In this episode of Giving & Gabbing, we chat with Meagan Given, Executive Director of the White Rose Leadership Institute, and host of Give Local York. Meagan shares her Giving Day story, highlighting her most recent experience coordinating an event that engaged supporters, both online and in-person, in meaningful ways.
The 4th annual Give Local York, a Giving Day supporting nonprofits in York, PA, took place on May 7th, 2021, with record-breaking results. In just 24 hours, the community of York, PA, came together in a big way! Through Give Local York, 11,086 donors raised over $3.7 million in support of 302 local organizations.
This incredible feat was made possible by the dedication of Meagan to make the day engaging and accessible for all. This dedication is something Give Local York has prioritized from the very start.
Give Local York is truly a Giving Day for nonprofits, made by nonprofits. It was first established in 2018 by a group of nonprofit leaders looking for innovative ways to encourage philanthropy in their community. They had a deep understanding of the impact that Giving Days could make and knew they could replicate it in York, PA, with their own twist.
“It’s about celebrating nonprofits and sending that message that anyone can be a philanthropist and support a cause that they care about.”
Since its inception, Give Local York has been a celebration of all the good that is being done in the local community. They are known in the Giving Day space for having some of the most exciting events to kick off the day and encourage donors of all kinds to get out and give!
During Give Local York 2019, 10,000 community members gathered in downtown York, where they could interact with and learn from 75 participating nonprofits. In this interview, Meagan shares the excitement that she felt during the event, noting that there was an assortment of activities happening, including live music, fire trucks, animals, pickleball, people dressed up in costumes, and so much more.
As Megan and her team began to plan for their 2020 Giving Day, they could already see the potential that live-streaming during their event had to offer. They understood that it would be a great supplement for those who could not join in on the fun in person. As COVID-19 began to cause shutdowns in the US, Give Local York was already prepared to move forward with a live stream but could not have the in-person celebration that their community had grown to cherish.
With their 2021 Giving Day approaching, many communities began gathering in person after over a year of virtual events. Meagan and her team were excited to once again celebrate the excitement and success of York's nonprofits safely in a physical space.
Staying true to their original 2020 plans, along with the knowledge that virtual events were here to stay, Give Local York moved forward with a hybrid approach to their day of events. They held a nonprofit showcase at a large outdoor venue that was invite-only to allow for social distancing with participating nonprofits and sponsors in attendance. Organizations performed, spoke, or demonstrated to the live stream audience with support from Chris Strub, known best as "The Giving Day Guy".
"We were still together in person some of us, in safe socially distanced ways, but still connecting with the community at large through their screens and their social media."
Give Local York's broadcasted its live stream using GG Live, GiveGab's real-time virtual event dashboard. Supporters attending the event virtually enjoyed performances by participating nonprofits while watching the total dollars raised continue to soar.
"We want that fun to be felt through the screen, we want it to be an opportunity for our nonprofits to come on and talk about the work they’re doing and to be able to toot their own horns because they get very few opportunities to do that."
Meagan and her team saw tremendous success with their hybrid event, engaging a record-breaking number of donors that will make a lasting impact on their community. When asked if Meagan will continue to have a virtual element to Give Local York's future celebrations, she remarked:
"Yeah, yeah, absolutely, I think for Give Local York, hybrid is definitely going to be the way that we continue to do it...We want to be able to reach everyone where they are. York County is a very large county, so while we have all that activity going on right in the heart of our downtown, we have communities all around that maybe don’t get to feel that same engagement. So the live stream is really that piece that helps tie it all together"
In this episode of Giving & Gabbing, Meagan Given of Give Local York discusses:
- The history of Give Local York and what inspired her community to host a Giving Day
- Meagan's experience working with a dedicated Project Manager at GiveGab over 4 years
- How changes to fundraising in 2020 influenced Meagan's planning for their most recent Give Local York
- The strategy behind having both in-person and virtual elements to their Giving Day celebration
- The future of live-streaming and its integral role in making Giving Day engagement accessible for all
- Advice to other Giving Day hosts considering taking a hybrid approach with their day-of events
Check out the full interview with Meagan Given on Creating Meaningful Online and In-Person Events Your Giving Day by:
Watching the live interview video recording
Listening to our Giving & Gabbing Podcast episode
Giving & Gabbing is now available on popular podcast streaming sites such as:
Podcast episodes include nonprofit communication and marketing strategies and interviews with fundraising professionals from across the nonprofit and education sectors.
