Last Minute Tips for #GivingTuesday

I know, I know …we should have started our #GivingTuesday planning many months ago. And most of you have. But there are still a few last-second items you should consider to give your fundraising on December 1 an extra boost.

GivingTuesday Logo

The following are some quick, easy-to-implement tactics for getting the most out of #GivingTuesday:

Map out a strong email schedule

Oh, the dreaded unsubscribe. While it’s true that we don’t want to spam our donors on any channel, let alone email, too many of us are actually sending far too few emails for fear of our donors unsubscribing. But from experience, we’ve seen some of the top performing email programs sending donors, on average, one solicitation per week.

Especially on a day like #GivingTuesday, when the leading nonprofits in your region will be carpet bombing your potential donors, it’s imperative that you have a robust email strategy with several touch points across the day. That doesn’t mean you should be sloppy with your email – content still matters. So what does a good email strategy for #GivingTuesday look like? Here are a few tips:

  • Provide meaningful updates. Do you have a challenge? Keep donors apprised of your progress on a regular basis. Are you raising money for something concrete that impacts a specific person (or profile of a certain type of individual)? Send an email from that person’s personal address with a story about how a donor’s gift improves their life. Make your email about more than just the ask …while also being sure to include an ask. (It is #GivingTuesday, after all)
  • Send emails that redirect your donors and constituents to content on blogs and social media.
  • Let them know when a milestone is reached and thank them for their support in the campaign. Use this a reminder to give if they haven’t already or if they have given, remind them to share on social media and via email to encourage their friends to give.
  • Send more email than you’re comfortable sending. If a recipient is going to unsubscribe because of a #GivingTuesday ask, they probably aren’t going to become a donor anyway. Focus on an email strategy that ensures you hit every potential donor and not on the vocal minority who don’t want to see you in their inbox.

Identify at least 10 online ambassadors

If you already have 10, then find 10 more! The more individuals you have spreading buzz about your cause on #GivingTuesday, the more new donors you will connect with. Go to Twitter, search hashtags that relate to your organization’s mission, and find Twitter users who are including those mission-related hashtags in their posts. Then, analyze the Twitter users’ bios to determine if they have online influence beyond Twitter. If the answer is yes, ask them to be an ambassador on #GivingTuesday.

Produce a compelling #GivingTuesday video

According to a recent Georgia Tech study on Kickstarter data, crowdfunding projects with a video perform far better than those without a video. Perhaps even more compelling, a recent Google study found that 57 percent of donors who watch a nonprofit’s video will eventually go on to make a gift to that nonprofit. 57 percent. So yeah, make sure you have a coherent and engaging video to host on your website and share via email and social networks on #GivingTuesday.

Justin Ware is the Vice President for Digital Fundraising Strategy at ScaleFunder, where clients use the ScaleFunder Crowdfunding module to launch successful #GivingTuesday campaigns.


Email v. Social Media

Email v. Social Media – which deserves more of your time and resources when trying to grow your donor base?

*Quick caveat here: I don’t believe in a one versus the other approach as they’re both crucially important. But in a cash-strapped world where digital content is a must, where should you focus more of your time if you want to expand your reach into segments of new donors? Let’s discuss…

Email versus Social MediaWhen it comes to conversions, email brings in far more fundraising donors and dollars that social media. After all, social media is rarely used as a solicitation channel. Facebook’s “Donate” button has yet to gain significant traction, for example.

But, social media is an incredible awareness tool and the only set of channels where a cause can quickly go viral. That’s probably why, according to this 2013 Georgetown/Waggener Edstrom study, the vast majority of those surveyed said social media is the #1 way they learn of a new cause to support. In fact, social media outpaced email by a rate of about 2 to 1 across all cohorts in the study.

And really, this makes sense when you consider how a person typically interacts with email. It’s two things – either you respond to email, because you have to (for your job) or because you REALLY believe in something. Email is deliberate – the decision to support has already been made in many cases. And according to the aforementioned Georgetown study, it’s likely that decision-making process started as a result of something you viewed on social media.

