The Big Give For Autism: A showcase of the power of crowdfunding

Raising a total of $133,413 through 1,176 gifts toward autism initiatives worldwide, The Big Give For Autism, a brand-new event launched last year by the Autism Society, was a crowdfunding success no matter what metric you consider.

Held over the course of a single day, Sept. 17, 2015, The Big Give For Autism became both a fundraising event and an opportunity to teach the general public about an often misunderstood condition. The daylong push is an excellent showcase of how crowdfunding can be used to raise large sums of money and plenty of awareness around an important issue.

At the Washington Nonprofit Conference hosted next month by the DMA Nonprofit Federation, two of the leaders of The Big Give For Autism will elaborate on their approach. At the “The Autism Society’s Big Give For Autism: A Model for Mastering Crowdfunding” session Feb. 18, many secrets to nonprofit crowdfunding will be revealed. The discussion will take place between Michael Leaver, the director of development at the Autism Society, and Miriam Kagan, the senior principal at Kimbia, the online fundraising platform that hosted the event.

When first unveiled a few years ago, crowdfunding seemed like a godsend for nonprofits attempting to raise money in the crowded digital sphere. Now that many crowdfunding sites are oversaturated themselves with nonprofits and causes of all stripes, it remains difficult to make an impact. The challenges can seem even more insurmountable for older institutions without the resources or time to research next-generation funding trends.

However, The Big Give For Autism shows it is definitely possible to overcome the online noise – and the Autism Society just turned 50. When done right, single-day crowdfunding events can bring in an impressive return-on-investment and new donors in the double digits. This case study will show how the Autism Society used crowdfunding best practices and lessons learned during their successful first-time giving event, The Big Give For Autism.

“The Autism Society chose to host a giving day because of the model’s proven ability to reach across communities, channels and segments to unite supporters, partners and donors,” Kimbia noted in a statement before the event. “The organization also cited the opportunity to raise significant new dollars, recruit new donors and increase awareness of their cause as reasons for organizing a giving day event.”

The Kimbia platform was well-suited for the Autism Society’s needs because the team has pioneered the strategy behind single-day events. For The Big Give For Autism, Kimbia partnered with the Autism Society to help develop the giving day website, marketing materials, social media calls-to-action and an email, plus an offline campaign for constituents at the national level.

“The Autism Society has the perfect structure to do an event like this,” Amy Zumbahlen, The Big Give for Autism Project Manager at Kimbia, said in a release. “We love to see friendly competition help an organization grow brand awareness locally and nationally.”

Autism, which has recently been reclassified as Autism Spectrum Disorder by psychologists and also includes conditions like Aspergers syndrome, is prevalent in the American public’s mind but often in an obtuse way. Autism is often in the news but not in a way that pushes people to donate to groups like the Autism Society. Positive events like The Big Give For Autism, though, can take this renewed awareness and turn it into action.   

“The prevalence of Autism has nearly doubled since 2004, driving higher associated costs and a truly urgent need for our programs that assist families impacted by the disorder,” Leaver said in a statement. “Working with the Kimbia team, platform and best practices approach will ensure that we engage seamlessly across all of our stakeholders while providing a simple, secure donation process.”

This article is brought to you by the DMA. Click here to register for Nonprofit Federation Conference, Feb. 18-19, 2016, in Washington, D.C

Harness the Holiday Spirit for Your Nonprofit Campaign

Any experienced nonprofit knows the holiday season is one of the most important times to pull in donations. While consumers are out spending billions on gifts each year, they are also seemingly more willing to open their wallets for charities of all stripes.

The reasons for the season are varied. In general, there is a spirit of generosity that flows through many people in the time between Halloween and New Year’s Day. More practically, many donors also want to make donations before the calendar year ends so they can get tax write-offs in April.

Nonprofits have become attuned to these trends, and many have developed easy-to-replicate strategies for fundraising for all types of organizations. At the DMA Nonprofit Conference in Washington D.C. Feb. 18 and 19, several insiders will reveal how they take advantage of this end-of-the-year giving. At the ”Giving Season SPLURGE: Mail More, Model More, and be Way More Merry as you Double Holiday Revenue” on the second day of the conference, leaders from the Wounded Warrior Project, DCDR Fundraising Group and Wiland will discuss via several case studies how they’ve succeeded during the holiday season.

The public’s sense of generosity at the end of the year is more than just a trend and needs to be considered by every nonprofit.

“As the economy has recovered, people tend to give more,” Sam Worthington, CEO of InterAction, an alliance of nongovernmental international organizations, said in an interview with USA Today. “We also are more aware of the challenges others face. As Americans feel better off and yet recognize that others are in need, they tend to dig deeper into their pockets and help.”

The best end-of-year campaigns can speak to both reasons people give around the holidays.

"Many of our members are dependent upon a good holiday season for a large portion of their annual fundraising," Worthington continued. "There’s the practical aspect, which is that it’s the end of the year and people want to make sure their giving is done before a new calendar year, and there’s the fact that we spend time with our families, we think about others and want to have an impact on the world around us."

However, experts find that donors are not so great at seeking out nonprofits. Instead, they need to be approached.

"Historically, this is when nonprofit organizations have made the biggest push in terms of fundraising appeals,” notes Steve MacLaughlin, an executive for fundraising service provider Blackbaud. "The number one reason people give to charity is because they’re asked.”

Nonprofits can tap into these potential donors in a variety of ways.

“Generosity is an important lesson that many parents want to bestow upon their children,” claims Geoff Livingston, a blogger who writes about nonprofit fundraising. “Create ways for parents and grandparents to teach children the importance of compassion, empathy and giving by developing small gifts to bestow.”

Don’t worry – you don’t need to be an advertising maverick to receive holiday donations (although that doesn’t hurt, either). Remember: People want to give.

“Not everyone can write a cheeky Santa campaign. That’s OK!” Livingston continues. “People seem to forget that one of the primary celebrations of the holiday season is gratitude. So instead of trying to act like Don Draper, just be sincere and publicly thank your supporters for how they have helped your cause this year. Tell stories of individual impact and what it has meant. Use pictures and videos wherever possible.”

Personality and positivity are huge, as well as relating important statistics and stories regarding impact. While a nonprofit can passively enjoy the public’s increased fondness for giving around the holidays, a strong campaign can improve this holiday revenue exponentially.

 This article is brought to you by the DMA. Click here to register for Nonprofit Federation Conference, Feb. 18-19, 2016, in Washington, D.C