Karin: Hi, I’m Karin, the Marketing Coordinator here at GiveGab. Welcome to today’s episode of Giving & Gabbing, which features our special guest, Meagan Given, who hosts the Give Local York Giving Day in York County, PA. Give Local York celebrated their 4th annual Giving Day this year on May 7th, raising over $3.7 million for local nonprofits. Meagan and her team of volunteers are continuously showcasing participating nonprofits in creative ways and they do a wonderful job of highlighting the generosity of their community to spark more engagement.
Joining me from GiveGab, we have Kelsey, our Project Director, with over eight years of experience in fundraising. Kelsey, do you want to say hi?
Kelsey: Hi everyone, I’m super excited to be here and yeah, just excited to be a part of this podcast!
Karin: Thanks, Kelsey! Throughout this past year, Kelsey has worked really closely with Meagan and her team as they continue to grow their Giving Day efforts on our platform. In this episode, we’ll be diving into how Give Local York coordinated their May 7th event, which accommodated both in-person and virtual attendees in meaningful and engaging ways. And with that, we’ll jump right into our first question with Meagan. Could you share a bit about the history of Give Local York, what maybe inspired your community to host that Giving Day, and what your initial goals were?
Meagan: Yeah absolutely. So York County, PA is located in south-central PA, just north of the Maryland line, really. We have a population of just over 400,000 people and we have a very generous community, tons of nonprofits who are doing really great work for the community, and um, our Giving Day really started out of envy. There is a neighboring community just across the river, not far from us, 20 miles away that’s called Lancaster County, and if you’re familiar with Parks and Recreation, the show, we have a very Pawnee/Eagleton relationship, York being the Pawnee in this situation. So you know, Lancaster is a little more posh, they have a, you know, a higher wealth than we do, they have an Amtrak train so they have accessibility to Philadelphia and New York, and we always have a chip on our shoulder here in York County.
So um, in 2012, Lancaster started doing their Giving Day. It’s put on by the Lancaster County Community Foundation, it’s called the Extraordinary Give, they work with GiveGab and it’s a huge day, it’s an amazing success. So in 2012, I was actually working in marketing, I was working with some nonprofits that were participating in that Giving Day and I was kind of like, what’s this? We’re raising a million dollars in a day, it was a huge deal.
And so there was sort of a group of us on our side of the river who were saying to our philanthropic anchors, you know, why aren’t we doing a Giving Day? Why is this not happening here, we have a generous community, we have the need, we have these amazing nonprofits, why is this not happening? And what really, you know, the answers we were getting is we couldn’t find a home for it. Um, our York County Community Foundation didn’t really feel like a Giving Day fit into their business model, or something, that it wasn’t something they were looking to do. Our United Way already has a hugely successful annual campaign, so no one was really willing to take this event on.
So what ended up happening, there’s a group of nonprofit leaders in York County who have all gone through this same fellowship program that was started by a local philanthropist, it’s called the York Federal Fellows, and it provides nonprofit leaders with funding for personal and professional development in their career, and so what has happened is now there are 60+ fellows who have gone through this program together and it was those group of nonprofit leaders with the support of that philanthropist that said fine, if no one else is gonna do it, we’re gonna do it. We’ll have a Giving Day by nonprofits for nonprofits. And so in 2017, they reached out to me, and it was sort of like alright loud mouth, you’ve been talking about this for 5 years, we’re gonna do this now, you have to quit your job and run this thing. And essentially that’s how it ended up happening, so we had our first giving day, we had Give Local York, on May 4th, 2018. We had a goal of raising a million dollars, and really that was just kind of, I don’t want to say arbitrary, but we wanted to show people that we meant business and a million dollars sounded like a really big number so we came out, said we’re raising a million dollars, we’re gonna do this, and we did! We raised $1.2 million dollars that first year and so, you know, sort of planted our flag and said we’re doing this and we’re here to disrupt philanthropy in York County and have been finding ways to do that ever since.
