Digital Dollars and Community Giving

August 2015 - Friends Forward
Friends of Coastal South Carolina will use some of the funds raised on Low Country Giving Day to support environmental education work in Georgetown County.
Credit: Friends of Coastal South Carolina

Community giving days are becoming increasingly popular for nonprofit organizations nationwide, including Friends groups.

In Minnesota, more than 4,400 nonprofits raised more than $18 million raised during the state’s November 2014 Give to the Max Day. Friends of Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge has been one of those nonprofits for several years. Friends of Coastal South Carolina participated in Lowcountry Giving Day for the first time in May 2015.

Community giving days may be local or statewide and typically require a communications push for several weeks before the 24-hour marathon giving day.

Friends of Sherburne has earned up to $1,500 in one day, “a good return for the minimal effort invested,” says president Sue Hix. GiveMN offers a customized page for Friends, enabling people to donate any amount one time or throughout the year. Friends promoted Give to the Max Day with an email blast and on Facebook, offered matching contributions by several members and encouraged membership renewals on this day.

“It doesn’t cost us anything to have the web presence on GiveMN,” says Hix, “and I think the option to give online is a necessity today.”

Friends of Coastal South Carolina – formerly SEWEE - joined Lowcountry Giving Day in part to increase the profile of its new name and brand. The Frances P. Bunnelle Foundation, a traditional source of funding for the Friends, offered to match $10,000 in Giving Day donations. The Friends raised $15,000 from 90 donors, about a third of them new.

“We have never raised that much money in such a short time. When you have $10,000 on the table, you don’t want to leave any of it,” said Friends executive director Grace Gasper. Board members solicited donors, but Gasper said the group used the Giving Day “to expand our social media capability. Our statewide organization for nonprofits provided communications training with a strong focus on social media.”

For anyone considering an online day of giving campaign, Hix and Gasper provide these tips and questions:

  • Are there any fees in addition to credit card processing fees?
  • How easy is the Web page to set up and maintain?
  • Who will receive the donation data?
  • When will the group receive donated funds?
  • Can you add donation widgets or buttons to your Friends Website and/or Facebook page?
  • Don’t underestimate how soon you need to get started.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation offers an online toolkit to guide nonprofits through the basics of participating in a community giving day.

Friends of Parker River, MA, signed up with both Amazon Smile and Newburyport.com, which, among more dominant functions, partners with local nonprofit organizations to raise money and awareness for them. Neither has generated significant donations yet, but Friends board member Andy Griffith likes the tourism potential of Newburyport.com, where Parker River Refuge has its own page. The Friends group posts events on the calendar and earns $10 from every purchase of a Newburyport.com VIP card.

AmazonSmile.com, which is also being used by the Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp and Friends of Tualatin, donates .5 percent of the purchase price on eligible items. “All you have to do is remember to go to Smile and not the regular Amazon,” says Friends of Tualatin president Cheryl Hart.