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Creating a Philanthropic Database with®

Giving & Gabbing is GiveGab’s official podcast, featuring interviews with our philanthropic partners that highlight their unique digital fundraising and engagement stories. By offering this podcast, we strive to educate and inspire fundraising professionals from across the country – and perhaps even provide [a small morsel of] entertainment.

In Episode 9 of Giving & Gabbing, our co-hosts are joined by Jackie Downing, Director of Grant Marketing and Nonprofit Effectiveness at The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. Jackie and her team organize an annual Giving Day, The Great Give®, and just celebrated their 11th event that raised $3,633,911 for 398 organizations in May of 2020.

As one of the first Giving Days in the US, The Great Give® is a highly anticipated event that has continued to flourish over the years. Jackie and her team have managed this 36-hour campaign through GiveGab since 2018.

With support from GiveGab, they saw a recorded breaking year on our platform in 2020 with a 94.5% increase in dollars raised and a 41.12% increase in donor participation from their 2019 Giving Day.

In an effort to further strengthen their nonprofits’ impact and voice in the New Haven, CT, community, the Community Foundation recently launched®, an online database of local organizations, powered by GiveGab’s Philanthropy Hub.

Philanthropic Database

Philanthropy Hub allows you to ignite philanthropy in your community by providing a centralized portal where supporters, grantmakers, and other entities can go to learn about and support nonprofits within your community. It also provides organizations with a platform to tell their story and engage in online fundraising year-round.


Throughout this episode, Jackie takes a deep dive into the importance of creating a centralized place for donors to learn more, connect, and give back to nonprofits serving their community.

In this episode of Giving & Gabbing, our guest Jackie Downing discusses:

Philanthropic Database
  • Her experience working with GiveGab on their annual Giving Day, The Great Give®
  • Key factors motivating her team’s decision to launch® for the New Haven community
  • The level of support received from GiveGab as they onboarded nonprofits onto the Philanthropy Hub platform
  • Expected results for nonprofits and community members utilizing®
  • Advice to other philanthropic leaders who may be interested in hosting a catalog of local nonprofit


Check out the full interview with Jackie Downing on Creating a Philanthropic Database for Your Community by listening to our Giving & Gabbing episode below or wherever you get your podcasts!

Read the transcript

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Podcast episodes include nonprofit communication and marketing strategies and interviews with fundraising professionals from across the nonprofit and education sectors.

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Interview Transcript

Jackie (GiveGab): Today we’re here with Jackie Downing, not to be confused with Jackie your co-host, but I am also here. She is the Director of Grantmaking and Nonprofit Effectiveness at the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven in New Haven, CT. And the Community Foundation has been using GiveGab for their annual Giving Day for several years, and recently launched giveGreater, their year-round giving initiative, using GiveGab’s newest product, the Philanthropy Hub platform. Jackie, do you want to tell us a little bit more about yourself for our listeners and let them know more about what you do?

Jackie (giveGreater): Sure, thank you, Jackie. I’ve been working at the Community Foundation now for 9 years, came from the nonprofits on the other side of this, so years ago, 12 years ago, when the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven first started the giving platform, I was one of the early adopters, in…as a nonprofit Development Director at a nonprofit in town. So I’ve been sort of on both sides of the platform for a long time and have seen the benefits of having that and I’m very excited about our new possibilities now that we’re with GiveGab.

Karin: Yeah we’re really excited to have you. Could you speak a little bit about your history with GiveGab and your annual Giving Day, The Great Give?

Jackie (giveGreater): Okay, so we started giveGreater as the community resource, and we used the Giving Day as an incentive for profiles to get completed, so when it was created 12 years ago, their aim was to get 100 organizations to be ready for the first Giving Day and they met their goal. We do a 36-hour event, which is different than most organizations, we do 8 am to 8 pm the second day. That way we get two business days in, which really gives us a lot of push, and we serve a 20 town region with our Giving Day. So as I said we started with 100 organizations, we’re now over 400 organizations that participate. In 2019, we raised about $1.5 million, which was the highest we’ve ever raised. We’ve been growing over the years, there was a bit of a plateau for a couple of years, but growing steadily. This year, with, you know, everything going on, we weren’t sure what was gonna happen, and we raised $3.5 million dollars in the 36 hours.

