In just three years since its inception, the annual North Texas Giving Day event has raised more than $19 million for nonprofits in Dallas, Fort Worth, and the 14 North Texas counties via the DonorBridge website. With support from our cofounders, The Dallas Foundation and the Center for Nonprofit Management, this year’s Giving Day on September 15 raised $10.7 million for more than 600 area nonprofits, doubling the amount raised in 2010, and totaling more than its first two years combined. In spite of nonprofits facing fundraising challenges created by the tumultuous economy, Giving Day was a success thanks mostly to a well-orchestrated public relations and social media plan.
Reaching and inspiring the masses on a limited budget is the modus operandi for most nonprofits. Knowing the task for North Texas Giving Day would be surmountable through integration with nonprofits and the exponential reach afforded by social media, the Communities Foundation of Texas offered a free social media workshop to participating nonprofits. More than 300 nonprofit marketers attended and walked away with content strategy, a shareable brand video, and grassroots branding tools to tie together everyone’s work across e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr. Immediately and enthusiastically, North Texas nonprofits rallied to wage their own personalized Giving Day campaigns, like Buckner Foundation and Salvation Army. These efforts expanded the DonorBridge social network from 80 fans in 2010 to 1,200 in 2011 and increased the overall number of donations from 7,900 to 13,500 for the one-day event.
Social media wasn’t the only promotional tool for North Texas Giving Day. By partnering with local ABC affiliate WFAA as the exclusive TV media sponsor, a public service announcement was produced, aired in prime daytime slots, and shared through social networks. Just as national morning shows cut to live shots on the streets of New York, WFAA cut to more than 200 nonprofit representatives gathered in the plaza outside WFAA’s studio window for a “parade of causes.” Radio and print media interviews with Communities Foundation of Texas President and Chief Operating Officer Brent Christopher, calendar listings, and press release distribution were key awareness builders as well.
Communities Foundation of Texas became a buzzing command post on Giving Day with key members of IT, operations, communications, and development working side by side. Almost immediately heavy online traffic created incredibly slow wait times on the website. In short order, the executive team activated a call center of employees taking donations by phone and agreed to extend the donation deadline to midnight. The communications team provided ongoing, real-time updates to the press, nonprofits, donors, and board members. Minute-by-minute social media monitoring was particularly helpful in providing complete transparency and open dialogue among DonorBridge, donors, and nonprofits.
The overwhelmingly positive results of DonorBridge Giving Day 2011 prove that collaborative strategic communications through integrated public relations, marketing, and social media on a grassroots level can turn $1 million in matching funds and prize money into $10.7 million for the community in just 18 hours.
To learn how to make your match day as successful, sign up for the Council’s Magic of Match Day webinar on November 10.
Susan Swan Smith is chief relationship officer of Communities Foundation of Texas, a member of the Council on Foundations, and cofounder of DonorBridge.