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What’s the best way to plan an effective Giving Day?

Giving Days

Dan Frezza is the Associate Vice President for Lifetime Philanthropic Engagement & Annual Giving at The College of William & Mary. In this post, he’ll be sharing his insights on how to plan a successful Giving Day, from setting the ideal timescale to dealing with the challenge of limited resources.

William & Mary boasts the highest undergraduate alumni participation rate among the Public Ivy League universities, and Dan oversees the strategic leadership and execution of a comprehensive annual giving approach.

During his five-year tenure, William & Mary has grown from 23% participation in 2012 to a projected 31% by end of June 2017. Part of that success has come from the implementation of William & Mary’s day of giving, “One Tribe One Day”. Now in its fifth year, the annual day has increased in size from over 1,900 donors in year one, to over 12,600 in March 2017.    

What’s your first tip for an institution looking to plan its first giving day?

Obviously determining what they want to accomplish from the day, such as donor or dollar growth, would be the first tip. However, once that is apparent, I would say to appoint a clear owner/leader of the effort and task them to lead a committee or team in the planning of the day.  


What makes a successful Giving Day?

The perfect combination of proper planning and partnership is critical. Having the right people around the table and focusing on the necessary topics over an adequate period of time will produce results. It guarantees that the important details are accounted for and covered.  

In terms of the operational side, social media certainly drives the day and a strong social media plan is essential to success. This should cover the institution’s collective voice and its use of various channels and social media ambassadors.


How can an institution overcome the challenge of limited resources while planning a Giving Day?

Identifying what resources already exist is the first step. The second would be to determine if existing resources could be leveraged for the day by serving a dual purpose. An example of this would be if your office or another office had planned for an event in a specific location as part of their current fiscal plan, seek the opportunity to host that event in that location as a part of the day of giving.

Combined resources can greatly extend the reach of a small budget. The same can be said for printing costs and web production. The third approach I would recommend is seeking private support to underwrite the expenses, such as event hosts or sponsors.  


Is there an ideal timescale to start planning a giving day?

I recommend starting a minimum of 6 months out and prefer 10-12 months. Over this period a group should be spending an hour every other week discussing the plan and implementing strategy. This ensures that the planning is not attacked by the “last minute bug,” and ensures that strategic thought and perspective are present.    


What’s the best way to identify the right people to help with the planning process?

There are two types of individuals that you will want at the table. First are those that own or are responsible for necessary areas such as marketing, communications, social media, etc. These are the individuals who will help to overcome political barriers and cut through  red tape. Second are those that possess a set of skills that are unique to the day, such as creativity, data analytics, etc.


What have you learned after implementing William & Mary’s day of giving for the last five years?

Proper planning is at the core of the day and a committee structure works very well. Aside from planning, getting buy-in from across campus is ideal. Your ability to leverage programs that are not typically part of the fundraising machine speaks volumes and will approach an audience with a voice they’ve yet to hear and experience.

This creates a level of authenticity and produces a unified voice that resonates with the largest and smallest of populations. Lastly, have fun, be creative and take risks.  

You may also like our case study on Worcester College Giving Day which explains how they encouraged a record number of new donors.


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