THE BLOG
05/23/2014 03:23 pm ET Updated Jul 20, 2014

How Can Your Nonprofit Leverage 24-Hour Giving Campaigns to Raise Big Bucks in One Day

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Image Credit: GivingTuesday, Give Local America and Silicon Valley Gives logos properties of respective organizations.

Online offers endless giving opportunities for nonprofits, but leaves everyone in search of ways to "go viral." There isn't a set formula to do this, unfortunately -- but there is something that comes close: 24-hour giving campaigns. And if your nonprofit hasn't participated in one yet, I'm going to tell you why -- and how -- you should be exploring this option.

Different 24-Hour Giving Campaigns Options

This isn't only one way to play the 24-hour "day of giving" game. There are regional, cause-specific, competitive, collaborative and even 48-hour options to consider before settling down and committing to one.

#GivingTuesday, for example, is a campaign that set out to "create a national day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season" and its efforts have been wildly successful, bringing in more than $10 million in donations during what is (arguably) the toughest time of the year to compete for potential donors' dollars.

Silicon Valley Gives recently raised $7.9 million for local nonprofits in Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Benito counties in California. In a 24-hour span, they "connected donors to the charitable causes they care about most and encouraged them to take action."

GiveLocalAmerica was another 24-hour option focused on local giving throughout the U.S. "Over 7,700 nonprofits shared the great work of their organization, gained new supporters and raised funds for their mission through these giving events." How much did they raise on May 6, 2014? A whopping $53 MILLION!

And then there's GiveOutDay, which just happened this month as well, rallying support for the LGBTQ community in a 48-hour extravaganza, with nonprofits raising money -- and competing for more than $80,000 in prize funds! They brought in just shy of $1 million as well.

Why Are They So Successful?

These events take the power of many and direct it toward one overarching cause - and everyone wins.

• The funding platform wins because it gets processing fees.

• The nonprofits win because they raise much more money working under this umbrella effort than they would have alone.

• And the participants (all around) win because, for that 24-hour period, they were part of something fantastic.

But what drives donors to participate so enthusiastically in these events? Well, competition drives some: they really want your nonprofit to "win" (particularly when there are prizes for doing so) and they want to be a part of that win. And for those who are active online, it's a way to feel good and have some fun at the same time.

But let's not gloss over the "wanting to be part of it" aspect. One reason why the #GivingTuesday campaign was so effective, was because it took a cultural phenomenon, the selfie, and turned it on its head:

Oxford Dictionaries named "selfie" as 2013's word of the year, and the folks at #GivingTuesday embraced the decision -- with a twist. Instead of celebrating the selfie, a self-portrait usually taken with a smart phone, #GivingTuesday introduced the "unselfie," which Curran described as a selfless selfie, or a picture that showed someone giving back and helping others. The idea was hugely popular on Dec. 3 -- more than 7,000 unselfies were shared on social media, while organizations from the Michael J. Fox Foundation to UNICEF incorporated the concept into their efforts.

Imagery shared by participants is powerful for just so many reasons. It makes stories personal, fostering a greater sense of community -- and it invites everyone to join the conversation. Make these stories part of your promotional campaign, even if they aren't the focus of the larger event.

And this brings us to planning -- which is key.

One nonprofit that participated in Silicon Valley Gives attributed its $75,000 success to planning ahead -- and offered this advice to others:

"We were very careful to make the message our value proposition to donors and why they are motivated to support our cause, not just about Silicon Valley Gives and educating the donor about the event itself."

Preparing Your Team

Making it easy for volunteers and donors is critical, naturally. So most successful giving day events partner with established fundraising platforms to seamlessly manage the backend particulars, and you'll likely need to register your nonprofit to officially participate.

The preparation for your team is the same regardless of whichever event you decide to participate in though -- and that preparation should be pretty extensive and exceptionally organized to make the most out of the day(s). You'll want to assign folks to specific tasks, including:

• Researching the event options introduced above (and others) to determine which one is the best fit.

• Registering for the chosen event and keeping the team on task with deadlines.

• Developing a social media plan for promoting the event in the weeks leading up to - and especially on the day of -- the event! (Think of fun ways to get supporters involved and sharing their stories.)

• Developing a media relations plan to query reporters or place opinion pieces around the event.

• Reaching out to philanthropists, businesses and other connections to see if they're interested in matching donations in exchange for promotion.

• Reaching out to local politicians or celebrities to see if they could record a few seconds on video promoting your cause.

• Organizing volunteers to help spread awareness online in the weeks leading up to the event, the day of the event, and to help manage the donation process, answer donor questions, press inquiries and an emergency team to handle tech support or think through "Plan B" scenarios.

Before you run off to sign up, there are additional considerations to keep in mind. Understanding associated costs (billed by the platform) is important, as noted by one 24-hour giving event participant I interviewed. But despite the relatively high cost for transactions, they "still raised more than [they] would have on [their] own."

Also, the donation process can be "inefficient for non-profits, as the donations don't tie directly to our database, causing extra administrative work for our staff" to the tune of a 120 hour collective commitment (soup to nuts).

Growing the Relationship With New Supporters

After (and possibly during) the event, be sure to publicly acknowledge those who support your giving day efforts -- and privately, personally thank those who request to remain anonymous. And now you need to stay top-of-mind with these folks, as it's much easier to keep a current supporter than it is to recruit a brand new one -- and it would be a shame to lose them after all that hard work.

Here's How to Keep the Momentum Going:

• Ask if you can add them to your mailing list to share stories detailing how their generous donations are being used (and then be sure to only send what you promised -- and not too often!)

• Add a "donor spotlight" to these newsletters -- and your website -- and ask each donor (via a personal note, signed by the Executive Director) for permission to briefly interview and then highlight their contribution.

• Continue to share stories (on your social sites and website) speaking to your gratitude and the many ways this event supported your efforts.

Have you participated in any 24-hour fundraising events? I would love to hear your thoughts around the experience.

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