Building community partnerships and raising funds is essential for any nonprofit – big or small. With recent technology, online giving has become a significant part of charitable contributions. When done correctly, traditional fundraising tactics coupled with online technology can yield quick, yet lasting results. Nonprofits who have fared well in the digital age have learned how to leverage this combination to secure funds while building a strong network of supporters.
An Enlightened Speakers Series event in Austin highlighted “Champions for Giving: How Nonprofit Boards Can Leverage Technology.” Three speakers discussed strategies for incorporating technology with fundraising. Patsy Woods Martin, the founder and CEO of “I Live Here, I Give Here,” Aimie Aronica, the senior director of technology engagement at PayPal, and Dan Graham, the CEO of BuildASign.com, each floated different ideas for engaging employees and potential donors with nonprofit needs.
One of the biggest success stories in technology and philanthropy is “I Live Here, I Give Here.” It grew out of the realization that Central Texans don’t give as much to nonprofits as other parts of the country do. So, to amp up giving to local organizations, “I Live Here” created “Amplify Austin,” a 24-hour online fundraiser in March. Patterned after similar events in other cities, it brought together 320 charities from all varieties of needs: arts, environment, education, health and human services.
“We wanted to be as inclusive as possible and at the same time we wanted to only recommend credible organizations,” said Martin.
“Amplify Austin” had a lead sponsor, University Federal Credit Union, and 22 business fundraisers, that solicited donations from employees, with an original goal of $1 million. At the same time, the 320 charities were also connecting through their boards, volunteers and contributors to boost donations. The numbers they raised during the event are impressive:
“This is a great way to engage your companies and your employees in philanthropy,” Martin said.
Graham noted that events like Amplify Austin change the way people think about donating. They also change the way organizations need to think about fundraising. “It is so easy now to give to any organization you want as big or as small as you want,” he said.
But that means that donors want to do more than just write a check to a cause. “Today’s donors are looking for a deeper level of engagement, which is why you’re seeing many nonprofits creating a larger breadth of options,” Graham said.
“I Live Here, I Give Here,” has several groups for young professionals. “See Jane Give,” and “Give Back Jack” are aimed specifically at young professional women and men to expose them to philanthropical opportunities. Other organizations are targeting younger donors as well. Habitat for Humanity has its own “Habitats Young
Professionals” and the United Way and First Tee of Greater Austin have similar groups.
Cause marketing may be one way to engage potential donors. PayPal’s Aronica described cause marketing as a brand promoting a good cause. For example, Dawn dishwashing liquid runs an ad showing it is gentle enough to wash ducks that have been covered in oil from spills. For every bottle of Dawn purchased, the company gives a dollar to an environmental cause.
Aronica said research shows that 91 percent of consumers want to hear that companies embrace causes, and 85 percent have a positive perception of companies involved in cause marketing. “A person will switch a brand based on cause marketing, if it’s the same price point,” she said.
Another cause marketing campaign is run by Yoplait yogurt. Customers mail in lids from yogurt containers and the company makes a donation to the breast cancer cause. Tom’s Shoes donates shoes to families that need them.
One reason for the attraction of cause marketing is the millennial generation. “They know they want to give,” said Graham, “and they want to look at what’s going to give them the highest value and enable them to engage or be involved in something that they want to do.” Aronica said millennials’ interest in social responsibility will lead to an uptick in cause marketing over time.
In her own company, Aronica said if people list items on eBay that are attached to a cause, they have a greater chance of making the sale. “Not only is it more likely to sell, it also sells at a higher price point,” she said. “That creates a great win-win. As a business you can use cause marketing to sell at a higher price and faster rate.”
A small business challenge eBay launched in San Jose is coming to Austin this summer. About 35 employees worked with seven local organizations, including two nonprofits, to hone their business plans and focus their presentations to potential donors. “We found if we targeted healthcare and nonprofits, we got the best results,” she said.
Aronica added that PayPal has a team dedicated to work with nonprofits. For traditional, large charities, she said the company will help develop technology solutions. “We’ll help get you to into this century,” she said.
Dan Graham pointed out that engagement of employees is crucial to getting a “win-win” that benefits both the nonprofit and the donor company. BuildASign.com held several engagement events in just the last 12 months.
“CreateAthon” paired graphic designers with nonprofits. In a 24-hour “hack night,” the company’s designers took on projects like logos, brochures, and website
designs. The finished materials could be printed immediately on BuildASign’s printers. CreateAthon produced over $100,000 in materials, got publicity within the design community and helped nonprofits improve their branding message.
BuildASign staged a Nonprofit Fair to help nonprofits recruit volunteers and board members. Organizations set up tables in the BuildASign.com offices, and the company’s employees could go from table to table to learn more about the nonprofit than just its name and how much money they want to raise. Graham said larger charities like the United Way are changing their models away from being just a conduit for funds and are using niche groups like millennials to appeal to a much larger donor base.
An event called “CANville” was so successful within BuildASign.com that it will be expanded to other companies next year. It’s a canned food drive with a twist. Each department came up with a theme and built a “construction” out of cans and boxes. Work didn’t start until the night before the event to keep teams from stealing each other’s ideas. Even so, when some teams saw what others were doing, they trashed their own ideas and started again. The nonprofit benefitting from the contest judged the entries, and took in over 3,000 canned items. Next year, Graham says other companies will be invited to compete, but they must purchase their own food and pay an entry fee. He expects to give away more food and some cash.
In its second year, the “Startup Games” raised over $30,000 for charities. “It’s an opportunity for all of the tech startups to get together and do what they do best – play ping pong and drink,” Graham said with a laugh. Each of the 16 companies competing in the event paid a substantial entry fee, picked a nonprofit, and represented that group in the competition. “There are the stereotypical startup games – beer pong, ping pong, giant shuffleboard, and this year’s mystery event which was mechanical bull riding,” said Graham. The prize money goes to the nonprofits based upon their team’s performance in the contest. Graham expects more competitors, since the event is held just before South By Southwest.
Then there’s “Philanthropitch.” Think of it as a “Shark Tank” for charities. Ninety-six nonprofits applied to present their organizations to a panel of local business leaders, but only six made the final cut. Each had five minutes to pitch their needs. The business leaders, who all put up their own money, determined how much to parcel out to each charity. The audience at the event got to add their votes. In all, $55,000 was divided among the six finalists. “Philanthropitch” will be back next year.
“In addition to being a fun way for us to write a check to some great organizations, we get to have our staff involved in the selection process,” Graham said. “And, at the same time they read through all the applications and learn a lot about the nonprofits in the community.”
For nonprofits thinking of approaching businesses for donations, Graham suggested finding some common ground. “Try to find a line between your mission and the company’s mission, beyond cash,” he said. “Think about co-hosting an event, the ability to help the company with a project, or a connection with a partner you have who can work together.”
“Look for the win-win-wins,” Martin urged. “If it’s a win for me and the business, then it’s a win for the community, too.”
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