- Think about the cause, not just your own mission. Do you provide a service or outreach program that collaborates with other nonprofits in your community? If so, can you join forces to drive a giving campaign around the greater theme? For example, here in Austin, there is an organization that builds permanent housing for the homeless. They collaborate with other nonprofits in the community to then provide counseling, social services, job development and search skills – it takes a village. While each nonprofit can and should fundraise independently and focus on its own unique mission, they can also collaborate to raise awareness for the greater cause of providing long-term help for the homeless. This idea isn’t limited to local organizations – in most cases, there are multiple nonprofits focused on the same specific cause or issue. And while banding together may seem strange, consider the potential impact of capturing the public’s attention compared to the relatively small segment you have today. This was the exact concept used by Give Local America in May of this year. Rallying around the idea of nationwide giving to local causes, the campaign raised over $53 million in 24 hours, benefiting nearly 8,000 local communities from over 300,000 donors. And who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
- When opportunity knocks, be ready. How prepared is your organization to respond to an opportunity like this? Do you have resources monitoring the social space for opportunities to keep pace with a viral movement? How quickly can you launch relevant donation pages and peer-to-peer campaigns? If you haven’t formed a team to prime your organization for viral success, now is the time to do so!
- Evaluate your technology: Whether you’re driving a viral campaign or piggybacking off of an existing one, make sure you are prepared to accommodate an influx of giving. This is not only about ensuring your website is scalable enough to process a high volume of donations, it’s also about making sure your platform or platform partner can help you engage this giving wave – by offering P2P fundraising campaigns in support of the cause, by being mobile and responsive ready and by being flexible enough to adjust.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has made our entire community stop and pay attention – and not just because you can’t log into a social media platform without seeing someone dumping ice on their heads. The incredible success of the viral campaign has all nonprofits wondering how they can achieve the same results for their own organizations. Although many articles have highlighted the elements of the campaign that contributed to its success, one key insight is rarely mentioned – the fact that the Ice Bucket Challenge did not start out as an Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association (ALS) campaign. While the ALS Association has been the main beneficiary and captured the popular sentiment, other organizations that support muscular dystrophy, such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association, have also benefited from the campaign. Why? Because this was a cause-driven, rather than a nonprofit organization-driven, initiative. Of all the most popular online viral campaigns, it has been proven that the most successful have been those that were cause-driven. Cause-driven campaigns are centered around a need, issue or disease, rather than a specific nonprofit organization and its specific mission.* For example, #GivingTuesday, a successful campaign that has engaged a broad segment of the public the week after Thanksgiving, has helped drive tens of millions of dollars to nonprofits, and is not “owned” by any specific organization. It is a movement, a general cause. The main theme is that instead of, or in addition to, the gluttony of post-Thanksgiving shopping, we should all do some good. Similarly, while we may think of the Red Cross as the main “beneficiary” of disaster-related giving, such as the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, many organizations working in the international relief space also received a spike in donations. Community Foundations across the country have been applying this concept, whether actively or simply by default, to raise millions of dollars. With these campaigns, the main “cause” is the Community itself, with community-based nonprofits being the beneficiaries of giving dollars. So how can nonprofits take advantage of, or even drive, these sorts of opportunities?