Karin: That is amazing! That is incredible. Can I ask you, you started off with 100 organizations, now you have around 400, which is incredible, is it…um, do you see the same percentage of organizations that are participating really putting effort into their campaign and their profile? Is it hard to kind of support and incentivize all of them, now that there are so many?

Jackie (giveGreater): Well we use the profile for a number of different things, and it’s integral to our grantmaking process, so if you want to get a grant from the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, you should have an updated profile, which helps…which helps us really get lots of…and we get lots of grantees that come in in many different ways. It’s also a great equalizer, so we’re able to get small organizations and large organizations. The benefit of working with GiveGab was that we were really able to customize the number of fields and the information we were asking for. So it became much less onerous, much easier for the nonprofits to be able to complete the profile in less time and make it more evergreen. That’s something we’ve been thinking about, not having to come in and update often, but to have some more evergreen information in there so it’s just a resource for the community. So I think that’s part of how we got the 400 to come in.

Also, The Great Give, as it’s been growing and growing, that helped inform the year-round platform because folks wanted to be ready. For the first 8 years, we only allowed organizations who were on giveGreater to participate in Giving Day. So you had to be on giveGreater year-round in order to be in our Giving Day. We’ve relaxed that, let some organizations in over the last few years, just for the giving event, but then we turn around to those organizations and ask them to go ahead and complete a full profile and put themselves on giveGreater year-round, now for all the benefits we have through GiveGab.

Karin: Wonderful. Thanks for addressing that, and to those people who are listening and aren’t sure, is the site, um, it’s part of our Philanthropy Hub platform, and would you be able, Jackie, to just briefly explain what the goal of giveGreater is to those listeners who aren’t familiar with it, and aren’t sure what the distinction between that and The Great Give would be?

Jackie (giveGreater): Sure! giveGreater is our year-round. We started that really for three different reasons. We started it to build the capacity of our nonprofits, and they do that by filling out the profile. You have to have a good conversation to fill out succinctly what your needs are, what your accomplishments have been, so a lot of board conversations start because they’re filling out the profile. They wanna make sure they’re putting the right message out to the public. So that’s one way that organizations can build their capacity by using that. They also, promoted it for organizations, as being the boilerplate for grant applications, not only for our applications, once you’ve articulated your message very well in your profile, you can pick that up and drop it into grant applications for lots of organizations.

So it builds the capacity of the organization to have to create a profile. At the time we started it, there weren’t a lot of organizations that had their own websites. There weren’t a lot of organizations that had their own online giving capacity. Most of them do have that now, but some of the emerging organizations don’t. So this gives them an online presence that they didn’t have before, so again, builds their capacity and infrastructure as they move forward. 

The second reason we started it is to provide a resource for our donors, to understand what’s going on in the community and who’s doing it, to help them make informed decisions about making donations. So our development staff uses it consistently with professional advisors, and with donors, who say, you know, I’d like to give to the arts, who’s out there? Go to giveGreater and take a look at who’s in the arts universe, who’s filled out a profile, and they can do their own due diligence on that. So we do have it as a resource out there for the community, for donors, and for folks to make informed decisions.

And…for the Community Foundation itself, to position us as a resource for the community. So when people are thinking about, what can we understand about our community? Where do we go to find that information? You go to the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. We do some collateral with our giveGreater site, so we do issue briefs, we do Inspiration Monday stories, so we’ll talk about a particular nonprofit doing something really special and link it to giveGreater. So it’s an opportunity for that organization to raise some money, it’s an opportunity to highlight some really good things that are happening in the community, and donors and people in the community understand they can get that information from the Community Foundation, which makes us our own resource and builds our capacity for the community.

Jackie (GiveGab): Awesome, thanks so much for explaining about that, and um…what do you think are the…because this is a relatively recent transition for you to Philanthropy Hub on GiveGab, are there any specific features that you’re excited to get going with?

Jackie (giveGreater): Oh, I’m so excited about the whole thing. We could be here for hours. But, I’ll just limit it to a few. So the first thing is really the flexibility of the fields. As I said we started the platform 12 years ago, and 12 years ago, we were in a structure where we had to complete everything or profiles weren’t complete. [inaudible]…platform was dictated for us. We have a lot of flexibility on GiveGab, so we can pick and choose what fields are important — what we think is important to our donors, what’s important for our grantmaking processes, and only highlight those fields, which takes away a lot of the burden on the nonprofits to fill out the information that really, nobody’s looking at anyhow. So we make those choices and the nonprofits have less to do. So the flexibility of fields, adding and omitting, changing, reformatting, naming, that’s really important to us.

