By Tucker Shouse.

This is the second blog post in a three-part series to disseminate our findings and learnings from the 2015 #MyGivingStory initiative. Check out the contest overview and engagement analysis in the series. The pilot contest, run by 92nd Street Y and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, asked everyday givers to respond in 200 or more words: “what nonprofit organization inspires you to give and why?” Here’s what we learned:

A small but valuable dataset was generated by the 2015 #MyGivingStory participants as they discussed and promoted a nonprofit organization (NPO) through a Facebook contest. Of the 800+ stories, 635 submissions representing 492 unique organizations were verified as official nonprofits after cleaning and matching the data through Guidestar. This dataset presented the opportunity to explore many questions - some of which could be answered (e.g. did NPO size effect voting? Did word-count or photos matter?) and many others that couldn’t (e.g. what led to the highest votes? was there any end impact for the NPO?). Of the many questions that were explored, three major takeaways about the submitted nonprofit organizations stood out:

  1. Smaller nonprofits (<$2M in revenue) received a high percentage of submissions (57%) and votes (all stories >500)
  2. Low correlation between NPO impact area (NTEE) and votes
  3. 54 Stories were submitted with a matching .org email account…and they were some of the best

Smaller nonprofits (<$2M in revenue) received a high percentage of submissions (57%) and votes (all stories >500) As the contest launched, Nonprofitquarterly hypothesized that “the winners will undoubtedly be the larger organizations with an extensive social media presence.” However, the data shows the exact opposite occurred for both submissions and votes:

NPO Revenue


Of those that had available information, 77% of submissions featured an NPO that received less than $5M USD in revenue based on the most recent filling date (submissions above are grouped by $500,000 for the larger graph and $100,000 for the smaller). Examining NPOs with under $5M in revenue, organizations with just $300,000-$500,000 in annual revenue represented the highest number of submissions. All together, NPOs with less than $2M accounted for 57% of submissions (explore this visual further). The learning becomes even more evident when votes are incorporated:

votes v revenue


The graph above shows the revenue of the organization (x-axis), the total votes that an organization received (y-axis) as well as the number of submissions per organization (the size of the data point). Every story with more than 500 votes featured an organization that had less than $2M in revenue (explore this visual further).  

Low correlation between NPO impact area (NTEE) and votes
A related, but unanswered, question was whether the focus area of the NPO (e.g. health, animals, religion etc.) would have an impact on both the submission and vote counts. This focus area can be determined by the NTEE classification that the NPO reports to the IRS*. 

total votes


NPOs within the Human Services, Public Benefit, and Health designations accounted for 59% of submissions and 69% of total votes. NPOs with a focus on Health and Animals captured a higher percentage of votes respective to their submissions (explore this visual further). But these numbers are contest aggregates, and there was a low correlation between an organization’s focus category (NTEE) and the overall votes it could receive. For example, individual submissions for the Judy Dworin Dance Project (Arts) and the Ashley Wade Foundation (Recreation and Youth) each received over 1,000 votes despite their categories receiving low submissions and votes in aggregate. 

54 Stories were submitted with a matching .org email account…and they were some of the best
54 stories were submitted by individuals who had a matching .org email to the NPO that was featured. Of the nine stories with over 2,000 votes, three were written by founders or employees of an organization including Ashley of the Ashley Wade Foundation and Jenny Mosier of the Michael Mosier Defeat DPIG Foundation (which won first place). The stories submitted by employees and founders of a nonprofit were incredibly personal and inspirational as they recounted the individual drive and professional commitment of the author. The votes for employee submissions ranged across the spectrum of all stories, and the sample size was too small to have any definitive correlations. Nonetheless, the passion and personal nature of employees sharing the reason that they gave their time drove high quality story-telling and high engagement in many instances.  

It’s important to note a few caveats with the data: the verified sample size was low (n = 635), a few critical fields were user generated free text, and the Facebook and NPO data was limited to what was publicly available. Furthermore, there was limited promotion and no outreach to organizations given the minimum viable aspect of the contest. 

*NTEE Classification is based on the Major groups from the National Center for Charitable Statistics. Recreation & Youth was broken out from Human Services. The first NTEE classification of the NPO was used if multiple were available.