When the Giving Day arrives, be prepared for a thrilling, chaotic and memorable day!

This section guides you through what to expect on the big day and how to spend your time during those critical 24 hours.

What to Expect

The Giving Day will be fast-paced, frenzied and exciting. Even though much of the action will be happening virtually, your job is to operate the command center that enables everything to run smoothly.

Your main objectives throughout the day are to promote the Giving Day relentlessly on all channels, reach out to key partners (e.g. community partners and select nonprofits), track data to understand what is happening on the site, respond to questions and deal with issues as they arise and recognize participants (e.g. prize winners) through social media.

Because you are working online, some things will inevitably go wrong. Review the common issues outlined in the Crisis Planning section of the Playbook, as well as the payment processing issues listed in this chapter. Talk to your donation platform provider and internal technology management team in advance about your crisis prevention and management plan.

Here is a 24-Hour Timeline to help you plan for the big day.

Building Excitement

Here are some strategies for building excitement on the Giving Day:

Strategies for Building Buzz

You have been building buzz for the Giving Day over many months, but the final days – and the Giving Day itself –matter most. Here are three strategies for building buzz on the big day:

  • Local media. Giving Day leaders (i.e. community foundation leaders, sponsors, community partners and key nonprofit leaders) should do interviews on TV and radio during prime time. Get yourself out there early and often!
  • Events. Build excitement among donors and nonprofits by hosting or having Giving Day leaders show up at events throughout the Giving Day, such as a happy hour celebration with prize drawings for donors, a lunch or tour at a participating nonprofit or a toast at the community foundation during the final minutes of the day. Don’t try to throw a big gala – low-budget events that require minimal staff time can be quite successful. See Live PC Give PC’s Hosting a Party Tips for ideas on how to throw an effective event.
  • Social media. Use social media to push out key messages (e.g. reminders to participate, reminders about prize and match incentives), recognize prize winners and thank donors.
  • Social sharing. Include social media links on the Giving Day site to allow people to share information easily. Donors should also be prompted to promote the Giving Day to their social networks after making a donation, with pre-populated but customizable language they can use to email, Tweet or post on Facebook.

Strategies for Engaging Partners

Your Giving Day partners (including media partners, sponsors, community partners and participating nonprofits) are an important way to spread the word virally about the Giving Day. Be sure to remind them what you need them to do:

  • One week out: Send list of day-of promotional activities they can engage in, ensure that all partners have key talking points and messaging and encourage all partners to highlight the Giving Day on their websites.
  • One-two days out: Call your highest-priority partners to talk through how the Giving Day will work one final time and to remind them to promote it.
  • Day-of: Send an email first thing in the morning to all partners with a final reminder, an inspirational message and a name/phone number/email address for the person they should call with any questions.

Staff Roles

You will need staff coverage for the entire 24-hour period, starting at midnight, so your Day-Of staff plan should have your team working in shifts during the off-peak hours; during the peak hours of 8 a.m.-6 p.m., your whole team should be in the office. This Give Miami Day 2013 Staff Roles & Schedule is a great example from the Miami Foundation of how to allocate staff time on the big day. You will likely want to bring in board members and other volunteers to help out. Make sure to have coffee, water and food on hand to keep the team replenished (ordering a few pizzas for lunch couldn’t hurt!).

Managing Staff and Volunteers

Giving Day organizers agree that the Giving Day itself can feel frenzied and overwhelming. The entire community has its eye on your event, and you are interacting with thousands of individuals in a 24-hour period.

In order to minimize stress and maximize organizational efficiency on the day-of, you should utilize your entire staff and consider recruiting additional volunteers (including board members) to help field calls, serve on the social media team, and generally help make sure the day runs smoothly.

Below are some tips on how to effectively manage staff and volunteers on the big day:

  1. Assign shifts and clearly outline roles, responsibilities, and contact information for each staff person/volunteer. See the Staff Roles chapter of the Playbook.
  2. Divert all non-giving day activities, calls and inquiries for the day.
  3. Draft responses to frequently asked questions. Include them on the Giving Day site and make sure each staff member and volunteer has a printed copy. Where possible, create decision trees to assist in answering multifaceted inquiries.
  4. Keep tweets, Facebook posts, and hashtags consistent and easily replicable by storing social media content in an online forum (such as Google Drive) that is shared with all staff and volunteers. For example, GiveMN created a “Social Media Command Center” – a team of social media volunteers in the same physical location who coordinated all GiveMN online communication. 

