What We Learned from the Jersey Give Back Guide

March 8, 2015

Thanks Party Hat
This holiday season, more than $73,000 was raised for the 22 nonprofits featured in the Jersey Give Back Guide, an online giving portal designed to streamline year-end giving and help you support some of the Garden State’s most effective organizations.

Meghan Jambor, Dodge Foundation

The Dodge Foundation launched the Jersey Give Back Guide in 2013 to experiment with creative ways philanthropy can support the nonprofit sector and to raise awareness of the importance of year-end giving. Like Dodge’s technical assistance workshop series, it’s also a way to support the sector beyond giving out grant checks.

Dodge was pleased to present this year’s Guide in partnership with the Victoria Foundation, Community Foundation of New Jersey and Council of New Jersey Grantmakers. Our media sponsors, which helped spread the word far and wide in New Jersey, were NJ.com and NJ Monthly magazine.

Today we want to thank everyone who made a donation or pitched in by telling their friends on social media for being part of the giving-back goodness. We also want to share some of the successes of the Guide and tell you more about what we learned.

We set an ambitious goal to raise $60,000 — doubling the total donations raised in the Guide’s inaugural year. To make your donations go further, Dodge and Victoria teamed up to offer the 50-Donor Challenge, providing nonprofits that received gifts from at least 50 donors by the end of the year $1,000 matching grants.

We were thrilled that your contributions exceeded the goal, and more than $62,000 was raised through the Guide for the featured nonprofits. On top of that, 11 of the organizations met the 50-Donor Challenge, bringing the total amount raised to more than $73,000.

Wow. We’re humbled by your generosity. 

Thanks to you, the following organizations had a lot to be excited about at the end of the year:

Organizations that met the 50-Donor Challenge: New Jersey Highlands Coalition (72 donors); Young Audiences (69); New Jersey Tree Foundation (67); GreenFaith (63); Sustainable Jersey (63); Artworks Trenton (62); Grow it Green Morristown (62); Isles (55); NY-NJ Baykeeper (54); Leadership Newark (60); and Greater Newark Conservancy (56).

Top Five Featured Organizations by Dollars Raised: New Jersey Highlands Coalition ($20,594); Monmouth Arts ($5,895); NYNJ Baykeeper ($5,075); GreenFaith ($3,550); and New Jersey Tree Foundation ($2,872).

We also learned a bit about year-end giving in the process. Here’s a glance at the Guide, by the numbers:

  • $62,401 raised through the Jersey Give Back Guide between Nov. 20, 2014 (the launch date) and Feb. 20, 2015 (when the most recent donation came in)
  • $73,401 in total raised including eleven $1,000 matching grants from the Dodge Foundation and Victoria Foundation.
  • About 68 percent of the money raised was in donations $25 and under
  • The largest single donation was $15,000 to the New Jersey Highlands Coalition
  • The biggest giving day: Giving Tuesday, when more than $8,200 was raised through 159 donations. One organization — Young Audiences of New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania — met the 50-Donor Challenge on Giving Tuesday alone.
  • The next biggest giving days: Dec. 31 and Dec. 23
  • The final gift of the year was made by a donor who paused their New Year’s celebration at 11:35 p.m. on Dec. 31 to make two $25 gifts to the New Jersey Tree Foundation and New Jersey Highlands Coalition
  • Prior to the Jersey Give Back Guide, 4 of the featured nonprofits had never experimented in individual year-end giving and said the experience helped them lay the groundwork needed for an even more successful campaign next year.

We asked the featured nonprofits about their experiences. Most set a goal to hit the 50-Donor Challenge and most aimed to raise between $1,000 – $5,000. Overall, they reported the Jersey Give Back Guide helped them increase their year-end donations, even if they didn’t meet the challenge.

These lessons stood out:

1. Start Early. Featured nonprofits were notified they would be included in the Jersey Give Back Guide in mid-September but it wasn’t until the week before Thanksgiving Dodge announced the Guide’s return and revealed the organizations. Almost all of the organizations said more time would have helped them plan their campaigns and build support for it. The folks behind Giving Tuesday advise “three months is the minimum planning time but six to nine months is recommended.” Duly noted.

2. Take Advantage of All Modes of Communication. Again we saw that organizations which promoted the Guide more heavily and took advantage of all avenues of communication — direct mailings, website, email newsletters, Facebook, Twitter, hand-outs at events, press releases and emails to staff/board —  were the ones able to raise the most dollars. Advice from one organization: “Don’t just do one thing! Use as many platforms as possible — emails, Facebook, Twitter and other social media, and keep on posting and spreading the word.”

If you want to engage people online, the time to start focusing on your social media brand is now: “The biggest lesson for us was the value of social media, we were poorly equipped to promote the opportunity.”

3. Don’t Just Ask, Share Stories. We heard from at least two successful organizations that created campaigns around people. Young Audiences of New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania launched a campaign prior to #GivingTuesday called #ArtsMatterYA where supporters were invited to share videos of why the arts matter to them. “This helped our network connect to our mission so when we asked for donations they were more personally connected to our work and had a greater understanding of its value and importance,” a Young Audiences staffer reported. Another nonprofit featured the stories of people helped by the organization followed by a link to the Guide.

4. It’s a Team Effort. Do not just inform your organization’s board, staff and supporters of your year-end campaign, invite them to be ambassadors. “We shared with our board, staff, committee members numerous ways they could support our #givingtuesday campaign, encouraged them and gave them the tools to share with their network.” Another said, “Personal connection is always important, even when it’s done through social media.”

5. People Still Enjoy Signing Checks. Many of those with existing annual campaigns agreed a digital portal for year-end giving — even more than one portal — complemented their work, but mailings are still an effective way to raise funds. It’s important to know who your online audience is, and target your online campaign to them.

Does your organization have any advice to share about year-end giving? Share it in the comments below.