Skip to content

Knight Foundation on: Methods & Tools for Community Foundation “Giving Days”

giving DaysAs we noted in an early post by Beth Kanter (Doing The Math Ourselves), upgrading the information infrastructure in the social sector depends heavily upon building the proper skill sets in-house. Today’s comment highlights the role of foundations in supporting that professional development. Bahia Ramos, Director/Community Foundations for Knight Foundation, offers insight on effective fundraising for community foundations and a heads-up on a new toolkit to support one of their principal activities, Giving Days.

For many community foundations, giving days — online fundraising marathons — are a way to engage new donors. The process popularizes philanthropy so that anyone with Internet access and a bankcard can donate to issues that are important to them. In 2012 Knight Foundation launched a Giving Day pilot program, providing grants from $20,000 to $100,000 to eight community foundations for their own trial runs. We learned a lot about the challenges and the rewards of giving days, information that we want to share.

As a result, we’re assembling an online toolkit to guide community foundations through the basics of running a Giving Day. It will cover setting goals, engaging donors and analyzing the events after they happen. It will help streamline the decision-making and planning for the day, and serve as an expert resource to guide foundations through the process.

Our pilot program produced commendable results. For example, during Miami Foundation’s inaugural Give Miami Day, 4,992 people gave over $1.2 million to 300 nonprofits. The group of eight community foundations raised over $5.2 million for their nonprofits from more than 40,000 donors. They averaged $124 per gift.

But the benefits went beyond the financial. Giving days allowed the community foundations to raise their public profiles. It enabled them to increase community knowledge about the issues most important to local residents and to build awareness about foundation leadership around those issues. For many of the community foundations, the giving days represented their first interaction with a new group of donors; it opened doors to discussions about larger gifts and more formal relationships, such as starting funds at the foundations.

However, despite fundraising success and community visibility, the giving days generally did not financially benefit the community foundations themselves. The focus was on the rewards for the nonprofits. Our initial evaluation revealed three major challenges for the community foundations:

  • Many community foundations did not set goals for the day;
  • Marketing and managing the challenge was resource intensive; and
  • The success of the platforms used to coordinate giving varied in their fee structures and in their effectiveness.

With this knowledge, Knight can strengthen the capacity of community foundations to design and manage their online giving days. We want to ensure that our community foundation partners have the best tools and resources to make their giving days effective and efficient. That’s why our toolkit will include:

  • An implementation guide to help with outreach, setting goals and marketing the day;
  • Technical assistance from experts and peers in the field; and
  • A reliable tech platform to capture data and promote the events on social media.

The Giving Day toolkit, which we plan to debut later this summer, will allow us to share the experiences our partners have had with the broader field of philanthropy. The result will be a resource that can be tailored to suit the needs of each community, ensure organizational sustainability and help to capture consistent data that can measure impact across communities.