With all this time preparing for the Giving Challenge, you may just be sitting around during the actual event with nothing to do.

Or you could stay supercharged on September 1 at noon through September 2 at noon and be a driver of new possibilities in giving.  This year 450 nonprofits are participating, and you can be sure that excitement will be running the show.

If you want to make the most of the 2015 Giving Challenge, be sure not to do these things:

  1. Ignore the the Leaderboard on your laptop, iPad, desktop, or mobile phone. Some have described the Leaderboard as “addictive” and “hard to ignore.” It will update every 60 seconds to reflect the dollar amount of gifts received, the number of new donors who give, and other important stats that keep you tied to your seat.

  2. Sleep from 12:00 a.m. on September 2 through 3:00 a.m. on September 2. Do you remember that two random donors who donate on www.givingpartnerchallenge.org between the hours of 12 a.m. and 3 a.m. will be selected for a $1,000 grant added to their donations?

  3. Stay away from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. It’s going to be fun here. Food, a photo booth, an interactive and soothing Giving Challenge painting, entertainment, special mission focused hours. We hope you can stop by and enjoy our Donor Lounge made possible by our friends at Home Resource.

  4. Talk excessively about how tired you are. This campaign requires a great deal of energy! The week after the Giving Challenge is a three-day weekend. We can make it.

  5. Wait until you receive your Giving Challenge funds to email your donors and thank them for their gifts.
    The beginning of a beautiful relationship is an immediate, heartfelt thank you. Why not thank your donors in “real time” since you can see their gifts come in with updates every 60 seconds?

  6. Ask everyone else what’s going on instead of following #GivingChallenge15 on Facebook and Twitter.
    There’s so much you can see and enjoy out in our community on September 1 and 2, but you can also use the hashtag #GivingChallenge15 to enjoy the campaigns and activities of your nonprofit friends and colleagues. We have been enjoying the excitement building every day.

If you have taken part in the Giving Challenge in past years, let us know what we missed on our list!

The 2015 Giving Challenge is made possible by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and The Patterson Foundation with support from the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Manatee Community Foundation, and the Herald-Tribune Media Group.

Ann Christiano

Ann Christiano

Telling stories like you mean it is one of Ann Christiano’s eight imperatives for social change communications.

In her workshop last week at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Ann talked about several stories to keep in your organization’s story bank.

The story of how we started, the story of how we’re making a difference, the story of our people, the story of what the world would look like if we succeed with our mission, and even the story of a defeat in our work–all of these are essential stories to keep close at hand to whip out when the situation is right.

Much like you, I know some of these stories about my organization, but I need to spend some time brainstorming with my colleagues to dig deep, exchange stories, and together, record them in a story bank. Then we need to make sure our entire staff and board have access to these treasures.

Stories keep us emotionally connected, and if well-told, are memorable.

Here are Ann’s other seven imperatives for social change communications:

  • Stop telling people what you do and tell them why you do it.
  • Become strategically empathetic. Empathy is the ability to share and understand feelings of another. In your communications, try evoking empathy for those you serve or empathy for your audience. Don’t forget about how you might inspire others’ empathy.
  • Communicate in pictures. Even when you can’t use photographs or video, you can use descriptive language to create a visual image. Remember MLK’s incredible speeches? They are filled with visualizations that made his words even more powerful.
  • Use the full palette of emotions as you communicate.  Have you considered evoking frustration? Using humor? What about surprise? Be deliberate with the use of emotion and experiment beyond the use of guilt as you are trying to stimulate action.
  • Create a call to action that is actionable and that advances your causes. “General awareness” is no good. What do you want people to do? Are you making it easy to understand the call to action? Will that call to action get you closer to your goal?
  • Make your messages portable and shareable because every person you communicate with is part of a larger network. Yes, just yes.
  • Stop obsessing about whether other people are as passionate about your mission as you are. Get used to it. Often people will act on your organization’s behalf without having the same level of passion or urgency as you do.