Be sure to give your staff and volunteers a big thank you once the Giving Day is completed. Consider personalized thank you messages and/or a small gathering. Your volunteers can be a great resource for your community foundation for future Giving Days and other events!

Crisis Management and Communications

Crisis Management

The Crisis Planning section of the Playbook contains a list of potential issues that you may encounter on your Giving Day.

If an issue arises, do not panic. Contact the person responsible for handling the respective issue. If the problem is with your Giving Day site, be sure to immediately contact your tech support contact at your donation platform provider, who should be on standby all day. Ideally, have a representative from the platform in the office with you for most of the Giving Day who can immediately address any problems. If you are managing your Giving Day site internally, make sure you have a staff member with the technical skill to handle such issues. Employ your contingency plan for accepting contributions and calculating prizes and matches if the site does not return within an hour.

This Crisis Prevention & Management Template includes tips on how to mitigate and manage a variety of issues.

Crisis Communications

Communicating with your key audiences is a critical part of managing a crisis. If your site crashes or you encounter another issue that affects the public, be sure to update your audiences immediately and regularly throughout the duration of the problem.

For example, if your site crashes, send pre-drafted emails to participating nonprofits, donors, sponsors, and partners alerting them of the issue and saying that you are working to resolve it ASAP. Update your social media accounts regularly to inform the broader community about what is happening. You should also call the 5-10 most important constituents to individually brief them on what is happening. When the issue is resolved, use email and social media to announce that people can start donating again.

The objective is to be timely and courteous in dealing with technology issues, particularly since this is a prime moment of direct interaction between the community foundation and the donors.

Here are some examples of how Giving Days have handled their crisis communications in the face of major technology challenges:

  • Give Local America, a nationwide day of giving powered by Kimbia, experienced a halt in online donation processing for two-thirds of the 24-hour campaign in 2016. The 54 community foundations hosting Giving Days sprung into crisis management mode, keeping nonprofits and donors informed, encouraging participating organizations to collect funds offline and via their own websites, and extending the giving days into the following day. Despite feelings of panic and despair, community foundations attempted to stay upbeat and maintain the focus of the day not on technological failure, but on the spirit of community giving. Click here for author and consultant Beth Kanter’s compilation of lessons learned.
  • When GiveMN’s website crashed for five hours in the middle of the 2013 Give to the Max Day, GiveMN employed a sophisticated communications strategy to keep the public updated and mitigate the potential fall-out. This case study explores GiveMN’s response to the situation and includes tips on how to handle a technology crisis. Here are some sample tweets and Facebook posts that GiveMN used.
  • The North Florida Community Foundation used email and social media to communicate with nonprofits, donors, and the public when its 2013 Match Day site did not function properly for almost an hour in the morning. North Florida’s Constant Contact email apologized for the issue, said they would let everyone know when the site was working again, and thanked people for their patience. As soon as the site returned to normal, Match Day organizers sent out Facebook and Constant Contact email updates to notify the public and follow up with donors.


The overwhelming majority of your energy on the actual Giving Day should be used to get your community engaged. You should be diligent about staying on top of your day-of communications to-do list. This Day-Of Communications Checklist provides a list of earned media, social media and community engagement tasks that you should do on the Giving Day.

Processing Payments

Common Issues

During payment processing, the issues that arise are technical and non-technical. Here are some common issues:

  • Donors are sometimes confused about where to make their contributions, particularly if they are not used to giving online
  • Donors often accidentally contribute the wrong amount and seek a refund
  • Donations sometimes fail or do not seem to go through
  • Donations do not always show up immediately in leaderboard calculations

If one of these issues arises, do not panic. Your donor support staff should be prepared to help resolve the donor’s problem or to refer technical issues to your donation platform representative. Review the Donor FAQ Template for information on common issues and other questions that may arise.


Most donation platforms will automatically track contribution accounting and be able to give you real-time updates and/or read-only access to an administrative portion of the website.This information will enable you to see data on each contribution, aggregate donation levels, a donation list for each nonprofit, a donation list for each donor and a list of prize and match winners. If you are managing your Giving Day site internally, make sure you are able to track the necessary information about Giving Day contributions, including name, amount, recipient nonprofit and time of each donation.


Most donation platforms will automatically complete contribution reporting and send donors receipts to the email address entered during the transaction process. Talk to your donation platform provider ahead of time about the text for the automatically generated email and ensure that it informs donors how the contribution will appear on their credit card. Remember that this receipt does not preclude the community foundation and participating nonprofits from thanking donors for their gifts. See the Thanking Donors section in this chapter of the Playbook.

