofit community, while others are intended for a certain segment of nonprofits only.
  • Some charge nonprofits to sign up, while most allow nonprofits to participate for free.
  • Most focus on online profiles of nonprofits, while others integrate printed giving guides.
  • Some solicit contributions from a broad cross-section of donors, while others focus on specific donor segments.
  • Some community foundations cover donation processing fees, while others essentially pass those costs on to the nonprofits.

Another major distinction to keep in mind is that if you are using Razoo, all contributions made on the Giving Day website will run through the Razoo Foundation, which will in turn send checks to the intended nonprofits. If you are using another platform, you will need to determine whether contribution processing will be done by the platform or by the community foundation.

There is no single ideal structure for a Giving Day. Rather, the proper structure is a function of your goals. For instance:

If your goal is to:

You might:

Increase the total number of Giving Day donors

Choose a structure that provides few barriers to nonprofit or donor participation

Support nonprofit capacity-building

Limit participation to nonprofits that most need the help and/or place a large emphasis on training and support

Expand the community foundation’s profile by maximizing media attention

Want the buzz of a one day campaign rather than a longer campaign – and prefer to benefit from the broader awareness of a statewide or national campaign

3. Who is your target audience?

You may think that your target audience is “everyone.” However, many Giving Days smartly narrow the focus to certain nonprofit and/or donor segments. Nonprofit segments might include organizations with budgets under a certain size, groups working on certain issues or groups located in a particular part of your community. Donor segments might include young donors, donors with a certain capacity level or donors with a history of supporting a particular issue.

Even if your Giving Day is open to everyone, fundraising and marketing research demonstrates that specifically targeting who you are going after – and tailoring your messaging to those audiences – is generally more effective at motivating desired behaviors than mass communications and outreach. Again, your target audience(s) should be dictated by your Giving Day’s goals. For instance:

If your goal is to:

You might:

Increase giving to nonprofits from new donors

Encourage nonprofit participants to focus their outreach on donors who have not previously given to them

Raise money for basic social services in the community

Narrow your nonprofit participants to organizations that provide such services

Click here to learn more about targeting nonprofits. Click here to learn more about targeting donors.

4. How can you use the Giving Day to benefit your community foundation?

Giving Days can provide a series of benefits to the broader community, but explicitly considering how the campaign will benefit the community foundation is important. Here are some possible approaches:

  • Raise awareness about the community foundation among target audiences by putting your brand and a simple message about the community foundation on the Giving Day website and in every Giving Day communication.
  • Build new relationships with major funders in the community through Giving Day sponsorship outreach.
  • Find prospective new donor advised fund holders by following up with donors who demonstrate the needed capacity on the Giving Day (i.e. if your DAF minimum is $5,000, reach out to donors who give a total of $5,000 or more on the Giving Day).
  • Position the community foundation as a capacity-builder for nonprofits by providing them robust training and support in preparation for the Giving Day.
  • Use the Giving Day to incentivize desired actions by nonprofits. For instance, if you have a DonorEdge or Nonprofit Central database, you might utilize the Giving Day to encourage nonprofits to complete their profiles.
  • Create other innovative programs to engage Giving Day donors in between the annual Giving Days.

You might also use your Giving Day to raise money for nonprofit endowment funds or other special funds held at the community foundation. For example, the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation uses the statewide Give to the Max Day to raise money for its Young Leaders Fund, while the Blue Grass Community Foundation held two challenges that focused on endowment funds during its six-week 2013 Good Giving Guide Challenge. The first was a $75,000 Quick Start Endowment Challenge, which offered matching endowment fund grants to participating nonprofits. Later in the competition, the community foundation held an Endow the Bluegrass Challenge, which matched funds for new and existing nonprofit endowments at the Blue Grass Community Foundation at $0.50 to the dollar.


Internal Operations

Staffing

Giving Days require significant staff time and energy. How you staff your Giving Day, however, will depend a great deal on the size and scope of what you are planning. You should expect two-five staff members to each devote about 10-15 hours per week to Giving Day preparation in the six months leading up to the big day, with that number doubling to 20-30 hours per week about two weeks out. In the final two-three days before the Giving Day and on the day itself, you should expect these staff members to devote all of their time to the Giving Day. We have created this Staffing Plan Template to help you plan appropriately.

Your board members can also be valuable resources by getting the word out, recruiting donors or doing TV and radio interviews on the Giving Day.

Timeline

Creating a timeline will help you stay on track with the major tasks that need to be completed for the Giving Day. Here is a Sample Six-Month Planning Timelineto help you get started. You can also use these checklists for what to do six months outfive months out, four months out, three months out, two months out, one month out, and one week out from the Giving Day.

Workplan

Creating a detailed workplan can help you align your staffing plan with your timeline. Here is a Sample Workplan from GiveMN that you can use as an example. 

Budget

Establish a budget early in the planning process to understand how much the Giving Day will cost and how you will allocate your resources. Your budget will likely range from approximately $12,000 on the low end to $75,000 on the high end, not including staff salaries or credit card fees (which some community foundations choose to cover). The biggest variable will be your prize and match pool, which can be as little as $5,000 or as high as $50,000 (or more). This Sample Budget Template provides a more detailed expense breakdown and can be used as a template to start your Giving Day budget.

