Giving Days (And Giving Day Guy) Prepare For Totally Different 2020 Season
Whether in person or from a distance, technology will give us the opportunity to broadcast the great work that organizations around the country are doing.
As I write this blog post on March 16, 2020, I realize we are living through one of the most frightening periods of my lifetime. The global coronavirus pandemic is affecting all of our lives in ways we've never seen before and I hope we never experience again.
The anticipated crush on the U.S. health care system is running parallel to unthinkable selloffs in the stock market. In the 10 minutes since I started writing this blog post, draconian social measures like nationwide curfews have been floated on the news, in the wake of cancellations of every major sporting event, entertainment venue and conference in America; and before I could punctuate that sentence with a period, even the Supreme Court is shutting down temporarily.
Without question there will be massive ramifications on the nonprofit industry, likely for years to come. I will surely write more in the weeks and months to come about this new world we are all occupying -- but with an eye on the calendar, I want to speak specifically about giving days.
For years, I've been exceptionally bullish on the growth potential of giving days. In 2019, I was blessed to work with three giving days -- San Antonio in March, St. Louis in May, Louisville in September. This spring, in addition to return trips to Texas (March 26) and Missouri (May 7), I was set to travel to Gainesville, Fla. (April 22-23); Columbia, S.C. (May 5); and York, Pa. (May 1), to assist local organizations with spreading the word about their respective giving days.
Me with the team from The Big Give 2020 -- Jerry Moore, Laryssa Herbert from GiveGab, Mercedes Alhaj and Scott McAninch -- after their training camp on Feb. 26
I'm very proud of the work being done in each of these communities, who each saw remarkable success with their giving days in 2019 -- raising a combined $14 million for nearly 2,000 nonprofits. They did so with a variety of strategies that brought people together both online and offline -- centralized kickoff rallies, galas, day-long open houses at headquarters, and countless events of all sizes organized by the nonprofits themselves, all punctuated by the use of social media.
This cornucopia of in-person gatherings showcases the very best of what nonprofits are about at their core. The generational shift from concentrated earned media to democratized social media distribution makes giving days the perfect time to increase resources in telling those organizations' stories.
That has been my job as the Giving Day Guy. But as all of our roles will have to evolve because of the coronavirus, so will mine.
As I write this, my planned travel to the aforementioned five states is still technically a 'go.' I call my company 'I Am Here' because I so dearly love being on the ground, shoulder-to-shoulder, alongside those everyday heroes that make our communities a better place to live and work. If it is safe for me, and permitted by the U.S. government, to travel to these cities to execute as intended, I will be there to leverage every tool at my disposal to make it happen.
(I must also share that it is up to the discretion of each giving day to possibly postpone if deemed necessary -- while I, and everyone, hopes that is not the case, and that has not been suggested to me yet, it is not a possibility I can unilaterally rule out.)
Me and the team from Midlands Gives, from left: Lee Goble, Elizabeth Houck and Cherise Arrendale -- after their Feb. 20 social media training at the Girl Scouts Center in Columbia
It has been emotionally challenging to confront the growing possibility of not being able to physically join Scott, Jerry and Mercedes in San Antonio; Lesley, Barzella and their team in Gainesville; Meagan, Philip and her team in York; Cherise, Elizabeth, Lee and their team in Columbia; and Neosha and her team in St. Louis. But this week, that is a challenge we are preparing to take on.
Live-streaming video capabilities are more advanced than ever before. While every single organization with a Facebook page has the ability to 'go Live' at a press of a button, third-party applications like Switcher Studio give us even greater flexibility to create dynamic, sophisticated live broadcasts that can effectively engage and inform viewers and help organizations drive results in real time. While Switcher Studio is certainly not the only tool capable of these mechanics, it is my personal preferred tool. (I am not a partner of SS.)
Switcher Studio allowed us to take viewers live into an event at Milewide Beer Co. in Louisville during Give For Good Louisville
In my opinion, nothing can ever truly replace the value of in-person presence and interactivity. At Give STL Day 2019, I toured a children's health museum in St. Louis with my young co-host, sniffing comically vile scents designed to tantalize kids' senses. At the Big Give 2019, Jerry Moore and I visited a kitchen at a local church, and shared live images of hundreds of pancakes and scrambled eggs being prepared for supporters. At Give For Good Louisville 2019, Jan Walther and I shimmied our way through a bar filled with generous donors sharing in the comfort of live music. The common thread? Each of these activities was shared with you, the viewer, through the power of live-streamed video.
This week, contingency plans are being put in place for us to, as effectively as possible, be able to bring forth these types of stories without us necessarily being there on the ground. This will take some wizardry, patience and resourcefulness -- but if there was ever a group of people in America known for its resilience and grace, it's these incredible nonprofits that I'm fortunate enough to work with.
What none of us know right now is how the impact of our current economic crisis will affect the collective generosity of Americans this spring. However, what we definitely do know is that the giving day leaders in San Antonio, Gainesville, York, Columbia and St. Louis, and I, will do everything in our power, using the best technology that we can, to keep you informed on the critical role that nonprofits in their respective communities play as we work to emerge from this national emergency even stronger than before.
I'll see you in -- or "in" -- San Antonio on March 26.
The 'Giving Day Guy'