Once you have started planning your Giving Day, it is time to work on outreach.

Engaging your community of nonprofits, donors, matching funders, strategic partners and media partners will allow you to start building momentum.  Each of these stakeholder groups will help you spread the word and get the entire community excited and primed to participate in the Giving Day.


Articulating the Value Proposition

While some nonprofits may be eager to jump on the bandwagon and immediately sign up to participate in your Giving Day, there are others that will need some convincing. When doing your initial outreach to nonprofits here are a few talking points that can help make the case for their participation:

  • Online giving is increasing in popularity with year over year increases of around 13%. In fact, since 2009 most of the nonprofit sector has seen double-digit growth in online fundraising. Giving Days help introduce and reinforce new giving behaviors that can help lead to greater year-round giving.
  • Although online giving only accounts for about 8% of total giving it’s an important channel for more than just raising funds. The social web is a great way to raise awareness and grow a network of supporters.
  • Reaching younger donors can be difficult. However, younger donors will be more likely to give during a Giving Day if they know their smaller dollars will be matched and lead toward greater impact.
  • Giving Days capitalize on a moment in time (a day, a week, a month) and bring energy and momentum to a particular cause or organization. The competitive nature of a Giving Day also empowers individuals to use their peer influence to engage other donors who may not already know about an organization’s work.
  • Participating in a Giving Day can raise a nonprofit’s public image considerably and expand its circle of supporters beyond the usual suspects.
  • No matter an organization’s size or budget, an online Giving Day levels the playing field by giving organizations of all shapes and sizes the ability to compete.

The Big Give S.A. used this infographic to articulate the Giving Day value proposition to potential nonprofit participants, highlighting the low operating costs for participating nonprofits, a high return on investment, the ability to attract new donors, and access to prize money.

For a detailed assessment of how one Giving Day helped strengthen the nonprofit community in Washington, DC, check out the Case Foundation’s report profiling Give to the Max DC, How Giving Contests Can Strengthen Nonprofits and Communities.

Getting the Word Out

You need strong nonprofit participation in your Giving Day for the effort to be successful. Community foundations have promoted their Giving Days to nonprofits through email blasts, newsletters, print and social media, word of mouth, flyers, and advertising via radio, online, and TV. GiveMN provides a great example of a one-pager sent to nonprofits to incentivize participation in Give to the Max Day. Once you have run an inaugural Giving Day, getting the word out becomes much easier, as nonprofits and community members will likely already be aware of your campaign. What follows are some tips and resources to help you engage nonprofits and invite them into your foundation's Giving Day.

1) Make Participation Easy, Simple and Fun

Having a clear, direct call to action for nonprofit organizations is important. Remember, many nonprofits will be well into their fundraising year, and if they don’t see their participation as an easy lift, they won’t be likely to invest their energy, time and resources into the Giving Day.

2) Be Clear About the Incentives

While incentives for participation in a Giving Day will vary, gathering momentum early and explaining the benefits for the nonprofit are important. Are you planning to match donations dollar for dollar? Are you incentivizing organizations based on the number of donors rather than the dollars raised? Do you have other daily or hourly challenges you hope to embed into the Giving Day? Whatever the case, make the incentives clear and easy to understand. The Seattle Foundation’s GiveBig provides a screencast that details their “stretch pool” incentive fund, and you can learn more about matching options in the playbook here.

3) Be Transparent About How You Will Track Success

Make the Giving Day as open and transparent a process as possible. If you are going to provide incentives to the top three organizations who raise the most or have the most individual donors, make sure that nonprofits can track their standings in real time throughout the Giving Day through a leaderboard or other similar system.

Most of the heavy lifting will be done in your first year. Once nonprofit organizations have participated in your event, they will be likely to participate again and encourage their colleagues to do the same!

Setting Expectations and Getting Started

Nonprofits should ask themselves a few key questions before entering a Giving Day. You may wish to pose the following questions to nonprofits at the outset:

  • What does Giving Day success look like for your organization? Is it about raising dollars, cultivating new donors or some combination of the two?
  • Do you have the bandwidth (staff time and resources) to compete right now?
  • Do you have enough community members who will volunteer to reach out to their friends and family?
  • Will your participation in the Giving Day help you grow a network of people who you can educate and engage about your issues after the Giving Day is over?
  • How does the Giving Day fit into your overall fundraising plan for the year?

