#ILGive Case Study: Getting Creative With Giving Day Appeals

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Editor's note: As part of Forefront's #ILGive initiative, we're highlighting successful campaigns run by several participating nonprofits. Whether it was an innovative social media campaign, an engaged board, or great day-of strategy, these nonprofits set, met, or exceeded their #ILGive for Giving Tuesday goals and are sharing words of wisdom on #ILGive strategies.

We recently spoke with Colleen McGaughey, Development Director of Literacy Works, about the Literacy Works #ILGive campaign and how a little ingenuity led to great success. 

How did you and your team decide to capitalize on #ILGive/#GivingTuesday?

We do our annual appeal, mailed and online, beginning at the end of November. While in past years we have struggled with GivingTuesday as a potential conflict for our regular appeal, we have learned to use it to enhance that campaign. So, GivingTuesday was the day we used to launch our series of online appeals. We also have a new Associate Board, and we used GivingTuesday as their fundraising debut – they set up their own page and sent it through their networks. They also did a “Friendsgiving” event to cap off the day. It was a downtown bar fundraiser, which gave Literacy Works 20% of proceeds from the party.

How far in advance did you begin these talks? 

We are a development staff of one, but I coordinated with our social media person a couple of weeks out, and our Associate Board joined up probably six weeks out.

How did you decide what areas to fund?

We are an organization that does not necessarily have a lot of direct, tangible expenses, so we need to get creative. It has to be something people can easily understand, and something that is associated with our brand. We made it simple: $50 trains someone to become a tutor for an adult learner.

How do you keep momentum going?

We posted on FB a few times leading up to and throughout the day and pretty much had GivingTuesday take over our Twitter feed. We started the day with an e-blast to our nearly 5,000 subscribers. We made sure to do shout-outs to donors throughout the day on social, tagging them where possible.

How many triggers do you suggest throughout the day?

1. We had a challenge grant, so we made mention of the match in our e-blast and on social media.

2. We did various updates on our progress.

3. We have a long-time, beloved staff member who retired at the end of the year. She reached out personally on social media to ask supporters to make a donation as her retirement gift. We tweeted a photo of her holding a sign that said “Guess what I want for my retirement?” with a link to our giving page.

Which trigger event was the most successful?

#3 – The retirement gifts.

What advice do you have as far as timing for content?

Get the word out via social media starting on Thanksgiving that your organization will be participating in GivingTuesday, but don’t let that be the only thing you post. Send an e-blast first thing in the morning day-of. Post about once an hour during the work day on Facebook to update and thank. Tweet as often as you can, with photos if possible. I know the going wisdom is to start much earlier than this, but we don’t have the capacity to do so, and we feel it could over-saturate our messaging in an unappealing way. 

How did you set your #ILGive goal?

We did not expect to make much, so we decided on a $1,500 goal in one day, which would train 30 tutors. We ended up bringing in more than $3,000. Here’s my advice: Set an attainable goal, but clearly communicate that surpassing that goal means that your impact will increase accordingly. So, we set our goal at $1,500, but made sure everyone knew that for every $50 we received, we would train a tutor. Once we made the goal, we turned it into a count of how many tutors we were up to.

What are your goals for #ILGive 2017? 

We’ll set a goal to exceed this year’s total, and we will push to have our Associate Board do more of a peer-fundraising tactic, where they each create and share their own page and goal.

What would you say are key components to a successful day?

  1. A clear goal that resonates with your network.
  2. Let various online channels reinforce and complement one another. Keep posts going regularly throughout the day. Do public donor acknowledgements.
  3. Get your board to do their own sharing, with a personal note on each post.
  4. Leverage donor matches and special events happening among your organization (e.g. if someone on staff is retiring, having a baby, or celebrating another milestone. This is particularly effective for our small organization, which tends to get a bulk of our individual support from people who have personal connections to our staff and board).

Did you utilize traditional media? 

We did not use traditional media for GivingTuesday per se, but the event was a complement to our annual appeal, which has a direct mail component.

How was your “War Room” set up?

I would not say that we had a war room. We did have a staff meeting for most of the day on GivingTuesday, so having all of us in the same room helped with coordination. We sat around a table with our laptops.

What are your major “Dos and Don’ts” for hosting a successful Giving Day?


  • set an achievable goal for a specific need
  • leverage matching gifts
  • post regularly throughout the day
  • leverage special milestones in your organization
  • use GivingTuesday as an enhancement, rather than a competitor, of other coinciding appeals
  • build up your email lists and social media followers throughout the year
  • acknowledge donors throughout the day
  • use the giving platforms and other tools provided by Forefront. GiveGab allowed us to create an attractive, interactive giving page
  • Encourage board and staff members to make their own personal appeals.



  • Unless you have a wide network to tap into, don’t spend a ton of time prepping content. It’s okay to not do everything the major nonprofits are doing if you are a small organization. Work within your capacity.
  • Don’t give up after an “unsuccessful” year. As people become more familiar with the concept of GivingTuesday, giving seems to be increasing. People want to be part of the movement.
  • Don’t get overly complex with your messaging and tactics. We’ve tried time-consuming things in the past (like the “unselfie” during year one) that were cute, but didn’t necessarily resonate. Be forthright about your needs, request, and goal


Be on the lookout for more #ILGive stories, tips, tricks, and strategies from 2016's participants- they'll come in handy for our next Giving Day this spring! We're also offering educational opportunities in digital fundraising, best practices, and trends to help you prepare for this and future giving days! Watch our newsletters, social media channels, and events page for more info. To learn more about ILGive, visit our ILGive.com or contact Kathleen Murphy, Director of Communications at kmurphy@myforefront.org.