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On this episode of Bloomerang TV, Dana Ostomel, Founder and CEO of crowdfunding platform DepositAGift, joins us to explain why you shouldn’t treat #GivingTuesday like a hail mary.

Full Transcript:

Steven: Hey there. Welcome to this week’s episode of Bloomerang TV. Thanks for tuning in, as always. And we’re recording this early October. It’s Q4, I know everyone is getting ready for year-end appeals, maybe their signature event is happening in October or November. But there is another cool thing happening in this quarter that we want people to know about. I know people ask us a lot about it and that’s Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday is coming up. It’s almost here. And that’s why I got Dana Ostomel. She is the founder and CEO of Deposit a Gift, which is a great crowdfunding platform. She is here to talk to us about Giving Tuesday and give us some ideas for how to get to campaign going and working for you. Hey, Dana, how’s it going?

Dana: Hi, Steven. Great, thanks for having me.

Steven: Yeah, thanks for being here. Before we jump into it, maybe you could tell folks a little bit more about Deposit a Gift and more about the platform and what you guys do over there.

Dana: Well, thank you. So we are a crowdfunding platform, as you mentioned. You can use Deposit a Gift to raise money for anything that matters to you. The reason that we connected is because we do some of our best work with small to medium size non-profit, schools and religious organizations and so there was a nice fit between Bloomerang software and the type of audience you guys serve.

Steven: Absolutely. I have gotten the chance to look at the platform over the past month and it’s truly impressive. So it’s awesome for you to be here. And just in case people don’t know what Giving Tuesday is, maybe you could talk about what it is and kind of what it’s all about. I know we’re maybe three or four years in since its sort of founding. So what is Giving Tuesday? Why should people care about it?

Dana: So Giving Tuesday, this is actually its third year. It is actually the brainchild of the 92nd St. Y, which is a big non-profit in New York City. But you wouldn’t know that if you went to givingtuesday.org. They don’t brand it that way. And they’re really just on a mission to sort of counter the commercialism of the holidays with a day of giving. So the day is kind of cool, like the way it’s timed. You’ve got Thanksgiving and you have got Black Friday, a big in-store shopping day. You have got Cyber Monday, which is a big online shopping day. And then Tuesday is Giving Tuesday.

This year, it is December 1st, obviously the date changes with the year. But December 1st in 2015 is Giving Tuesday. And what they’re trying to do is create a movement for giving so that anyone who is doing anything charitable can actually run a campaign and it’s almost like an excuse for your organization or your cause to just create extra noise about what you’re doing.

We’ll talk a little bit about that in detail, but sometimes a question people ask me is, “Oh, does it have to be like its own campaign? We’re already running our end-of-year appeal.” Most of the time, what I see in terms of the organizations that we are coaching, we’re recommending actually to look at your end of your giving as like the total, giving appeal time, right. And Giving Tuesday, looking at that as a day to just have permission to ask and ask and ask.

And that might literally mean that you have to send three emails in a day if that’s what it takes to get people’s attention. And sometimes, what you’ll find is that people actually set a micro goal for Giving Tuesday. So their end of year appeal goal might be $10,000, but they might be challenging the community to help them raise $1,000 in 24 hours.

Steven: Absolutely. So I know you work with a lot of crowdfunding campaigns, a lot of organizations who are doing campaigns like this. It seems like . . . and maybe you’ve also sort of witnessed this. I definitely have over the past couple of years. People just sort of maybe expect kind of a windfall to happen on Giving Tuesday just because it is the sort of big global event and it’s this phenomenon. And they kind of go in without a plan. Maybe they treat it like a little bit of a Hail Mary.

Can you talk a little bit about maybe why it’s important to not just assume that people are going to give to you on Giving Tuesday just because it is Giving Tuesday and why you should sort of think this out and start to put your strategies together? Now we’re two months out. What is the importance of a plan for a campaign on Giving Tuesday?

Dana: Right. Well, this is actually an issue that we see with crowdfunding campaigns in general. People kind of get the sense of, “Oh, it’s on the Internet so I just need to publish it and then it’s just going to run itself.” And that’s it across the board. And I actually do a lot of speaking, just crowdfunding 101. It’s like teaching people how to prepare their campaigns successfully and, in fact, so much so that this summer we created a whole series of vignettes in our YouTube channel just all about preparing a campaign. That you wouldn’t ever run a capital campaign if you didn’t have a strategy. You shouldn’t run a crowdfunding campaign with this out of strategy.

Giving Tuesday is interesting because it’s in its third year. It’s starting to gain popularity. People hear about it and what ends up happening is everyone is so busy planning their fall event or they’re so busy planning their end of year appeal and then a board member comes to them and is like, “Ah, we have to do Giving Tuesday.” And they just slap the campaign up instead of having a strategy for something like soft launching a campaign, which is actually like pre-launching it. So not everything is going to happen on Giving Tuesday. You’ve got to get momentum beforehand.

