case studies, fundraising, guest posts

A Giving Tuesday Pay It Forward Success for the American Diabetes Association

2 Comments 03 January 2013

Step It Out Giving Tuesday

I was thrilled when my nonprofit technology colleague Shana Masterson of the American Diabetes Association agreed to write a guest post about the organization’s Giving Tuesday success. While some organizations used Giving Tuesday as an opportunity to ask for donations during the nationwide event, the American Diabetes Association took the opportunity to plan an extremely creative peer-to-peer fundraising opportunity, Step It Out. While it was a fundraising campaign, I was intrigued by how the organization used it as an opportunity to deepen and engage its community. The result was bountiful: $21,000 in donations, increased involvement from fundraisers, and deeper fundraiser loyalty to the American Diabetes Association.

When the Giving Tuesday movement was born, fundraisers rejoiced. A chance to start the year-end campaign earlier! A new reason to ask for money! The founders of the movement stressed “acts of giving,” but the truth is the great majority of nonprofits used Giving Tuesday as an opportunity to raise funds for their cause.

We weren’t interested in a straight fundraising ask, but wanted to do something that would truly engage the Step Out community. Being an idealistic bunch, we kept gravitating towards “random acts of kindness.” We also wanted to turn the usual concept of event fundraising incentives on its head.

As part of the Step Out “Pay It Forward” Giving Tuesday campaign, participants and donors were encouraged to make an unexpected donation to someone who walked in a 2012 event. In a twist, not only did the donor have the opportunity to surprise someone with a unexpected gift, but for every online gift of $26 or more – representing the 26 million Americans who have diabetes – the person receiving the gift would qualify for an all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii (prize donated). We hoped this would encourage the recipient to “Pay It Forward” and make a gift to someone else, and so on.

 Pay it forward FB post

Pay It Forward started on Giving Tuesday and ended four days later. It was promoted via:

  • Teaser posts on Facebook through the National Step Out and local pages.
  • Creation of a Facebook event and a Pay It Forward cover photo.
  • Campaign promotion added to the Step Out website main carousel and creation of a landing page.
  • Updated the donation form, donation thank you page, post donation social sharing prompt, and the donation notification email for recipients with information about the program.
  • Emails sent on the first and last days of the campaign, segmented with specific content for donors, team captains and walkers, with ideas of who they could give to and why.
  • Materials provided to the local offices for local promotion, including personal emails, phone scripts, social media posts, etc.
  • Facebook posts on each day of the campaign on the National Step Out page, with some posts being shared to the flagship American Diabetes Association page.
  • Facebook ads and promoted posts.
  • Creation of an admittedly cheesy YouTube video.
  • Posts through the flagship ADA Twitter account.

So, how did we do? Kind-hearted folks donated more than $21,000 through 333 online gifts!! Last year during this same period of time, $8,500 was raised online through 88 gifts, which included one $3,000 gift. The majority of gifts with a source code were credited to the emails, with many also coming directly from a Facebook post.

The bulk of gifts were also given on the last day, so we were pleased with our decision not to make this a one-day campaign. For word of mouth to spread, felt that one day would not be enough time for this sort of initiative, especially during our off-season.

Our goal for 2013 will be to raise $26,000 during the Pay It Forward campaign. We plan to build on what we did this year and tweak some aspects of the campaign. For instance, the Facebook event didn’t gain much traction and we didn’t give the local offices enough time to prepare for the campaign.

So, who won? A Red Strider (a Step Out participant who has diabetes) from the Los Angeles, who said, “When I got an email alert that my mother-in-law donated a second time I actually called and reminded her that she already donated last month! She then told me that she donated a second time to give me a chance to win the Hawaiian trip! I feel very honored and blessed that my mother-in-law cares for me, my well-being and ADA’s worthy cause.”

Shana photo

Shana Masterson has been working in event fundraising for national health nonprofits for the past twelve years. She is currently the National Associate Director for Interactive Fundraising and Engagement with the American Diabetes Association. Find her on Twitter: @npshana



Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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