So, if you’re interested in growing your base, consider beefing up your social media presence by doing the following:

Get active on several major social media networks.

The “must list” of social networks to be active on is somewhat fluid, but Facebook is mandatory. It has, by far, the most users and the most users in the key donor demos of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. Plus, despite punditry to the contrary, Millennials are still very active on Facebook, too. You’ll also want to be active on LinkedIn for the prospecting value of the professionally focused social network if nothing else. Instagram is imperative if you want younger donors and students involved.

Train your staff – especially you major gift staff. (Or hire additional staff)

Did you know that 85 percent of all millionaires use social media, text messaging, AND smartphone apps? The more money you have, the more likely it is you’re online and using social media. Be sure you have multiple staff members in every area of focus who can contribute to content production and social media conversation management.

Produce good content on a regular basis.

This doesn’t have to be overly polished content. In fact, some of our crowdfunding data at ScaleFunder suggests a highly-produced piece can actually be detrimental to the success of a fund. (More research needs to be done, but still, interesting to note…) To be effective, content needs to be coherent and connect to the emotions of the audience. Or at a minimum, fulfill a need for the audience. Do that and do it often to provide your donors with a ever-open window into your organization that keeps your mission front and center in their minds, while at the same time, extending your mission to new audiences ready to support your cause.

Justin Ware is the Vice President for Digital Fundraising Strategy with ScaleFunder. In early 2016, Justin will be helping to launch ScaleFunder’s Giving Day module and consulting services to pair with ScaleFunder’s already highly successful Crowdfunding module.

Online Ambassadors Influence Major Gift Donor Decisions

We’ve written extensively on both online ambassadors and major gift work. We know, from our clients’ experiences, that the two go hand in hand. A growing mountain of data and studies tells us the same. Now we have more data that helps explain why peer-to-peer is even more important and effective in major gift work than we first assumed.

For those who work in the for-profit world – particularly in retail – you’re probably familiar with the terms “higher-consideration purchases” and “lower-consideration purchases.” Even if you’re not familiar, the definitions are quite simple.

“Higher-consideration” are those purchases where you give more consideration, because they are big purchases. Think of a new car, a home, a college or university choice …something that costs a lot and is fairly permanent and often live-affecting.

“Lower-consideration” …think of a pack of gum or where you’re eating tonight.

It’s not hard to draw the nonprofit parallels and align higher-consideration purchases with major gift work and lower-consideration purchase with the annual fund.

So what does this all have to do with online ambassadors? According to the 2014 Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s study, Word of Mouth has a MUCH higher influence over a person’s higher-consideration decisions than it does for lower-consideration decisions. Which makes sense – do you often call your friends to ask which toothbrush you should buy? Unless you are the most uber of uber social media users, you probably make that call by your lonesome. On the flip side, when you’re in the market for a new set of wheels, you’ll likely have many conversations with friends, family, and co-workers before selecting your new vehicle.

The 2014 Word of Mouth Marketing Association's study shows us that the bigger the purchase decision, the more word of mouth (and online ambassadors) sways the decision.

The 2014 Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s study shows us that the bigger the purchase decision, the more word of mouth (and online ambassadors) sways the decision.

Something similar likely applies to fundraising. A $25 gift might be the result of a clever end-of-year email or well-run matching challenge. But the biggest gift a person makes in their lifetime will be the result of many factors. Not the least of which, information a person has gleaned from many years of conversations with their most trusted peers.

And here’s the kicker, that same WOMMA 2014 study found that 1/3 of all word of mouth purchasing influence now takes place online.

Yet another substantial study that, along with the growing heap of real world examples, shows us that a major gift program without a strong online dimension is probably grossly underperforming.

Justin Ware is the Vice President for Digital Fundraising Strategy at ScaleFunder.

