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Running a successful fundraising campaign through the Big Give

Kay Mackay is Chair of Children of the Dump, a charity that supports children and families living in dumpsite slums in the Philippines. She goes out to the Philippines most years: “It’s important for me to see where the money goes, talk to children and families, and to understand our services. I can’t ask people for their hard-earned cash if I don’t know how it’s being used.” She tells us about her experience of using the Big Give:

Child sponsorship in the UK is changing; people are giving less, so diversifying our income sources is essential. I first learnt about the Big Give at a fundraising conference. It had the potential to be a source of money we have never dreamt of before.

The Big Give runs different campaigns through the year. We have opted for the Christmas Big Give campaign for the last three years. There is a four-step process:

  1. Decide what your ask is. What’s your message? Create a strong, succinct story about what your charity does. Good photos and video content are essential. We were lucky that one of our trustees has family in Manila who made a film about our work there, for free. The first year, we had a specific ask which was to fund 40 more children in our early years school. In subsequent years, we didn’t have a defined project with start and finish dates. What we really needed was funding for all our basic services so that was how we geared the application. Donors like being able to see the difference their money has made, eg opening a new building / expanding a service. There are techniques for reporting against money given for general support – for example talk about numbers of children, number of teachers, what the money allowed to happen etc.Once you have defined your ask, transfer your story onto the online application form on the Big Give website. The application can be done over time and will be saved as you work on it. Make sure that you really understand the costs of how you will spend the money raised. Keep an eye on deadlines for submission.
  2. Find people from your supporter base who will pledge money to meet the target you set in your application. These promises of money made in the summer are not fulfilled until after Christmas. The total amount of pledges forms half of your matching pot. You cannot go forward until you have secured your target amount.
  3. Once you have achieved your target-level of promises you will need to complete a (quite onerous) application process. Your application will be put into a selection pot where your cause may be selected by a philanthropist/philanthropic company. This is your pledge champion and if they support your campaign, they will donate up to the same amount of pledges that you secure.
  4. The campaign then goes live during Giving Week. You have one week to raise your full online donation target. Whatever is donated directly to the Big Give online campaign for your charity during that week is the amount that will be matched up to the amount in your pot. For example:  £1000 pledges + £1000 champion funds gives you a target of £2000 to be donated online during Big Give Week. Total raised would be £4000.

The trustees had a long discussion about the Big Give before we committed to it. The first year we ran the campaign, pledges were made solely from within the trustees. It was a much smaller target during our first year.

For our second year, we looked at who our donors are. Some of our donors give throughout the year, others give once a year, often at Christmas. These were the people we targeted. We didn’t want to draw funding away from our regular donors but it made sense to target people who would only give once and who might like to know that their donation could potentially be match-funded.

It’s important to really know your donors. Some of the people who pledged still write us cheques. Big Give is an online donation platform and we needed to find ways that they could give that they were comfortable with

Last year was our third year, and we had a grant-giving trust come on board. They would donate to us once a year, and I was giving a presentation to them about our work and asked if they would consider donating through the Big Give instead. Again, the appeal for them was that their donation could potentially be doubled by a Big Give champion.

We also invested more time and energy in social media and saw an increase in donations which we believe came that way.

We have found we need to manage the donations during Giving Week quite carefully. If you hit your target early on, it can put some people off donating, as their donations won’t be matched. When this has happened, we have asked people to still donate to us but directly rather than through the site, so as not to incur the Big Give’s processing fees.

Last year’s campaign brought in 30% of our Manila budget, with Gift Aid on top. It needs thought and management but it’s worthwhile.

Top Tips:

  • Use the training and resources offered when you sign up: Big Give offer lots of training, webinars and resources to support your marketing. Those alone are useful. There are also some great tips available to everyone on their blog.
  • Have a clear timeline: Make sure you have a clear timeline in your marketing plan so people know when they need to play their part.
  • Make sure your marketing plan uses all available forms of communication, digital and hard copy so you are catering for diverse range of supporters.
  • Do your analysis: After Giving Week, look at what worked well and what didn’t. Where did your money come from? You are also told who your champion was after the campaign – make sure to thank them and keep in touch afterwards.
  • Remember to submit the evaluation report within 12 months for Big Give and your champion. It’s important.

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