You should meaningfully engage nonprofits from the outset. They should understand the full breadth of the Giving Day, including what’s expected of them as well as what they can expect of you as the convener of the Giving Day. The Idaho Community Foundation created this Memorandum Of Understanding Between the Community Foundation and Participating Nonprofits that identifies the roles and responsibilities of both parties and could be a good model to incorporate into your own practice. We’ve also tried to pull out some of the key responsibilities that you and your nonprofit partners should consider:

Responsibilities of Community Foundation

  • Seek sponsors for grants and prizes
  • Create a common message and brand for your Giving Day
  • Provide a Nonprofit Toolkit with resources for nonprofits
  • Provide training sessions to prepare nonprofits for the Giving Day
  • Serve as the liaison between nonprofits and the donation platform (Razoo)
  • Raise awareness in the community and generate media buzz about the event
  • Work with local media and businesses to get the word out
  • Inform donors via ongoing correspondence (newsletters, events, social media, etc.)
  • Highlight participating nonprofits on Facebook and Twitter
  • Use websites to spread the word about the Giving Day
  • Offer ongoing support to nonprofits through open office hours or other email/phone technical assistance

Responsibilities of participating nonprofits

  • Attend training sessions
  • Create a profile page for your organization on the Giving Day website
  • Post Giving Day link on your website
  • Set a fundraising goal and publicize that goal to your stakeholders
  • Seek out matching grant funds
  • Identify a volunteer, board member or supporter to be a fundraiser for your organization
  • Broadcast news about the Giving Day using existing communication vehicles
  • Use social media to publicize your participation in the Giving Day
  • Send thank you notes to your donors

Once you have a basic understanding of one another’s role, it’s time to help your nonprofit partners sign up and get started. Here are a few easy ways to do that:

  1. Explain how a nonprofit should register its organization on your donation platform. Check with your platform provider for customized guidelines on nonprofit registration.
  2. If you plan to certify the nonprofits as participants in your Giving Day, note that during the registration process, so that they know when they can expect to hear back that they have been approved to participate.
  3. Once an organization is in the system, it needs to understand how to set up and claim its profile. Again, check with your platform provider for customized guidelines to help nonprofits through this process.

The Sacramento Region Community Foundation has a great 8-Week Workplan for nonprofits participating in their Big Day of Giving with best practices for social media, board and donor engagement, setting goals, and maximizing communication tools.

In 2015, Blue Grass Community Foundation sent out weekly “Tips and Tricks” via email to registered nonprofits leading up to and during the six-week Good Giving Guide Challenge. Tips included how to promote the challenge utilizing social media, sample language for emails to nonprofit supporters, and compelling content utilized by nonprofit participants.


Once nonprofits have registered to participate, you can provide them with the necessary tools for success. For many nonprofits, this may be their first foray into structured or competitive online giving, so for them, the Giving Day may be as much about introducing and experimenting with new social platforms as it is about raising money and awareness.

Put yourself in the shoes of the nonprofit and think about the key elements that would help prepare you to participate in the Giving Day. Many community foundations have found that developing webinars, in-person trainings and other toolkits and resources go a long way in supporting their nonprofit partners.  Here are some possible avenues for providing Giving Day learning and training to participating nonprofits:

  • Host in-person training events leading up to the day
  • Schedule a series of webinars to dive deeper into content and platform
  • Send weekly emails to participating nonprofits with updates about the Giving Day along with new tips and tools
  • Maintain a blog with informational updates and educational material

Training Resources and Templates. There’s no shortage of nonprofit toolkits out there that will help set up your nonprofit partners for Giving Day success. Here are a few such toolkits that will help serve as a content guide as you begin to develop your own.

Here are a few things you may want to cover as you develop your training:

  • Staffing. Nonprofits should select a staff member or volunteer as point person for the entirety of the challenge who has strong leadership and organizational skills and can commit to the entire campaign timeline and process. The time required to do this job well will vary significantly depending on how the nonprofit plans on approaching the Giving Day. You can forward this Nonprofit Staffing Plan Template to help nonprofits determine their staffing needs.
  • Using Technology. Beyond how to use the the donation platform, many nonprofits will want additional guidance on online communication and outreach, especially with regard to social media strategy.
  • Strategies for Matching Funds. In addition to incentives for all participating nonprofits, many donation platforms enable individual nonprofits to implement a match incentive for donations to their organization. Current major donors are the best place for a nonprofit to start looking for a funder to provide a matching grant. Make sure that your nonprofit partners know this is an option and encourage them to reach out to board members, annual fund supporters or even businesses that love their cause.
  • Marketing to Potential Donors. Getting the word out in a clear and compelling way to potential donors is crucial to the success of the Giving Day. Make sure you equip nonprofits with all of the tools and messaging they will need to get this right.