In running your Giving Day you will incur expenses that will likely make the campaign a net loss from a pure dollars and cents perspective. While we think there are strong benefits to the Giving Day beyond just the money, there are a few things you might do to ensure that the Giving Day is revenue-neutral or -positive for future years (aside from the staff time you invest). For example, you can:

  • Secure sponsors, like local banks and companies, to help cover the costs of donation processing fees.
  • Secure pro bono PR and/or media support to reduce or eliminate those costs from your budget.
  • Ask donors, when they are making their donations online, to consider adding a few more dollars to cover the costs of donation processing fees, which your community foundation might otherwise have to absorb.

Technology

There are a variety of online fundraising platforms you can use to support your Giving Day. Each of them varies in their user interface, pricing and customer service. We use Razoo as the primary donation platform example throughout this playbook. Razoo’s platform and support services are effective and user-friendly. Click here for an overview of Razoo. Razoo has created a series of tutorial videos that will provide you an introduction to the platform and how to make the most of it on your Giving Day.

If you are using another provider or are developing your own proprietary platform, be sure to familiarize yourself with how it operates. For example, not all providers screen participating organizations to make sure they are in good standing with the IRS. If you are using a platform other than Razoo, make sure your provider or staff performs due diligence on the participating nonprofits to make sure the funds raised are going to legitimate organizations.

Many Giving Day donors choose to support more than one organization when they are making contributions on a Giving Day. Most donation platform providers offer a multi-donation “shopping cart” checkout feature to simplify this process by enabling multiple donations to be processed in a single transaction. Talk to your provider before your Giving Day to make sure you enable this feature!


Crisis Planning

Regardless of the donation platform you use, certain technology issues are common on Giving Days due to the nature of working online. Recognizing them in advance and discussing them with your donation platform provider and internal technology management team will help you prevent some issues and better prepare to deal with those that arise. This Crisis Prevention & Management Template will help get you started.

A number of Giving Days have experienced high-profile site crashes on the day-of. This is often due to heavy web traffic overwhelming servers. Talk to your donation platform provider ahead of time about what they can do to prevent a site crash on your Giving Day, such as ensuring sufficient server capacity based on projected Giving Day participation, and about a contingency plan in case the site does go down. These are necessary questions to ask when you are selecting your donation platform provider.

Other technology issues you may encounter include:

  • Payment processing failures: Donations sometimes fail or do not seem to go through.
  • Bad hyperlinks: Given the number of links on a website, some are bound to be broken or take people to the wrong pages.
  • Leaderboard delays: Donations do not always show up immediately in leaderboard calculations.
  • Registration bugs: On platforms where donors can or must create an account, they sometimes have issues registering on the site. Nonprofits also frequently have difficulty registering in the lead-up to the Giving Day.
  • Systems failures: A variety of systems failures can affect your Giving Day, including community foundation servers, email, or phone lines going down, or your computers breaking or being attacked by viruses.

The Crisis Prevention & Management Template includes tips on how to prevent and prepare for these issues.

One way to be prepared in the event of a technology issue is to enlist tech-savvy volunteers to help out on the Giving Day. For example, the Wichita Community Foundation reached out to a local technology group, Tech Alliance, to recruit volunteers to be on-site to communicate with its donation platform provider. The community foundation had at least one volunteer come out for each of the four allotted time slots throughout the day. Click here to see a copy of the email Wichita used to recruit Tech Alliance volunteers.

Other issues that may arise on your Giving Day include:

  • Staffing changes: For a variety of reasons certain staff members may not be available to work the Giving Day as planned.
  • Merchant service failures: The merchant service site may go down, or money might not get to the bank.
  • Physical disasters: There could be a power outage (local or citywide), fire, flood, bomb, blizzard, intruder, shooting, or a national emergency.
  • Media crises: Your event could be met with fraud allegations or public concern regarding the trustworthiness of the site.

Assign staff members to be in charge of dealing with each potential issue that arises and work with them in advance of the Giving Day to develop a prevention and management plan. Again, this Crisis Prevention & Management Template will help get you started.

See the Crisis Management and Communications section in the Day-Of Logistics chapter of the Playbook for more details on how to manage a crisis.


Matching Funds and Prizes

Prize and match incentives build excitement and can be used to encourage particular actions by donors and nonprofits. This Prize and Match Incentive Options Table explains different prize and match incentive options, their pros and cons and which Giving Day goals they align with. Be aware that collecting real-time data to make prize determinations can be challenging. Talk to your donation platform provider in advance about the data you will need to determine the winners on the Giving Day. Here is an example of an award structure used by one Giving Day: Sample Awards Structure (Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington).To help you identify potential sponsors of prize and match funds, use this Finding Prize and Match Funders Template.


Communications

Effective communications will drive donor and nonprofit participation in the campaign. Start your communications planning early so that you are able to attract attention and build excitement around your Giving Day. Below are some questions you will want to address while planning.

  • Who are the target audiences for your communications?
  • What are your key messages?
  • What communications channels will you use?
  • What communications assets do you currently have (e.g. media relationships, existing collateral, etc.)?
  • Do you plan to hire a public relations firm, communications consultant or ad agency to assist with media outreach, messaging or branding?
  • What is the timeline for your communications?

We have created this Communications Calendar Template to help you strategically prepare and schedule your Giving Day communications. Here are two examples of communications calendars from other Giving Days:


Metrics

Tracking metrics will enable you to judge the success of your Giving Day. Determine what metrics you will track – and how – during the planning phase so that your evaluation plan is built into your Giving Day from the start. Use this Metrics Tracking Overview to determine which metrics your community foundation should track on the Giving Day. Analyze these metrics in the context of your goals and target audience(s) to understand how successful your Giving Day was.