The Sharing Foundation came out on top in its division of the Giving Challenge, which ended on January 31st. This is great news for the many bloggers and other social media community members that worked hard to promote the cause and garner so many donors. It was also a terrific learning experience for those of us involved. I have thought about “reflections” for the past few days now and wanted to share some early formulations:

What does timing matter?
The Challenge took place over the course of December and January. That is a very long time in the scheme of online fundraisers that many of us have been involved with in the past that may have had only a one day or one week window. I think that the longer time frame definitely had an effect on the “race” and posed a challenge for all organizations trying for the top: How do you keep donations coming through to the end?

In the Sharing Foundation’s case, Beth Kanter was the main ringleader and she had a great strategy of requesting donations whenever possible (in blog posts telling stories of those served by the organization, for example) and only really pushing a few times (like on her birthday 1/11 and at the end). It felt like a good mix – the constant option and then the intermittent request. I tried to do the same, including links to donate in blog posts dealing with the Challenge and then asking urgently at peak times.

What does the platform matter?
I found it interesting that in my personal involvement in the Challenge, I prioritized platforms on their timeliness. For example, I included links to the donation widget page in blog posts consistently throughout the Challenge, but put links and requests in Twitter on peak days like Beth’s birthday and at the end of the race. When there wasn’t as much urgency in recruiting new donors, it felt just fine to throw out the links and stories and thoughts in to blogs that could be read that day, or read days later in a reader etc. But on the days when we were really trying to get high numbers, I couldn’t handle only putting up a blog post (though I did); I needed to use Twitter and IM and emails.

This leads to the second part of the platform answer in that it really did seem to matter that the requests were peronal. I totally agree with the points Beth Dunn makes about the personal side of asking for donations. It means a lot more to people who don’t know anything about or have any connection to the Sharing Foundation to get a request from someone they know who does have that connection, than for “The Sharing Foundation” to send out a message to them asking for just $10.

What does the ask matter?
This one seems simple to me: It’s easier to give small. Think about it, if someone asked you to “Please donate $100 to The Sharing Foundation who helps Cambodian children get the education and services that are critical,” or “Please donate just $10 to The Sharing Foundation who helps Cambodian children get the education and services that are critical,” which would you probably do? Sharing stories and connecting on a personal platform with potential donors is crucial, but so is putting the “ask” into an amount that is doable and not overwhelming. People WANT to donation and help. So give them a way they can do it without hurting their own wallets, too.

I’m excited to hear about others’ reflections on the Challenge and to continue to share my own thoughts. What did you think as a fundraiser for the Challenge? What were your impressions as a donor?

Reflections on the “wired fundraiser” of America’s Giving Challenge
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