Mass. Nonprofits Employ Range of Tactics on Giving Tuesday

December 1, 2018 — Massachusetts nonprofits reached out to donors, friends, and other current and prospective supporters on Giving Tuesday this week to raise funds, relying on a wide range of efforts and tactics, with many meeting or surpassing their goals.

A total of 1,794 Bay State nonprofits registered for the seventh annual Giving Tuesday global fundraiser, held Nov. 27.

Organizers of Giving Tuesday, the 92nd Street Y in New York City, reported that $380 million was raised online in the United States via five major platforms—Facebook, PayPal, Blackbaud, DonorPerfect, and Classy—up 27% from last year.

Here's how some Massachusetts nonprofits fared.

LEAP for Education in Salem, which empowers first-generation-to-college and under-served youth to succeed in college, career, and life, "blew past fundraising out of the water," raising nearly $6,000, compared to $360 last year. The organization did it by creating a competitive personal fundraiser among staff, focusing on new donors, not a dollar amount. For example, someone who recruited five new donors for a total of $50 would win over someone that raised $200 from a single donor. LEAP also ran three distinct campaigns earlier in the month, and used Giving Tuesday to incentivize donors to help it reach its goals.

Lowell-based Aaron’s Presents, which encourages children up to eighth grade to engage in service learning with other nonprofits, had its most successful Giving Tuesday to date, raising $14,000, due, in part, to matches from Facebook and PayPal, which offered $7 million in matching funds for this year's event.

"We will definitely participate every year, and I think we have found that online is the ideal platform for our work empowering youth to give in their own unique ways. Our message is resonating with people as they are able to see the meaningful pictures and videos we try to post frequently, showing our impact in a real, immediately accessible way," said Executive Director Leah Okimoto.

CLASS in Lawrence, which supports, promotes, and facilitates the rights of individuals with disabilities, formally participated in Giving Tuesday for the first time this year. An email and a few social media posts last year resulted in two donations yielding $250. This year, the organization launched a campaign two weeks ahead of Nov.27, relying on email and social posts. Another email one week out, daily posts, and campaign updates increased results to nine donations totaling $725.

"Giving Tuesday surprised us this year," said Brigid Boyd, vice president of communications and Public affairs at the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley in Boston. " Our goal at the beginning of the day was to raise $15,000, to be generously matched by Eversource MA though a new Power Challenge match. At the end of the day, our donors had gone above and beyond and given more than $30,000. Eversource was with us every step of the way, and when the final tally came in, they didn’t hesitate to match double what they’d been expecting."

The effort helped the United Way raise $60,813 during its third year participating in Giving Tuesday, up from $40,525 last year. Average gift in 2018 was $414, up from $295 in 2017.

Friends of the Middlesex Fells Reservation, based in Melrose, which works to preserve the Middlesex Fells for recreation, conservation, and environmental education, made a major push this year. The effort resulted in $8,925, including a match pledge of $4,000 from its board of directors up from $1,000 two years ago (after skipping last year).

The nonprofit engaged a volunteer to work half- to full-time for a month to get everything ready. It then employed nearly daily emails, daily posts on Facebook, set up a shareable Facebook fundraiser, and posted on Instagram. "We did some teasers leading up to the week before, then populated the e-mails with stories and videos," said Board Chair, Jeff Buxbaum, noting that the greatest engagement in Facebook features many photos of the youth programs, while the second highest used videos.

He said this year's effort was far more cost-effective than a large fundraising event Friends staged a month ago that generated $15,000, but required "a huge amount of staff and volunteer time."

Boston-based Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a leading research and treatment organization, in its sixth year with Giving Tuesday, raised $1.17 million, beating its goal to raise $1 million, and outpacing last year by eight percent.

"This year, we used a comprehensive multichannel approach to donor outreach," explained Ashley Armstrong, assistant director of annual giving. "This approach combined email marketing, digital advertising, website updates, social media posts and advertisements, direct mail, automated phone messaging, and one-on-one prospect management outreach, among other marketing and advertising efforts. New this year, we promoted Facebook Fundraising among our FB community."

Dana-Farber also used boosted giving via two matching gifts from sponsors, enabling it to hold a double matching challenge in the early hours of the day, and a triple matching challenge in the evening.

Not every nonprofit finds Giving Tuesday worthwhile, however.

Stephanie Henke, associate director of Nantucket Safe Harbor for Animals, a Nantucket nonprofit that provides shelter and care for animals in need, said, "We've decided two years in a row not to participate. It's starting to feel Like the hysteria of Black Friday, rather than a movement against it. We may be leaving money on the table, but it just doesn't feel warm and good anymore." The organization participated once in 2015 and raised $600.

The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts in Springfield reportedly distributed $16,762 in prize money to area nonprofits participating in Giving Tuesday, according to MassLive, which noted the following fundraising results:
  • Girls Inc. of Holyoke, based in Holyoke, which builds leadership skills for girls, reportedly raised $15,000, three-quarters of the way toward its $20,000 goal.

  • The Center for Human Development in Springfield raised $7,500, which reportedly included a match from Hexplora and $1,000 from Bulkley Richardson, a Springfield law firm.

  • The Amherst Survival Center, based in Amherst, reportedly raised $11,330, which included a $4,200 matching gift,
Wake Up Narcolepsy, in Worcester, working to improve narcolepsy awareness, diagnosis, treatment, and research, also participated this year, raising $10,000, which Executive Director Claire Crisp described as "one of our most successful fundraising events."