The Giving Day Playbook answers your questions

​The following blog post is written by Beth Kanter, a consultant for Knight Foundation. Photo credit: on Facebook.

Knight Foundation recently published the Giving Day Playbook , the first how-to guide providing community foundations and other nonprofits comprehensive tips to planning a successful online giving marathon.  On Sept. 12, Knight Foundation hosted a webinar for almost 200 community foundations, nonprofits, and others interested in hosting a Giving Day.   

The engaged crowd on the webinar asked many smart questions of the presenters, who included Knight Foundation’s Bahia Ramos and GiveMN’s Dana Nelson, in addition to myself.  

If you missed it, you can listen to the recording here, or join us for one of two upcoming conversations on Giving Days: the #FundChat Twitter chat on the Playbook at 12 EST Wednesday Sept. 18, and a Google Hangout with the Chronicle of Philanthropy at 1 p.m. ET Thursday Sept. 19.

Below is a summary of answers to some questions during the webinar and related resources on the Giving Day Playbook.

How can we set an accurate, measurable goal for a Giving Day if it is our first one?

The Giving Day Playbook offers some specific examples and advice for setting measurable goals for your Giving Day.     Financial goals  – the specific dollar amount, new dollars raised, or number of donors – are best developed by doing some benchmarking of similar community-wide or state-wide campaigns or other similar communities.   Remember also that goals for Giving Days go beyond dollars. You can also set goals for donor engagement, brand awareness, or capacity building for local nonprofits.  If this is your first Giving Day, keep it simple and pick the right metric.  (See this for Giving Day metrics to track your goals.)

What is an adequate amount of planning time so that our giving day is successful?

Giving Days are the culmination of a great deal of hard work, partnerships between a number of stakeholders, and a big, coordinated outreach effort. None of this can be done effectively without systematic planning upfront – and that takes time.  Detailed planning and implementation checklists at the outset make it far more likely that everyone and everything will be moving in concert on the big day.   Here is a Sample Six-Month Planning Timeline to help you get started.

How much staff time is involved?

Giving Days require significant staff time and energy. How you staff your Giving Day, however, will depend a great deal on the size and scope of what you are planning. You should expect two-five staff members to each devote about 10-15 hours per week to Giving Day preparation in the six months leading up to the big day, with that number doubling to 20-30 hours per week about two weeks out. In the final two-three days before the Giving Day and on the day itself, you should expect these staff members to devote all of their time to the Giving Day.   The Giving Day Playbook has this useful staffing template.

What are the different options for matching funds and prizes that are awarded to nonprofits during the Giving Day?

Prize and match incentives build excitement and can be used to encourage particular actions by donors and nonprofits to help you reach your goals.   Use this Prize and Match Incentive Options Table, which explains different prize and match incentive options, their pros and cons and which Giving Day goals they align with.   It is important that you clearly communicate to nonprofits and donors the criteria for prize and match incentives and not offer to many choices.   Here’s list of prizes from the Centre Foundation, a Knight Foundation grantee.  You’ll note there are some creative incentives, such as for the donor who lives the furthest away and a trend setter prize for the organization that gets the most tweets.  Also note how they have clearly stated the criteria.

How much do I need to raise to have a successful giving day, for both prizes and advertising and promotion?

Your budget will likely range from approximately $12,000 on the low end to $75,000 on the high end, not including staff salaries or credit card fees (which some community foundations choose to cover). The biggest variable will be your prize and match pool, which can be as little as $5,000 or as high as $50,000 (or more). This Sample Budget Template provides a more detailed expense breakdown and can be used to start your Giving Day budget.

In running your Giving Day, you will incur expenses that will likely make the campaign a net loss from a pure dollars and cents perspective.  There are strong benefits to the Giving Day beyond just the money. You can ensure that the Giving Day is revenue-neutral or -positive for future years (aside from the staff time you invest) by securing sponsors, pro bono PR/media support and asking donors to donate more to cover their fees.

How do we prepare participating nonprofits for the event?

While some nonprofits will be fast to sign onto the event, others may need more encouragement.    Then once they understand the value, you will need to provide training on fundraising strategy, online giving, social media and setting up a profile on your selected platform.    You will also need to provide collateral materials.    That’s why you need a good six months for recruitment, explaining the Giving Day, hosting trainings and creating your nonprofit toolkit.    Don’t panic, there are lots of templates, examples, and resources in the Playbook that you can easily and quickly repurpose.

If you’re thinking of hosting a Giving Day in your community or state, be sure to use the Giving Day Playbook.

Beth Kanter is a master trainer and blogger and is currently facilitating a Peer Learning Exchange of Knight Foundation Community Partners to share best practices. These community foundations are actively using the Giving Day Playbook to host Giving Days in their communities.