Another one of the features that we’ve found so successful in The Great Give, which is our 36-hour event, is the year to year…the peer-to-peer function. And now we can offer that to our nonprofits year-round. They don’t have to go set up a Go Fund Me or set up some other…go to some other site. They can do it in a place they know they trust and they already have a presence, so they don’t have to create something new. They can use the peer-to-peer or the matching capacity at any time, so I think that’s a really great feature.

And the last one I’ll talk about is the blue chat bubble feature, where I met both you, Jackie and Karin, for the first time. The blue chat bubble is an amazing feature that gives folks, both donors and nonprofits, real-time support whenever they need it, and that’s not something that we at the Foundation have the staff capacity to do, so it’s nice to have our partners on the other side of the bubble, wherever you are these days, helping out with any of the questions that arise.

Jackie (GiveGab): Yeah definitely, we’re glad to hear that. So the giveGreater site is also accepting donations year-round, too, so the nonprofits are…who are veterans at using, um, the Giving Day platform, they’re also able to use a lot of those great features like peer-to-peer and matching, it sounds like, like that’s been a real benefit as well.

Jackie (giveGreater): Well we’re just launching that and starting to show them that, but what we’ve done particularly in this time of all live events being canceled is to help our nonprofits understand that there’s an opportunity to use the peer-to-peer function the same they would have done a paddle race at a dinner or an auction or a gala, so they can use the platform to replace their virtual events in some way, use the functionality to do that.

Jackie: Definitely, that’s really smart to encourage that for sure. That’s something that a lot of people have been obviously trying to navigate and figure out how do we do this now that everything has to be virtual, and it’s great that you found a way through Philanthropy Hub.

Karin: Something too that I’ve seen be really successful and really beneficial to nonprofits is when you have all of those different, you know, the giveGreater and The Great Give on the same platform, that all of the reporting is available in one spot for the administrators, they don’t have to pull it from multiple sites, which, I’ve gotten some feedback through the blue chat bubble, how convenient that is and um…so I’m really glad that we can be able to provide that. Can I ask what kind of support you received from our team at GiveGab when you made this transition to using our Philanthropy Hub platform for giveGreater?

Jackie (giveGreater): There’s been a great deal of support all the way through, and this was a big process because we had, you know, with the back end and things that weren’t publicly viewable, we had more than 500 profiles already on a site. So it was with GiveGab’s support that we were able to bring over almost all of the data from the old site and upload it seamlessly, you know, through a couple of iterations of testing, working together, we were able to click that button and suddenly, the whole site was populated, so that was amazing support that we got from the GiveGab team.

And also just the knowledge that the GiveGab team has from going through this process with others. You know, nobody’s invented the wheel in a long time, and fortunately, GiveGab is that hub that can give us that information of what other folks have done and how they’ve handled things. It may not be right for us, but at least it gives us some experience, to figure out how we can make our choices. GiveGab is there every step of the way in choosing the fields and naming the fields, in the creative problem solving when things came up and we had to create kind of a workaround in some cases, with the way we had been doing things, and there was always a way to solve it. The GiveGab team was relentless in helping us to do that.

And then, what’s also been a really big help, is in messaging to the nonprofits. So, you know, one more email coming from me or my teammate Stephanie may get overlooked, but oh look, something just came from GiveGab, I better read what this says, and it talks about updating your profile or how to use something, so the team has been really helpful in reaching out to the nonprofits and doing technical assistance and webinars that really help them through the process of the transition.

Karin: That’s super exciting, I love, um…yeah, everyone that I work with, it’s pretty fabulous that everyone is very problem-solving minded.

Jackie (GiveGab): And so, I’ve been wondering, do you have any processes in place for making sure the nonprofits are going in and keeping everything updated that needs to be updated, and how are you engaging them and the donors on the site year-round?