The ROI of Investing in Digital for Fundraising

Why should you invest in digital media for fundraising? In short, because you like seeing lots of new donors, high retention, and engaged major gift donors for your organization. But we did say “invest in digital media.” So what is the cost of achieving those attributes of online and social media fundraising? Read on to see the cost and ROI breakdowns on investments in digital media for fundraising work…

New donor acquisition happens when you have inspiring, infectious online events.

For higher ed, the infectious event is a giving day. For most other nonprofits – especially smaller nonprofits – it might be a regional or national event like #GivingTuesday. And what do these events cost?

  • Great content, especially creative video, is almost always worth the investment for fundraising.

    Great content, especially creative video, is almost always worth the investment for fundraising.

    For small nonprofits who are just looking to make a splash (less than 100 gifts or $10,000 raised), the cost can be next to nothing (excluding staff time, of course). Schedule three to five emails, coordinate those emails with your social media efforts, consider a mail piece to your most engaged donors, connect with your online ambassadors (or start a small online ambassador program) to spread the asks and content online …all of this can be done in the $0 to $5,000 range for nonprofits.

  • For the mid range nonprofits – think regional NPOs, small healthcare organizations, and smaller colleges who are hoping to reach close to 1,000 donors and at least $100,000 during an event – you’re going to want to do most of the same things the small nonprofits do, but on a larger scale. To grab the bigger donor and dollar numbers, you’ll need a more thought out strategy, more well-produced content to share on social media, a bigger and more engaged group of online ambassadors, and more involvement from you major gift program. Between content production, a mail piece, and strategic planning, expect to spend between $25,000 and $50,000 if you’re looking for six figure dollar results and/or four figure donor results.
  • For the giants – think large colleges and universities, large healthcare organizations, international aid organizations, animal welfare groups, and environmental NPOs who look at anything under seven figures as failure – real investment is needed. Without naming names, the university behind one of the most successful higher education giving days in history invested north of $300,000 in technology, outside strategic counsel, and other related costs. And they raised nearly $7 million from approximately 5,000 donors.

High retention happens when you are stuck in the minds of your donors throughout the year.

When your organization’s work is burned into the psyche of your donors, they are ready and willing to act on appeals as they arrive in their inbox or their mailbox. And for a growing majority of Americans, one of the best ways to remain stuck in their minds is through good social media strategy. (Yes, the majority of Americans are now active on social media)

Easier said than done? Not necessarily, as long as you’re willing to invest in good content strategy and production.

To do content marketing well requires at least one full time position dedicated to the planning and production of content. If your digital strategy is a larger, more sophisticated effort, this content producer should be part of a team and under a more senior director-level position tasked with managing the overall digital strategy. So, for smaller organizations, think $50,ooo/year with an additional $5,000 to $10,000 for equipment the first year. If yours is a larger organization and you’re not spending at least $100,000 on digital content marketing, you’re probably losing several times that amount in easy-to-grab fundraising opportunities.

Major gift donors are online and at shockingly high rates.

But don’t take my word for it. Instead, check out this 2011 Fidelity Investments study that tells us 85 percent of millionaires use social media with the median age of those social media users set at 56. We’ve written about tactics to engage your highest capacity donors online. Read a couple of those posts here and here.

But for the sake of this post, how much should you invest for digital engagement of major gift donors? First, make sure you have a strategy in place. Typically that involves an outside firm (like BWF_social) and runs from about $15,000 to $50,000 depending on the work done. As part of that strategy, you’ll want to be sure your gift officers are properly trained on using digital media, you’ll need good content to share with your major donor community, and you’ll want to appropriately leverage the online communities of willing major donors. (In other words, you’ll want to build a major donor online ambassador program). Many organizations can do this within the aforementioned $15,000 to $50,000 while some of the larger more sophisticated nonprofits will want to invest six figures+ on a digital strategy for major donors. Of course, since it is for major gift work, it shouldn’t take long for your organization to enjoy a significant return on any smart investment in digital strategy.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at BWF_social where he helps clients build digital media strategies for fundraising success.

HOW TO Add Digital to Your Major Gift Strategy

Major donors often make decisions about where to give based on what they see online.

