One-day Fundraising Campaigns – A Q & A with Second Harvest Heartland

Every year, Minnesotans take part in one of the world’s largest one-day online fundraising drives – Give to the Max Day. On November 16, 2011, Give to the Max Day recorded another enormously successful event when more than $13.4 million were raised online for Minnesota charities in a 24-hour period. One of the big winners from the 2011 event was Second Harvest Heartland. So we sent some questions to Lindsi Gish, Second Harvest’s Associate Director of Communcations and Media Relations, to find out how they used social media to promote the event…

Q: Second Harvest Heartland recently turned in the third-highest fundraising total during Give to the Max Day ($256,000) – how much of a role did social media play in achieving those results?

A: Truthfully, I always retract a bit when asked to correlate social media efforts to fundraising results. I think most people understand that we can’t directly attribute a tweet to a dollar raised—but that doesn’t mean the value of social is lost on campaigns like Give to the Max Day (GTMD). For us, Twitter and Facebook are mini communities of supporters—most of whom have made a donation, volunteered or interacted with us in some way besides just through the web. When we ask those communities what they want/need from us—and why they chose to become a fan or follower in the first place—they usually tell us they want to show their support in a public way, and stay up to date with what we’re working on and how they can help. As we’ve learned over the past three years of incredible results on GTMD—it’s a fun, easy and exciting way for people to help.  Facebook and Twitter are great ways to remind or alert people who’ve already demonstrated their support of our work in other ways—and sometimes, a way for them to share with us their personal experiences and motivations.

Q: How often did you reach out to your supporters in advance of GTMD and during the event? Is there a danger of asking too often? How do you avoid crossing that fine line?

A: Our primary promotional efforts included:

  • Promotional inserts with QR code for our GiveMN page with thank you letters (about 8,000 total sent)
  • 2-3 emails (depending on audience) to pre-promote
  • A sign-up option to receive a reminder email the morning of the event
  • Personal phone calls to a set of special individual donors
  • Social media promotion, primarily through our blog, Facebook  and Twitter

We know our donors really appreciate matching gifts—i.e., the opportunity to double their impact. Many of our supporters have come to expect GTMD as the time of year when we’re most likely able to offer matching funds—and some even plan their gifts accordingly. With that said, we encourage our donors to give in the way that is most meaningful for them. We are just one of so many deserving charities to which people designate their hard-earned dollars, and we’re honored to be the recipient of such generosity.

Q: What channels and networks did you use to reach out and ask for support? (Email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc)

A: At the risk of redundancy, our primary channels were mail/print, email, Facebook, Twitter and our blog. We did use an unlisted YouTube video to promote a specific reward for gifts of $100 or more. That can be seen here.

Q: What content were you sharing via online channels to encourage giving on GTMD? (Video, photos, links to a web site or blog)

A: In addition to the video mentioned above, we shared stories of motivation from some of our individual donors who provided matching funds, and spread comments that donors shared right on our GiveMN page. Overall, it seems people like to be a part of something “bigger than themselves” and seeing and hearing others’ stories really resonates.

Q: What impact do one-day events like Give to the Max Day have on overall giving? Does the awareness increase giving to your org? Is it detrimental to other areas of giving?

A: Give to the Max Day drives a significant percentage of our overall online giving—this year and last, the amount raised on Give to the Max Day was equivalent to about 20% of what we raise online through other channels. It’s a huge part of our year-end fundraising and also a great avenue to help raise awareness about the issue of hunger.  We haven’t experienced the “cannibalization” of dollars contributed to other programs—people just really seem to want to step up and help out.

Q: What’s the most important piece of advice you would offer an organization that is considering doing its own one-day fundraising drive?

A: I think Give to the Max Day differs significantly from any other general one-day drive, as proven by the results of other states (Vermont, for example) that have tried the same type of event and haven’t experienced the same level of success.

If considering getting involved in Give to the Max Day—just do it. Get creative. Leverage the power of the generosity of Minnesotans to raise visibility and funds for your organization. And whatever you do, find matching funds. People love to know their donations will be doubled, and you’ll get a greater impact that way too.

For more news and information on social media in philanthropy, visit

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