What To Do When Your Giving Day Goes Wrong

Now that we've had a week and a half to recover, we thought it would be great to examine some lessons learned following the "Great GiveBIG Meltdown" of 2016. Missed that news? A few summaries of the events that transpired are here, here and here.

YNPN Board Committee Member Allison Carney offers her take here with "What To Do When Your Giving Day Goes Wrong."

Originally posted by Allison Carney Consulting.

On May 3rd, nonprofit staff members across the country cried out in frustration as their giving day platforms shut down during Give Local America, a single day of giving across 54 communities. The failure came after weeks (or months) of nonprofits communicating with their donors to build momentum for this fundraising blitz. And on the day, around 10am EST, it all crashed.

The software platform behind the donation processing, Kimbia, was ultimately the one responsible for the crash, and while they have posted a detailed description of what actually caused the malfunction, it did little to assuage the frustration of nonprofits.

As someone who was with nonprofit staff during two problem-ridden giving days (at both Seattle’s GiveBIG and a Washington, D.C.’s 2013 Do More 24), I can safely say that a failing giving day is more or less a worst-case scenario. You have been imploring everyone on your e-mails lists and social channels for weeks, and now the donors who are actively trying to support you are frustrated. So what do you do?

Here are a few tips to guide you through the mayhem.

Step 0-6. Communicate frequently and truthfully on social media and your website

Throughout the process, at every step, communicate with your donors in a public way. You want them to know you are working on it and feel their pain. However, notice that I specifically do not mention e-mail here. Donors in your community are getting one billion e-mails during this day, so save your e-mails for big announcements to encourage donations, as opposed to “We hear you and we’re working on it!” announcements.

Step 1. Communicate with your giving day host.

All giving days are hosted by a local organization. It’s usually your community foundation, but it could be a nonprofit association or a United Way. Get in touch with them and see what’s happening. They may not have an answer (technical slow-downs often take time to diagnose), but there’s a chance they do. It’s at least worth a phone call.

In addition, sometimes the host will honor donations made through your own website/giving platform if theirs is malfunctioning. See if this is an option, which gives you an immediate solution for donors. But if they say they won’t honor those donations for the giving day, then you’ll need another solution.

Aside: The 2016 Give Local America glitches were caused by the software, so the hosts could not fix the platform itself. Despite this, one foundation stepped up to solve the problem. They provided volunteers around the city to collect checks, a phone bank (at their own expense), and a way for folks to donate through their own website. This was the Bozeman Area Community Foundation, and I swear I get teary-eyed just thinking about it. I donated to them that day, to a community I have never been to. Dear Bozeman: I love you. Sorry if that’s weird.

Step 2. Come up with a solution for eager donors to qualify for giving day donations.

For GiveBIG, donations through their platform qualify for matching donations and other prizes. Our solution to still get our donations to qualify as GiveBIG contributions was to have our donors call us so we could take their credit card and donation info to enter in when the system was up and running again. However, our goals were small (under $10k) and this is probably not a viable solution if you’re going to get hundreds of donor calls.

But come up with some solution that you can:

Step 3. Come up with deadline to change your call to action (i.e. Devise Plan B)

Both times I have been involved in a failing giving day, they platform was not up and running until late at night or the next day (because the deadline was extended). If we had decided “By noon, we will direct everyone to our website for donations, regardless of the giving day match,” we would have been able to harness that energy we had spent so much time building.

Step 4. Before that deadline, devise a new, sexy incentive.

Woodland Park Zoo (yes, I am a member, and no, they have never accepted my baby animal names) did this expertly well. At 1:30, they announced an anonymous donor would match all donations, up to $10,000, made on their website.

Many donors give during giving days because their donation gets stretched. By offering to stretch donations themselves, the Zoo was able to incentivize donors who were waiting for the platform to get back up and running.

Try reaching out to board members or other donors you are close to, and see if they would be willing to help in this last-minute, 911 way. It’s a good fit for some donors, but not for everyone, so be careful when you ask! Another option is to reach out to some businesses to get coupons, discount codes, or some other incentive to get people to donate.

Step 5. E-mail all the people with your new call to action and incentive.

If you reach your deadline and the site is not up and running, it’s time to enact Plan B. You have the new call to action, and you have the sexy, new incentive. However! It is vital you come up with a snappy subject line. Do NOT waste this moment to write another “Give today to support kids/puppies/seahorse scientists” e-mail. It will get deleted. Full stop. Hell, you could write, “This e-mail sucks,” and get better opens than you would get with that nonsense.

….Don’t use that either, though. Trust me, I have a master’s degree in this stuff.

Instead, write a subject line that’s interesting and off beat. And for the love of all that is holy, do not use any of the following words: give, donate, support, or help.

Step 6. You’re still doing Step 0-6, right?

