Well I just got back from Dallas, Texas and what a ride it was. Yes, it did take two plane flights on US Airways through Charlotte, NC to return to Charleston, SC. However, I am not talking about that type of ride. I am talking about a well-executed campaign by the team at the Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT). CFT is a one of the largest community foundations in the nation. The Foundation recently embarked on a campaign to launch DonorBridge, a portal that provides both its donors (Donor Advised Fund holders) and the greater community of Dallas a resource with which they could make informed decisions on whom to volunteer with, support, donate to or simply learn more about. CFT has always been a leading community foundation, but in my eyes, this groundbreaking initiative has propelled them into the “visionary” category. They are taking a leading role in fostering philanthropy in their community, at a time when it needs it most.
DonorBridge was launched on May 20, 2009 with the first ever Dallas Giving Day. To encourage donations, Communities Foundation of Texas, with support from The Dallas Foundation, designated a total of $300,000 in matching funds for contributions made through DonorBridge to participating nonprofit organizations on that day.
All in all, Dallas Giving Day raised over $4 million dollars for Dallas based charities. Yes, I did say $4 million dollars for 353 Dallas based charities. Wow!
So one might ask, how did they accomplish this feat? First, they formed a very talented and dedicated team. Then, they worked 24 hours a day, getting technology in place, and networking with everyone they knew in the Dallas community. Finally, they sprinkled on a little pixie dust, said some magic words (hocus pocus always works for my three kids) and success occurred.
Seriously, CFT executed a well thought-out campaign starting with making sure they had the end in mind first. For instance, they knew that the Dallas Giving Day concept would only work if they could truly mobilize the community in ways they could not do themselves. So they built a plan that included the selection of technology (in this case Blackbaud Nonprofit Central and Fusion Labs), partners to cultivate (ex: Center for Nonprofit Management, The Dallas Foundation, The Richards Group and the Urban Policy Research) and a marketing outreach plan. By doing so, it gave CFT a roadmap for success that the team could iterate on for the preceding months leading up to launch day.
Selecting technology was key, as they wanted to make sure the vendor would be able to help them both embark upon this new journey and that the portal would be robust, easy to use and elegant in the eyes of the donors and the community. However, just as important was making sure they knew how to use that technology. So, CFT assigned a resource (part time) on their team to make sure that person knew how to use the system to its fullest potential; getting data in, getting nonprofits access to the system, making nonprofit profiles available on the portal and leveraging social networking technologies like Twitter to allow it spread virally. It was amazing to read the hundreds of tweets that day, and all of the news coverage—all adding to the excitement of the launch.
The partners were also crucial as CFT staffers knew they would not be able to get the message out as far and wide as they hoped without the help of their peers in the Dallas Community. These partners acted as additional mouthpieces to spread the word about Dallas Giving Day, but also participated in many nonprofit focus groups. For example, CFT brought in 50 to 100 nonprofits from Dallas and shared with them the vision of the matched gifts (up to $300,000) program on Dallas Giving Day and allowed them to reach out to their donors. Follow-up with these organizations, and in any campaign, is key to keeping momentum. It was amazing how far and wide this spread. Over 8,000 donations occurred that day! Yes, 8,000!
That said, I wish everyone GREAT success and fun planning and executing their next campaign!