Major donors often make decisions about where to give based on what they see online.

Should you use social media to engage your major gift prospects and donors? Absolutely!

During Washington State University’s recent #CougsGive125 36-hour online campaign (WSU is a BWF_social client), 42 donors made gifts between $1,000 and $25,000. And with research showing that wealthy individuals are active on social media platforms like Facebook, it’s important to consider that audience in your online engagement strategies.

Below is a short video with 3 ways your organization can integrate digital with your major gift strategy:

Want to learn more? Connect with BWF_social’s Justin Ware by visiting

Age Breakdowns for the Biggest Social Media Networks and What it Means for Your Strategy

More than half of America uses social media regularly and Facebook is still the king when it comes to number of users. And while the share might shift between social networks and demographics, there is no indication that use and growth of social media is going to stop any time soon.

For the full report from eMarketer and Adweek on who is using which networks, click here.

We frequently see reports and studies telling us how many people, in which demographics, use social media. But how can we take these usage numbers and apply them to our digital strategy? Below are a set of tips, based on data from the above eMarketer strategy, for the three biggest social networks — Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Facebook is a behemoth of a social network with more than 1 billion people worldwide and more than half the U.S. population actively using the site. Facebook’s user base is getting older, but that’s more of an opportunity than a drawback for fundraisers. To understand why, think major gift work.

Did you know that:

The third point is from our work with clients at BWF_social. In our two most recent giving day campaigns, 42 major donors gave online gifts of $1,000 or more during one giving day, while 26 gave gifts of $1,000 or more during the second effort. In both cases, the gifts were unsolicited beyond the mass marketing work that reached all donors, primarily through email and social media.

In short — your major gift donors are online and the majority of them are using Facebook. Considering the above mentioned data about major donors and this eMarketer data which shows a large and growing number of older Facebook users, your major gift officers should know the network and be leveraging it to better connect with their major gift donors and prospects. Your communications team should be producing content that reinforces giving at all levels, especially the major gift level. Finally, you should be looking to Facebook and all social media as a way of prospecting for new major gift donors.


Twitter users are mostly a bunch of kids, right? Sure, nearly half of all Twitter users are under age 35, but more than a quarter are between age 35 and 54. And it might surprise many to learn that about 13 percent of Twitter users are over age 55.

But really, when it comes to Twitter, age doesn’t matter as much as functionality. For most people, Twitter is a news source. So a good Twitter strategy should be built around sharing a good deal of relevant content. Both relevant to your organization and, most importantly, to your audience. An aging but still accurate HubSpot study from Dan Zarella tells us Twitter users with the most followers are those who often post links in their tweets. Another study from Zarella and HubSpot tells us posting a picture via your tweet helps engagement.  In other words, don’t just tweet about your lunch — tweet about your lunch using a picture and including a link to the recipe.


Instagram is the king of social media networks when it comes to audience engagement.

Instagram is the king of social media networks when it comes to audience engagement.

On Instagram, it is (mostly) about the kids …and engagement. In fact, Instagram has, by far, the highest engagement of any major social media network. If you’re looking to connect with and market to people age 45 and under, Instagram is where it’s at.

You can’t post links on Instagram, so don’t bother using it as a direct marketing resource. Instead, think of Instagram more like traditional advertising. Can someone give a gift directly through a TV ad? How about a print ad? No. But both television and print have value for raising the awareness and improving the perception of your organization. At a minimum, Instagram — and all social media, for that matter — is no different. Especially if we’re talking about engaging the younger audiences who heavily use Instagram and who really don’t watch TV or read much print.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner where he helps clients build digital engagement strategies for every aspect of fundraising — from the annual fund to major gift work. Click here to learn more.

Why You Want to Ask Major Donors for Online Challenge Gifts

A common phrase we hear while planning online giving days and discussing major donor involvement for challenges is “We don’t want to ask major donors about giving days, because it will interrupt our solicitation process…”

Fair enough. It makes sense you wouldn’t want to jeopardize a months or years-long solicitation process for a 7-figure gift by asking someone to put up $50,000 for a matching campaign.