Because you should be.

And that’s it! Now, these steps may not guarantee you the best results possible, but it will focus your energies and prevent you from completely losing your mind (perhaps). And it will make sure that during the whole day, even if things aren’t going as planned, you are able to achieve some goals.

Good luck out there, folks!

Originally posted by Allison Carney Consulting.

Matchmaking the Perfect Board Member Role

In keeping with YNPN of Greater Seattle’s February theme of matchmaking, this post is about finding “The One.” And by “The One” I mean “the perfect board member role.”

No matter what sector they work in, many young professionals are interested in joining a nonprofit board. Motivations may range from building your skills and expanding your network, to being asked to join by a friend or colleague, to being passionate about supporting a particular mission or organization. Whatever your motivation may be, Seattle has a plethora of nonprofits (The Seattle Foundation’s website lists nearly 1,700!) and it can be difficult to know where to start.

Read more

Matchmaking in the Nonprofit Sector

It’s early February, and you know what that means. Red and pink hearts adorn expensive “prix fixe” menus at the restaurants you used to love, and the section of your local grocery store that used to bring you comfort (the sweets aisle, of course) is overrun with candy hearts and questionably-shaped sprinkles on bad sugar cookies.

Whether or not you have a sweetheart to snuggle up with on Valentine's Day, we here at YNPN of Greater Seattle are looking at this whole “matchmaking” month in a different light. We’ve decided to think about how we search for “the one” in the nonprofit world. By “the one,” we mean the perfect organization to work or volunteer for. 

Read more

How to Create a Nonprofit Communications Plan from Scratch (Part 2)

By Allison Carney, YNPN Greater Seattle Committee Member

So last week, I shared some tips for sketching out the main goals and audiences for your nonprofit’s communications plan. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you take a look to get prepared for this second post: creating a plan for implementation.

The first thing is to get your document prepared. I prefer a Word document, but you can use Excel if that’s easier for you. Many people, all smarter than I am, have created templates for you to use, so feel free to start off with this one, this one, or find another that works for you.

Read more

How to Create a Nonprofit Communications Plan from Scratch (Part 1)

By Allison Carney, YNPN Greater Seattle Committee Member

This month, YNPN Seattle is posting blogs about “starting from scratch.” They’ll be giving you tips and advice on how to build things from the ground up—without burning out.

My installment in is focused on creating an attainable, effective, and measurable communications plan.

If you’re anything like me, starting from scratch is terrifying. You’re watching the cursor flash on a blank screen or holding a pen to a notepad devoid of notes, and the only thing you can think about is how many other things you could be doing.

Read more

Partners We Are Thankful For

By Chris Paredes, YNPN Greater Seattle Board Member

Partnerships are key to the success of any nonprofit organization. They allow organizations to do much more together than what they could do alone. Partnerships permit organizations to leverage each other's strengths and resources so that together, they can elevate the sector and the communities we serve.

For YNPN Greater Seattle, partnerships have helped us connect with new young professionals in the nonprofit sector and offer quality programming to our members. In the last year, partnerships have helped us fuel our chapter's growth and through the Community Partnerships committee we hope to continue the spirit of collaboration and support of leadership development.

In recognition of this support, we wanted to give a quick shout out to the community partners who have collaborated with us in the last 12 months.


Read more

Nonprofit Wish Lists

By Ashley Mouldon, YNPN Seattle Board of Directors Co-Chair

You have probably already started to receive them: year-end appeal letters in your mailbox and colorful emails with success stories from the past 12 months. That’s right – it’s that time of year: the season of giving. And for nonprofits, this is usually when the bulk of donations come through the door; giving them the last extra push they need.

However, you don’t always have to give a monetary gift to your favorite nonprofits during the holiday season. Many local organizations have set up Amazon Wishlists to capture products they would most likely benefit from receiving.  Take a look at a few of them below:

Read more

Our Favorite Nonprofit Books

Give-and-Take-Image-225x300.jpgIn keeping with this month’s theme of “Back to School Books,” we want to share a few of our favorite nonprofit resource books with you. Thanks to the YNPN Board members and other community members for their recommendations! We’ve linked to each book on the Seattle Public Library website when possible and have used their summaries for your convenience. All other links and summaries are from Amazon or directly from the books’ websites. We also received a lot of suggestions for online resources, which we will be publishing in a separate post next month, so stay tuned! Please share your favorite nonprofit resource books in the comments!

Psst, Don't forget that our FIRST EVER book club meeting is November 4!

Read more

Join the YNPN Seattle Book Club!

giveandtake-cover-300x440.jpgAs you may know, YNPN of Greater Seattle’s mission is to support the professional development of the next generation of nonprofit leaders by providing opportunities for skill-building, information sharing, and networking. In an effort to stay true to our mission, we will be launching a number of events targeting professional development in the coming months.