Karin: I love that. That is so casual, you know, a million dollars.
Meagan: Yeah, just see what we can do!
Karin: I think that’s wonderful and it was for nonprofits by nonprofits, that’s really cool to listen to and inspiring. Can you talk a little bit about how working with GiveGab since 2018 with your project managers has attributed to the success of Give Local York?
Meagan: Yeah absolutely. So um, I’m a staff of one. We sort of, you know, retroactively, built an organization after we held our first Giving Day, we were sort of like oh that worked, we should probably, you know, put some pieces together to figure this out. So we are, you know, we got our nonprofit status. Our organization is actually called the White Rose Leadership Institute, with Give Local York being our signature event, and that York Federal Fellows program that I had mentioned before now lives under our roof. But I am...it’s just me, with you know, my volunteer board of directors and then I have really great volunteers who help every Giving Day to make that happen. But throughout the rest of the year, it’s me, fundraising to produce the event, to build the stretch pool, to do all of the sorts of administrative kind of stuff. And working with Kelsey, specifically, and GiveGab has been amazing because of the resources you provide not only to your Giving Day partners but to the nonprofits as well.
So the first year that we put on Give Local York, we worked...am I allowed to say their name? We worked with Kimbia, another company that then became GiveGab, but we didn’t have that same level of resources. So I was actually putting together my own trainings for the nonprofits and running these webinars and trying to come up with social media guides and all of these kinds of things and it was just a tremendous amount of work, and not nearly to the level of what Givegab provides. So um, it...you guys make it really easy for all of the sort of pieces that have to come together to pull that day off. And then on the day itself, Kelsey is really sort of like my saving grace, like she keeps me sane and handles all of the technical stuff on the back end, and that’s one less thing that I have to be worrying about in this crazy flurry of our 24-hour give. So you know, it’s really...GiveGab is a member of our team, I would say, and Kelsey, I count her right in there with the team of folks who help pull this off and keep me from going crazy once a year.
Kelsey: And I would just say that we love being a part of the Give Local York team, I know that I’m not allowed to have favorite Giving Days but um, York is right up there with one of the ones that I root the loudest for. And I tell people all the time, you know, I think our hat goes off to you in being a single person running a Giving Day. You are the master of delegation and the master of, like, really focusing your efforts on where it’s needed most and I think having that ability to take that stand back a little bit has really helped and I think it’s an incredible leadership style that I love being able to watch and see and be a part of, so yeah. So you just celebrated your fourth annual Give Local York campaign which was super exciting, I had a lot of fun working with you guys. I’d love to hear how this community-focused event has grown throughout the years and where your priorities and kind of strategies have shifted over those last four years.
Meagan: Yeah, you know so when we did this for the very first time, it was almost like we had to create a proof of concept, we had to show the community what we already knew going into it, is the impact that a Giving Day can have on a community, you know, not only in dollars raised but in the capacity building that it provides to the nonprofits in engaging new donors, in really building community morale, all of those pieces. And so the first year, for us it was really sort of about proving, I don’t want to say proving people wrong, but saying like, this works, let us show you how this works, and we’re gonna do it.
And then once we pulled that off it was like okay, now what? So, you know, we really sort of focused back to think about why we wanted to do this day in the first place and what we really wanted it to do for our community. And so we set a few different intentions and sort of um, parameters, for our day as we grew it. We very much wanted this day to be inclusive, um, period, but inclusive for all types of nonprofits, not, um...not withstanding your size or your seniority, your operating budget, we wanted this to be a day that any nonprofit organization could be a part of. Because we are a grassroots organization sort of putting this on ourselves we do have a registration fee that goes into the production of the event, but we, with a sponsorship partner, we offer a scholarship to organizations, so that it’s not a financial burden for any organization to be a part of it and that was really important to us from the start.