To determine whether nonprofits were on track to have a successful Give to the Max Day in 2015, GiveMN set up a “Giving Garage” during trainings and conferences. In the “Giving Garage,” organizations received one-on-one consultations using this creative 15-Point Inspection, and were entered to win two early $1,000 Golden Tickets.

Providing Collateral Materials and Other Resources

In addition to the nonprofit trainings and webinars, you may want to consider supporting participating nonprofits by:

  • Building a brand. Provide organizations with downloadable icons, banners and other images that can be shared on their websites and campaign materials so that the Giving Day brand is getting out to the community in every way possible. Take a look at how the Communities Foundation of North Texas did this for the 2013 North Texas Giving Day.
  • Providing customizable emails, letters to the editor and other communications. The Community Foundation of North Florida created some great Customizable Messaging for their Find. Learn. Give. Campaign, and much more can be found here in the Media Outreach section of this playbook. Here are some helpful sample outreach emails from nonprofits to donors:
  • Creating videos. This North Texas Giving Day promotional video and Buckner International’s video are great examples of how community foundations and nonprofits can use video to strengthen their Giving Day marketing.
  • Using Social Media. Help organizations understand how to leverage all of their social media assets. Here are some good sample social media resources from Georgia Gives Day, Colorado Gives, and the Kentucky Gives Day.


A Giving Day affords you an opportunity to expand your outreach to the entire community of potential donors.  Each donor will come to the Giving Day with different interests and motivations, but past Giving Days have been successful connecting with donors by pitching the Giving Day as a way for donors to: 

  • Make their community a better place and make a local investment
  • Find nonprofits that are making a difference in their community
  • Leverage their donation to increase the impact of their gift

Who to Target

Think about all of the potential donors who are in your community. They might include individuals already in your network, such as existing fund holders, prospective fund holders, and people on your general outreach and mailing list. But they also might include individuals not currently in your network. A Giving Day is a great opportunity to do an analysis of your community. For example, Miami Foundation is creating a map of Give Miami Day participants to understand where participating nonprofits and donors are located and identify gaps in giving day participation to be able to more strategically engage neighborhoods. Look at the demographic makeup of your community, and make a plan for reaching a demographically representative donor base for your campaign. Blackbaud’s Diversity in Giving study calls out the importance of attracting and maintaining a diversified funding base to have fundraising success in the 21st century. The Sacramento Region Community Foundation’s 2015 Diverse Donor Outreach Strategy included:

  • Traditional multilingual Giving Day outreach with imagery of diverse communities
  • The launch of an Asian Pacific Islander Giving Circle hosted at the community foundation
  • Community captains that represented diverse communities around the Sacramento region
  • Highlights of nonprofits serving diverse communities

A Giving Day is about building community, and encouraging everyone across the community to see themselves as individual philanthropists in this effort is important.

Be aware of the possibility of donor fatigue, especially if you have scheduled your Giving Day close to holiday time appeals. If this is the case for your Giving Day, advanced planning can help nonprofits integrate their Giving Day messaging with their end of year appeals or create diversified messaging for different donor segments. In addition, both community foundations and nonprofits should give donors the ability to opt-out of communications if a donor feels bombarded by solicitations. Email clients such as Constant Contact have this feature built into their systems, but if you are not using such a service be sure to make this option available to donors.

For general tips on how to combat donor fatigue, check out this Network for Good blog post on How to Combat Donor Fatigue.

Given your stated Giving Day goal you may want to target a specific donor demographic.  For instance, if your goal is to grow your community’s young donor base, you should target your marketing (messaging, channels, etc.) to reach and engage next gen donors. The Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation did this by hosting an event on Give to the Max Day 2013 at a local brewery to celebrate young leaders and inform their community about the community foundation’s Young Leaders Fund.

Donor Advised Funds

Many community foundations enable Donor Advised Fund (DAF) holders to participate in the Giving Day by providing an option for fund holders to make contributions from their DAFs. Talk to your donation platform provider about whether and how you can incorporate this feature into your own Giving Day.

Community foundations have used emails, postcards, letters, phone calls, and in-person meetings to inform fund holders of the opportunity to contribute to the Giving Day. The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven offered a Donor Advised Fund “Pre-Sale”, where grants from DAFs were accepted in advance of the Giving Day and added to organizations’ day-of totals to help qualify the organizations for prizes. The Vice President of Donor & Professional Services sent this email to all fund holders to inform them of this opportunity. The Centre Foundation sent all fund holders a DAF Packet that includes a letter to fund holders explaining how DAFs can contribute to Centre Gives as well as a DAF Distribution Request form for fund holders to recommend distributions.