Giving begets giving. People want to be on the winning team. They want to give to a campaign that’s already raising money. You want to think about lining up donors. So a lot of time,s people are sort of in this idea of, “I just need to put it on the Internet,” or, “I just need to send an email blast and people will give.” It’s not the case. So another strategy is actually identifying people that you know you could count on to give to the campaign and you know you could count to share it. And actually say, “Okay. We’re going to go live on this date. I am going to want you to give and I’ll send you an email, I will remind you, but I need to know that you are going to do it.”

But actually rig it on some level because it’s counterintuitive, but nobody wants to give to the campaign with a zero balance. They don’t think, “Oh, they really need my money. I should give.” They think, “Oh, gosh, this is a loser campaign. It’s a lost cause. Why should I give my money?” So you want to stack the deck in your favor and that takes a little bit of planning.

The other piece of it and why you and I thought now would be a good time to have this conversation is because not everybody’s network is actually ready for a crowdfunding campaign or ready for Giving Tuesday. And I guess just to hold that for a second and say, “Why are we sort of saying crowdfunding is synonymous with Giving Tuesday?” They’re two different things. Giving Tuesday is this annual day of giving, but there is a hashtag in the name. That’s how they branded it. They essentially built it for social media. It’s not like, drop your direct mail pieces on December 1st and have people send in checks. It’s all about how much viral momentum can you create online that day. So crowdfunding platforms like Deposit a Gift are your perfect vehicle to set up that campaign. That’s what’s that about.

Now, when I coach on this and I do the speaking, one of the big questions I’ll ask people is, “What is your network look like?” So that means do you have an email list? Do you have an active board? What’s your social media following like? Tell me a little bit about what you do to cultivate your network. Meaning, do you only send them a letter once a year or an email once a year? Do you send emails every quarter, every month, every week? Something that people can count on where you are actually proactively sharing your good news and getting people engaged in your story when you are not asking for something.

So a big question around this is, is your network primed and ready? And that’s not something that just happens overnight. So now that we are seven weeks out, six weeks out, it’s the perfect time to start building that relationship. Give someone a compliment before you ask them for something. The same idea so that when Giving Tuesday comes around, they’re ready and they are trained to respond in a way that you want them to.

Steven: I am glad you mentioned the timing of this because we’re talking about early December. It is in the midst of those year-end appeals and events and things. And you talked a little bit about not sending direct mail people info on Giving Tuesday, but are there ways to sort of integrate your Giving Tuesday activities with the rest of sort of your year-end appeals or your year-end plans?

Dana: Yeah, I am glad you brought that up because I touched on it earlier, but it may have gotten lost. So you can do Giving Tuesday in two different ways. One, you actually could just do a stand-alone campaign, push it for 24 hours or maybe 72 so you have a before and an after, but basically it’s only about that. Most organizations, I believe, would benefit from having Giving Tuesday be like a sizzle point on the end of year strategic calendar.

So what does that mean? Every campaign can benefit from an integrated marketing approach. So sometimes, you’ll hear people say, “What kind of fundraising do you do? Tell me about it.” And they will say, “Oh, well, we do a direct mail campaign twice a year and we do an email blast campaign on our Constant Contact.” Forgive me, but they’re confused. Those are marketing vehicles. Those are not campaign types. Your campaign is an end of year appeal. A campaign is raising money for scholarships. A campaign is sending kids to summer camp. So that’s the mission-specific story. And then the way that you promote it is your marketing vehicles and those would be, first and foremost, your website, email blasts, social media.

But definitely a lot of campaigns could benefit from other marketing vehicles. So if you know that you’ve got a community that responds well and actually maybe more used to hearing from you offline, then you probably should send them a direct mail piece. But here is the key. You’ve got to start moving your community from giving offline to online. You’re losing a lot of benefits and if you don’t do that within the next two to five years, your organization will suffer, your cause will suffer. So if you send a direct mail piece, don’t give them a reply card to send in the mail. Include the URL. Maybe include some sort of persuasive messaging about why they should give online. Like, “Help us go green,” or, “Help us have a viral campaign this year. Give online.”

And the other thing is oftentimes those direct mail pieces are pretty expensive and if you know that people need to hear from you often before taking the desired action, maybe you take the budget you would have spent on one super fancy direct mail piece and you create three postcards that are going to go out every week in a row and that way people definitely can’t miss it. Because as soon as you get to move them from the offline to the online world, now you’ve got their email, now you’ve got license to follow up with them and your goal is to turn people from a supporter into an advocate. So supporters give you their money; an advocate asks other people to do that for you.

Steven: So let’s say you do all these things you’re recommending. You put an awesome plan together in October. You execute it. You got some great things happening on Giving Tuesday. You hit your goal or you come close to it. Now it’s December 5th or whatever and we’ve still got 30 days or so left in the year. How can you kind of keep that momentum going through New Year’s Eve and kind of keep that energy up for the rest of the year in terms of generating more donations?

Dana: Absolutely. So here’s what I recommend you do now. Set up your campaign to get the story together. You actually take out a calendar and you’re going to plot this out. You’re going to say, “Okay. I’m really looking at this is my end of year appeal. Giving Tuesday is going to be one of my key marketing days. We are going to soft launch this campaign, I don’t know, four days before Thanksgiving and start getting some of our internal supporters donating.