Also being very inclusive of donors, you know, we headed into this, we set our minimum donation relatively low compared to other Giving Days around us, so in the first two years I want to say our minimum donation was just $10. During the pandemic we decided to lower that down to $5, again, to make it really easy for people to be able to give. We allowed for offline gifts from the beginning, to allow for folks who weren’t comfortable using a credit card or who didn’t have a credit card, basically, we wanted this day to be about connecting people who had passions for a cause and to make it really really easy for them to support that cause. And we very much wanted this day to be about shining a spotlight on our nonprofits. So our entire approach leading up to the Giving Day, the storytelling is really about those organizations and the work that they’re doing and helping people recognize their neighbors who are receiving these benefits and are connecting with these organizations. So that was all really baked in from the start.
We also decided after that first year that we didn’t want to focus on a financial goal so much anymore. The dollars raised are amazing and of course, are so needed, but for us, it’s really about growing philanthropy in your county and bringing more people into the process of being able to support organizations. So we started setting a donor goal. You know, we wanted to see 10,000 donors, we wanted to see 11,000 donors, we wanted to see more people engaged in this process. And so as you know, market and promote and seek sponsorships, those are really the things that we’re leading with, that’s the message at the core of it for us, it’s about celebrating nonprofits and sending that message that anyone can be a philanthropist and support a cause that they care about.
Karin: Thanks so much for that insight. Looking a little more about from one year to the next, and this is between 2020 and 2021, what were some of the biggest takeaways from your 2020 Giving Day regarding community engagement and how did those influence your planning for this year’s event?
Megan: Yeah. So our event takes place in May, it’s always the first Friday in May, we were very, again, intentional about selecting that as our date because when we had first started this we plugged into this sort of nationwide kind of cadre of Giving Days that was taking place, um, the “Give Locals,” you know, Give Local whatever, that were taking place in May, and we thought, you know, that sounds good, we’ll hop in there, um but we chose first Friday because in York, first Friday is sort of like a community holiday already. Our downtown sort of shuts down some of the streets and there’s kind of a street fair atmosphere and so we wanted to piggyback on that.
So you know, our Giving Day is in May, obviously, things started to...the world kind of turned upside down in March of 2020 and we were faced with some decisions to make. Luckily for us, Give Local York has always been primarily an online Giving Day, in terms of the mechanism for giving. We have really great public and community activities that go along with that, but the mechanics of the day could still absolutely go on because we’re all online anyway. But we had already made the decision to add a live stream component into our day. I had actually connected with some other Giving Days at the GiveGab Leaders Forum in 2019 and was introduced to a really great livestream consultant, Chris Strub, the Giving Day guy, who’s working with some other Giving Day communities. And I was really interested in adding that livestream component into our Giving Day because we see a lot of success and engagement on our social media, a lot of the conversation is happening there, and I wanted to find a way to really enhance that in addition to the other things that we were doing.
So um, it was kind of prescient that we had laid that groundwork, we had already planned to have a livestream happening, so we had...we didn’t have as much difficulty making that pivot in 2020, um, from a logistical standpoint. One of the things that I was kind of surprised by and that we had to fight against was from more of a philosophical standpoint. We had a lot of folks who questioned whether the time was right for a Giving Day in May 2020. And who questioned if we should be asking folks for money given that a lot of people were losing their jobs and finances were...finances were insecure and unstable and so many things were unstable. So we had a lot of questions about whether we should go forward with the Giving Day. But we decided to go through with it because people needed nonprofits during that time more than ever, and our nonprofits certainly needed their support more than ever.
And so when we went into 2020’s Giving Day, I’ll say it was a bit of a question mark for me. I said, you know what, we’re gonna do it, we have a really strong supportive community, let’s just, you know, let’s see what happens, and um, you know, if everything fails, we’ll say, well you know, pandemic, what are you gonna do? So it was kind of a...you know, it was kind of that fail-safe for us, but our community turned out in droves. We saw a huge increase in giving that year, both in terms of the number of donors and in the number of dollars raised. And again that was with lowering our minimum donation to just $5. So we still saw that growth, and what that said to me is that you know, our community understands the important work that these nonprofits are doing and they’re essentially voting with their dollars, saying we want you to be here, we appreciate what you’re doing for our community and we need this now more than ever. And that was a key piece of feedback that we heard afterward, was how much that day was needed, to remind people that you know, even at that time we were definitely separated and isolated but we came together as a community that day and people still felt like we were together. So you know, we had the livestream piece, we had folks sort of calling in, it was like an old-fashioned telethon kind of and that was really cool.