Also, remember that donations from funds held at the community foundation do not go through a credit card merchandiser and should not get charged a fee!

How to Give

Getting engaged and giving to a cause they care about must be easy for potential donors. Donors will fall into two categories. The first are those who come to the Giving Day site with a specific organization they’d like to support.  The second type of donor will come without a specific organization in mind but likely an issue or area of focus about which they are passionate.

Navigating to a cause they want to support should be easy for donors. Here are the five steps that donors should be able to easily take in order to make a donation on the Giving Day: 

  1. Search for a nonprofit (or a specific issue) they want to support
  2. Enter their profile information and payment preference
  3. Choose their level of support (dollar amount)
  4. Press submit and receive payment confirmation
  5. Have the option to share with their network (via email, Twitter, Facebook or other social media). Remember to have these messages ready to send in the moment. Encourage donors to customize their message(s) to their network.  Remember, people give to people, so this personalization can make a real difference.


Some community foundations ask donors to make pledges ahead of the Giving Day in order to line up support in advance and make the day-of a little easier for their nonprofit partners. For example, GiveMN offers donors the option to pre-schedule donations to run on Give to the Max Day or to pledge donations (without entering payment information) that they are reminded by email to make on the Giving Day. The Wichita Community Foundation used pledging to secure offline donations in advance of its 2014 Art Day of Giving, asking donors who did not want to contribute online to fill out this Donor Pledge Form and submit it the week before the big day. This made day-of calculations less stressful for community foundation staff and raised excitement and awareness about the event prior to the Giving Day.

Communicating Fees

Running a Giving Day costs money. Communication of donation processing fees associated with running a Giving Day should be transparent and forthcoming about what the fees are and how they are being used. Clear explanations should be included in the Nonprofit FAQs and Donor FAQs.  Given that nonprofits will often be the primary point of communication about the Giving Day to donors, you should work directly with participating nonprofits so they are able to explain the fees to their network.

Some community foundations provide donors an option to give an additional sum to cover the donation processing fees.  Many donors are willing to cover these costs if they understand why the fees exist and how they are assessed.

Communicating Incentives

Many donors choose to give during a Giving Day because they are influenced by the presence of incentive funds. Be clear about how much in incentive dollars will be available and how these funds will be awarded. Descriptions of the most common incentives can be found in the Incentive Options Table.

Team Fundraising

Some nonprofits find that creating a team giving site is an even more compelling way to bring a lot of individual donors into the action. Check with your donation platform for tips on team fundraising and how to help nonprofits stay organized when there are a number of individuals collectively fundraising for their organization.

General Online Giving Tips

There’s a lot of great information out there about trends and best practices in online giving. To make your life a bit easier, we’ve compiled some of the best resources:

Incentive Funders

Incentive funds (prizes and bonus or match pools) are key to the success of a Giving Day. One of the most common reasons that individuals choose to participate in a Giving Day is because they know that an incentive might enable their contributions to go further. Therefore, lining up incentive funders early in the planning process is central to a Giving Day’s overall success.

Once you’ve decided on your incentive structure, look to find prize and bonus or match pool sponsors with a shared vision of promoting philanthropy in your community. Other Giving Days have found support from:

• Local banks and the local business community
• Local United Way Chapters
• Local private foundations
• Local experts who are willing to donate training or services
• Local individual philanthropists

You can also request that sponsors fund a specific prize or one restricted to organizations working in a field that aligns with their interests. Here is a sample prize structure from the inaugural Silicon Valley Gives in 2014, which offered prizes and matches from individuals, companies, and foundations.

How to set up a prize, bonus or match fund:

• Start by talking with incentive sponsors as early as possible
• Work with sponsors to create an incentive that appeals to their audience and areas of interest
• Once you have an agreement, make sure to refine messaging to clearly communicate the prize, bonus, or match to donors. Be cautious when using the word “match” for any structure besides a direct 1:1 match, as many donors and organizations will assume that a “match” indicates dollar for dollar.

As the Giving Day organizer, you should develop the initial incentive fund to encourage nonprofit participation. You should also encourage participating nonprofits to solicit matching funds for their own organizations to motivate their donors to give on the Giving Day. Some nonprofits have had great Giving Day success by finding a major donor or donors willing to match donations to their specific organization on the Giving Day 1:1, distinct from community foundation-raised bonus or match funds that apply to all donations on the Giving Day platform. For instance, in Minnesota nonprofits raised over $6 million in their own matching dollars prior to the Give to the Max Day 2014.

