Fairfield County’s Giving Day to Sunset After a Decade of Giving

Nov 01, 2022

Learn About the Collaborative Decision-Making Process Leading Us in a New Direction

After nine years of hosting Fairfield County’s Giving Day, we found strong support from our nonprofit partners to make 2023 the final Giving Day. Embracing our values of inclusivity, collaboration, and humility, we want to provide our community with a transparent look into how we came to this decision.

The launch of our latest strategic plan, Fairfield County Forward, calls for the Community Foundation to renew its commitment to community voice; including assessing the alignment of existing initiatives with our new strategic plan.

During our strategic planning process, stakeholder listening sessions with more than 70 individuals surfaced a clear finding: Fairfield County’s Giving Day is a barrier to building authentic relationships with community organizations. While surprising to some, the Foundation has long struggled to make sense of widely varying experiences of nonprofits participating in Giving Day. We knew we needed to dig deeper.

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We began by inviting twenty-four leaders of color, representing organizations that both had and had not participated in Giving Day, to provide feedback on their experience with Giving Day. Individuals representing thirteen organizations discussed barriers to participation, the most valuable aspects of the event, and explored other ways the Community Foundation might be able to help strengthen their marketing and fundraising capacity.

To gain a broader perspective, we also issued an anonymous survey to more than 700 executive directors whose organizations had participated in Fairfield County’s Giving Day at some point in its nine-year history. We received 99 responses, representing nearly a quarter of the approximately 400 organizations that participate in Giving Day in an average year. Responses were compared to 2022 Giving Day participants and were found to be representative across organization budget and staff size, and BIPOC leadership.

Here’s what we learned from the survey results:

  • The majority of survey respondents (64%) – whether they put in a lot of effort (20%) or found it easy to participate (44%) – told us they receive limited ROI from participating in Giving Day; only 26% of participants raised more than $5,000 during Giving Day 2022.
  • 92% of survey respondents raise less than 20% of their annual budgets through Giving Day.
  • 82% of survey respondents said discontinuing Giving Day would have “no impact” or “some impact, but not of concern” on their organization’s fundraising; just 9% said it would significantly impact their fundraising.
  • Participants in the Leaders of Color Focus Groups told us that Giving Day is a significant strain on capacity; multiple participants told us they would be relieved if Giving Day were to sunset.
  • Survey respondents told us the most valuable aspects of Giving Day were the platform, planning tools and templates especially for social media, and alignment with FCCF’s brand and marketing; focus group participants similarly valued the perception of being “vetted” by FCCF, connections to FCCF’s fundholders/donors, and being part of a community celebration.

View the full survey analysis here.

Informed by this significant feedback from our nonprofit community, the Foundation decided that Giving Day is no longer the most effective opportunity to support the marketing and fundraising capacity of local nonprofits. Since Giving Day began in 2014, online fundraising has become ubiquitous across the sector with a plethora of low or no-cost fundraising platforms available—and nonprofit needs have changed.

New Opportunities to Support Fairfield County Nonprofits

In alignment with Fairfield County Forward, we will instead explore new opportunities to build the capacity of local nonprofits through our Center for Nonprofit Excellence and to build community support for our nonprofit sector. An example of this is CNE’s pilot of a new training series and cohort-based model with Resilia, which is designed specifically for smaller grassroots organizations led by people of color; and a partnership with the United Way of Western Connecticut to offer a free eight-part online training series on the essential aspects of nonprofit management. CNE provides an ongoing platform for continuous feedback, relationship building, and flexible, responsive programming.

For organizations most at-risk from sunsetting Giving Day, we are exploring “off-ramp” supports to help nonprofits develop contingency fundraising plans and other direct support based on specific needs.

“We look forward to celebrating this last Fairfield County’s Giving Day as a true testament of the positive impact we can have when our community comes together for the greater good,” said Mendi Blue Paca, the Foundation’s President & CEO. “With our new strategic focus, we will be increasingly guided by the people and organizations closest to the issues facing our county. We couldn’t be more inspired by the possibilities to engage the whole community in an ongoing collective movement to build a Fairfield County where everyone has an equitable opportunity to thrive.”

Members of our nonprofit community are invited to explore other capacity-building initiatives through our Center for Nonprofit Excellence, starting with a special webinar on November 3 that will discuss changes Fairfield County Forward will have on our grantmaking.

For specific questions, please email Rebecca Cordero, Manager of FCCF’s Center for Nonprofit Excellence.