The first of several new offerings I am thrilled to announce is the YNPN Greater Seattle Book ClubThe Book Club will meet every other month to discuss books and share ideas and questions related to nonprofit management, social change, and other related topics.

Read more

Introducing the New YNPN Seattle Board of Directors


This month we wanted to give all our members the chance to better-know our YNPN Seattle Board of Directors! Highlights from the short bios below include our most recent job in the sector, our education history, our favorite part of the nonprofit sector, and a fun fact about our experiences with YNPN.

Read more

A Primer on Nonprofit Industry Career Fields

longleat-hedge-maze-42-300x200.jpgThe nonprofit landscape is as diverse as the many different populations we serve. When asked to define a nonprofit, most people talk about charitable and educational causes, and while these are essential elements of the sector, there is more to being a nonprofit than meeting 501(c)(3) status. There are dozens of 501(c) statuses that comprise the industry, and each one has its own unique qualities. But for now, I’m going to focus on the ones that we’re likely to be working for: those that fall into the 501(c)(3) or (c)(6) categories.

Read more

Summer Events in the Nonprofit World

volunteer-300x146.jpgThis week we asked our YNPN Facebook friends to share nonprofit events happening this summer in and around Seattle! Thanks to all of you who submitted your events. Have an event to add? Tweet to us at @YNPNSeattle or email us at ynpngreaterseattle@gmail.com!  


Tuesday, June 30: The Washington State Association for Justice is hosting the Seattle premiere of "Lost in the Fine Print," with a panel discussion including Congresswoman Delbene at Seattle Town Hall.  

Read more

Welcome to the New Board of Directors

Last week, the current YNPN Board voted on the new slate of Board Member candidates for the 2015 elections. With a unanimous vote, the new slate was approved!

We'd like to send a special welcome to those brand new board members that will be joining us:

  • Secretary: Wendi Lindquist
  • Marketing Co-Chair: Linley Kirkwood
  • At-Large (1-year interim): Jeff Curwen

In addition to that, we have three returning board members elected to a new term:

  • Co-Chair: Ashley Mouldon
  • Co-Chair (1-year interim); Jon Anscher
  • At-Large: Chris Paredes

They will all be joining the current standing board members:

  • Marketing Co-Chair: Allie Tripp
  • Programming Co-Chair: Amy Anscher
  • National Liaison: Joleen Oerman

We are so excited for our new board. The new board will take effect on June 1st and new board members will attend their first board meeting in early July.

Four Tips for Job Searching in the Ever-Changing Nonprofit Sector

6290270129_32d384ffd5_o-300x226.jpgAs anyone in the nonprofit world can tell you, the job searching tactics our for-profit friends use rarely yields the results we hope for. For those of us who have been in the industry for a while, we understand that’s because so little of how the for-profit world conducts its talent sourcing aligns with nonprofit recruitment practices. For instance, we don’t usually have a cyclical hiring calendar. Our priorities are always shifting, and the limits of our resources sometimes shrink our talent pool. For the eager young applicant looking to break into the field—and sometimes for the experienced manager looking to continue his or her career—these and other characteristics can be insurmountable hurdles to finding work in our industry. Believe me, as someone who has worked for numerous nonprofits and who currently works as a consultant to the industry, I have certainly done my time on the job hunt. But what most people view as hurdles, I see as essential elements to be factored into a job search strategy. If you do it right, those elements can actually be helpful to you. More on that later though...


Read more

How Do I Join YNPN Greater Seattle?

Icon_-_Get_Involved26908-300x142.gifWe recently got an excellent question from a prospective YNPN member, and realized that we haven't ever really explained what being a member entails. So, we wanted to take a moment to share what joining YNPN means. Joining the Greater Seattle chapter of YNPN is simply a matter of getting involved. We currently have no fees for membership, so if you are interested in getting involved, all you need to do is show up! Here are just a few of the ways you can get involved.

Read more

An Interview with Vu Le from Nonprofit with Balls

Vu-Le-with-mug-graphic_0.jpgFor those of you who follow us on social media with any regularity, our Nonprofit with Balls (NWB for short) posts might prompt a chuckle. We at YNPN regularly reference posts from NWB at our Board Meetings, and it’s safe to say that the blog inspired our entire “humor” theme this month.

While the name might seem to imply some sort of perversion, according to the blog’s author, Vu Le, “it refers to all the balls that we nonprofit professionals have to juggle: clients, board, staff, volunteers, funders, auditors, payrolls, budgets, cashflows, trainings, annual events, etc. We are all knee-deep in balls.” We can all certainly agree with that!