You have the holidays. You have your emails scheduled so that you can still ping them on Sunday. You have everything already planned out. Monday, November 30th, you’re going to go hard, really remind people Giving Tuesday is coming, but that you need them to give today because you want people to be super stoked about what you’re doing tomorrow.

Giving Tuesday happens. You send out an email definitely in the morning. You’d be ready to have an email that goes out that night. But you also want to plan for success. So we had a campaign last year that called us at 2:00 and they were like, “Ah, what do we do? It’s 2:00 and we hit our goal. “We’re like, “Keep going. Send an email. Send an email right now and tell people, ‘You people are amazing. You just helped up achieve our goal for Giving Tuesday. It’s midday so that means, we can give a 100 cell phones to 100 seniors already. Help us double it by midnight.'” And they the pedal to the metal and they gave them another challenge.

So what happens December 2nd, on Wednesday, you’re going to send an email, celebrating, thanking people. Reminding them that the campaign is still going. So you’ve basically really marketed the heck out of this via social media that week. And then you’re going to spend the rest of your week, so the third, the fourth and the fifth, following up with people with personal emails. Personal thank you emails, which really are just an excuse for you to ask them to share. That’s how you turn someone from a supporter into an advocate.

Now you’ve got the rest of the month. What is that? Like, December 7th, I guess, the following Monday. And you’ve got three more weeks to go. And before December’s ever hit, when we’re talking like October and early November, you’re going to map this out. So what do you want to happen the week of December 7th? What do you want to happen the week of December 14th? What do you want to happen the week of December 21st? Hopefully, I’m getting those dates right.

And so you might say, “Okay. We’re going to make sure that we are going to send at least one email a week.” Pick a day. We’re going to be prepared for success and if something else really awesome happens, like we pass 50% of our goal for our annual appeal, we’re going to send an extra email because that’s good news and we want to share it. In your preparation, you’re going to think of other things. So think about, “Hmm, do I have a donor who might offer up a match? Do I have more than one donor that might offer a match?” That may be your incentive or your sense of urgency for Giving Tuesday.

So so think about it this way. The whole continuum of five or six weeks of fundraising at the end of the year and maybe your goal for a round number is $10,000. Giving Tuesday, you’re trying to raise $1,000. Maybe the challenge you put to people is we’ve got a donor who is giving us $1,000 if we can raise $1,000 in 24 hours. Go. And, by the way, you get to be a part of this global day of giving. How cool is that?”

Maybe two weeks later, you have another match. Somebody offers up $500. Somebody offers up $2,000. Maybe you do a contest. Maybe you say, because you are trying to strategically get people to repeat donate within the same period, maybe you say, “Hmm. What if we tell everyone that if they give within the next 72 hours, that they’ll be all entered into a raffle for something cool?” Maybe you give them something that isn’t really cost you money like a ticket to your gala in the spring. That might have cost $300.

So the neat thing about crowdfunding and Giving Tuesday is that these are platforms for creativity. It’s not about the processing. Of course, you want to make your thermometer rise, but you want to think strategically about what else do you want to get out of this and how can you achieve those goals and how can we have a little fun with it. We know another organization last year who their giving incentive was that if they hit the micro goal for the day, their CEO was going to dress up like an elf and run around the block and they were going to videotape it and send it out to everyone. That’s funny. So there are things you can do that don’t even cost any money to get really people motivated.

Steven: Well, cool. Dana, this was awesome advice. Have a plan, have some fun and I like what you said about thanking the donors afterward. That always is a great thing to do. So, Dana, in just the few minutes we have remaining, tell people how they can get in touch with you, how they can learn more about you and Deposit a Gift and stay in touch.

Dana: Actually, topically speaking, we have a really neat Giving Tuesday program. So actually, you can just find us at depositagift.com. When you go to our homepage, there is a pink strip at the top with a link. And what we’re offering is for people that join our Giving Tuesday Give Back program. Our platform is really unique in that, already, we offer super hands-on customer service in general. But everything that transacts on Giving Tuesday, we’re actually waiving our platform fee and donating it back to your campaign.

And then there are also other perks. We’re going to spotlighting you in social media. We’re going to be doing extra coaching and we’re also going to be offering a special webinar that’s only for our Giving Tuesday participants. So if you like a little bit of what you heard today, it’s going to be a full hour, hour and a half of really how to help you create that plan, mark out those weeks, how do you keep up the momentum until the end of year.

So depositagift.com and I guess also I would love to offer my personal email address, happy to make myself available to Bloomerang’s audience. It’s just dana@depositagift.com. So drop me a line, we’ll get you in touch with our Giving Tuesday specialists and help get you started.

Steven: Awesome. Very cool. Thanks for the offer too and we’ll link to all that good stuff for sure. So, Dana, this was great having you. Thanks so much for taking the time.

Dana: Thank you, Steven. It was super fun and I look forward to continuing this conversation.

Steven: Cool. And good luck to all of you and your Giving Tuesday campaigns. Let us know how it goes. And check us out next week for another great episode of Bloomerang TV. We’ll talk to you all then. Bye now.

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Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. She also serves as the Director of Communications for PRSA’s Hoosier chapter.
Kristen Hay