And so you know, as we headed into 2021, still not sure what we were gonna be able to do in terms of public meetings and having events and activities, we knew that we could still be really successful in a completely online format. So that was not as scary, but you know, we’re really missing that piece of being back together. So what we ended up putting together for 2021 because things were still kind of tentative at that time, was sort of a hybrid approach. So we didn’t go full out first Friday, 10,000 people milling around our downtown and you know, just open access to everybody, but what we did instead was held a nonprofit showcase at our local atlantic league baseball stadium so that it was an outdoor event. We made it, um...invite-only but invite in terms of inviting all of the nonprofits and their supporters and our sponsors could come and be a part of this. And then we had different organizations perform or speak or show off or do whatever, for our livestream audience. We also had...I’ll have to ask Chris officially, we had at least 12 hours of full livestream programming throughout that day that was really set up with nonprofit interviews and different demonstrations. Some folks came to us at the stadium which was kind of our home base, some folks you know, remoted in from wherever they were, and so it was really that hybrid approach, we were still together in person some of us, in safe socially distanced ways, but still connecting with the community at large through their screens and their social media.
Kelsey: Awesome. Yeah, I mean, it just, it was such uncertainty going into 2020. I’ll never forget, and how weird it felt for me having been in person there for the first time for my first Give Local York in 2019 to be, you know, working with your team via Zoom through the night on 2020, um, but I think you guys really did an absolutely incredible job, you know, really kind of like pivoting and changing things up and kind of moving forward. So that being said I think we’d love to hear like what new things you’re excited to try and what the results were from that, in your transition to a hybrid model from going completely virtual to, you know, 2021 when it was a little bit of both, making sure that you were still were able to keep people safe but bring back some of the really incredible in-person celebrations and enthusiasm and excitement that comes with Give Local York because I can tell you, walking through the streets of York County in 2019 it was just like, you know, the amount of excitement and joy and happiness and just philanthropy you could feel in the community was incredible. So I’d love to hear what that, you know, what that has kind of transitioned to.
Meagan: Yeah you know, um, from a metrics standpoint, from the numbers standpoint, I mean, it was a very successful year. We outraised what we had raised in 2020. So we raised $3.7 million, we had more than 11,000 donors, so checking all the boxes is fantastic. One of the best parts for me after a Giving Day, after I’ve had time to rest and to re-hydrate, usually, by that Sunday or Monday, I’ll take several hours and just kind of scroll through social media and catch up on all the things that I missed when I was there sort of in the trenches. And that’s when I really get to see sort of the true reach of the Giving Day and how everyone is celebrating across the county. So you’re seeing these activities or these conversations that are happening that I didn’t even know about. And that is really amazing and obviously continued this year in 2021. My...what I really hope happens with Give Local and continues to happen is that I want this to be a day that belongs to the community and it’s a day that they take and make it into whatever they want it to be. So you know, we essentially, from my standpoint as we provide the platform through GiveGab, we provide a good amount of the promotion and help to coordinate some of these activities that are happening, but otherwise it really is, you know, it’s Give Local York day, whatever you want to do with your employees, with your students, with your faith community, you know, we see these sort of pockets of celebrations opening up all over. I saw businesses that were having fundraisers for organizations that I knew nothing about and that’s amazing. It shows how many...long the legs can be of this thing.
