Georgia Gives Day All-Stars, 2012 | How They Did ItGeorgia Nonprofit NOW, Fall 2013
With some $200,000 in prize money secured for the top performers on Nov. 13, it pays to step up your game on GA Gives Day. To help, GAgives.org features a robust Nonprofit Toolkit full of answers, ideas, and examples that will jump-start your online fundraising efforts. But what about last year’s high-performing fundraisers? What propelled them to Gives Day success? We’ve been interviewing leaders at each of our GA Gives “All-Stars” to find out. Here, a few of their answers:
Atlanta Legal Aid Society
What’s the secret behind our Georgia Gives Day top performer?
By the close of Georgia Gives Day 2012, Atlanta Legal Aid Society pulled in the most money of any other nonprofit: $13,346. The feat didn’t just boost the organization’s bottom line, but helped jump-start their end-of-year campaign and gave everyone involved, from staff to board members, a big boost in morale and fundraising confidence.
Their secret? “It’s the competition aspect,” said Angela Tacker, Atlanta Legal Aid’s director of annual giving and communications. “You’re trying to see what you can raise on this day. You have to keep in mind, we’re lawyers, we’re all naturally very competitive, so beating people is really important.”
The simplicity of online giving was also a big factor: “It was easy,” Tacker said. “If you’ve got staff who aren’t fundraising staff, who aren’t comfortable with fundraising, it’s a good vehicle for them because it’s easy to ask friends and family to click a link.”
In the months leading up to GA Gives Day, Atlanta Legal Aid took advantage of every opportunity to promote it. Emails about their annual Fun Run netted them 20 donations before the day had arrived. They didn’t let the fact that they had recently asked for donations slow them down, either: “It’s about how you ask,” said Tacker. Instead of pleading for operational funds, Tacker said, GA Gives gave Atlanta Legal Aid the opportunity to say, “Here is a fun campaign, it’s a competition, it’s about seeing how much we can do,” compelling donors to play along. Staff and board members, especially the younger cohort, pushed GA Gives on their personal Facebook pages and forwarded GA Gives alerts to personal email contacts, where they found many of their new donors.
Tacker notes, also, that Gives Day donations didn’t take away from regular end-of-year giving; in fact, the giving momentum carried through the end-of-year push. Even better, Atlanta Legal Aid saw extra GA Gives Day support from already-established donors: “At least half of the [GA Gives donors] already gave. There was one gift for $1,000 from a donor who is already a big giver! So we were actually double-dipping with our donations, which was awesome.”
Calvary Christian School of Columbus
How did one nonprofit create their strategy to win GA Gives incentive funds from the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley?
Lee Ann Tipton, the Director of Finance and Human Resources at Calvary Christian School of Columbus, first learned about GA Gives Day in a letter from the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley, which alerted them to the Foundation’s matching challenge: $2,500 to the eight nonprofits with the greatest number of unique donors on GA Gives Day.
“I realized it might really be an opportunity for us because, as a school, we have an extensive database of email addresses of our families and friends,” said Tipton. “We wouldn’t have to use “snail mail” or incur any costs. We could use email, our website and social media to promote this day of giving.”
Leading up to the big day, Calvary spent 12 days pushing GA Gives Day using email. They customized the email templates provided by GAGives.org to make a personal but effective ask. “It was so easy to set up our GAgives.org profile page for the first time, and tweaking it was very easy.”
Because the contest only counted donors on the day itself, Calvary waited to release their profile link until Georgia Gives Day had officially begun. “It was a big countdown,” said Tipton, “and at 12 midnight, we had our IT staff waiting up to send out our profile link and change the website.”
Alisha Fowler, Calvary’s IT Specialist, said, “We sent out emails throughout the day that said, ‘Wow, look how much we raised already. Go and donate!’ And we saw a good 30-minute drive of donors after each email.”
“We were very diligent that day—some might say shameless,” said Tipton, and it paid off: with 128 donors, Calvary netted the $2,500 prize in addition to more than $6,500 in donations.
Gwinnett United in Drug Education
How did one nonprofit keep up its GA Gives Day momentum, pulling in more than $4,000 on GAgives.org after the big day had come and gone?
