Giving Tuesday Strategies for Schools

giving tuesday matching gift challenge


As Thanksgiving wraps up and people recover from Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday shopping, there’s one more day to pay attention to: Giving Tuesday. This important day can be a great way for independent schools to engage constituents in a 24-hour fundraising frenzy for good.

According to its website, “Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration … #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. Since its inaugural year in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become a movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy with events throughout the year and a growing catalog of resources.”

This day of given is a great opportunity for non-profit organizations, including independent schools, to engage in a 24-hour charitable giving campaign with its constituents. Cheshire Academy, the school where I work, has done it for two years. In the first year, we raised about 7.5% of our Annual Fund goal in one day, and the second year raised nearly 11% of our year-end goal in 24 hours! It’s hard to ignore the potential of an event that can yield results like this.

So how do you get started? Here are a few things to consider.

Two Teams are Better Than One

First, your alumni & development offices need to combine forces with marketing & communications office to maximize the impact of your fundraising efforts. Agree on a plan of action for outreach, including promotional efforts, day of communication, and post-event updates. Create a schedule of events, and divvy up responsibilities. A great way to do this is to let the alumni & development office take on the personal outreach, like in-person visits, phone calls and personal emails. Then, have the marketing team focus on the mass-communication efforts, including social media, website updates, and marketing emails sent in bulk to your email lists.

Identify Your Major Donors

The success of Giving Tuesday is going to be partly dependent on your ability to line up several major donors, and prime them to make gifts on that one day. The excitement of seeing your funds raised will often encourage others to jump on board, especially as you get closer to your goal and/or deadline. Plus, you may even be able to get your major donors to increase their gifts in honor of this special event.

Start a Matching Gift Challenge

This is a great opportunity to target one or two of those major donors and ask them to significantly increase their gifts for a good cause. A $25,000 matching gift challenge, where your donor agrees to match donations dollar for dollar up to a certain agreed-upon amount, could result in $50,000 for the school. Both your challenge donors and your constituents can get excited about a limited-time donation-doubling event like that.

You can also use a matching gift challenge to rally the troops to get involved, by getting a major donor to agree to give a large donation if the school is able to achieve a participation goal. Schools have gotten creative – and ambitious – with participation goals: $1 million if the school reaches 100% constituent giving. Yep, it has been done!

Having the matching gift challenge also gives you a chance to really get excited about the event, too. Giving Tuesday can often rally donors who don’t normally give by letting them double the impact of their gifts. Plus, an event like Giving Tuesday could even motivate donors who have already given to get involved in the fun and make a second gift.

Promote the Event

Use your social media outlets, website, giving pages, and email marketing to develop a strategy to connect with donors and keep them updated on the event. Promote it in advance and encourage your usual donors to make their donations on this date, instead of waiting.

Don’t go crazy, though. It’s important to remember that you need to ensure that your alums are feeling positive about your school, and if you bombard them with fundraising solicitations only, they might not respond well. If you have strong alumni relationships already, then you can do a little more with your outreach. But if you’re not, it’s a good idea to be more strategic with how you target alums. Perhaps you just work with your most engaged constituents, or you send an email to all constituents and give them a chance to opt into Giving Tuesday updates for the event only.

Share the Progress Throughout the Day

Leverage your social media throughout the day to show progress on the event, and if you can, update the giving page with the progress. As a donor is deciding how much to give, remember that often people thrive on competition, and they could quickly decide to double their $50 donation in order to reach the next milestone mark on the journey to the final goal, which is especially powerful when there’s a matching gift option!

Make Sure You Give the Final Tally

Whether you reach your goal or not, make sure that you close the loop and let your donors know how much you raised in total. This is a great opportunity to thank your major donors who sponsored the challenges, acknowledge how many people participated, and the total funds raised. Don’t worry about not reaching your goal (although, it’s always a good idea to choose a small goal that you can blow out of the water), because you can use that as motivation to encourage more alums to get involved in Giving Tueday next year.

Want to see Giving Tuesday in action? Follow Cheshire Academy’s
Katz vs. Cats Challenge on Facebook!

Cheshire Academy hosts its third annual Giving Tuesday matching gift challenge on November 29, 2016. Follow the progress on Facebook to see how they do!

Have other Giving Tuesday ideas? Tweet me @stacyjago with your ideas and updates!

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