The success story that is #GivingTuesdayBucks 2013 goes well beyond a story of gifts made and donations received; beyond a story of increased awareness of needs in Bucks County and the important role that nonprofits play in meeting those needs; and beyond a story of numerous local nonprofits that ramped up their individual capacity to participate in a social media campaign and benefit from online giving. It is a story of the successful collaboration of more than 80 organizations from all parts of the County that attracted attention far beyond expectations and put Bucks County, Pennsylvania on the national map.
As part of a national day to inspire philanthropy, #GivingTuesdayBucks did not disappoint. With 52 of the 83 nonprofits reporting their results, over $38,600 in donations were received through more than 360 gifts. This was only the second year of existence for Giving Tuesday and only the first year of participation by Bucks County nonprofits. Growing awareness is likely to result in increased donations in years ahead. But the impact of this year’s donations is significant and as varied as the scope of the participating organizations. Many nonprofits indicated that the donations they collected will support core operations – an important priority as no organization can exist without such support. Of those that identified a particular need to be met with Giving Tuesday donations, the following projects were memorable: bully prevention for youth across Bucks County; respite vacations for two families facing cancer; assistance with vet bills for an animal rescue organization; repairs to a historic bridge along the Delaware Canal; and support for Camp Courage, a summer camp for kids on the autism spectrum.
Feedback from participating Bucks County nonprofits tells the story of organizations with a wide range of levels of experience with social media and online giving. More than a handful had no capacity to receive online gifts prior to this fall and pushed to acquire it in order to participate in #GivingTuesdayBucks. Many more were motivated to build their capacity in social media marketing, generating some of their first Facebook posts, tweets, and YouTube videos to support their involvement. Others used the opportunity to build their capacity to track and better understand the impact of their organizations’ outreach activity on website traffic, online giving, and social media engagement.
Statistics from the shared website of #GivingTuesdayBucks (www.givingtuesdaybucks.org) suggest that the initiative was also a success from the perspective of building philanthropic awareness in the region. The site experienced nearly 3,200 unique visitors from its launch in mid-October through December 3rd. There were 799 visitors to the site on December 3rd alone. Many participating organizations reported that their boards were energized by the experience and they were pleased with the results that frequently included attracting new followers and donors and reestablishing connections with lapsed donors in a very inexpensive way.
Arguably the greatest success of #GivingTuesdayBucks is grounded in the broad-based collaboration of 83 nonprofits representing the full spectrum of diverse causes present in Bucks County. Participants were genuinely interested in putting aside perceived competition for donors and, instead, working together to draw attention to County-wide needs and to engage many more people in the work of making the County an even better place to live. They were led by a committee of 16 individuals with diverse talents who added additional responsibilities to their already full plates for the sake of creating something special. It was because of this unique local collaboration that #GivingTuesdayBucks received surprising national attention, including a specific mention in the White House Blog (http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/11/26/celebrate-givingtuesday) and the United Nations recap of Giving Tuesday (http://www.unfoundation.org/blog/top-ten-givingtuesday.html).
None of this could have been accomplished without the support of #GivingTuesdayBucks media partner The Bucks County Herald; website partner IQnection; and the #GivingTuesdayBucks committee. Members of the committee included Laura Biersmith (Mercer Museum), Marissa Christie (United Way of Bucks County), Alex Dashkiwsky (Heritage Conservancy), David Ford (Family Service Association of Bucks County), Eric Jacobson (IQnection Internet Services), Florence Kawoczka (Habitat for Humanity of Bucks County), Jen King (Penn Foundation), Tony Luna (Pearl S. Buck International), Melissa Mantz (Bucks County Housing Group), Jessie Marushak (Bucks County Opportunity Council), Ann McCauley (Bucks County Audubon Society), Jenny Salisbury (A Woman’s Place), Tammy Schane (Heritage Conservancy), Liz Vibber (Catalyst Center for Nonprofit Management), Joe Wingert (Bucks County Herald), and myself, Kathy Beveridge (Spark Nonprofit Consulting).
Plans for #GivingTuesdayBucks 2014 are already underway, and there is every reason to believe that participation and impact will continue to increase going forward. More than 86% of responding organizations indicated they are very likely to participate again in 2014. Stay tuned, Bucks County.