10 Lessons from the Knight Foundation Giving Day Initiative

On November 20, 2013, 382 Miami nonprofits united to raise $3.2 million, nearly tripling the previous year’s record for Give Miami Day, a 24-hour online giving campaign run by the Miami Foundation. The Silicon Valley Community Foundation was watching; less than six months later, it rallied 677 nonprofits to raise an astonishing $11.4 million in one day through the first-ever Silicon Valley Gives.

Giving days such as Give Miami Day and Silicon Valley Gives are increasing in popularity across the country, and community foundations, as facilitators of philanthropic activity in their communities, are leading the charge. They do so because running giving days inspires the local community to support philanthropic causes, engages new donors, and empowers local nonprofits to fundraise online and use social media more effectively, among other worthy reasons.

But what about the community foundations—does hosting giving days also help them?

With this question in mind, Knight Foundation has experimented with online giving days by supporting community foundations in cities across the United States where brothers John S. and James L. Knight owned newspapers. Through the Giving Day Initiative, Knight sought to know whether giving days could be used to:

  • Grow and democratize philanthropy in the participating communities.
  • Increase community foundations’ visibility and credibility in their communities.
  • Strengthen community foundations by fostering their capacity to raise funds and engage a broader set of donors online.

After a pilot program in 2012, Knight Foundation supported 17 community foundations to run 18 giving days in the fall of 2013 and spring of 2014. In total, these giving days raised $31.8 million for 3,437 nonprofit organizations from 79,886 donors.

Observing that many community foundations have been grappling with the same types of questions about their giving days, Knight made it a priority to facilitate peer learning across communities and to aggregate tools and best practices through the Giving Day Playbook, an extensive online how-to guide for giving day organizers.

This report, “How Giving Days Can Work for Your Community Foundation: 10 Lessons from the Knight Foundation Giving Day Initiative,” distills findings from an analysis of the 2013 and 2014 giving days and is intended to help community foundations determine whether to run a giving day, how to run one effectively, and how to make it more sustainable for your institution.

While we believe the 10 lessons presented here are representative of broader giving day trends, they emanate from the 17 community foundations in the Knight Foundation Giving Day Initiative and should not be viewed as a definitive reflection of other communities’ giving day experiences.

Many questions remain about the long-term value of giving days. As you embark on your own giving day journey, we hope you will benefit from our findings and discover opportunities to create a campaign that best serves your community foundation and community at large.

Meanwhile, the learning about online giving days continues!

Be a part of the conversation by joining our Giving Day Exchange on Facebook, where community foundations can share insights and ask questions of fellow campaign organizers.