On last year’s GA Gives Day, Gwinnett United in Drug Education (GUIDE) raised $11,340, providing scholarship money to staff its Georgia Teen Institute (GTI) program, a youth leadership summer camp. That, however, was only the beginning: since then, they’ve been leveraging GAgives.org as a year-round fundraising hub by taking advantage of the site’s built-in “personal fundraiser” feature.
“We ask each individual GTI staff member to help us raise funds in whatever way they want, whether it’s $5 or $500,” said Shannon Veronesi, GUIDE’s director of youth leadership and engagement and the director of GTI. “A lot of the time, fundraising is a new concept for our staff members because the majority of them are high schoolers, so the Georgia Gives platform allowed them to actually create their own website.”
Those individual fundraiser pages drive engagement with a personal story, explaining why GTI means so much in the fundraiser’s life, and shows how easy it is to make an immediate donation, “by just clicking on a button.”
With just 15 fundraisers, GUIDE was able to pull in an additional $4,027. Incorporating the campaign into their emails and Facebook page, GA Gives Day “helped us kickstart our social media,” said Veronesi. “When we decided to do GA Gives, we all committed to keeping up with our Facebook page and blog, and starting a Twitter account.” The additional online donations, she says, are the direct result of “keeping people connected to us. And that’s why the whole social media thing isn’t going away.”
What simple messaging strategy led one nonprofit to pull in nearly $8,000 on Georgia Gives Day?
Samantha Shelton, founder and executive director of no-kill animal shelter Furkids, thought GA Gives Day would be a smart way to supplement their regular end-of-year marketing campaign. “It was really a no-brainer for us,” said Shelton. “I was very impressed with the partnerships that were on board. GA Gives had secured some great partners helping to get this message out, and we were excited to be a part of it.”
But Furkids didn’t just depend on the state-wide GA Gives Day marketing campaign, which included billboards, television ads, and (naturally) an online campaign blanketing social networks and media outlets. First, they came up with a message that was easy to understand and simple to share: a “before and after picture of our life-saving work,” showing a caged kitten too ill to reach its water bowl, and that same kitten cuddled up and sleeping in his new foster home. Furkids sent the photo out in an email that morning and posted it to their Facebook page, where they had been counting down to GA Gives Day.
They also came up with a specific goal ($10,000) and shared that goal with their supporters. Together, those efforts brought in nearly $8,000 through GA Gives, which led to an additional $4,000 in donations through an alternate online source.
GA Gives is especially important, Shelton said, because of the difficult time shelters have at the end of the year keeping animals alive: “Some kill shelters close for the holidays and have to put animals down.” With the extra funds coming in through GA Gives in November, Furkids has the opportunity to “give these hard working shelter workers, with very difficult jobs, a reprieve: ‘You don’t have to put any of these animals down today, because we’re going to pull them all out.’”
Augusta Heritage Academy
How did one nonprofit score the endorsement of a mayor, use Georgia Gives to fundraise year-round, and ultimately raise more than $15,000?
According to Development Director Darlene Walters, Augusta Heritage Academy looks for “every opportunity to expand our family of donors.” The “Give Where You Live” campaign appealed to her: “The idea of helping a person discover a new way to give to a neighbor is just a great concept. It starts the Christmas giving season with a bang.”
Heritage Academy made full use of GA Gives Day’s online resources, tools, and email updates, pairing them with their own ideas and strengths. Calibrating everything to their needs, Heritage developed a multi-channel approach, promoting GA Gives Day in their newsletter, in e-mail blasts, and on Facebook. At the same time, they reached out to Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver and recruited him to record a PSA advocating for Heritage Academy and GA Gives Day—a simple request worth trying in any municipality a nonprofit calls home. (Copenhaver’s experience, in fact, led him to sign a letter of support for GA Gives Day 2013). The Nonprofit Toolkit at GAgives.org gave Walters “lots of practical ideas,” and the platform’s flexibility kept it serving them throughout the year: “The ease of changing the site as needed is wonderful.”
The campaign has also helped Heritage adapt its fundraising strategy to the changing donor landscape, easing their migration online and paving the way for further efforts in social media. This year, Heritage has added Twitter feeds and Instagram to their promotional playbook, and are planning additional use of the GA Gives website as the school launches a capital campaign to complete renovation of their historic 100-year-old building.
Reporting by Amanda Keuler, Tom Zimmerman and Marc Schultz