Many of your major donors are online and they want to hear about online fundraising camaigns.

Many of your major donors are online and they want to hear about online fundraising camaigns.

But asking for a major donor’s participation in an online celebration of fundraising — which is what good giving days are — shouldn’t be in conflict with the major gift solicitation process. It should be part of the solicitation process. And it can be part of the solicitation process if your development operation has a truly comprehensive digital strategy that guides ALL the work you do (major gifts included).

Before we get to tips for integrating major gift work with online, let’s examine a few reasons why your major gift program probably needs to start leveraging online and social media as soon as possible:

  • 85 percent of all millionaires use social media. (Source: 2011 Fidelity Investments study)
  • Online donors have higher household incomes than donors who only give offline. (2011 Blackbaud/Convio study)
  • Online-acquire donors give twice the size of gifts compared to donors acquired via mail. (Blackbaud/Convio study)

Just this week, BWF_social enjoyed watching a real world example of how big gift donors love great online fundraising. Washington State University (a BWF_social client) launched its #CougsGive125 event on March 26-27. The 36-hour event was an enormous success with more than $300,000 raised, entirely online. Part of that $300,000 came via approximately 30 gifts of $1,000+. These large, $1,000+ gifts were not directly solicited — they simply came in through the #CougsGive125 website. Fortunately, part of the WSU giving day strategy included a “large gift protocol” that involved connecting with the $1,000+ donors by alerting their assigned gift officers to the big online gifts (when applicable) so they could thank the donors and learn more about their gift. This reactive strategy to big donors who love online giving worked, as many of the donors reached were thrilled to have the immediate response.

In addition to the sheer number of big gifts, we were also amazed by:

  • The number of donors giving big online gifts who graduated before 1960.
  • The number of donors giving big online gifts who never gave to WSU prior to the giving day. (In other words, the #CougsGive125 campaign led to new major donors)

As you can see from the stats and story above, major gift donors — even those in the Baby Boomer generation and older — love online fundraising. So instead of leaving them out of the giving day process to avoid interrupting a process, here are four tips to involve your biggest donors in your big online giving day:

At a minimum, let major donors know the giving day is coming up.

Work with your gift officers and relationship reps so they clearly understand the goals of the giving day. Be sure gift officers are able to answer simple questions such as “how do I make an online gift?” Ask gift officers to share news of the day with their donors and prospects well in advance. Your major gift donors should be the first to know about and clearly understand the goals for the giving day.

Mention challenge opportunities and ask if the donors would be interested in giving a large challenge gift.

This shouldn’t interfere with other asks — it should help gift officers make an ask. Develop challenge opportunities that connect with the donor’s goals. Are you looking for a $1 million gift for a new performance arts building? Do you have a donor who wants to see that building become a reality? Let your donor know you’ll use their $1 million gift to acquire 100 new donors for the performance arts program. This approach should help you secure the gift, not jeopardize it.

Develop a “large gift protocol” for big, unexpected gifts during the giving day.

Establish what amount constitutes a “large gift.” Then develop a coordinated plan for contacting and thanking the donors who give those large gifts. This is something that should take place throughout the year, not just during a giving day. An approach to recognizing large gift online donors will help you steward current major donors and find new major donors. (It did both several times over during WSU’s #CougsGive125)

Perhaps the most important tip? Don’t wait for the giving day to involve your biggest donors online.

Be sure your gift officers are online and social media savvy. This should now be a requirement for the role of gift officer. If they’re not up to speed, provide training. (It’s not hard, it just takes willingness) Build digital events into your major gift program and build a major gift program with a strong digital element. If you’re not using online to engage current and prospective major gift donors, you are leaving a significant number of donors out of your fundraising efforts. With the increasingly competitive major giving environment we now work in, that’s a risk you shouldn’t be willing to take.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at BWF_social. To learn more about how he helps organizations produce digital fundraising plans that include major gift elements, click here.