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Simple Steps and Smart Incentives Drive Action Ministries’ Gives Day Success

The saying, most frequently attributed to Woody Allen, that “80 percent of success is showing up,” may be a little bit generous—but it’s hard to deny its simple truth. As most successful nonprofit leaders can attest, you have to play to win. From what we’re hearing at GCN, Allen’s saying is especially relevant when it came to this year’s Georgia Gives Day, the second annual state day of giving hosted by GCN this past Nov. 13. Organizations that truly got behind GA Gives Day’s message and the platform’s built-in tools and incentives found success without overwhelming effort.

Case in point: GCN member Action Ministries, a statewide, hands-on hunger relief, housing, and education nonprofit that beat their inaugural GA Gives Day total by a factor of 75: from $135 on GA Gives Day 2012 to over $10,000 this year.

And the secret to their success isn’t all that surprising—or complicated.

“Defining a game plan around the [Nonprofit Toolkit] definitely helped push us towards the goal, and seemed doable,” said Gaddy. “It could be overwhelming until you saw the tools out there.''

Step one: Fill out your GA Gives Day profile online. A required step, yes, but simply building and customizing a profile page can get your organization donations. Action Ministries received a $3,000 gift on GA Gives Day from a donor they had never met before. According to Vice President of Development Nancy Gaddy, the donor was on the GA Gives Day website and stumbled onto the Action Ministries profile page, which linked to the organization’s website. The website and organizational mission made a powerful impact on this donor, who decided to give Action Ministries 3,000 reasons to be happy about taking time to create a compelling profile page.

To take it a step further, Action Ministries used the Nonprofit Toolkit provided on the GA Gives Day website, which helps nonprofits develop a message that best relates the GA Gives Day opportunity to their constituents. In preparation, Action Ministries tapped every online resource, from press releases to sample emails to suggested tweets to webinars. For organizations where human and budgetary resources cannot be wasted, these tools were invaluable aids (and, as an added bonus, gave many organizations a chance to try out for the first time, or to refine, an online giving campaign).

“Defining a game plan around the [Nonprofit Toolkit] definitely helped push us towards the goal, and seemed doable,” said Gaddy. “It could be overwhelming until you saw the tools out there. It was a no brainer.”

Action Ministries sent out a blitzkrieg of emails on GA Gives Day, but found that calling their most important donors on the day itself can be even more effective. 

In fact, Vice President of Strategic Marketing Rebecca Whicker reported that they didn’t need to spend a lot of time on Georgia Gives Day “once the planning and messaging were in place.” The tools were so helpful, Whicker said, “We actually incorporated [GA Gives Day] tools into our pre-existing marketing and email plans.” 

Gaddy noted, however, that many of their long-time, substantial donors do not fall into the “social media savvy” category. For that audience, Action Ministries took a different approach, providing their board members with specific examples and language that gave them a script for effectively spreading the word in-person and over the phone.

Getting an early jump in the months leading up to Nov. 13, Action Ministries attended multiple GA Gives Day workshops and member events equipping Georgia nonprofits with strategies to maximize results. At a special Member Expert Series event, Gaddy and her colleagues learned about the gift-matching Financial Well-Being Giving Challenge set up by GA Gives Day partner SunTrust Foundation: nonprofits that offer financial well-being initiatives needed only to apply, take part in GA Gives Day, and raise between $500 and $2,500 to receive a matching gift. Action Ministries’ substantial financial literacy work qualified them for the match, which they effectively marketed to donors who helped them bring in well over $2,500. Action Ministries executed similar strategies to win gifts or matches from Wells Fargo and the Arby’s Foundation.

“What really helped was that Georgia Gives Day had incentives that were a perfect match for what we do,” Gaddy said. “That’s what we really got excited about this year.”

A few other practices that helped Action Ministries make the most of the day:

  • Assigning one staffer (or volunteer) to spearhead the project. Action Ministries’ Database and Research Manager Donna Douglas was in charge of championing GA Gives Day and getting all the relevant tools and strategies in place.

  • Targeting specific audiences. Action Ministries figured out, for instance, which donors were more likely to give because of certain incentives or programs. Alter your GA Gives Day messages (if only slightly) for each audience to get better results.

  • Getting on the phone. Action Ministries sent out a blitzkrieg of emails, but found that calling their most important donors on the day itself can be even more effective.

  • Taking advantage of Power Hours, time blocks in which nonprofits with the highest number of individual donors are awarded extra money. Action Ministries specifically targeted one Power Hour, pushing for time-specific donations and receiving an extra $1,000 for their efforts.

Action Ministries followed a simple but powerful recipe to make the secret sauce in their successful GA Gives Day campaign: crafting a profile with impact, utilizing the tools offered on the GA Gives Day website, attending workshops, and leveraging incentives. But the number one takeaway from Action Ministries is even less complicated than that: if you and your organization truly buy into all GA Gives Day has to offer, the results will follow.

Dan Watson is a Communications Coordinator at the Georgia Center for Nonprofits.

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