Generating Generosity: A Philanthropic Experiment

February 5, 2014

Jersey Give Back Guide

At the Dodge Foundation, our concept of “philanthropy” doesn’t just come in the form of a grant check. We care about supporting the nonprofit sector in New Jersey in a variety of ways, including our Technical Assistance workshops, blogs highlighting the work of our grantees, and bringing attention to Kickstarter campaigns on our curated Kickstarter page.

In 2013, we launched the Jersey Give-Back Guide, a new project meant to help New Jerseyans learn about some of the most effective and inspiring nonprofits across the state, and encourage the public to make year-end donations to these organizations.  It is not uncommon to read year-end giving guides in national media – the New York Times and elsewhere. We wanted to do a New Jersey version, to celebrate the incredible passion and commitment of New Jersey nonprofits, and to make it as easy as possible to make a donation with just a few clicks.

With a fun design created by the talented team of Cast Iron Coding and graphic designer Lael Tyler, and marketing campaign with our sponsor, we featured fifteen nonprofits in the inaugural guide. Narrowing the list to just fifteen was an agonizing process – truly, we are so lucky to have hundreds, if not thousands, of effective nonprofits working to make New Jersey a better place to live.

The results of the Guide were inspiring. We want to thank you and share some of the success of this year’s Give Back-Guide:

  • The total raised by the Give Back Guide was $28,564. With Dodge underwriting the cost of the Guide, every penny of the $28,564 went directly to the organizations.
  • Almost 500 donations were made through the Give Back Guide.
  • New Jersey Conservation Foundation raised the most through the Guide with a total of $7,405.
  • The Institute of Music for Children had the most donors: 73.
  • Dodge offered a $1,000 challenge grant to each of the organizations able to get 50 donations through the Guide. Seven of the 15 organizations met the match.
  • Many organizations reported a large number of new donors, which was a primary goal of the Give-Back Guide. CASA of Morris and Sussex Counties reported 35 new donors, City Green reported 19 new donors, and Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey had a donor from as far as Arizona.

For us, this Guide was an experiment. Could we help the public better understand how nonprofits contribute to our quality of life? Could we help inspire our philanthropic colleagues to think about ways that they can support the sector beyond grants – or inspire them to join us for the 2014 Guide? Could we raise enough money to justify the $30,000 we spent building the Guide?

We’re still learning, we’re still gathering feedback about what we could have done better. On many levels, though, it does feel like a success – the amount raised, the inquiries we’ve gotten from our philanthropic colleagues, the fact that many of the featured organizations attracted new donors.

But we would love to hear from you about the Guide. Did you give? Why or why not? If you gave, did you find it easy to navigate? Did we give you enough information? What should we have done differently? Please leave your comments below and start a conversation, so that we can improve the 2014 Guide and help nonprofits attract even more donors.