Sean King

Sean King

Sean King has been on our radar for about 3 years now – when he participated in our very first Mentoring Program and shared his organization’s wonderful video series.  He recently asked us for #GivingTuesday advice which we happily gave…under the condition he share the process and results with us! ~Kivi

Guest Post by Sean King of Youth Education in the Arts (YEA!)

Seven nonprofit arts organizations in Allentown, PA recently joined together for a cooperative fundraising venture engaging the fundraising movement that is #GivingTuesday.

With so much buzz around this particular “day of giving,” the seven organizations attempted to leverage their connections to create buzz online and off to create awareness and generate funds.

To provide context to the project, Allentown, PA, is the home to nearly $1 billion of redevelopment and seven small to medium sized arts organizations that until very recently had not done many collaborative projects. Beginning in 2014, the groups partnered on a successful community event in conjunction with the opening of a 10,000 seat multi-purpose arena, which then begat the #GivingTuesday campaign.

The #GivingTuesday effort resulted in $10,000 of funds raised for the day from a mixture of individual donations, special onsite promotions and corporate philanthropy. What follows are a few of the takeaways the groups learned from their #GivingTuesday experiment.

Online and Off

While #GivingTuesday is defined from its very first character as being an online movement, the organizations determined that activity offline was just as important to build awareness and momentum. While none of the organizations have incredibly robust social media presences, leveraging hashtags and social media was important, but traditional connections mattered too.

The group was able to secure print ads, radio mentions and a full page article in the largest circulated newspaper in the region, but in the end, the direct results from these traditional efforts were lackluster, but their impact was great.

#Takeaway: The concept of #GivingTuesday may have been too foreign to the audience, plus the fact that the “event” took place on one day, made for a difficult message. On the positive side, the buzz built around the organizations made their effort stand out and provided a point of differentiation from all other #GivingTuesday causes competing for the same space in the region.

Go All In

Even though the planning of a collaborative fundraiser around #GivingTuesday started in early September, many of the organizations annual campaigns were already planned for this same time period. The marketing team did not want to adversely impact fundraising plans that were underway, so a strategy was implemented to target new donors who normally would not be reached by traditional means.

#Takeaway: Leveraging all of the resources for multiple organizations at one time is imperative and you have to be “all-in.” Otherwise, trying to manage a one-day campaign amidst annual campaigns for multiple organizations will be a distraction to both. Earlier planning to incorporate #GivingTuesday into an overall annual campaign strategy is the way to go.

Many Hands

Committees do their best work when there’s a plan to follow and each member is assigned a role. Throughout the entire #GivingTuesday project communication was provided from the project leaders, with the most prolific marketers on the team leveraging their media contacts for ads, mentions and articles. Another organization took the lead on building the Facebook presence, while yet another individual assisted with writing posts for social media.

#Takeaway: Set specific goals and assign bite-sized tasks that take advantage of individual’s strengths and connections. You’ll be amazed by the accomplishments of a high-functioning team.

Easy Come. Easy Go.

As the original plans began to percolate, the arts groups were encouraged by a major event scheduled for the arena just steps from each of the organization’s front doors. Cher, who had previously rescheduled a concert date to Dec. 2, was set to perform in Allentown on #GivingTuesday.

The concert provided a chance to engage with thousands of potential supporters who would be visiting the downtown for the concert. Plans were created for art on the streets, volunteers greeting concert-goers, buskers and street performers doing their thing. Alas, the ailing Cher canceled her entire tour, including the Dec. 2 date, just twelve days before #GivingTuesday was planned to launch.

#Takeaway: You can take advantage of situations which fall into your lap, but sometimes even the best laid plans do not materialize. However, some of the plans, such as a restaurant tie-in, went well and netted approximately 10% of the overall result.

Activity Produces Results

While implementing the above strategy to reach new supporters, corporate partners of the arts were also engaged to spread the word. Individual corporations broadcast the message through their communication channels, while a few restaurants agreed to support the campaign by donating a portion of their profits from a cocktail for five days.

#Takeaway: The majority of the funds raised during the #Giving Tuesday came from corporate philanthropy and the restaurant promotion. Activity from many different areas created much-needed buzz that energized people to participate. While you may not be able to track earth-shattering results from traditional platforms, leveraging less traditional routes may provide you with a different pathway to success.

Technology Can Be Your Friend

Technology played two roles in the #GivingTuesday plan. A website ( was developed to feature all seven organizations, with an easy-to-use graphic display including a logo and brief summary for each group with a simple donor form to collect donations. For the second tech initiative, the plan was to capitalize on the many new faces that would be on the street with the arena concert, and just as many mobile phones. A text giving option was built just in time for $10 gifts to be given through mobile. Once again, due to the concert cancellation, the outcome will never be known whether the text initiative would’ve made $100 or $10,000 through this easy-to-use platform.

#Takeaway: Leave no stone unturned and research all elements of technology available to you to make your fundraiser a success. Going through all of the steps of a process and not having a lingering sense of “what if” at the end of the campaign or project is the next best feeling in the world to hitting a home run for your organization.

Unintended Consequences

While donations directly to the website were light, many of the organizations experienced a bump in their donations for the day. As is the case with most advertising and promotion, you never really know what element of a campaign or message might connect with a contributor. Participating groups did receive checks through the mail and additional web traffic and a few more donations online at their individual sites.

#Takeaway: If the name of the game is to not only raise money but to raise awareness to the sustainability of your organization, then your strategy should be by any means necessary. Even if your specific goal is not achieved, you will always wind up further down the road toward success than when you began.

While the final grade for the Allentown Arts #Giving Tuesday project was a B or C, that result is not due to a lack of effort, ideas, communication or cooperation.

As a matter of fact, the collaborative effort has invigorated the organization’s to grow and expand projects for 2015 to include new programming, fundraising and marketing endeavors.

In the end, each of the organization’s benefitted individually and the group as a whole advanced their cause for the arts in a dynamic and innovative future.

Participating organizations in the Downtown Allentown Arts #Giving Tuesday program are: Allentown Art Museum, Allentown Symphony Association, Baum School of Art, Civic Theatre, Community Music School, Liberty Bell Museum and Youth Education in the Arts.

A serial entrepreneur at heart, Sean King has been consulting with small businesses and non-profit organizations for over 20 years.  Currently, Sean is the Director of Marketing & Communications for Youth Education in the Arts (YEA!) a non-profit organization based in Allentown, Pa. which teaches life lessons through music.  He also continues his consulting practice through Aspire Brand Networks.  Sean resides with his wife Natalie and son Haydn in the global crossroads of Fogelsville, Pa. You can follow him on Twitter @skingaspire

Published On: December 18, 2014|Categories: Fundraising|