And that’s really what it is, you know, for me is that I want to sort of create this idea that can be taken on and grow, and that’s you know, what we’re always looking to continue to do so you know, as I head into 2022, it is about that time when I start reaching out to people to say like hey, can you believe it? We’re back again. One of the areas that I have really pinpointed last year as a growth area was business fundraisers. We have a very dedicated corporate and business community, but again, I as one person am not really able to engage with all of them or get them on board. So what I was actually able to do is um, we have a great organization here called Leadership York, um...that trains community members how to be good board members and really engages the business community with the nonprofit community. And so I was able to work with a team that was going through a leadership program - they needed a community service project, and their community service project was to try to seek out business fundraisers for Give Local York. That went really well, and that’s an area that I’m looking to continue to grow because I see this as an opportunity not only to raise more dollars and engage new donors, but as a way for our businesses to get more engaged in the community. We see all these numbers that talk about specifically millennials and younger folks, when it comes to their satisfaction in their job, a lot of it has to do with how engaged they feel in the community and how much interaction their business has in the community. So this is a real economic development tool. It’s not..you know, it does so much more than just raise millions of dollars on this day. And so business fundraisers is a piece I’m really looking to grow.
We’ve also, the last few years, put a lot of focus on peer-to-peer fundraising, and that’s an area too, that I can see our efforts paying off and continue to grow every year. You know, looking for ways to help our organizations help their fundraisers be engaged, and that’s another piece of this is that, the skills our organizations learn through participating in Give Local York, whether it’s through the webinars and trainings provided by GiveGab or you know, some of the things that we’re doing along the way, are teaching them these skills and helping them build their capacity so they can put those things in place all year long. It’s not just about Giving Day, this is really helping them learn to better engage with donors and potential donors and to really steward them through the process.
That’s been really cool too, is you know, once we put all this push on livestreaming and engaging on social, I’ve seen tons of our participating organizations now use that all year through. So they’re doing livestream at their different events, or you know, from a staff activity that they’re doing, really showing who they are as people and engaging with our community through the screens, because, you know, that’s how we’re gonna have to do it for a bit, it looks like.
Karin: Right, I think all of that, I mean, all of the engagement and I love your plans for the future with business fundraisers and how much the community has just taken charge and gets involved and you said you weren’t even aware of certain people being involved and coming out of the work to really promote the day, so that’s really incredible to hear. I’m curious since you tried this hybrid approach, you know as we do...as we see organizations, communities, opening up a little bit more if you see the hybrid approach continuing into the future, what you might do differently, if you would continue doing that at all, just your thoughts around that.
Meagan: Yeah, yeah, absolutely, I think for Give Local York, hybrid is definitely going to be the way that we continue to do it. Even if our in-person activities get back up to 2019 levels and when I say 2019 levels, we literally had 10,000 people downtown, we had 75 nonprofits who were out, you know, either with firetrucks or animals, playing pickleball, people dressed up in costumes, it was insane, and uh...even coming out of 2019, out of that craziness, I had engaged someone to help with livestream because I knew that it could take it to that next level. So I think that that’s always continued to be a component of what we’re doing because again it goes back to that inclusivity from the beginning. We want to be able to reach everyone where they are. York County is a very large county, so while we have all that activity going on right in the heart of our downtown, we have communities all around that maybe don’t get to feel that same engagement. So the livestream is really that piece that helps tie it all together, that and we do a lot on Facebook and on Instagram and taking advantage of the live capabilities that they have on that because again it really is about feeling like you’re together and feeling like you’re a part of something um, that has really moved the needle on this day.
So I think, you know, what might change as we head to 2022, if we are able to get back more into these in-person events, what I would like to see is taking advantage of the livestream to go remote to those various locations and to tie it all together so that people can see truly how big this is and that we are reaching all corners of the county and to give a better picture of who York County is and who these folks are. So that’s a really important tool for us, that’s what it’s about, and I think it just adds to that sort of fun party atmosphere. What we’ve also learned and heard anecdotally is that people...what I would like is for Give Local York to be a holiday in York County. I want employers to let people off of work that day, and you know, because from what we hear, people aren’t doing much work that day anyway. They’re glued to their screen and they’re watching the ticker go up and they’re watching on social media. So it is a way to engage people if they’re stuck at their desks that day, they can still feel like they're a part of it. So until we get that holiday declaration, the livestream and the hybrid component is just another way to keep the party going all day long.
