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Giving Tuesday: Turn Visibility Into Donations

Unlike other times of the year, the holidays punctuate the significant needs of people in our community, including food, shelter, emotional support, etc. For nonprofits rising above and beyond to meet the growing needs facing our nation, Giving Tuesday is an excellent time to appeal to current, future, and potential donors.

Giving Tuesday and other annual End of Year campaigns may start as early as October as the unofficial kickoff to the giving season. Campaigns typically include a blitz of emails, social media posts, and direct mail. The end game is to secure unrestricted money nonprofits can use to expand services, support more people, and keep the lights on.

But if you are like many organizations, it may feel like the number of people opening, viewing, and liking your Giving Tuesday posts and emails doesn't match the money coming in. If you hired a marketing or fundraising firm, you know that your copy, i.e., the content of your letters, is appealing. If you are going the DIY (do it yourself) route, you have read the books, and you have an engaged volunteer base and a growing list of contacts.

So, what's the problem? Why are the eyeballs ON your nonprofit not resulting in money flowing INTO your nonprofit?

I am not a direct marketing guru or a fundraiser. But the grant-seeking visibility strategy I use to improve grant-readiness will also help the perfect funder and donors find you.

The visibility strategy is simple: address the top 3 questions Grantmakers and donors have when encountering a new nonprofit.

  1. Is this a genuine or legitimate nonprofit?

  2. What does this nonprofit represent?

  3. Is this nonprofit trustworthy?

Is this a genuine or legitimate nonprofit?

With the increased scams and fraud highlighted in the news, questioning a nonprofit's legitimacy is understandable. How can you help potential donors feel at ease? Provide them with information about your organization from a trusted, third-party source. That's GuideStar. GuideStar, by Candid, is a searchable database where people can find up-to-date information about thousands of nonprofits. A GuideStar profile includes basic information like an organization's name, mission, and start date. It also can consist of detailed information like financials, board of directors, management team, and services.

According to its website, its "Seal of Transparency" gives donors the information they need to support you. I agree. As a donor, this is the first place I look to learn about a nonprofit, and I have seen grant applications request GuideStar information. I also use this website to research nonprofit competitors. If you want to bring in more donors, drop what you are doing, head to the website, and conduct an audit of your profile. Fill in as much information as possible before sending another fundraising appeal.

What does this nonprofit represent?

When it comes to people, a smile is worth a thousand words. But for a nonprofit, it's all about the website. And so, the next step in gaining a donor is to sell your organization through your website. A well-developed website communicates who you serve, your values, and your purpose. However, it also displays what your organization is not. Does your website attract or repel your perfect donor? If unsure, conduct a quick website audit and make changes as needed.

A website is also a place where you can offer transparency. I know many people that like to review how an organization spends its money before they decide to give. Make it easier for them to get to yes by adding your organization's annual tax return (990) and a current newsletter to your website.

Is this nonprofit trustworthy?

Finally, before giving a donation or a grant, many people will want to know if they can trust a nonprofit’s spending and operations. Boost your organization's "trustworthiness" by getting a rating on Charity Watch or Charity Navigator. Both are independent organizations that grade or score a nonprofit on various metrics.

  • Charity Watch is "an independent charity watchdog in the United States.” Its activities include educating the public about the importance of wise giving, informing the public of wasteful or unethical practices of nonprofits, and providing recognition to highly effective and ethical charities.

  • Charity Navigator has a database with nearly 200,000 nonprofits rated. According to its website, Charity Navigator ratings show "charitable givers how efficiently a charity will use its support today; how well it has sustained its programs and services over time, and its commitment to good governance, best practices, and openness to information."

I have seen Grantmakers use these scores as part of their eligibility or voting process. Individual donors also use these websites to guide their giving. Updating your GuideStar profile, timely reporting to the IRS, and putting financials on your website will improve your ratings with these organizations over time.

In summary, Giving Tuesday shouldn't start and end during the last few months of the year. Instead, it should begin with a simple and consistent visibility strategy nurtured throughout the year. The best part, it won't cost your organization an extra penny to take these actions, and there is always time to start.

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