Tag Archives: Fundraising

What To Do When Your Giving Day Goes Wrong

Man stepping in gumOn May 3rd, nonprofit staff members across the country cried out in frustration as their giving day platforms shut down during Give Local America, a single day of giving across 54 communities. The failure came after weeks (or months) of nonprofits communicating with their donors to build momentum for this fundraising blitz. And on the day, around 10am EST, it all crashed.

The software platform behind the donation processing, Kimbia, was ultimately the one responsible for the crash, and while they have posted a detailed description of what actually caused the malfunction, it did little to assuage the frustration of nonprofits.

As someone who was with nonprofit staff during two problem-ridden giving days (at both Seattle’s GiveBIG and a Washington, D.C.’s 2013 Do More 24), I can safely say that a failing giving day is more or less a worst-case scenario. You have been imploring everyone on your e-mails lists and social channels for weeks, and now the donors who are actively trying to support you are frustrated. So what do you do?

Here are a few tips to guide you through the mayhem.

Step 0-6. Communicate frequently and truthfully on social media and your website

Throughout the process, at every step, communicate with your donors in a public way. You want them to know you are working on it and feel their pain. However, notice that I specifically do not mention e-mail here. Donors in your community are getting one billion e-mails during this day, so save your e-mails for big announcements to encourage donations, as opposed to “We hear you and we’re working on it!” announcements.

Step 1. Communicate with your giving day host.

All giving days are hosted by a local organization. It’s usually your community foundation, but it could be a nonprofit association or a United Way. Get in touch with them and see what’s happening. They may not have an answer (technical slow-downs often take time to diagnose), but there’s a chance they do. It’s at least worth a phone call.

In addition, sometimes the host will honor donations made through your own website/giving platform if theirs is malfunctioning. See if this is an option, which gives you an immediate solution for donors. But if they say they won’t honor those donations for the giving day, then you’ll need another solution.

Aside: The 2016 Give Local America glitches were caused by the software, so the hosts could not fix the platform itself. Despite this, one foundation stepped up to solve the problem. They provided volunteers around the city to collect checks, a phone bank (at their own expense), and a way for folks to donate through their own website. This was the Bozeman Area Community Foundation, and I swear I get teary-eyed just thinking about it. I donated to them that day, to a community I have never been to. Dear Bozeman: I love you. Sorry if that’s weird.

Step 2. Come up with a solution for eager donors to qualify for giving day donations.

For GiveBIG, donations through their platform qualify for matching donations and other prizes. Our solution to still get our donations to qualify as GiveBIG contributions was to have our donors call us so we could take their credit card and donation info to enter in when the system was up and running again. However, our goals were small (under $10k) and this is probably not a viable solution if you’re going to get hundreds of donor calls.

But come up with some solution that you can:

Step 3. Come up with deadline to change your call to action (i.e. Devise Plan B)

Both times I have been involved in a failing giving day, they platform was not up and running until late at night or the next day (because the deadline was extended). If we had decided “By noon, we will direct everyone to our website for donations, regardless of the giving day match,” we would have been able to harness that energy we had spent so much time building.

Step 4. Before that deadline, devise a new, sexy incentive.

Woodland Park Zoo (yes, I am a member, and no, they have never accepted my baby animal names) did this expertly well. At 1:30, they announced an anonymous donor would match all donations, up to $10,000, made on their website.

Zoo announces giving day match of 10,000

Many donors give during giving days because their donation gets stretched. By offering to stretch donations themselves, the Zoo was able to incentivize donors who were waiting for the platform to get back up and running.

Try reaching out to board members or other donors you are close to, and see if they would be willing to help in this last-minute, 911 way. It’s a good fit for some donors, but not for everyone, so be careful when you ask! Another option is to reach out to some businesses to get coupons, discount codes, or some other incentive to get people to donate.

Step 5. E-mail all the people with your new call to action and incentive.

If you reach your deadline and the site is not up and running, it’s time to enact Plan B. You have the new call to action, and you have the sexy, new incentive. However! It is vital you come up with a snappy subject line. Do NOT waste this moment to write another “Give today to support kids/puppies/seahorse scientists” e-mail. It will get deleted. Full stop. Hell, you could write, “This e-mail sucks,” and get better opens than you would get with that nonsense.

