If you’re a social media nerd working for a non-profit like me, Giving Tuesday is like Christmas morning. Or what I assume Christmas morning is like, since I’m Jewish (and work for a Jewish non-profit), and thus have never actually experienced Christmas morning. So, let’s say Giving Tuesday is almost as fun as my birthday. It’s incredible to see the gifts roll in, the numbers tally up, and the stories of impact shared.
Birthright Israel Foundation, the non-profit organization in the US dedicated to raising funds to send young Jewish adults on Birthright Israel trips, first participated in Giving Tuesday in 2014, where we raised almost $50,000 in just 24 hours. As novices without our own social media pages who threw together a campaign in just a few months, this was an incredible feat. So, for 2015, we set our sights high, more than doubling our goal, and began planning our strategy six months ahead. And what happened? We raised $40,000.
Still good, but somewhat disappointing, and far less than we had anticipated after months of preparation and an aggressive Facebook advertising campaign on our newly launched Foundation social channels.
So, what happened? Well by 2015, everyone had jumped on the Giving Tuesday bandwagon. Giving Tuesday had become a double-edged sword. In 2016, Giving Tuesday raised $177 million online from donors in 98 countries. That’s an incredible amount of money raised for countless worthy and life-changing organizations. But what does that mean for a lean organization with a fairly new digital presence? How do we break through the clutter? How do we compete with powerhouses like University of Michigan, who raised over $5 million last year? How do we make our story matter?
For a smaller organization, it’s not necessarily about being everywhere, but everywhere the right people are. In 2016, we used several advertising technology platforms to not only target our known audience – which consists of current donors, Birthright Israel parents, and Birthright Israel alumni – but also leverage our data to create lookalike audiences, thus reaching people who are more likely to connect with our mission. As we increased our potential audience, we also focused on increasing our digital presence. This meant creating cohesive messaging across multiple digital platforms – including a Snapchat takeover of the Birthright Israel account, which, though it didn’t bring in much, made Giving Tuesday even more fun.
The second tactic we used to set us apart was to reevaluate the timing of our campaign. In 2015, we spent a large amount of our Giving Tuesday paid social budget on ads leading up to Giving Tuesday. After we closed the books on our 2015 campaign, we realized that no one was seeing an ad about Giving Tuesday on November 1st and setting a reminder in their phones to donate to Birthright Israel Foundation a month later…except maybe me. And, with every organization trying to hit their supporters’ inboxes first thing in the morning, we knew how easy it would be to get lost in the shuffle. In 2016, aside from an early morning send, we executed a second email send in the early evening with messaging that included a sense of urgency. This email accounted for 46% of our total 2016 Giving Tuesday revenue. Needless to say, this second email made a huge impact on our campaign – and the Jewish guilt definitely didn’t hurt!
With our audience and strategy in place, there was one more item to check off our list. You can design the best emails and write the most moving copy, but if your audience never sees it, it doesn’t matter. In comes “email sanitation.” We spent a large portion of the months leading up to last year’s Giving Tuesday ensuring our emails would actually be delivered by rebuilding our email reputation and deliverability. With the perfect storm, we raised almost $70,000 in 2016, which helped us reach our 2016 direct marketing campaign goals earlier than anticipated.
This year, we have one last trick up our sleeves, as we will be delving into the world of social media influencers. With 600,000 Birthright Israel alumni worldwide, we are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to engage alumni and encourage them to pay forward the incredible gift they were given.