For as long as I have been working with nonprofits and philanthropy, there has been a call for foundations to participate in advancing knowledge. But at the same time, no one wants them to define what we all have learned—just help advance it. So here is a nice example of turning around information gleaned from many sources in good time.

Last year, the Knight Foundation made a total of $300,000 in grants to eight community foundations to support their 2012 Giving Days. The foundations in turn raised $5.2 million from 40,000 donors, and Knight garnered a lot of learning about how these Days were structured in various communities.

Last week, the Knight Foundation released an unusually well composed Web-based guide called The Giving Day Playbook, which NPQ thinks will be instructive to anyone doing online fundraising in general. Depending largely upon links, the text is organized for practical use, but very thoughtful and chock full of examples and ready-to-use formats. The table of contents extends from planning through implementation and evaluation.

I am a big fan of understanding the intent behind a strategy, so I was particularly taken by a pretty comprehensive little table that laid out the ways in which different types of prizes and games were used and the meaning and intent behind the choice of one type of game or prize versus another. That table was accompanied by the simplest of guidance:

The categories in this table are not mutually exclusive, and many community foundations successfully use multiple options. However, too many different prize and match structures can become administratively burdensome and/or confusing for nonprofits and donors.

To decide which prize and/or match incentives to offer, you first need to have decided on the Giving Day’s goals. As with everything regarding the Giving Day, your goals should drive your strategic and tactical choices. Then, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What prize and match incentive options align with the goals of our Giving Day? What actions do we want to encourage among our target audience?
  2. How much prize and match funding do we believe will be available?
  3. How can we structure our prize and match incentives in a way that offers both real monetary rewards to nonprofits and a reasonable chance of winning a portion of the funding?
  4. What creative prize and match incentives can we offer that relate to our community or sponsors and that provide meaningful incentives in line with our giving day goals?

We do not personally know much about Giving Days, but were impressed with the liberal use of examples from different locations, like this handy communications guide from GiveMN or this business partner checklist from Idaho Gives.

But what impresses us generally about this guide is:

  • The information herein is drawn from many sources and curated by someone who knows the work,
  • The material can be updated over time as the field evolves or devolves (as it will), and
  • It will prove useful, in some way, to almost anyone running a fundraising campaign online.

We’d love to hear from readers about what they think of this new resource, especially those who have been involved in Giving Days.