Giving Days Donors Lack Diversity

August 10, 2016       Mark Hrywna      

Giving Days have become a vehicle for community foundations to increase visibility and credibility, strengthen digital skills, and raise millions of dollars, although from a donor base that isn’t very diverse, according to a new report.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today released “Beyond the Dollars: The Long-Term Value of Giving Days for Community Foundations,” which examines various giving days going back to a pilot program the foundation started in 2012. The full report can be found at

Giving Days help community foundations increase visibility and credibility, strengthen their digital skills, and become hubs for information on giving, according to the report’s authors. Most giving day campaigns raised less than $1 million from more than 2,000 donors, for more than 100 organizations.

On average, 57 percent of nonprofit managers surveyed said they brought in new funding through Giving Days. About 36 percent of donors surveyed thought they donated more than they would have had Giving Days not occurred. In all but one Giving Day season, the median donation was about $50. According to the report’s authors, this indicated “there were just as many contributions of less than $50 as more than $50.”

Giving Day organizers had nine times as much website traffic during the campaigns, in addition to a 12-percent increase in Twitter followers from two months before the campaigns to one month after.

“Whether or not community foundations continue with giving days, they have acquired new skills and insights they can use for future initiative, and to assure these foundations continue to have a vibrant future. There is no turning back,” Lilly Weinberg, director of Knight Foundation’s community foundations program, said via a press release.

Giving Days have raised almost $116 million engaged 367,496 donors who made more than 600,000 donations, and mobilized more than 20,000 organizations to participate during the past four years. The figures include totals from 2012 through 2015 but do not include 2016.

One aspect of Giving Days noted in the report is that they did not attract a diverse or demographically representative donor base. Women, individuals identifying as white or Caucasian, English speakers, people with a higher education and those older than 40 were consistently overrepresented. Organizers need to find ways to use the Giving Days to reach a more diverse donor base, according to the report.

Researched by Third Plateau Social Impact Strategies, the report is the culmination of Knight Foundation Giving Day initiative, which provided the playbook, Facebook group, plus individualized help and funding to giving day organizers in communities where the foundation invests, to share best practices.

The foundation launched a pilot program in 2012 that provided grants to eight community foundations to determine whether giving days would be an effective way for them to experiment with digital technology. Knight Foundation has since supported 18 Giving Day organizers to run 49 campaigns and launched the Giving Day Playbook, an online how-to guide for community foundations to run giving days, and the Peer Learning Exchange, a community that convened online and via conference all to share lessons learned.

Kimbia, the donation platform supporting 54 giving days this past spring, shut down for much of the day because of numerous technology issues. The failure sparked a conversation about the future of giving days and the state of nonprofit technology, according to the authors. “Even as a technology failure froze dozens of campaigns during last spring’s Give Local America, during which many community foundations raised local funds on the same day, the report serves as a reminder of how beneficial these campaigns can be.”

Knight Foundation will discuss the report in a virtual roundtable in partnership with Markets for Good on Sept. 1 at 1 p.m. Registration is open at