….Don’t use that either, though. Trust me, I have a master’s degree in this stuff.

Instead, write a subject line that’s interesting and off beat. And for the love of all that is holy, do not use any of the following words: give, donate, support, or help.

Step 6. You’re still doing Step 0-6, right?

Because you should be.

And that’s it! Now, these steps may not guarantee you the best results possible, but it will focus your energies and prevent you from completely losing your mind (perhaps). And it will make sure that during the whole day, even if things aren’t going as planned, you are able to achieve some goals.

Good luck out there, folks!

Image credit: gratisography.com


5 Ways to Make the Most of your New GuideStar Nonprofit Profile

The following is a guest blog I wrote for Williams Whittle. I hope you enjoy it!

GuideStar has announced a complete website redesign, which included a vastly different way nonprofit information was shared with the public. The design did away with the old style tabs structure, and instead shows an entire Nonprofit Profile, featuring modular snippets of information for the visitor. In addition, they added a new ranking system that denotes the level of transparency in the data you provide them.

It’s important to know that the new design retains all the features you and your donors know and love about GuideStar (even the free 990s) but is now showing the information in a much more straight forward way. Now, that is very exciting for donors who are looking to quickly scan for information, but what does it mean for nonprofits? How can your nonprofit take advantage of this new design to maximize your appeal to potential donors?

Here are five steps:

1. The Basics

The first step is to claim your Nonprofit Profile so you can go in and edit the information that shows. This update made it very easy for visitors to find all the contact information for your nonprofit up front, so now it’s more important than ever that your mailing address, contact information, name, social media links, programmatic service area, and mission is correct. In addition, they added a small space above contact information (on the right hand side) where your logo appears–so make sure it’s the right one!

Once you fill out the basics, you’ll get to Bronze level. It only takes another 15 minutes to get to Silver level, when you get all sorts of discounts for your nonprofit. All it takes is adding some financial information or an audited financial report

2. Donate Button

GuideStar now has a donate button that you can activate to appear on the top of your Nonprofit Profile. Once your contact information is up to date and you’ve published it, click to toggle button that says “Yes, I give GuideStar permission to add a Donate button to my GuideStar report page to enable donors to give to my organization through GuideStar.” Then click “Finish and Publish” and the “Donate” button will appear within minutes. Pretty neat, huh?

3. Programs + Results

For a long time, GuideStar has been discussing how to show nonprofit effectiveness. One way they decided to address that is to add a programmatic section to the nonprofit profiles. This is a place where, for the first time, you can add qualitative data about your nonprofit’s stories, evidence, and evaluation reports. By filling this out, you’re adding significant persuasive information to bring in potential donors. In addition, you get to Gold level, where you get 1 free seat (annual subscription) of GuideStar Premium Search, which is normally priced at $1,500.

4. GreatNonprofits.org

Mintel, a consumer research firm, found that 69% of people seek out advice and opinions online for goods and services before making financial decisions- either through social media or online review sites. It is with that in mind that GuideStar made, in our opinion, one of its biggest changes: adding Great Nonprofits reviews. This shows some specific feedback that helps donors make the decision to choose your nonprofit for their donations. So, consider sending out an e-mail blast to your donors and beneficiaries asking them to review you. And most importantly, make sure that this section positively reflects your organization to attract donors!

5. Charting Impact Questions

The difference between Silver Participation and Gold Participation is one thing: Charting Impact questions. These questions, developed with BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Independent Sector, and GuideStar, are meant to communicate your organization’s progress in an accessible, concise way. By answering these questions, you will show that your organization is going above and beyond the call of duty to show potential donors that your nonprofit is strategically thinking about its impact.

In conclusion, transparency is the name of the game for GuideStar. As Nonprofit Quarterlyreported last year, “When you take the time to update your profile on GuideStar, you’re demonstrating your organization’s commitment to transparency and communicating directly with its stakeholders.” By taking these extra steps to fill in your profile, the 7 million GuideStar visitors every year see that commitment. It may mean the difference between donating, volunteering, joining your board, or moving on.