Nonprofits that successfully recruit a matching donor for the Giving Day should promote the incentive through the Giving Day donation platform. Talk to your technology provider about instructions for nonprofits to promote their own matches through your Giving Day website.

Community Partners

Think about the diverse makeup of your community – who are the community leaders and influencers who can help spread the word?

If you can figure out appropriate ways to engage those members of your community with significant networks (on and offline), you can significantly amplify your message. Partners and influencers can help you reach more people because of the trusted relationships they have already built. The Miami Foundation leveraged a number of strategic partnerships for its 2013 Give Miami Day. This case study outlines how Miami approached these partnerships, which included collaborations with the Miami HEAT Charitable Foundation and the Marlins Foundation 

Here are some tips for engaging potential community partners:

1. Get the right champions on board! Here are some of the people and organizations you should try to reach, but get creative.

  • Mayors and other elected officials
  • Other community foundations and United Ways in your community
  • Colleges and universities (groups, presidents, faculty)
  • Professional sports teams (NBA, MLB, NFL)
  • Local celebrities (musicians, chefs, athletes, everyone’s favorite barista)
  • Businesses and civic leaders with high profiles
  • Local TV, radio or other media personalities

Once you’ve identified who you want to invite to participate, connect with them in person, by email or through social channels. Here’s an example of an outreach email that Georgia Gives Day used to recruit potential community partners.

2. Once you get their attention, give them something to do. This could be as simple as leveraging their existing social media networks by providing some short messages and content they can help push out or inviting them to record a promotional video for the campaign. Idaho Gives provided a terrific Business Partner Checklist with ideas for participation from local private sector companies. This could include anything from setting up a giving station in their stores for customers to donate on the Giving Day to challenging another local business to raise more money.

3. Give them the tools to make getting involved easy. Compile and share a simple packet of materials about your Giving Day with your local champions.  You should include a variety of content, including a one-page overview of the Giving Day, descriptions of any prizes, bonuses, or matches to be awarded on the Giving Day, a list (and profiles) of participating nonprofits and any other compelling information that these influencers might find useful when spreading the word about the Giving Day.

4. Follow up, follow up, follow up. Your outreach doesn’t end once you have them on board. Continue to follow up with these influencers as the Giving Day gets closer. Depending on the degree of their expressed interest, you should consider contacting them one month, one week and two days out from the event.  The purpose of this contact is to remind them about the Giving Day, answer any questions they have, volunteer to help with any requests for information and to see if you can provide any additional materials.

In addition, don’t forget the many channels through which you can thank them. Here is an example of Partnership Recognition used by GiveMN.

Corporate Sponsors

Corporate sponsorships can be a great way to engage local businesses as well as raise funds to support your Giving Day. Keep in mind that there are different levels of engagement when it comes to corporate sponsors. While some companies will want to just write a check, others might want to be more engaged by sponsoring prizes, setting up employee match opportunities, or providing event space. Each company will be different, so the more you are able to customize the sponsorship opportunities the more likely you will be to secure sponsors.

Here are a few tips for approaching potential corporate sponsors:

  • Articulate the value proposition. Companies are looking for large marketing audiences, brand exposure, naming opportunities, product integration, and positive public relations to establish themselves as supporters of local causes. Make sure the value of the package outweighs the cost to make the sale as easy as possible!
  • Share previous years’ results. Companies want to see the reach of the Giving Day and the positive impact it has had on the community. Be sure to include topline data such as dollars raised and the number of nonprofits and donors, but also highlight the reach of the campaign with statistics such as the number of impressions and counties, states, and countries represented with donations.
  • Offer multiple sponsorship levels. Companies will vary in budget size and willingness to participate, so be sure to have something for everyone. In Knight Foundation’s Landing Corporate Sponsorships webinar, fundraising expert Shanon Doolittle recommended offering a maximum of four sponsorship levels and always offering to create customized packages upon request. Limiting the availability of higher-tiered packages can be a way to make them more exclusive and attractive to high-level sponsors. In 2015 Silicon Valley Community Foundation offered multi-year sponsorship packages that enabled foundations and corporations to make a gift over two years. More information about different sponsorship packages can be viewed in the SV Gives Sponsorship Brochure.

The Central Carolina Community Foundation offered promotional opportunities on Midlands Gives in 2015 as a benefit to corporations that support the community foundation throughout the year. Their Corporate Philanthropy Champions Packet explains who the community foundation is and what it does, how corporations can get involved, and the benefits that come along with each level of sponsorship.