Kelsey: I love that idea. It definitely feels like a holiday in York on that day, so I feel like it’s only suiting, and I really do love the idea of like, bringing more, you know, by using that remote model, reaching to the many corners of York and showcasing, you know, because there’s only so much you can see, you know? You’re only one person with one set of eyes, but the more you can really highlight the amazing work being done all across the community, I think you’re really gonna help continue that goal of engaging more and more donors and more and more people that have some kind of connection or tie to York County that makes them want to be a part of this incredible day. So with that, I’d love to hear what advice you’d consider giving to other Giving Day hosts, considering, you know, either hosting a hybrid event, or, again, moving forward with this idea of you know, leveraging both models to be inclusive and host a Giving Day through that lens?
Meagan: Yeah, you touched before on the fact that I have to delegate a lot, right? Like, you and your team are...you know, you have things that you’re focusing on that day. And so for me, the things that really helped us pull all of this off was finding the right people or the right teams who could help take that piece off of us. In my case, it was Chris Strub. In your various communities, I’m sure you have folks who have really dove into the livestreaming piece of it. I’m sure, you know, I could have learned how to livestream and tried to do that, and I know, you know, on just using your Facebook or your phone, that is one way to do it, but I’ll say that is going to add a whole level of stress in your life that you don’t need added on to the Giving Day.
So if you can find a team who can help you, and who understands, you know, your vision and what you’re trying to do, to take away all of that technical stuff, so you don’t have to worry about who’s coming in at this point and who’s coming off of here, and what to do if my internet dies, and all of that kind of stuff. So finding a livestream partner who can take care of the technical aspects was huge for me. We also work with a partner here in town for the live event portions of it too and pulling that piece of it together. So in our town, it’s actually our baseball team, they have a whole sort of event arm because they do a lot of events and parades and that sort of thing in our community. So we’re able to work with them for that in-person piece of it, because there’s a lot that goes into it. You have to put out barricades and help people set up and figure out where to park and all of that kind of stuff that, again, you don’t need on...added on to what you’re already trying to do with your Giving Day. So putting those team members into place and finding people you can trust is really important.
I would say, you know, I always say, remembering at the start what your goal is and what your vision is, and having that really dictate the plan that you layout from there. So we go into this wanting this to be a celebration, a spotlight on the nonprofits, and a way to engage new donors. And so that, you know, sort of dictates how we layout our day, and our livestream. So we want it to feel fun, we want that fun to be felt through the screen, we want it to be an opportunity for our nonprofits to come on and talk about the work they’re doing and to be able to toot their own horns because they get very few opportunities to do that. And then, we wanna, you know, meet people where they are and be there when they sign on Facebook, or you know, are scrolling through their Instagram feed. So we’re trying to find ways to engage people where they are and to, ah, remind them that it is Giving Day if they don’t somehow know already.
I used to joke, so...I have planned a lot of community events throughout my life, and after every single event, you know, there was always at least one person on Facebook who was commenting, “I wish I knew this was happening” or something like that, and so my goal with this is I don’t want anyone to be able to say, “What was Give Local York? Had no idea!” because even if they’re only hearing about it on that day, they still have time to be a part of it and to give, so you know, there’s no excuse. I want it to be all-encompassing and I want people to be like, yes, I get it, I know it’s Giving Day, thank you, I already gave. So yeah.
Karin: I love that, I actually remember you--I remember you saying that at Giving Day Leaders Forum a couple of years ago, about how you wanted everyone to know about it, and I remember, I think I was about to lead the Giving is Gorges charge that year, and I was just like, oh, taking mental notes, Meagan has a lot of great ideas, so…
Meagan: Yeah, just inundate people with it, you know.
Karin: I love it.
Meagan: And to that point, one of the ways this goes along with that idea of sort of giving the day to the community, also giving the day to your nonprofits, in terms of having them take part of the promotion. There’s only so much we can do, we have a limited budget, and we reach out to all of our, you know, media partners and we have billboards and radio and TV spots and print ads and all of that, but we really encourage all of the organizations to also do that too, you know, you can’t do too much. So we want people’s mailboxes to be flooded that week before give, with everybody’s postcards so they’re like, oh okay, yes, I get it. And that’s how you really get that growing effect, just like with your fundraisers, um, you know, if the organizations are also out there doing those same things and we really train them in how to market and how to reach people so that if we're all doing it together that’s where you have that huge impact.
