For the past several weeks, my nonprofit, like many others in the Austin area, prepared for Amplify Austin, a city-wide day of charitable giving. We’ve been tweeting, posting, blogging, begging, sharing, and emailing – all with the hope of taking a few bites out of the Amplify Austin pie.
The basic premise revolved around a single donation-driven website, crafted by “I Live Here I Give Here”, serving as the central point of donor contact. Organizations were given unique links routing donors to their own fundraising page within the site, and a small portion of each donation was pulled toward admin fees to manage the site. “I Live Here I Give Here” then promoted the event with sponsorships and media partnerships, as well as offered donation incentives for the highest dollars and donors raised. Local nonprofits then reached out to their donor bases to plug the event and encourage giving.
I was fully prepared for larger organizations to eat smaller nonprofits alive. How could a new/small nonprofit ever compete for donor/dollar incentives against longstanding and massive nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity or the American Red Cross? The nonprofit I work for is still developing our individual donor base, so I had no idea what our participation would look like. To spare myself from disappointment, I set expectations low and hoped to raise a few hundred dollars. Imagine my surprise when I watched the totals ticked up past the $2,000 range. The total feel is somewhat diminished by the 7% of donations which went to administrative costs and to “I Live Here I Give Here”, but for the promotion and advertising that accompanied the event, the costs are reasonable. My single greatest surprise came from the donor inventory. 97% of the donors who gave to my nonprofit during Amplify Austin were new donors. Thank goodness, because our individual giving could use a boost.
So what does this mean for consolidated giving events?
For starters, it proves they work. The total giving during Amplify Austin exceeded $2 million, which when you consider the size of Austin, is impressive. Many organizations shy away from consolidated giving strategies because they fear the donor will reach the central website and choose another organization or that they aren’t worth the time and energy, or even claim that it confuses donors, who will see consolidated giving messaging along with existing campaigns.
To streamline our communications, we made sure that our messaging matched the branding of Amplify Austin, so donors could distinguish between our standard communications and the outreach for Amplify Austin. It was a win-win, because we were able to play off of the “Amplify” theme and Austin’s reputation for live music and develop some more creative taglines and metaphors that we normally aren’t able to do. Cheesy? Yes. Worthwhile? Definitely.
My participation in Amplify Austin diversified our development plan and expanded our donor base, which in my mind is equally as important as the dollars raised. Any organization thinking about the long term needs to consider innovative revenue streams, and consolidated giving events like Amplify Austin are gaining popularity. Dallas has the North Texas Giving Day, Chicago has the Chicago Day For Charity, and World Give Day encourages international support of philanthropy.
Even with a small development team, consolidated giving events are feasible, and worth the investment.