How did The Manatee Players do it? Reflections on success with The 36-Hour Giving Challenge

April 13, 2012

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting the ways in which various organizations leveraged the 36-Hour Giving Challenge on March 27 & 28, 2012.  With the support of so many generous donors, funders and creative nonprofits, our community raised $2.4 million with over 10,700 gifts made in this short, exciting period of time.

Let’s take a look at the strategies and implementation behind the consistent top-of-the-leaderboard organization, The Manatee Players. Thanks to executive director Janene Witham for being so open in sharing her campaign.

Organization:  The Manatee Players

The Giving Partner Profile: Visit here

Amount contributed from donors online: $188,091

Matching funds received from The Patterson Foundation:  $10,300

Unique donors grant:  $20,000 (707 unique donors)

Other prizes: $500

Progress on new buildingManatee Players saw the 36-Hour Giving Challenge as a golden opportunity to excite and motivate the community into an organized effort geared toward opening the new Manatee Performing Arts Center and building a foundation of new donors.

Here is a bit of our strategy and how we implemented it:

Starting with a comprehensive marketing strategy which included website positioning on various platforms, e-newsletters, facebook posts and emails, we sought to inform everyone in our database who has seen a performance at the theatre during the past 5 years of the possibility of doubling or even quadrupling their contribution.

I personally met with each staff member individually to give an overview of the fundraising activity and their personal responsibilities during the event.  The staff, in turn, explained the effort to their department volunteers and the enthusiasm grew.  The board of directors, through Tool Kit meetings, was also informed of all aspects of the project and the many financial benefits of participation.

For the entire month of performances prior to the Challenge, a curtain speech provided by a member of the board educated the audience each night of the tremendous prospect this fundraiser offered.  They were informed that even a small gift could make a huge impact.

With the excitement mounting, wives of board members tapped into their own residential communities and electronic phone books, ringing bells and making calls to let friends and neighbors know how important the 36 hours was to everyone in Bradenton.  The persons contacted could not refuse their own friend or neighbor.

Finally, on the day and time that the Challenge began, everyone (staff and volunteers) was in place at phones and computers to process donations.

  • There was also a table set up in the lobby of the theatre to handle those who walked in with a contribution.
  • Volunteers baked and brought in treats to accompany the coffeepot that was always full on our concessions stand.
  • Each hour the amount raised was written on poster board in the lobby, creating an on-going tally and elevating the excitement level.
  • The leader board was also kept up on a computer to track the number of donors.  Every time a call came into the theatre, the caller was informed of our position.
  • On the evening of Tuesday, March 27, during the 36 hours, our preview audience was given an update during the curtain speech and the table remained up to take additional donations at intermission.

It is to the credit of Manatee Players’ team that this Challenge was well received.  However, Manatee Players owes a debt of gratitude also to Realize Bradenton, our downtown cultural partner.  Although they, too, were participating in the same Challenge, every time we posted an update on Facebook, they were posting congratulations to Manatee Players and encouraging their “friends” to give to our cause.

-Janene Whitham
Executive Director
The Manatee Players


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