Karin: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I’m curious to know since you have such success with engaging your organizations, to um, especially coming down, you had that big celebration with 10,000 people, and that’s incredible support, and that’s a lot of people coming out, I’m curious how you rallied them and how you get so much engagement if you could speak to that a little bit? I imagine part of it is because this Giving Day came out of...it arose from nonprofits wanting that to be a thing, but yeah, if you could talk a little about how you sparked that engagement that would be great.
Meagan: Sure, I mean, I do think you know, that...our origin story played a huge part in that, you know, the fact that it is this by nonprofits for nonprofits. The uh, the York Federal Fellows at the time that we started were 60 strong, so we had 60 sort of ringers, if you will, already going into this who had said like, yes we’re gonna do this, our organizations are on board, and they really helped us, you know, sort of spread the word to other organizations and to reach out to them, and to make a case for it. We’ve, of course, every year, seen more organizations join on board who saw us the year before. It never fails, you know, some organization will reach out on Giving Day to be like, hey, how can I get in on this? And I’m like okay, let's get you onboard for next year. And I think a lot of that really is because I am such a pain in the butt to the organizations. So we start--we open our registration in November for our May Giving Day. I will start reaching out to organizations probably in October to be like, this is coming, like, it’s happening again.
And I engage with the organizations every week once they’re on board. I send out a weekly email that talks about, you know, upcoming media opportunities or different promotional things that we have for them. I try to share, like, my hot tip of the week of what they should be focusing on right now like if I were you, I would be ah, you know, engaging my board this week, or I would be putting together a phone list, um...that sort of thing. And so I think, you know, that’s a piece of it is that I’m just harping on them all the time and they’re like okay, we get it. So persistence is probably you know, like the key message that I give here, but we also...we really see this as an opportunity for the nonprofits to work together and to collaborate not only, hopefully, for Giving Day but then beyond.
So we’ve seen a lot of new sort of alliances formed geographically, based on where they are in sort of these neighborhoods, or based on like, service industry or populations that they’re serving. So when we’re able to be in person we do try to host sort of more social events to get them together. So in years when we were together we’d host some happy hours where they would, you know, come out and chat with each other. We’ve hosted some in-person panel discussions where we’ve invited in some um, you know, Giving Day superstars either from the ExtraGive community or our own, and had them sort of share their approaches and some tips. This past year we did, um, we did sort of webinar happy hour, you know, Zoom happy hours, if you will, and invited in some folks from Lancaster to talk about their approach and how they do their Giving Days. So that engagement and that relationship building is really important because on the day itself, I don’t think anyone, you know, who just watches it happen or who makes a donation realizes the amount of work and emotions that are that day, except for the nonprofits that are up 24 hours really in the trenches together. So I think that that camaraderie is really important in helping them foster that throughout the year.
There’s of course competition, there’s…I call it friendly competition, but in the heart of it, once we’re through that day, we kind of look at each other like, we really shared something there, we really, you know, it was something, you go through something tough but, you know, it’s so emotional and it’s so gratifying and fulfilling and exciting and it’s a lot, so we really encourage them to get to know each other and to know who they’re sort of in the trenches with I guess.
Karin: That’s wonderful, thanks for talking a bit about that and for sharing that message, I think it’s really inspiring and I hope our listeners are able to take that and apply it to their Giving Day and find more success through it.
Before we close, I would like to thank Meagan for sharing her Giving Day experience with us all, and Kelsey for being here on the podcast, to chat with Meagan as well. It was inspiring to hear about Give Local York and how they were able to hold a successful in-person event that allowed virtual attendees to join in on the fun too. I’m sure that our listeners will be excited to implement some of those strategies for their next Giving Day or fundraising event.
If you’re looking for more tools like this to take your digital fundraising to the next level, please visit our resource library to stay up to date with our podcast, webinars, downloadable content and more at info.givegab.com/resources. Thanks so much, have a great day!