Jackie (giveGreater): That always continues as a struggle, to get folks to update. Some of them do, and if they come in for a grant, they have to, and if they’re reporting on a grant, they have to, so we’ve got sort of that stick that we can use. We also try to use some carrots, so when we’re talking…right now we’re talking about doing a public push to launch the site. So we’re saying, make sure your profile’s up to date, because we’re going to start sending donors there, and you wanna have your best foot forward. So we’ll be doing that and we’re gonna do some incentives on the…we’ll pick a date and say, you know, whoever has their profiles updated will be randomly drawn and three organizations will get $1,000, so we’re hoping a little lively competition will help with that.

Um…we also, our development staff, as I said, uses it to help donors make their choices. We tell organizations that, if a donor goes in and sees, you know, a program report from 2014, they’re not gonna make a very good choice, or choose this organization to help them. So we’re hoping that knowing how much we use that, the organizations will go in. Also the link to the issue briefs and Inspiration Monday stories, you can’t get highlighted if you’re not there. So, you know, if you have something really terrific that you’ve done and you want us to talk about it, we’re happy to do that, but we tell them that you have to have a profile with us in order for us to do that.

And something we’ve used in the past that we’re contemplating doing again next year are campaign days. So we have our Giving Day, it’s May 4th and 5th next year, it’s always the beginning of May, it’s always that 36 hours over two days. That may or may not be perfect for some organizations. It may fall at a really bad time, conflict with something else that’s going on. They may have a major push that they do another time of year. So we set up, in the past, campaign days, where an organization could choose a day of their own, 24 hours, midnight to midnight, where they had their own campaign on that day. We push it out through social media for them. We would waive the fees for the day, and they do all the rest of the promotion. It’s all on them to do it. So we may do that again, it seemed to…we see the spikes, we look at the analytics and we see the spikes, of when…of the traffic that came into the site on those campaign days, and nonprofits report back to us success, their success with the days. So that may be something we use in the future but I just wanted to throw that out there as an idea for how to really engage nonprofits and let them use the site to their own fulfillment.

Jackie (GiveGab): Absolutely, that’s a really unique, um, use of the platform that I hadn’t really heard before, so that’s really exciting to hear about for sure.

Karin: Yeah, the campaign…the idea of having organizations have their own campaign days and have them kind of be in charge of that, and having them…a little more responsible for their own success and even though you push out on social media and waive the fees, seems like it would generate quite a bit of success. It kind of reminds me of a recent episode Jackie and I did with another partner from Orange County, CA who… do small days throughout the year, not exactly the same, but each little Giving Day is an initiative run by organizations themselves. And we’ve just heard a lot of success with those types of campaigns and initiatives, so that’s an interesting area to look at. Can I ask if you have any advice that you would give to other philanthropic leaders who may be interested in hosting a catalog of nonprofits such as

Jackie (giveGreater): The first piece of advice is to understand why you’re doing it. What are you trying to accomplish? We had those three clear goals, build capacity, build our own capacity, and give information to the community. So we knew exactly why we were doing this. So understand who your audience is and why you’re doing this, and then be mindful of how much you’re asking nonprofits to do. Don’t put a lot of burden on them for a low return, um…maybe great return, but make sure you’re still not putting too much burden on them. And to evergreen as much as possible, so that organizations stay current, even without going in to update very often. It will…it will improve the integrity of the data that you have, and it will also help the organizations. And use it to learn. Use the platform to learn who’s out there, what they’re doing, how they’re operating, what their needs are, and if you’re…if you’re a foundation that’s creating this platform, it will help you inform your grantmaking, because you can understand where people are, what they’re doing, and how they’re operating.

Karin: As a follow-up question to that, Jackie, I’m wondering, seems like you all have kind of figured out how to inspire and incentivize the nonprofits in your community to find success and…on their own, more so, than maybe having to hand-hold them as much as maybe other community foundations or…or other partners that we’ve talked to. Does that ring true? Do you feel like after a few years you’ve kind of providing them with the knowledge and incentivize them enough where they can kind of run these campaigns and kind of take charge on their own or do you find yourself still having to kind of work one on one with these organizations?

Jackie (giveGreater): I’m gonna give you my three-year theory.

Karin: [Laughing] Wonderful!

