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Georgia Gives Day 2014: Greater Campaigns Mean Greater Giving

It takes a village to run a large-scale statewide day of giving like Georgia Gives Day. From rallying the generous support of our corporate friends, media partners, and funders, to maintaining help hotlines and the GA Gives Day website, it’s the culmination of a 364-day effort.

The theme of our 2014 program to prepare nonprofits for GA Gives Day was “Creating Great Campaigns.” With webinars showcasing campaigns from across the country, weekly emails featuring tips and tools, and our half-day workshop at SunTrust headquarters in October, we helped equip all of our 2,000 participating nonprofits to execute a campaign that fits their needs.

Below, we explore some of the tactics common in those great campaigns, and highlight just a few of the many ways you capitalized on them this year.

Events build excitement

Many of you held events to celebrate Georgia Gives Day. From Senior Connections’ afternoon Bingo gathering to Wesley Foundation at Georgia Tech’s “Pi in the Face” competition to special “pajama day” incentives at Calvary Christian School of Columbus, GA Gives Day was experienced offline and in-person more than ever in 2014.

Volunteers and staff from The Giving Kitchen greeted morning commuters on GA Gives Day with free coffee and prizes at Octane Coffee locations across Atlanta. Communications Coordinator Angela Riley was excited to add a grassroots element to their campaign: “Setting up in a public place allowed us to greet individuals that happened to be passing through, telling them a little more about our organization and the big day.”

Staff at Sunshine on a Ranney Day held a midday “watch party” at their brand new offices, tracking donations as they came in on a giant chalkboard. They even had well-known client Tripp Halstead and his family on-hand to cheer their efforts. In addition to generating extra enthusiasm, the party caught the attention of several TV news stations, who showed up to film.

Finding your match

Thanks to the generosity of our foundation and corporate partners, we made available more than $300,000 in prize and matching funds for Georgia Gives Day 2014. From golden tickets and power hours to specific matches for causes like financial stability and veterans, these prizes make giving more exciting and impactful for all of your donors.

That’s why, in the months leading up to GA Gives Day 2014, we encouraged you to find your own source of matching funds—through board members, devoted individual supporters, or other partners—to further entice donors. Naturally, you answered the call.

Girl Talk, for one, secured and leveraged a $50,000 matching grant from the Bell Family Foundation. Courtney Johnson, Girl Talk’s director of programs, said the match option played very well with supporters who had yet to donate: “We used the grant to offer a $3 to $1 match, and promoted it almost exclusively on social media. Nearly all of our donors were new this year, people who were able to give small amounts and feel like they were making a much bigger difference.”

Mapping out the day

With all that challenge funding on the line, we urged nonprofits to study the prize schedule and create a strategy that would help them win it. For Girls Incorporated of Greater Atlanta, that meant an early wakeup call.

Girls Inc. saw their best opportunity in the pre-dawn prizes, so they created a social media campaign asking their supporters to wake up at five in the morning, put on a fresh pot of coffee, and “get their give on” first thing. “We wanted our donors to understand why they should give on this day, and how it was different from giving any other day,” said Nicole Myers, volunteer and marketing manager. “We created a plan, and people really responded.” As a result, Girls Inc. won the 5:00 – 6:00 am $1,000 power hour and three of the 11Alive Golden Tickets, pushing their November 13 total to more than $10,000.

Activating champions

On GA Gives Day 2014, social media was the no. 1 way that people came across GAgivesday.org. That means creative, smart, and inspirational social media campaigns were everywhere.

Cause-based social media works best when driven by personal relationships—that is, person-to-person appeals, such as last summer’s immensely popular ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. With that in mind, we urged you to put supporters in the role of social media champion, tasking them to share the story of how your cause became their cause.

Perhaps the nonprofit that made the most of this tactic was Habitat for Humanity of Milledgeville-Baldwin County. Filling a “war room” with Twitter-savvy volunteers from Georgia College & State University, Habitat MBC turned GA Gives Day into a 24-hour online party. Conversing with other supporters and issuing challenges to friends from their personal Twitter accounts, volunteers propelled the day’s giving. By midnight, their efforts helped put this self-described “small organization” on the leaderboard.

Habitat MBC’s Executive Director Murali Thirumal said the effort was entirely volunteer-driven: “I turned this over to them. They planned this for months, and it helped us have an even more successful Georgia Gives Day than in 2013.”

Celebrities also stepped up as champions to help amplify GA Gives Day appeals. This year, Georgia causes garnered social media shout-outs from Usher, Jane Fonda, Roddy White of the Atlanta Falcons, Robin Meade of Headline News, Governor and First Lady Deal, a number of celebrity chefs, local broadcast personalities including Ryan Cameron and Jovita Moore, and others.

The Year of the Unselfie

For Georgia Gives Day 2014, we put a “do-gooder” twist on the selfie to build awareness and momentum leading up to the day. For our #GAgivesday #unselfie contest, we asked donors to post an image that demonstrates why they give.

After thousands of Facebook votes, we awarded our winner— Blanche from Georgia English Bulldog Rescue.

Also pictured, a selection of top-ten finalists: National Infantry Museum Foundation, Rivers of the World, 3D Girls Incorporated, PAWS Humane, Ocmulgee National Monument Association, and Georgia ForestWatch.

Giving thanks

One of the pillars of fundraising is thanking your donors for their gifts. While the GA Gives Day site allows you to set up customized thank you emails to your donors, we saw many of you go above and beyond, using social media as a way to send public and immediate gratitude to your supporters.

From specialized thank-you Tweets to donors, to creative imagery that allow your people (or animals) to thank donors directly, GA Gives Day inspired new methods of showing gratitude that have strengthened relationships with supporters.

See you in November

Mark your calendars. Georgia Gives Day 2015 will take place on Thursday, November 12, and it’s never too early to start planning! We’ve seen first-hand how working the big day into your annual fundraising plans pays off. Let us know how we can help you make your vision for GA Gives Day 2015 a reality—it’s our goal to make sure every nonprofit in the state is ready to mount a great campaign and come away a winner.

What does a "flashmob of giving" look like? Learn more about Georgia Gives Day 2014 with our official infographic!

Tom Zimmerman is communications manager at GCN.

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