#GivingTuesday Success Story: Institute for the Musical Arts

Learning from success

This is the second in a series of blog posts about the rock stars of last year’s #GivingTuesday. We’re taking you through their strategies and getting specific about what they did that made the day such a huge success to help your nonprofit organization focus on strategies that work on #GivingTuesday.

Today we’re focusing on a small nonprofit with one person pulling the strings behind the scenes to help give other small nonprofits an idea how a small nonprofit with limited time, resources and staff can make #GivingTuesday a success.

Teaching girls how to rock

Institute for the Musical Arts (IMA) is a small nonprofit in Goshen, Massachusetts, dedicated to transforming the lives of girls and young women through music.

Executive Director Ann Hackler runs the nonprofit along with her partner and IMA’s cofounder, June Millington, who is a literal rock star. June was a member of Fanny, one of the first notable all-female rock bands in history.

Between the two of them, they run a summer camp, music classes, recording sessions, keep funds coming in and handle the administrative grunt work of running a nonprofit. Ann took the lead on #GivingTuesday in 2015 — and she managed to far exceed their initial goal of $15,000, climbed to the top of the Small Nonprofit leaderboard, raising over $25,000 from 152 donors and winning $4,500 in prizes from Razoo.

Here’s how Ann did it.

Showing impact through creative content

When preparing for #GivingTuesday, Ann reached out to former students for testimonials about their experience with IMA and what the organization has meant to them.

IMA also had a documentary filmmaker, Scott Hancock, edit a short video about their work specifically for #GivingTuesday using footage he had shot for another project. Ann knew this content would help show the impact of their work and inspire people to donate to their cause.

They created images of their alumni with simple text overlays with their quote about what the IMA has meant to them. These images were eye-catching and meant to be shared on social media — they posted their images in the days leading up to and throughout #GivingTuesday.

Reach out to your volunteers for help getting awesome content together before #GivingTuesday. Do you have any volunteer videographers? Do you have any great professional or hobby photographers who can help you tell your organization’s story on #GivingTuesday? If not, ask your board of directors if they have any contacts who can help you generate creative content for #GivingTuesday — often a board of directors is a goldmine for contacts in your community!

Reaching supporters where they were

IMA does not have fundraising staff or social media managers — these jobs are all done by Executive Director Ann and IMA co-founder June Millington, in between running their teaching programs, camps, concerts and workshops. “We have a lot of goodwill and a good reputation in Goshen, but not a lot of boots on the ground,” Ann said.

For #GivingTuesday, Ann decided to keep it simple: She met IMA’s supporters where they already were.

She used Facebook as her main tool of communication with IMA’s supporters, because it was already where their supporters were most active and engaged. “Facebook is a true boon for our organization,” Ann said. “We post on it regularly.”

In addition to IMA’s active presence on Facebook, June Millington has her own dedicated following as well.

Rather than testing new methods of reaching donors or trying to cast a wide net across multiple social media platforms and email, Ann stuck with what she was comfortable with and knew would work.

Lay the groundwork and send reminders

Ann and IMA have a minimalist email marketing strategy: They do not send out an e-newsletter or weekly emails and have committed to only emailing supporters when it’s important. “We’re very selective about how and when we contact people,” Ann says.

They sent out two short emails about #GivingTuesday. They found that their supporters and even their board of directors weren’t familiar with #GivingTuesday, so they sent out an email explaining the what, when, where, how and why to familiarize their network with #GivingTuesday. They sent out an email at the start of #GivingTuesday with a call to action to donate and a link to their Razoo page.

#GivingTuesday is a big deal for those involved in nonprofit development, but it’s important to put it in context for your followers. Explain what #GivingTuesday is and why it’s important.

The minimalist approach worked well for IMA because it fit into their larger communications strategy (and their supporters knew the email must be important when they saw it in their inbox), but you can email as frequently as your organization feels comfortable with.

Find out what your volunteers, supporters, and social media followers know about #GivingTuesday and introduce it to them — and then get them excited about it.

Utilize social media

IMA did not use peer-to-peer fundraising for #GivingTuesday — instead of asking their supporters to create and promote their own fundraising pages for #GivingTuesday, IMA chose to direct their supporters to their Razoo page to make donations.

They also didn’t focus on a particular project and used #GivingTuesday for general fundraising. This kept their #GivingTuesday campaign easy to manage for their small organization.

Ann’s strategy for social media was simple and smart:

  • Have content ready: Ann turned IMA’s students’ testimonials into shareable graphics, and uploaded the video the documentary filmmaker created to YouTube. IMA had a day’s worth of content ready before #GivingTuesday. Ann also shared several testimonials in the days leading up to #GivingTuesday, explaining what and when #GivingTuesday was and sharing their fundraising goal.
  • Post steadily and keep supporters informed: IMA posted often throughout #GivingTuesday, sharing the testimonial graphics one-by-one with a link to their Razoo page and a call to action to donate. They also made sure to post each time IMA was eligible for a prize, letting donors know when they could make the biggest impact with their donations.
  • Set mini-goals throughout the day: IMA posted specific calls to action, asking donors to help them reach milestones throughout #GivingTuesday — IMA set small, achievable goals throughout the day with specific calls to action and celebrated and thanked their supporters when each milestone was reached. (For instance, they posted a request for a donation of $44 to help them get to an even $23,000.)
  • Boost posts: IMA “boosted” several posts on #GivingTuesday, for $10 — $20. This helped increase the reach of their posts. (As of June 2016, Facebook changed its algorithm to prioritize friends and family in users’ feeds, making it harder for posts from brand pages to be seen — so this is even more important for this year’s #GivingTuesday!)
  • Follow up: IMA wrapped up their #GivingTuesday efforts by thanking everyone who supported them and helped them get to the top of the Small Nonprofit leaderboard.

Lessons Learned

Here’s what other small nonprofits can take away from IMA’s success on #GivingTuesday:

Stay in your comfort zone. Ann wasn’t very familiar with peer-to-peer campaigns, so she stuck to what she was comfortable with, which was directly asking for support. She also stuck to the platform she was most comfortable with (Facebook). Because your resources may be limited on #GivingTuesday, you’ll have the most success if you stick to what you already know … and what you know works for your audience.

Meet your supporters where they are. IMA already had a robust, active community of supporters on Facebook, so that was where Ann reached out to them. Instead of spending time building support elsewhere, she just went to the community IMA had already spent time cultivating.

Show your impact. Appeal to your donors and your community by generating content that demonstrates the work your organization does — who do you help, how do you help them. Making this content personal, with testimonials and photos from those helped by your organization, can have an even bigger impact. It’s also important to tailor your content to how you’re reaching your supporters: On Facebook, images and videos are especially effective, and that’s what IMA chose to focus on.

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