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7 last-minute tips for Giving Tuesday

Find yourself without a plan for Giving Tuesday (Nov 29)? Here are 7 last-minute tips from Eden Stiffman and the Chronicle of Philanthropy that you can use!

by Eden Stiffman

Veteran Giving Tuesday organizers recommend that nonprofits start planning for the fundraising day a few months in advance. They also suggest incorporating the event into your year-end strategy, online and off. But nonprofits that want to participate but haven’t yet developed a plan should not lose hope. There’s still time to devise a last-minute strategy.

“I think of Giving Tuesday itself as a real lesson in this,” says Asha Curran, chief innovation officer and director of the Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact at the 92nd Street Y, which launched Giving Tuesday with the help of the United Nations Foundation in 2012.

“We launched the very first Giving Tuesday only 60 days out, and we ended up with over 2,500 nonprofit partners, Ms. Curran says. “If we could do that, I think nonprofits could join on a very tight time frame, though that’s not necessarily ideal.”

One option for first-timers, she says, is running a kind of “plug and play” campaign by joining in on the #MyGivingStory competition backed by the Gates Foundation. Charities can also start by simply sending a message to their donor base to spread the word about Giving Tuesday.

Here are some more tips and ideas to help your nonprofit jump in with a few weeks left until the big day:

1. Set a realistic goal. Knowing that you’re racing against the clock, it’s important to set an achievable goal so your constituents will see you as successful on the day itself, says Caitlin Bristow, a consultant with Campbell & Company and the leader of the firm’s Giving Tuesday effort.

2. Explain what the day is. While Giving Tuesday is now in its fifth year, “there may still be people on your mailing list who haven’t heard of it,” says Farra Trompeter, vice president of Big Duck, a communications firm that works with nonprofits.

Consider explaining how the event was conceived as an antidote to shopping extravaganzas Black Friday and Cyber Monday to put it in context before asking your constituents to contribute on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Make sure your Giving Tuesday emails include links to all of your nonprofit’s social-media platforms so that people are able to click on them and see what you’re doing, Ms. Bristow says.

3. Select the most compelling stories to tell. Prioritize your time now to help you cut through the online noise later. Find the most compelling stories of your nonprofit’s impact over the past year and prepare to share them on the big day, says Rob Wu, chief executive of the nonprofit crowdfunding site CauseVox.

He suggests taking an 80-20 approach: Devote 80 percent of your content and messaging to educational, inspirational, and entertaining posts about the issues your group addresses and the rest to a sales-pitch call to action. Supporters primed by the stories will be more likely to respond to your call to action.

GREY2K, a nonprofit that advocates for laws to protect greyhounds from abuse, participated in its first Giving Tuesday last year and set a goal of $5,000. In the run-up, staff created and tested about a week’s worth of social-media and email content to see what generated the most clicks, opens, likes, and retweets. The most popular content formed the basis for the group’s Giving Tuesday effort. GREY2K ended up raising about $12,000, says Mr. Wu, whose platform hosted the campaign.

4. Create a unique hashtag and start posting now. It may be too late to get something in the mail at this point, so focus on email and social-media postings. Use emails, status updates, and tweets to regularly inform followers of your plans over the next few weeks to prime the pump. Make sure you’re being consistent and using the same hashtag on all of your social-media platforms as well as all emails you send out, Ms. Bristow advises.

5. Pick one thing to try. You don’t have to do a full-bore campaign with multiple components and messages, according to Ms. Trompeter. “If this is your first year, pick one thing to try as an experiment,” she says.

Writing a two-sentence status update and making a quick image doesn’t take a lot of time — especially when organizations that join Giving Tuesday can get free graphics and logos to use for this purpose. And think about making a small investment in paid Facebook posts to boost your reach.

Remember that Giving Tuesday is meant not just to draw dollars but to inspire engagement and volunteerism as well, says Ms. Trompeter: “Use the day as a cultivation opportunity, not just for solicitation.” If a Giving Tuesday fundraising appeal doesn’t fit into your year-end plan, you can still invite people to volunteer, or to spread awareness by posting a picture on Instagram or updating their Facebook status. Another idea is a “thank-a-thon,” where you assign people to call your major donors.

6. Create a day-of plan. To stay organized, decide who will write, approve, and send messages on Giving Tuesday. Choose someone to take charge of each platform and to update constituents on progress toward the goal. At a minimum, Ms. Trompeter suggests, send one message out in the morning that makes the ask and follow up as soon as the next day, if possible, to let people know how you did.

7. Just start. “If you decide to go for it, you can get something up and running just within a few days,” says Mr. Wu. “The important thing it to just get started. Throw your hat into the Giving Tuesday ring just so that you can capture some of the audience and mindshare.”

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