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Preparing to Thrive in a Post- GiveBIG World

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.

Ah, January; the time of year when fundraisers everywhere strategize about how to zoom past their budget goals for the new year. For many nonprofits in Seattle and King County, that includes participating in GiveBIG.

This annual community-wide giving day, hosted by the Seattle Foundation, has generated over $92 million for King County-based nonprofits since 2011. It has become a philanthropic force to be reckoned with, and over the last seven years, many nonprofits have to come to rely on GiveBIG to help keep their budgets in the black.

But, the next GiveBIG event – May 9, 2018 – will be the last. While it’s certainly a loss for our philanthropic community, we’re a resilient bunch – and there’s plenty of time to make sure your 2019 operating budget can succeed without a GiveBIG campaign. It’s time to take a step back and lay the groundwork for new strategies to replace GiveBIG.  

Here’s how to get started:

Figure out what GiveBIG accomplished for you – besides immediate funding. For most nonprofits, GiveBIG hasn’t just brought dollars in the door – it’s generated a wealth of other advantageous outcomes. For example – donor acquisition. It’s likely that 30-60% of your giving day donors are new donors, who are critical to the overall health of your fundraising pipeline and long-term fundraising results. If that’s the case, you should focus on figuring out other ways to bring new donors into the fold in 2019 and beyond.

For another example, it’s possible that GiveBIG has successfully converted new gala donors into more consistent non-event givers. Or recovered lapsed donors. Or turned volunteers into cash donors. The possibilities are endless. Until you figure out GiveBIG’s non-revenue impact on the health of your fundraising, you can’t plan for how to replace it – or the funding itself! So, dig into your GiveBIG data and find out what goodies GiveBIG has brought your organization over the years.

Figure out who your GiveBIG donors are. Along with understanding how GiveBIG has affected your fundraising program overall, knowing who your GiveBIG donors are will determine what you need to do with them next. Though every donor base is different, and your GiveBIG donors are not homogenous, a deep inspection will likely reveal patterns that can help you hone your strategy and get the best return on investment from your future GiveBIG replacement activities.

What do I mean by “who they are”? First, demographics like age, industry of employment, where they live, how much they earn, and whether they have children influence giving behaviors and motivations. For example, whether your donors skew younger or older will influence whether it’s a smarter bet to replace GiveBIG with a crowdfunding campaign or other digital strategy, or with more traditional mechanisms like direct mail.

Second, looking at how your GiveBIG donors connect to your organization can provide clues on what to do with them in 2019 and beyond. Perhaps your top GiveBIG donors are board members, or members of your young leadership board or advisory council. Perhaps they are program volunteers, or contacts of your board members, or members of the local Rotary or Junior League. Small development shops with fewer donors may simply be able to eyeball their GiveBIG donor lists and understand the pattern of GiveBIG donor demographics and linkages, while larger organizations with hundreds or even thousands of GiveBIG donors may need to rely on electronic donor surveys or donor focus groups to establish this information.

Third, examining giving behaviors can glean useful insights. How often do your GiveBIG donors give? Is GiveBIG their only gift each year, or do some or all of them make multiple gifts through different giving opportunities? If so, which other tactics do they participate in? Development teams of any size should be able to use their donor database to figure these patterns out. It’s worth the effort; understanding these dynamics can illuminate the path of least resistance for continued fruitful relationships with your GiveBIG donors.

Use the final GiveBIG event as a lever to bring these donors with you into the GiveBIG-less future. As you create your GiveBIG plan over the next 4 months, assess each element for opportunities to specifically plant the seeds of why your organization is worth continued engagement after GiveBIG sunsets. Demonstrate your tangible impact, and show donors the role their gift plays in achieving it. Remember, GiveBIG is an opportunity to give, not a reason.

Focus your solicitation and stewardship communications on the specific outcomes and timeline of impact that gifts to your organization make possible – which is what great fundraising does all year long. The more you condition donors to give based on these truly relevant reasons, rather than on the arbitrary timing of GiveBIG, the easier it will be for you to retain them when GiveBIG is no longer an option. Make sure your donors know that the difference they made through GiveBIG is inherently connected to the work you do all year long.

Most critically, don’t rely on the assumption that everyone knows GiveBIG will sunset after 2018. Your donors are not as hooked in to the world of philanthropy as nonprofit staff, and many might not know that GiveBIG is ending. So be explicit about the change, be open with your donors about the impact of their gift and of GiveBIG on your organization as a funding opportunity, and let them know that you will be planning other opportunities for them to contribute and help in 2019. A video thank-you message following GiveBIG that contains this information is a great start – and there are many more possibilities you can explore.

These three ideas will help you strategically position your nonprofit for fundraising success post GiveBIG. For an opportunity to interactively explore these and other related topics in-depth with other fundraisers and with members of Seattle’s nonprofit community, click through to RSVP for Ostara’s January 31 interactive workshop on Fundraising in a Post-GiveBIG World. We hope to see you there! 


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