Giving Days, the original virtual event

This blog post was originally published on April 23, 2021, on the IUPUI Lilly Family School of Philanthropy website. Kristi Howard-Shultz serves as a contributing writer for the school's blog.


With our inability to gather in large groups over the last year, 74.6 percent of nonprofits reported canceling in-person fundraising events. For most, this meant pivoting to virtual events instead.

You may think a virtual event lacks the impact, emotion, and sense of community that an in-person event offers. Undoubtedly, online events present many challenges and, with them, opportunities. Embrace the opportunities by hosting an online Giving Day this year.

WHAT is a Giving Day?

A Giving Day, or sometimes called a day of giving, is a 24-hour online fundraising challenge that aims to rally groups of people around a particular region, cause, event, or institution.

WHEN should you host yours?

Your giving day should be tied to a meaningful day for YOUR organization—think your birthday, a special anniversary, or an awareness month.

WHY do it this year?

You know this model works and frankly, it’s far easier than “converting” your gala and auction into a virtual event.

Benefits include:

  • Low overhead

  • High return

  • Limited staff time

  • A modern and secure giving experience

  • A sense of urgency to raise funds more quickly

  • Increased visibility and exposure by connecting with a larger community

  • New supporters

  • Re-engaging past volunteers and donors in a new and exciting way

  • Improving your organization’s reputation and popularity

  • A fun way to do all of this!

HOW to host a successful Giving Day

Start planning 6-9 months before your Giving Day

Participate in any training available, and download materials such as planning tools and templates.

  • Secure lead and matching gifts

  • Onboard your ambassadors

  • Identify your ground team

  • Budget for and purchase everything needed

Set specific, measurable, but realistic goals

Giving Day goals include:

  • $ you want to raise

  • # of donors you’d like to see participate

  • # of new donors you’d like to bring in

  • the participation of key audiences, such as volunteers or staff, alumni or students

Set up the technology that you will need

  • Understand how the donation system works well ahead of schedule

  • Test it, including for volume

  • Customize landing pages specifically for your one-day giving campaign

  • Make it clear, simple, mobile-friendly, and quick to donate

Prepare a detailed communications calendar

Think about when you want to alert your supporters that the Giving Day is coming up.

Set up a series of emails to build awareness and enthusiasm for the special day. You may even encourage people to donate early and schedule the donation to take place on Giving Day.

Gather your best stories

Use your best stories and photos to build momentum leading up to and throughout the day itself. Vary the voices and perspectives to show the full scope and impact of your services. If you have vulnerable clients, find ways to protect their identities while telling their stories.

Besides personal stories, use statistics in an attractive way to illustrate the impact of your donors’ dollars. Use simple graphs or infographics to show how much good the money will do and for whom.

Thank and steward Get creative and specific. Be sure that your automatic email receipt is warm, particular to the Giving Day, and detailed. Explore ways to celebrate and thank donors on social media, your website, and in your mailed letters. You can even include notes from recipients or those that benefit from your mission. Create a short and simple video showing your clients saying “thanks.” You can’t go too far with thanking donors!

The day itself

Have a team of people on duty all day and until the close of your Giving Day. This is not a one-person job. You will need help posting impact stories, campaign updates, and using your hashtag liberally! Someone should be dedicated and available by phone to answer questions, take gifts, and make calls to your ambassadors.

You will also need someone or something (think software) to track your progress toward your goals and celebrate accordingly. It’s helpful to have an on-call troubleshooter. What will you do if payment processing goes down? What if the internet goes out? What’s your backup plan? Who can spend hours on the phone with support if needed?

Post event

Be sure to send a timely update and thank you to all supporters. They want to celebrate with you. Remember, success with giving days may not be perfect at first. You will definitely have some wins and learn some lessons. Debriefing with staff, key volunteers, and supporters is crucial to building on your success.

Whatever your original reason to start a Giving Day, the ultimate goal is to promote friendly competition among a community that is generous, engaged, and committed to investing in its future.

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Hi, I'm Kristi

Throughout my career, I’ve watched organization after organization hire consultants that are ineffective or don't take time to truly understand your organization. You're left without an actionable plan
or a mess to clean up
after they walk out the door.  

I’m committed to meeting you where you are and walking alongside you to build a plan that translates your vision into action now and into the future.

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