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Getting the most out of GiveBIG

This article was written by Ariel Glassman. She is no longer with Ostara, but we want to preserve this piece so that you can learn from her and from the work she did while part of the Ostara team.


GiveBIG is coming on Tuesday, May 3. But you knew that already, right?


You’ve already registered your nonprofit to participate. You’ve seen the GiveBIG blog. You’ve seen The Seattle Foundation’s GiveBIG FAQ. You’re signed up for the next webinar on April 14.  You’re salivating over this year’s big innovations: real-time leaderboards, scheduling donations early, and giving donors the option to cover the credit card processing fees for their own gifts.


It’s ChrismaHannuKwanzikuh for fundraisers! And it’s easy to get lost in the slew of hyper-specific tactical campaign tricks and tips on display. But after 5 years of helping many nonprofits grow their GiveBIG results, we want to remind you of 3 key strategies that every nonprofit can use and adapt to maximize their GiveBIG haul – no matter your mission space or how many development staff you have.


These are focused not just on helping you raise money on May 3, but on helping you create and maintain long-term relationships with your GiveBIG donors. 


1. Provide your own matching funds to inspire and incentivize donors.


Yes, GiveBIG has its own proportional stretch pool. Whatever percentage of the overall contributions given on May 3 your organization takes, it will receive the same percentage of The Seattle Foundation’s stretch pool. But the stretch pool amount changes every year, and can grow right up until the day of GiveBIG. It’s a moving target.


So, this all means it can be tricky to message to donors – it’s a tough concept to explain in a single tweet or Facebook post. Here’s why securing a 1:1 match from a major donor or a group of donors on top of your stretch pool allocation will help your campaign.


It can set your campaign apart from other groups. Every participating nonprofit benefits from the stretch pool. If a donor is choosing between two organizations for their last $50 gift, and one organization can tell them their $50 becomes $100… who do you think the donor will choose?

It can move the needle on your major donor relationships. Helping you generate new donors or more dollars through GiveBIG is a major accomplishment. All great major gifts work helps major donors achieve a specific impact that they care about. So asking the right donor to match other gifts on GiveBIG will boost your relationship with everyone involved.

It shows your donor base that others have skin in the game. In the era of social proof dominating online giving, transparently demonstrating that your campaign was worthy of investment before it even began will motivate many other people to give – or give more than they otherwise would have.

2. Fundraise for a specific project, not just for your organization.


Most organizations use GiveBIG as an opportunity to raise sorely needed unrestricted dollars. But, like most fundraising opportunities, the more specific your ask, the more likely donors are to give – and give more. Everyone wants to know their dollars accomplish something real and meaningful. At its heart, fundraising is giving your donors a problem to solve. When you focus on a specific problem, it makes it easy to crystallize your outcomes for donors.


This is true in every type of fundraising scenario – events, major gifts, capital campaigns, grants, you name it. And it can be especially hard to connect donors to the specific outcomes for a general operations ask in a rapid-fire, competitive communication moment like GiveBIG.


But with smart planning that connects the dots between your budget needs, what matters to your donors, and realistic assumptions about how much you can raise that day, you can have your restricted giving cake and eat it too. For example, you can ask your GiveBIG donors to:


Provide the seed or start-up funding for a new project or program that’s in your budget this fiscal year.  For example, an arts organization can ask their GiveBIG donors to help launch their new festival. 

Cover new equipment or capital costs that were already in your budget. For example, a food bank can ask donors to help fund a new roof to keep their food donations dry and safe. It’s easy to show how leaks mean less hungry people get fed. It’s a concrete problem to ask your donors to solve. 

Help under-resourced people served continue to participate. For example, a youth leadership organization can ask donors to fund a specific number of scholarships for participants whose families can’t otherwise afford it. Another very easy problem to explain to donors. 

It’s also much easier to tell the story of your need through effective email communications and social media when you can focus on something specific. Another upside to a specific project-based approach to GiveBIG: it’s easier to create excellent donor stewardship efforts. Which leads us to…


3. Create a great stewardship plan for your GiveBiG donors.


Fundraising isn’t just the coaxing, the convincing, the asking, and then the sigh of relief. Once your donors give, you have to follow up with them, tell them how awesome they are, and show them that you’ve put their money to good use. That’s how you get a second gift – or a bigger one.


If you don’t have a stewardship plan that defines when and how you thank and report back to different types of donors as part of your annual development plan, make sure you develop one for next fiscal year. Creating one for this year’s GiveBIG donors will help ease you in.


There are two types of donor stewardship: love stewardship, which shows how grateful you and the people you serve are to the donor; and impact stewardship, which shows the donor what their funds accomplished. Volunteer opportunities can be an especially effective type of impact stewardship – you can literally put your donors in the mix with your programs and service recipients. Every effective stewardship plan involves both kinds of outreach.


Here’s an easy path to effective GiveBIG donor stewardship:


Invest in short-term instant love stewardship. Donors report that when their thanks arrive quickly, it makes them feel special – like a real person knows that they did something meaningful, not just an online robot. If many of your donors follow you on social media accounts, it’s easy to do real-time Twitter shout-outs and Facebook posts to both thank your donors and leverage social proof to other potential donors. But that’s a big “if.”


There’s another way: GiveBIG’s automatic email receipt infrastructure makes it easy to reach out to your donors lightning-fast after they give. Have your staff take shifts monitoring the email inbox where you receive GiveBIG donation notifications constantly, and give them a goal of responding to every gift within 15 minutes. It’s as simple as re-forwarding the notification receipt to the donor with short, sweet, and easily customized personal note of thanks. This will mean the world to your donors.

Develop a plan for long-term impact stewardship. The more specific your ask was, the more obvious it will be how to report back to the donor later. Depending on the time scale of your ask, make a plan for digital and analog communications and volunteer opportunities back to your GiveBIG donors 3, 6, and/or 9 months out from their gift.


Tier them so that higher-level donors receive more personalized communications. And make sure you reinforce that with a final touch that lands one month before next year’s GiveBIG.


Now go forth and raise big!


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