Why Data-Driven Decisions Are the Secret to a Successful Giving Day

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by Tim Sarrantonio

Giving days in communities are growing in popularity and effectiveness. As more institutions invest their time and energy into hosting a community-wide giving event, the question arises on how to be most impactful during a time that nonprofits need help the most.

One of the key ways that organizations can make decisions is through data giving guidance. Yet unlike other parts of our sector that have benchmarks and guidelines for effective fundraising, giving days have needed to figure things out for themselves.

However, there is a better way to approach giving day decision-making. Through an intensive analysis process in partnership with over 40 clients, partners and other stakeholders giving insight, Neon One has developed the industry’s first benchmarks specific to giving days that we feel will help drive growth, help organizations and the nonprofits they’re supporting make more effective decisions, and help shift focus toward capacity-building, as opposed to potentially being taken astray by vanity metrics with little impact on operational success.

What Is a Giving Day?

A community giving day is when a community foundation, state association or other host organization organizes an event meant to draw attention to nonprofits of all sizes operating in their geographic area or under a specific theme, such as religious affiliation.

Typically an organization invests into a platform to help centralize all giving on the day itself as opposed to pushing donors to individual donation pages hosted by the organization. This then ensures consistent donor and branding experience around the day itself while still giving individual nonprofits the ability to shine in various ways.

Giving days can feature the following aspects to really drive success:

  • Specialized training for nonprofits on how to appeal to donors effectively.
  • Leaderboards and gamification features to excite both donors and organizations to give.
  • Multiple giving options, such as checks, cash and donor-advised fund dispersal.
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns to help drive excitement and spread awareness.
  • Business and media partnerships around the event to drive further impact.

Case Study: “Why Focusing on Training and Education for Nonprofits Leads to the Best Giving Event Results for GiveBIG Washington”

Why Are Benchmarks Helpful?

Establishing benchmarks for the giving day space is of vital importance. During COVID-19, we have seen a massive increase in success around community giving days as people rally to support those most in need right where they live. As nonprofits grapple with an existential crisis around whether they will be around in a year, they need as much support as possible to weather this crisis.

Community foundations and other institutions need to make decisions quickly in ways that will drive the biggest impact with the lowest hurdle for nonprofits to jump through. And in an environment where more attention is being paid to the metrics we use around impact reporting and equity around decisions made there, it is now more important to focus on the top-line data that will drive the most successful decisions for a community.

Neon One has an extensive background in assisting the industry in making important decisions. We are one of the key data partners in the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, the largest data analysis initiative around donor retention in the world. We are members of the Giving Institute, which puts out the important Giving USA report each year. And we also are part of the #GivingTuesday Data Collaborative, working closely to analyze fundraising in a wide range of approaches.

This background has led us to establish the industry’s first giving day specific benchmarks centered around a select list of KPIs, which will begin to help identify success and drive effective decision-making for giving day hosts. We feel that by establishing these benchmarks, we can help with:

  • Year-round fundraising success beyond the day itself.
  • Nonprofit success on an individual basis, especially when coupled with our CRM data.
  • Donor retention data around giving days specifically, which needs more reliable and transparent analysis.
  • Establishing data-driven program improvements by reviewing this data.

Case Study: “North Texas Giving Tuesday Now Raises Over $42.5 Million for Local Nonprofits and COVID-19 Relief Funds”

What Are the Giving Day Benchmarks?

We’ve been analyzing data around giving days for years, but as with the rest of the industry, never settled in on a few areas to focus on. Yet during the pandemic, it became very clear there were some obvious metrics that any organization needs to pay attention to. We’re going to outline a few of the KPIs we use to set giving day benchmarks and will be debuting the full set later in 2020.

KPI: Number of Nonprofits

What this number focuses on is the number of organizations that have signed on to the giving event platform itself and will be participating in the day. When an organization hosts a giving day, they typically have an application process that vets who will be part of the event itself. This has been an extremely important metric to track both on the individual level as well as across the Neon One ecosystem, where we have seen a 5.21% average rate of growth yearly for nonprofit onboarding.

This metric is important because it usually is the most direct and straightforward way to grow a giving day. Yet questions that arise around this metric relate to increase in impact, increase in program operational costs and does the increase in nonprofits onboarding have a strong return on investment?

Usually more nonprofits recruited to be part of the day means a larger sector awareness of the program and, hence, has led to increased success for many of community events.

KPI: Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Another KPI metric we settled on is actually several factors around peer-to-peer fundraising. Especially as many programs have shifted virtually and needed to be creative around supporting the event, peer-to-peer fundraising has seen a dramatic increase in usage and impact during giving days.

Some of the items we analyzed as part of our overall KPI project have been:

  • Number of approved pages, which we’ve seen a 21% year over year growth in.
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising totals, which has seen an astounding increase of 120%.
  • Amount that peer-to-peer fundraising represents in total for the event, which we saw a median of 6.53%.

Some of the questions that arise that an organization can tackle are around the variance in success on peer-to-peer fundraising, how long a peer-to-peer offering has been adopted and trained around for a giving event and how comfortable individual nonprofits are running their own peer-to-peer fundraising in general.

We have settled on 15 KPIs and look forward to debuting the full set and ways that giving day hosts can leverage this data to benchmark success as we look toward the fall giving event season and 2021 at large.

Case Study: “How Arizona Gives Day Raised $6.1 Million”

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