The Big Give San Antonio also has a great Sponsorship Packet for businesses and foundations that provides a brief overview of the campaign, results from the previous year, the different levels of sponsorship, and an explanation of why and how to get involved.


Volunteer Recruitment

Recruiting volunteers for your community foundation’s Giving Day will help reduce stress on the big day by allowing staff to delegate tasks such as answering phones and communicating with the public both in person and via social media.

In 2013, Giving Days that utilized volunteers put them to good use. GiveMN had four AmeriCorp Vista volunteers for Give to the Max Day to help with both the planning and execution of the event. Colorado Gives used University of Colorado Boulder students on the day-of to spread the word about their Giving Day. On Colorado Gives Day, five teams of student volunteers were stationed at different high-traffic areas around Boulder. They held life-sized character cutouts of the event’s mascot Phil and his dog Thropy, waved CO Gives signs with information on how to give, and talked to people passing by encouraging them to participate. The students gave out 2,000 pieces of collateral and withstood the nine-degree weather for six hours! Click here to see photos!

Here are the steps you should take when planning to recruit volunteers:

Step 1: Think about how you will use volunteers on your Giving Day. Will they be answering phone calls? Updating social media? Working at in-person events? Documenting the day through photographs? Identifying what they will be doing is a crucial first step.

Step 2: Identify an ideal number of volunteers based on the tasks identified in Step 1. For example, Colorado Gives utilized 30 volunteers for spreading the word on the day-of, whereas if you were only to use volunteers for social media updates, one or two people would suffice. Knowing how many people you need will help guide how and where to find them. Too many volunteers without guidance can lead to an increase, instead of a decrease, in workload and stress.

Step 3: Create enticing messaging that will incentivize individuals and groups to volunteer. Clearly outline the potential perks such as free food and beverages, t-shirts, social media training, and the opportunity to be part of a really exciting event that benefits the entire community. For a sample email recruiting tech-savvy volunteers from the Wichita Community Foundation, click here.

Step 4: Reach out to potential volunteers 1-2 months before your Giving Day. Start with your Board of Directors and friends and family. Then consider reaching out to faith groups and local high schools and universities with students who may need community service hours or be looking for a way to get involved in their community. Finally, if necessary you can turn to online resources such as Idealist.org or VolunteerMatch to post volunteer opportunities for free.

Volunteer Orientation & Training

Host an orientation and training for your volunteers 1-2 weeks in advance of your Giving Day. Use this time to teach them relevant skills, such as how to answer phones or post on social media. Give volunteers any relevant materials on the Giving Day or community foundation, and confirm which volunteers are coming in at what time of day.


One of your staff members should give a brief (5-10 minute) overview of the community foundation's mission and services, and describe how volunteer support contributes to that mission.

Discuss the importance of the Giving Day to your community. This segment could include a brief history of the Giving Day, including information on how much you have raised and how many donors and nonprofits have participated in previous Giving Days, your goals for this year’s Giving Day, who is expected to participate this year, and how the wider community is celebrating the day. You should also mention any future volunteer opportunities with the community foundation.

The orientation will enable volunteers to understand the importance of the Giving Day and of the community foundation’s broader work, and to see the impact they are having on the community foundation, local nonprofits, and the community at large. It will also make volunteers more likely to engage in future service opportunities with the community foundation.


After the orientation, divide volunteers into groups based on the roles they will be playing. One staff member should be assigned to train and oversee volunteers within each area. The training should address volunteer responsibilities during the day and should assign shifts to volunteers. This Project Task List can help you keep track of what volunteers are doing throughout the day. In addition, the training should cover any specialized tasks or skills they will need to successfully complete the project(s). This training may include topics such as social media, explaining the Giving Day in a clear and concise way to potential donors, and answering questions throughout the day via telephone and email.

Be sure that each volunteer has read and understands the FAQs for donors and nonprofits and that they know who to direct certain questions to (e.g. regarding donor, nonprofit, or media inquiries).

On the day-of, volunteers should begin by checking in with their staff point person. Throughout the day, be sure to take good care of your volunteers. One way to do this is having snacks and beverages on hand and/or providing lunch. For example, Colorado Gives had a hot tea truck delivering beverages to people volunteering outside in the cold. You want people to have a good time when they volunteer with you so they will come back for future events!

Communications and Media

Leveraging your networks is absolutely necessary to build momentum for your Giving Day. The broadest buzz and general community excitement, however, will result from a comprehensive and effective media strategy.  You’ll need to engage the community through social media, reach out to and partner with local media, distribute compelling content that will generate earned media and possibly even consider a paid media campaign.