Sending Checks to Nonprofits

Depending on the platform you have chosen, responsibility for sending checks to nonprofits will rest either with the platform or with your community foundation. Check out this Comparison of Online Giving Day Platforms for information on how the various donation platforms process contributions. In addition, some community foundations use third-party processors to facilitate the payments, even though the funds technically flow through the community foundation.

Reporting Progress

An important way to continue the excitement and generate more donations throughout the Giving Day is to report regularly – to participating nonprofits, donors, Giving Day partners and sponsors, the media and the community at large – on the Giving Day’s progress.

Tracking Data

Most donation platforms will track relevant data for you during your Giving Day and allow participating nonprofits to see a list of their donations when they log in to their account. Though this information should update in real-time, be prepared for slow loading and other technical problems outlined in the Crisis Planning section of the Playbook.

Talking Points

Below are some suggested topics that your Giving Day progress reporting might cover throughout the day to build momentum and excitement. Make sure all of your updates are enthusiastic!

  • Report how much has been raised
  • Report how many donors are participating
  • Recognize prize winners and highlight upcoming prizes
  • Do a mini-feature on a participating nonprofit, explaining its work and how contributions to it will make an impact
  • Do a mini-feature on a participating donor, explaining his or her motivation for giving

Strategies for Disseminating Progress Updates Through Earned Media

  • Do interviews on TV and radio during afternoon rush hour and evening prime time
  • Host and/or attend creative events throughout the day to garner media attention
  • Send an update email to your media outreach list late in the Giving Day (e.g. around 5 or 6 p.m.)
  • Send a press release to media list at the end of the day (see Seattle Foundation GiveBIG Press Release). While this may not impact the Giving Day itself, it will help continue the energy and excitement about the day and set it up for further success in future years

Strategies for Disseminating Progress Updates Through Social Media

  • Promote key messages throughout the day on all social media channels
  • Share pictures from Giving Day events and participating nonprofits
  • Share infographics picturing Giving Day results
  • Share complimentary quotes from donors
  • Share thank you messages from participating nonprofits
  • Report how much has been raised
  • Report the number of donations or donors
  • Recognize prize winners

Thanking Donors

Thanking donors promptly is crucial because it displays gratitude, continues donors’ positive association with the Giving Day and is the first step in building long-term relationships.

Thanking Individual Donors

Participating nonprofits should thank by email every donor who contributes to them and should also venture to thank as many donors as possible through other channels, such as phone and social media.

Community foundations should thank by email every participating donor and should thank a handful of specific donors at random through social media. Community foundations should also thank sponsors by phone, email and social media.


  • Use the donor’s name in all thank you communications. This makes the thank you feel personal, and on social media it links your message to their social media profile, meaning that everyone who looks at the donor’s Twitter or Facebook will see your message as well
  • Nonprofits should thank donors for the specific amount of their donation; community foundations should thank donors more broadly for their generosity during the Giving Day
  • Nonprofits should talk about the work they are empowered to do because of the donor’s contribution
  • Community foundations should put donors’ contributions in the context of the Giving Day (e.g. mention the total amount raised)
  • Nonprofits should outline one or two opportunities for continued engagement with their organization after the Giving Day; community foundations should do the same where appropriate

To help you thank your donors, we’ve provided an Email Template for Nonprofits to Thank Donors and an Email Template for Community Foundation to Thank Donors.  We have also included a Sample Phone Script for Nonprofits To Thank DonorsSample Tweets and Facebook Posts.

If your organization receives a high volume of donations, you can use an email client such as MailChimp, Constant Contact, or Vertical Response to send mass, personalized emails. In addition, talk to your donation platform provider about generating a customized thank you message to send to donors automatically after each donation.

Community-Wide Thank You

A large community participated in your Giving Day and now you should thank them! By saying thanks you are not only showing your gratitude for their donations, but also using the opportunity to promote the success of your Giving Day. This will help continue the excitement surrounding the Giving Day and set the community’s expectations for a great event again next year.


  • Thank everyone for participating (donating, volunteering, spreading the word)
  • Highlight the total amount donated, the number of nonprofits and donors that participated and other metrics that will make a splash
  • Focus on the impact that the Giving Day will have on your community

We have provided some Sample Tweets and Facebook Posts to help you in thanking your entire community.

Some community foundations are even making thank you videos with live footage from the day-of. Click here to see a community-wide thank you video made by the Lancaster Community Foundation in 2013