Jackie (giveGreater): And…and it…we’ve found it true in everything that we do, and we’ve found it true for ourselves, so when we started 12 years ago, we started The Great Give, the Giving Day event, as one thing. And then the following year they completely changed it up and did something different. The following year, they completely changed it up and did something different. And then they stuck with that model. And the next year, learned from what they had, and the third year…bam! And when we see organizations coming into either giveGreater or The Great Give, when they first get started, they are so overwhelmed, there are so many options, so many opportunities, not quite sure what to do. We do a lot of training and we’ll talk about that. We do a lot of training for nonprofits. And they try something in the first year, and they have moderate success. Well, then they learn from that. And the second year, they take some risks, they try some new things and they learn from that. And by the third year, they’re ready to take it to scale. They know what they’re gonna do, they know it’s gonna work, and they take it to scale. So they’re off and running. But every year we’ve got a new organization at year one, we’ve got a bunch of organizations in year two, so we have to be mindful of that and continue to do that capacity building and training the nonprofits.

So we, as a foundation, do about 45 workshops a year in some way, roundtables, or workshops for our nonprofits on a variety of topics. But around The Great Give, we do a very specific progression of, you need to think about peer-to-peer, you need to think about that way in advance. We’re gonna talk about that in January. We need to think about matching money, we’re gonna think about that in February so you can start going to those corporate donors. Then we do our boot camp in March, with office hours, so if you want the one-on-one, and then we sort of start the public view of it in April, so by then, folks have already had their background training. We offer a lot of prizes and incentives for The Great Give, we put about $150,000 into prizes in addition to sponsors that come in. So this year, we were about $225,000 in matching money and prizes that went to organizations. In…and now, organizations are starting to get their own matches, because they’ve learned from that. So this year we had the most success with peer-to-peer. We had a tiny little organization, all-volunteer, made up of immigrant women, and they were the big winners because they used peer-to-peer. And um, we had a lot of organizations that raised a lot of money because they had corporate sponsors and board members who pitched in to do matches. So, they’ve learned from others, and now, we’re hoping when we do it next year, we always have a panel of people who’ve had success last year. And that’s success to scale. So there may be a really small organization that raises $5,000 and that’s huge for them. So we’re gonna highlight that small organization that raised $5,000 as much as we’re gonna highlight the organization that raises $60,000 but they have a big, sophisticated development department. So we’re…we try to show that it’s not all the big guys that are the most successful. It’s what you put into it, and we want to give you all the tools you can to put into it to make you successful and you learn as you go along.

Jackie (GiveGab): That sounds awesome, um, and the foundation over there in the Greater New Haven area, you all are veterans at hosting these Giving Days and how to kind of gamify it with those prizes and you really do know in a way what’s best for some of the strategy that these nonprofits are trying to implement. And then you have…you know, many of the nonprofits are veterans as well, they’ve been doing this for a long time, and you have new…new folks, I’m sure, coming in all the time, every year. For giveGreater on Philanthropy Hub, do you have any specific goals in mind or results that you are looking to see?

Jackie (giveGreater): Um, well our ultimate goal is to get up to 500 nonprofits. We want 500, which we think is a good sample of what’s going on with our community. And to do that, we would like to engage more particularly with grassroots organizations, BIPOC led organizations, that are doing good work that is not on anybody’s radar right now. So we’d like to make sure that this is representative of what’s happening in our community, not just the big guys that have the development departments that can do this. So we’re gonna be more intentional about reaching out to get some smaller organizations in that we haven’t had before. We monitor the traffic through analytics to see who’s coming, you know, how often we’re getting views. That’s really what we’re looking for. We wanna make sure that we’re spreading enough news to the community that this exists, that it’s used as a knowledge resource. So those are the things that we’re looking for. We don’t have particular fundraising goals. For giveGreater, we leave that to the nonprofits. We don’t try to help them raise money through giveGreater, we offer them the tools.

Karin: Great, yeah, it seems like you provide a lot of support and opportunity for them. So that’s kind of…that’s incredible. Everyone will be flocking to you for advice.

Jackie (giveGreater): I’m always here, they’re welcome to call or email.

Karin: Well thank you very much for joining us today Jackie, we really enjoyed being able to talk to you and learn more about your strategies and how you work with the nonprofits in your area to help them be as successful as possible.

Jackie (giveGreater): Thank you, and I’ll see you in the chat bubble!

Karin: Sounds good!