Read more

Investing in Your People: Ashley Miller’s Bold CTA

6848822477_7559e8c3a1_o-300x211.jpgLast winter, I was invited by a friend to attend the gala of the Service Board (TSB), a nonprofit organization that mentors teens to conquer personal and cultural challenges through public service and outdoor adventure. As it was event season, I had recently attended several soirées for Seattle nonprofits, but this was my first introduction to TSB.The crowd was much younger than is typical for a fundraising event and all were incredibly energized. The theme of the night was a winter semi-formal. Many were dressed in their best winter cocktail dresses and many looked like they stepped right out of high school. As the live auction began, the energy grew. The MC sparkled and bids were followed by hollers of appreciation. The energy never let down.

Read more

YNPN Board Nominations 2015!

elections_photo-300x300.jpgTis' the season! Nominations are now open for the YNPN Greater Seattle Board of Directors. We are always looking for new ideas and fresh energy to keep YNPN moving forward. You can nominate yourself or another, so think about someone you think would be a good fit. Current board openings are:

  • Co-Chair
  • Co-Chair (interim 1-year term)
  • Programming
  • Marketing and Communications
  • Secretary
  • Board Member At Large
Read more

Happy New Year Seattle!

kuta_2012_new_year_fireworks_by_saiogaman-d4kxanh-300x198.jpgHappy New Year Seattle non-profiters! Here at YNPN, we are excited for 2015 and continuing to strengthen the nonprofit professionals network throughout the area. We have plans to continue to host social networking events every month, as well as professional development ones, too. We are looking to build up our programming and communications committees (that’s where YOU can help out!) and will be hosting elections for new Board Members this summer. We have a lot to look forward to, what about you?

Check out these 2015 nonprofit professionals New Year resolutions from Allison Gauss at classy.com:

1. Resolve to call and personally thank 10 donors a month

Every donor should be thanked, but that will usually come in the form of an email or even a mailed letter. Donors expect this. But they won’t be expecting a personal phone call. from an organization. Setting aside just one hour every month allows you to personally reach out and strengthen this relationship. You can call big donors, brand-new donors, or a random group. No matter who you call, they will appreciate it.

Read more

Get Involved with YNPN!

getinvolved3.gifGet involved! We have three committees looking for eager and ambitious members! To learn more about any of these opportunities, contact us!


Read more

You got your degree in what?!

degree-225x300.pngI would get asked that question a lot, in a variety of ways. Sometimes it was an actual question: not everyone knows you can get degrees in journalism and publishing, I learned. But most of the time, it was asked with a slight tilt of the head, furrowed eyebrows and a tinge of sarcasm. Yes, I got a degree in journalism and then attended graduate school and left with an MA in Writing and Publishing. So, what? That was often times my response, but in a more cheerful manner, of course.


Read more

Youth in Focus End of Quarter Show


Yesterday evening I had the great privilege of attending the End of Quarter Show for intermediate level students at Youth in Focus, a non-profit organization that uses photography to reach at-risk youth, ages 13–19. Our very own Ashley Mouldon was kind enough to invite me to the event—she is the administrative and development guru at the organization.

Read more

2014 Board Slate

We have finalized the new Board Slate for 2014. These individuals were selected and have been proposed to the current Board for the 2014 elections. For those that don't know, YNPN of Greater Seattle has annual elections each June for the new board members. Half of the Board positions end every other year, leaving half of the Board slots open each summer. Potential board members are nominated in April and selected by the Nominating Committee in May. The slate is then sent to the current Board at their June meeting for a vote. If ratified, this slate will begin their service at the first July meeting. This year for our second official election, we had the both difficult and happy challenge of having more applicants than positions. The following nominees have been selected to serve a two-year term on the Board.

Read more

Youth in Focus: Where youth development meets photography


“Youth in Focus has become a place for me to be happy”

Youth in Focus began in 1994 as a small, after-school program where founder Walter Bodle hoped to make a difference for a group of at-risk youth. That summer was a success and now 20 years later, Youth in Focus has served almost 3,000 students and is still making a positive impact on their lives using photography as a tool.

Youth in Focus’ mission is to empower urban youth, through photography, to experience their world in new ways and to make positive choices for their lives. They put cameras in the hands of low income, at-risk youth and place them in a challenging environment surrounded by high quality talented teachers, nurturing adult volunteer mentors, and create a strong community of support.


Read more

The top five things I learned at the Social Media for Nonprofits Conference

By Sanne Stienstra

If you walked into the conference room at Seattle University on Monday afternoon and didn’t know the topic of the day was social media, you might think that this was the most inattentive, distracted conference audience ever. Attendees of the Social Media for Nonprofits Conference in Seattle were glued to their phones, tablets, and laptops—most of them tweeting, Facebooking, or otherwise documenting all the catchy tidbits of tech and social media advice floating around the room. It was a very “meta” situation with which current attendees were likely already familiar—using social media to talk about social media.

Read more