Last year, 287 local nonprofits raised $2.78 million dollars in just 36 hours during our community’s second Giving Challenge. Where did all of that money go?

Every organization has its own stories to tell about the good things accomplished through philanthropy, and donors and funders need to hear these stories.

That’s why we loved getting an email from our friends at Habitat for Humanity Sarasota last week sharing news about a Habitat house that will be built with Giving Challenge dollars raised last year.

This communication is just what donors and funders like to hear for a few reasons:

  • We can visualize and understand the real impact of the dollars raised.
  • We can share in the positive emotion generated from the good work we helped to accomplish.
  • We have affirmation that the organization values our relationship, even when they aren’t asking for money.

Donors feel motivated to give again when they can see and feel the results of their gifts in action, when they feel appreciated, and when they have evidence that their gift made a difference—even if it was $25.

No matter how “grassroots” or busy your team may be with the work of programs and services, making time for meaningful and consistent communication with your supporters is essential if you want to inspire donors to give again and to recruit their own networks to join your cause.

Consider the value of communicating using results, real people and reminders as you frame your ongoing messages.

  • Results: What has your organization achieved because of your donors’ past support?
  • Real people: Who are some recipients of your programs and services?
  • Reminders: How can a gift of $25, $100, or $1,000 make a difference now?

Kivi Leroux Miller’s “6 R’s of Messaging” post has some other fabulous “R’s” to consider.

Thanks, Habitat for Humanity Sarasota, for giving us a great example to share.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County


Picture1If your nonprofit organization serves Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte or Desoto county and has a published profile in The Giving Partner, you have demonstrated your commitment to transparency. And now you have a special opportunity just on the horizon with the 2014 Giving Challenge coming up on May 6 and 7.

You can make it as creative, as fun, and as meaningful as you like for your organization.

So how can you start getting ready for the big day before you attend the March training sessions at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County?

Think strategy.

Putting all of the Challenge details aside about matching dollars, special prizes, and technical workings, your success in motivating stakeholders to support your organization in the Giving Challenge is largely dependent on something very simple: a thoughtful, coordinated approach based on what your nonprofit hopes to accomplish.

Here are six things you can do to get the ball rolling:

  1. Whip your profile in The Giving Partner into shape. If you have important information about your organization to share, do it now. We will not have time to republish your profile as we get closer to May.

  2. Decide on your organizational goal(s) for the Giving Challenge. Is your goal to send an important advocacy message to a new audience? Solidify a partnership with a local business? Engage with 50 lapsed donors? Fund three scholarships for summer camp to kids who would otherwise be at home in front of the television?  Spay and neuter 300 homeless animals? You get the point. Decide what you want to accomplish and make it more specific than “raise money.”

  3. Plan your efforts accordingly based on the goal you have set. What staff, volunteer and board resources will you need? How much time do you plan to invest? How will you measure your success?

  4. Start planning how you will communicate the need to your donors, members and volunteers. See this post for helpful suggestions from Ann Christiano.

  5. Determine if you can inspire donors with matching dollars set aside just for your nonprofit. Ask a donor if he or she would consider matching what your organization is able to raise online during the 24-hour online campaign. Many organizations had great success with this strategy last year.

  6. Start getting your entire board in gear, ready to support your organization during the Challenge. Make a list of the specific action steps you will want them to take.
    -Make a meaningful gift to our organization during the Giving Challenge so that we can boast 100% board participation.
     -Share a link to our donation page on your personal Facebook account during the Giving Challenge.
    – E-mail at least 10 co-workers, colleagues, friends or family members during the Giving Challenge and ask for their support.
    -Be a cheerleader for our efforts.

If you help your organization form a meaningful strategy based on what you hope to gain, the Giving Challenge will be a meaningful experience for your nonprofit and will have a positive impact. Your success will be a team effort. Challenge yourselves and have a good time doing it!

We’re looking forward to sharing more in the March training sessions! Be sure to join us on Facebook as we continue posting helpful content.

Have a great weekend!

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

secretI hope you’re all ears. Because what I am about to tell you can drastically change your level of success in the 2014 Giving Challenge. Really, it can change the success you experience in any communications or fundraising campaign.