Online and Social Media

The most common (and potentially effective) method of communication for your Giving Day is online and social media.  If used correctly, your website, blog, Facebook page and Twitter account have the potential to reach a large population, circulate dynamic content and engage the community in meaningful dialogue to help build your Giving Day.

Website: In general, you want to keep your Giving Day website simple and user-friendly.  Important components include a clear call to action (i.e., “Give now”), an easy way to learn more about the day in general and information about participating nonprofits (search functionality is important).  Including a countdown clock prior to the Giving Day and a progress tracker once the Giving Day begins is a great way to build and demonstrate momentum.  Targeted multimedia, including a short video and a few compelling pictures, can substantially increase user engagement. 

To get an idea of how to set up your Giving Day website, check out the following examples:

FAQs: Creating a Frequently Asked Questions document is a great way to provide answers to common nonprofit and donor questions.  These should be readily accessible through your Giving Day website.  To get started, use the Donor FAQ Template and Nonprofit FAQ Template and add additional questions and answers as you spend more time with various constituencies and hear their concerns.  Here are some good FAQ examples:

Blog: Some community foundations have used their existing blog or created a specific blog to promote their Giving Day and highlight interesting participating nonprofits and projects.  This can be a great way to generate new content to share with the community.

Possible blog post topics include:

  • Reflection on the success of the previous year’s Giving Day
  • Challenging the community to meet a certain Giving Day goal
  • What you can learn from other cities’ Giving Day successes
  • How to promote your nonprofit in preparation for the Giving Day
  • How the community foundation can support your nonprofit in preparing for the Giving Day

Colorado Gives, for example, offers tips and announcements for Colorado Gives Day through the Colorado Gives Blog, which is updated at least once a month and encourages discussion about online giving and philanthropy in Colorado.

Two points of caution: 1) blogs can take a lot of time to maintain and keep fresh, and a stale, out-of-date blog can negatively impact public perception and excitement; and 2) blog readership is rarely generated simply from good content. If you are going to promote the Giving Day through a blog, make sure you can commit sufficient staff time to maintain the blog and have a strategy for promoting the blog through strategic distribution partners and social channels. 

Use the Blog Content Calendar Template to develop a content strategy ahead of launching the blog.  Make sure to space out blog posts and target specific audiences through the posts.

Social Media: Regardless of your previous experience with social media, you can and should strategically utilize Facebook, Twitter and, where appropriate, other social media channels to spread the word about your Giving Day.  Getting started on social media can be intimidating, but with a little practice you can be up and running in no time.  This general social media webinar and this Giving Day-specific social media webinar are great places to begin.

Facebook and Twitter are the two most used social sites for Giving Days. Both are simple and straightforward to use, but the two networks operate with important differences. 

Your Facebook audience is likely comprised of people with whom you have some offline relationship.  This means that Facebook posts tend to carry more weight and can be used to strengthen the core community and deepen community excitement. Before getting started, check out some sample Giving Day Facebook pages:

Read this article for some general tips about how to use Facebook as a community engagement tool.  Here are some Giving-Day specific tips for Getting Started and Using Facebook.

Your Twitter audience, on the other hand, tends to be people interested in the content of your posts.  Given this substantive relationship, you should use Twitter to grow your community, provide basic information and engage in the general community-wide discussion about the Giving Day and related topics. Actively following users tweeting about relevant topics and following hashtag conversations are great ways to broaden your community and engage in the larger conversation.  Before getting started, check out some sample Giving Day Twitter profiles:

Check out this article for some general tips about how to use Twitter as a community engagement tool.  Here are some Giving Day specific tips for Getting Started and Using Twitter.

If you’re looking for guidance on social media content, here are some sample Facebook posts and tweets.  You can also schedule your posts and tweets by downloading the Social Media Calendar Content Template.

Some Giving Day organizers have used social media to create brand awareness for their community foundation leading up to the Giving Day. For example, the Wichita Community Foundation launched its “Share the Love” campaign one week prior to the Wichita Art Day of Giving (ArtDOG), which awarded $500 to the nonprofit that could get the most individuals to follow the Wichita Community Foundation on Twitter and “like” them on Facebook. Once individuals liked or followed the community foundation, they were eligible to vote for their favorite nonprofit. This effort boosted the community foundation’s social media following at a critical time and helped to create buzz about the Giving Day prior to the event. The community foundation used Woobox, an online social media marketing agency, to facilitate the competitions. Check out their website for more ideas to amplify your social media marketing efforts.

It is important to be clear about a social media policy to clarify your organizational rules around using social media. This Social Media Policy Worksheet can help nonprofit organizers establish such policies and addresses issues such as branding, managing comments, organizational voice, privacy and security, and utilizing time in an efficient way.