How many can you integrate into your existing messaging?

Ann Christiano is the Frank Karel Chair in Public Interest Communications at the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. Her role is to develop a curriculum in the newly emerging discipline of public interest communications, which uses the tools of public relations and journalism to create positive social change.

casTruly, you would have to be living in a cave to have been spared exposure to the Ice Bucket Challenge, the unbelievably successful awareness/fundraising campaign for the ALS Association. (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is frequently referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”  It is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, eventually leading to the patient’s death.)

Why People Love the Challenge

  • It’s easy, social and daring. Who doesn’t love to see ice water dumped on someone you love, respect, hate or have seen in high heels at Michael’s on East?

  • You can make it a family event. We love the videos with parents, kids, and ice buckets…or better yet, kids challenging their parents.

  • It’s something anyone can do. (Except John Annis?)

  • Peer influence is an intrinsic part of the campaign. Drawing your colleagues, rivals, and friends into this—especially when you know they are trying to quietly hide from it all–is irresistible.

  • It’s impossible to argue that the Challenge is raising a LOT of awareness about ALS and a LOT of money for ALS.

Why People Criticize the Challenge

  • “How can socially conscious people waste water like this?”

  • “I don’t get the connection to the ALS mission.”

  •  “Some people are making the videos but aren’t donating. It’s not either/or.”

  •  “What’s the likelihood that new donors who have no connection to ALS will give again?”

What “The Giving Partner” Perspective Might Be 

  • We have loved seeing this campaign because it has garnered so much diverse participation: young people, old people, people of every ethnicity, famous people, eccentric people, “normal” people. And people have fun while they are doing it. That’s the viral appeal. Critics are lurking around the corner of every good and great effort, just because. Let’s enjoy the enormous success here!

  • ALS organizations everywhere are coming into sudden cash they couldn’t have imagined long ago. This is why building capacity from the ground up is so important. A committed board of directors, strong internal controls, sound policies, a strategic plan, and other financial, governance and planning ingredients are vital whether your organization is a baby or a giant. Things can change quickly. Be nimble and prepared for greatness with a stable, thoughtful underlying structure.

  • The question about whether new donors with no connection to ALS will give again is an interesting one. And it’s a question we ask after each Giving Challenge in relation to some of the socially inspired gifts that were made. Clearly some people are just participants in the fun. But for many others, the big answer will be generated by the organization itself. What will it do to engage the donor? Will the donor hear stories of hope and progress? Will she know how her dollars made a difference? Will she receive the right number and type of follow-up communications going forward?

  • Equally creative tactics have been locally deployedSnooty’s Lettuce Challenge at the South Florida Museum this summer generated some amazing buzz. An awareness and fundraising event rolled into one, the organization leveraged community leaders who participated in an unconventional food challenge that related to the mission. It created some powerful energy during a matching campaign–another notable model for us to reflect upon!

  • If we offer a Giving Challenge in 2015, we anticipate some extra creative campaigns that will no doubt be inspired by the Ice Bucket Challenge. The wheels are turning… But why wait? You could try your own version at any time using the best of what you observed.

Other Must-Read Pieces About It

-Susie Bowie, Director of Nonprofit Strategy
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

catHappy Halloween, nonprofit friends!

Is your organization dressed up in any of these costumes today?

  • Hot Costume! The Black Cat
    Has your organization fallen victim to a robotic donor engagement strategy, doing special events in the same way as all the others, or describing your programs and services using generalities? Or are you creative, resourceful, and specific in your efforts? Be The Black Cat! Stand out!

  • Old Tired Costume! The Friendly Ghost
    Are your websites, social media platforms and Giving Partner profiles up-to-date with the newest success stories about your programs in action? We recently learned from Derrick Feldmann that the biggest turn-off for younger donors is old, crusty information about your nonprofit online. Don’t let your online presence be a ghost of your nonprofit’s past.