When Ann Christiano, the Frank Karel Endowed Chair in Public Interest Communications in the College of Journalism at the University of Florida, recently spoke at the Florida Philanthropic Network‘s statewide summit, I knew she was a genius. Everything she said made perfect sense, whether you are trying to persuade people to make donations, share a message, or talk to their Senator. And even more golden, her rules of social change communications will help your organization stand out from the masses when emails are flying in the weeks just before the 2014 Giving Challenge and during the 24-hour online fundraising campaign itself on May 6 and 7.

Here are her eight imperatives:

  • Stop saying what your organization does and focus on why you do it.
    Helping your audience understand why the need is there is more compelling than sharing a list of everything your organization is doing.

  • Become strategically empathetic with your audience.
    Empathy allows you to feel what others are feeling. Have you considered that what your donors care about hearing or reading is what you should care about communicating, not the other way around?

  • Communicate in pictures.
    An authentic picture of someone being served by your organization–even if it’s not a puppy, kitten or baby–can seal the deal.  Enough said.

  • Use the full palette of emotions to connect with your stakeholders.
    Have you considered the power of humor and joy versus guilt or fear?  The power of emotion can be harvested in a number of ways. And if you aren’t ready to experiment with new emotional flavors in your nonprofit’s communications, at least make sure that you have some emotional appeal in your writing.

  • Stop hinting. Just tell people what you want them to do.
    Seriously, we all receive a lot of messages every day–every hour even. Don’t leave people guessing what it is you want them to do. Do you want a $25 gift? Do you want them to click on your profile in The Giving Partner? Do you want them to hit “forward” on your email or post their support on Facebook? People who have to guess what you want them to do have generally moved on to something else before they even approach the action you’re hoping they will take. Make sure your calls to action are visible and simple.

  • Tell stories like you mean it!
    Know your organization’s stories. How you came to be, your victories, what you have learned in defeat, your challenges, and where you are going are all important—not necessarily in the same communication and not necessarily in that order.

  • Remember that each person you communicate with is part of a larger network.
    Oh yes. Ask the Phelan-McDermid Syndrome Foundation or Community Youth Development how important this concept was for them during The Giving Challenge last year. The power of the network is what it’s all about if you want to extend your reach to new supporters.

  • Don’t worry about whether an audience is as passionate about an issue as you are.
    We can spend all day trying to convince people to be passionate about our cause above all others. But it’s surprising what people will do on our behalf even if the issue or cause isn’t number one in their minds and hearts. Small actions add up, and people can do a lot of good without being as committed to the cause as you are.

For those of us who fear the flood of emails local donors are destined to receive during The Giving Challenge, ask yourself how your messaging can stand apart. What moves people to give? To click? To share?  Start your communications strategy now, and remember that it will enhance your organization’s overall effectiveness, not just its approach to the big days on May 6 and 7.

Special thanks to Ann Christiano for making us wiser!

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

I’m looking forward to the Super Bowl collaboration between U2, (RED) and Bank of America. The partnership is bound to be an incredible cause marketing accomplishment for Bank of America, raising dollars and visibility for the Global Fund on AIDS and a heck of a lot of love for U2 as millions download a free version of their newest song, “Invisible.”  Learn how it’s all working here.

While this campaign is one we may only be able to dream of, perhaps there are some serious gains we can make from studying the success of the partnership itself.  If you comment on this post with your takeaways, you may just end up with a small donation to your nonprofit.

So what about those highly anticipated commercials?  I contend there is a lot we can learn from these 30 second spots pushing everything from cars to Doritos and “wonderful” pistachios.

Over time, commercials have become a staple of the Super Bowl diet because of the creativity and humor we know we will find. There’s an element of surprise. We are entertained.  The messages are simple. There are clear calls to action.  We don’t have to think too hard about what we are being asked to do.

As we think forward to the 2014 Giving Challenge in May, let’s consider how these very elements can engage our audiences. We know now that donors and community philanthropists will be bombarded with messages urging them to give. So consider now how your messaging can transcend the generic, “give to us, just because we are asking.”

Although you don’t have a $4 million budget, you do have the power to craft your story with imagery, a simple message, and some creativity.  You might even consider what humor could do for your cause.

This week we will share some great takeaways from a session on social change communications led by Ann Christiano at the Florida Philanthropic Network’s statewide summit. Until then, enjoy the Super Bowl, indulge in the success factors behind those commercials, and explore ways to harvest their genius for your organization.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County