See the Paid Media section below for information on paid social media advertising.

Earned Media

If you’re like most community foundations, financial resources are scarce.  Earning media attention before and during the event allows you to promote your Giving Day and grow your community foundation’s brand for free.  A little investment of time, energy and creativity has the potential to lead to substantial attention and increased community excitement about your upcoming Giving Day.

Earned media is the result of good outreach and working relationships with the local media and compelling content.

Media Outreach

Media outreach isn’t rocket science. Here are a few simple guidelines for local media outreach and relationship building:

  1. Use the Media Outreach Template to make a list of the mainstream and alternative media outlets that might be interested in covering the Giving Day.  Think about daily and weekly print newspapers, magazines, radio stations and TV stations.  Also consider new media sources such as online newspapers, blogs, and social media outlets.  (four-six months out)
  2. Identify the journalists at each media source who report on philanthropy, nonprofits, civic engagement and/or local events.  Capture their contact information on the Media Outreach Template. (four-six months out)
  3. Create a Media Toolkit with information about the Giving Day.  This Toolkit can be repurposed from the packet compiled for community partners. These sample media toolkits from Give to the Max Day and Idaho Gives should help you get started. (three-four months out)
  4. Send an email to each reporter, introducing yourself and pitching the Giving Day (or a specific component of the Giving Day if you think the reporter will be more interested in a particular aspect).  Keep the email short and to the point and be sure to offer to meet with the reporter in person or by phone to provide more details about the Giving Day.  Attach the Giving Day Media Toolkit to the email. See this Sample Media Outreach Email for sample text.
  5. Continue to follow up with the media as the Giving Day gets closer. Depending on your relationship with the media outlet and the degree of its expressed interest, you should consider contacting it one month, one week and two days out from the event.  The purpose of this contact is to remind them about the Giving Day, volunteer to help with any requests for information and to see if you can help connect them with interview subjects.


Creating Compelling Content

Reporters are busy and are being pulled in numerous directions at any given time, so providing them with clear, compelling content is important.   Here are a few easy ways to get the word out:

  • Press releases should be used to convey the simple, newsworthy Giving Day messages that will get the attention of a reporter.  For instance, press releases work well to launch the Giving Day, announce the commitment of major partners and publicly report outcomes.  Check out this article for tips on how to craft a strong press release.
  • Op-eds should be used by thought leaders, such as your community foundation CEO, to offer his or her persuasive Giving Day perspective.  This can be a great way to challenge the community to meet an audacious goal. Check out this post for tips on how to compose a compelling op-ed. 
  • Letters to the editor should be used by community members to comment on the Giving Day.  You can be particularly effective at mobilizing targeted communities by soliciting specific community leaders to send letters to the editor calling for participation in the Giving Day.  GiveMN produced this resource with advice about how to write letters to the editor in support of Give to the Max Day.

Some community foundations choose to hire a communications consultant or PR firm – or manage to bring them on pro bono – to help with earned media strategy and outreach.

If earning media attention is difficult or insufficient, you may want to consider budgeting for a paid media campaign.  Most community foundations have opted not to invest in paid media for two reasons: 1) their Giving Day budgets are too small to make a meaningful investment; or 2) their time and energy are better spent building buzz through their networks and/or generating earned media.

If you choose to invest in a media buy, consider partnering with an ad agency to develop compelling advertisements geared to your target demographic and place the ads in the spots with the highest return on investment.  While more expensive, this professional support should make the media buy far more effective.  Check out this article for tips on selecting an ad agency.

As with other external technical experts, explore the possibility of working with an ad agency pro bono. By offering sponsorship recognition or other non-monetary benefits, you may be able to partner with an ad agency without breaking the bank.

You may also want to consider promoting your Giving Day through Facebook Ads, Promoted Tweets, or Google AdWords, all of which enable advertising to targeted audiences based on specific keywords or user characteristics. Check out Google for Nonprofits to see if your community foundation is eligible for free or highly discounted products, such as in-kind AdWords advertising. This Social Media Marketing Cheat Sheet can help you determine your social media marketing strategy.

Remember, developing and implementing a marketing campaign takes time, so make sure to start these conversations at least four months in advance of the Giving Day.

Resource Bank and Checklists

Nonprofit Outreach Resource Bank

Nonprofit Outreach Checklist

Donor, Sponsor, and Community Partner Resource Bank

Volunteer Outreach Resource Bank

General Outreach Resource Bank

Donor Advised Fund Holder Outreach