  • Hot Costume! The Good Witch
    Witches have wands, as everyone knows. Wands have a way of making things happen. And the results tend to be very visible, at least in the movies. Walk around in full character as The Good Witch, with your wand in hand at all times so that your focus is on your outcomes. Convey your results to your donors in lively stories using the real people, animals, or places you are helping. (And don’t forget to drop them in “examples of program success” in your Giving Partner profile.)

May your haunting this evening be fun and safe, without spooking your donors.

Happy Halloween!

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

As we continue discussing nonprofit communications, we wanted to share some of our online favorites with you–blogs and online resources that have stood the test of time, generating excellent content just for nonprofits over the years.

On each of the following blogs, remember that you can subscribe and have new posts delivered straight to your inbox. You can also follow each on Facebook and Twitter for fabulous links on the social media sites you are already living on.

  1. Kivi Leroux Miller’s Nonprofit Marketing Guide & Blog

  2. Nancy Schwartz’s Getting Attention Blog

  3. John Haydon’s Blog

  4. Beth Kanter’s Blog, Beth’s Blog

  5. Big Duck’s Blog, Duck Call

Who isn’t on our list that you would include? We love to share your resources with others.

Subscribe, follow, and learn from these dudes and divas of nonprofit marketing and communications. We’re always learning new things from them and staying up-to-date on the latest trends and research.

Of course, if you’re not getting The Giving Partner blog delivered to your inbox, you’ll find the magic “subscribe” field in the upper right hand corner.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

Roughly one-third of nonprofits with profiles in The Giving Partner have an organizational account on Twitter. Some of them are regularly maintained with dynamic 140 character updates that fuel interest in their missions.

If your organization is questioning the value of Twitter, wondering if anyone out there is even listening, know that tweeting is not only about getting your message out. It’s also about listening to what others are doing, sharing, talking about.

Social media tools are made for this.

Here is a list of local tweeting nonprofits with their Twitter handles.

If you haven’t done it already, create a free account on Twitter for yourself or your organization and start following others.

Who do you follow?

  • Other local nonprofits and coalitions.
  • Community leaders.
  • Local, state and federal government agencies.
  • Local funders.
  • National funders.
  • Local & national news organizations that report about philanthropy and social good.
  • Thought leaders who post about donor retention, nonprofit marketing or nonprofit innovation.
  • National nonprofits with your mission focus.

What are you looking for from your followers?

  • Knowledge and ideas that make you more informed about what’s working and not working in your field.
  • Local and national initiatives that involve the same populations your organization is serving.
  • Material that your organization can re-tweet or share with your clients, staff, board members or volunteers.

Reciprocity in social media can help you discover and build relationships online that can bloom into reliable sources of intelligence to help you in your work, and they can increase your network of trusted colleagues.

I have made some good discoveries on Twitter over the course of the last five or so years, using it to…

  • Meet speakers we eventually invited to our community for events.
  • Stay connected to community foundations and leaders from around the country who I have met or hope to meet at conferences.
  • Access the latest philanthropic trends that inform the work and thinking we need to stay innovative.

Sure, we share our work as well, but so much of the value in Twitter is in listening and learning.

How many local nonprofits are you connected to on Twitter? Let’s go for it, rockin’ robins.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

wilsoncomputerAre we spending time together online?

We invite you to get to know The Giving Partner funding partners while you’re spending time on Facebook and Twitter.

Did you know we’re keeping an eye on you? We love to see the photos, stories, updates and mission-focused information your organization takes the time to post on social media.

We also love to interact with you in that space.

We’re hoping you like to follow our work as well. Many times, we highlight what your organizations are up to–especially when you take the time to tag us or post on our pages.

Here’s how to find us:

The Giving Partner
Twitter  @givingpartner

The Patterson Foundation
Twitter  @thepattersonfdn

Community Foundation of Sarasota County
Twitter  @CFSarasota

Gulf Coast Community Foundation
Twitter  @GulfCoastCF

Manatee Community Foundation

See you there!