Two years ago, GlobalGiving invested a lot of time and energy to rebuild our fundraiser feature. The fundraiser tool allows donors to raise money on behalf of their favorite projects on GlobalGiving, usually around a specific event like a birthday or marathon. We thought this would be a great tool not just for our donors, but for our nonprofit partners as well. We wanted to encourage our nonprofit partners to use the tool, so we created a special campaign that would reward organizations when their supporters raised money through the fundraiser tool for their projects during the month of September 2013. We wrote the terms, set aside several thousand dollars in prize money, held a training webinar, built a leaderboard, and answered a LOT of questions. We set goals for the campaign around the number of organizations that would participate and the total donations that would be raised.
When the end of the campaign came around, we discovered that we hadn’t hit our goals. Fewer than a dozen organizations had actually participated in the campaign and we hadn’t helped them raise the funds we were expecting. On top of that, we found that our team had spent a lot of time managing the campaign – answering questions, training organizations, and trying to make a very complicated campaign easier to understand. Because we track how we spend our time each day, we discovered that we actually spent significantly more time on this campaign than almost any previous campaign, but we raised far less money. By any measure, this campaign was a failure for GlobalGiving (although the few organizations that did participate did an excellent job!). We could have just ignored this campaign and never talked about it again. Alternatively, we could have ignored the results and done the exact same campaign the next year.
Instead, we reached out to some organizations that participated and some that didn’t participate to find out what these organizations thought of the campaign. We learned that the rules of this campaign were too complicated – GlobalGiving didn’t do a great job explaining these complicated rules to our nonprofit partners, and likewise, it was difficult for them to explain the rules to their donors. We also learned that the timing of the campaign didn’t align well with many organizations’ outreach–it was hard to dictate when their advocates wanted to use fundraising pages based on our campaign’s timeline. We met as a team to figure out what went well and what could be improved about the campaign. We shared those results, both internally within our staff and with some of our external partners. Ultimately, we decided to not run the campaign the following year and instead use the time and money to add an additional Bonus Day in 2014 – the type of campaign that our partners said they valued the most.
It is hard to admit when an idea or experiment doesn’t work, but it’s especially important in the development arena to not just admit when something fails, but to learn from that failure. (Let’s call these “Fail Forward” stories!) nonprofits can’t afford to make the same mistakes again and again; our missions are too important. Sharing your failures with your peers can help move the whole sector forward.
That’s why we want to hear your Fail Forward stories – and we’re offering some incentives!
Now through October 10th, organizations that submit Fail Forward stories via GlobalGiving project reports will be eligible for cash prizes and social media promotion. This is a unique opportunity to share your organization’s story with GlobalGiving’s supporters.
Need some inspiration? Check out this website for more examples and information about why this is important.
How does it work?
- Submit a GlobalGiving project report for your donors featuring a story about a time that your organization tried something that didn’t work, but learned something that ultimately helped improve your work
- Once you’ve submitted your report, use this online form to send us your project ID and the date of your report by Friday, October 10th.
- GlobalGiving will review all the submissions and the top three stories will be featured in GlobalGiving’s social media and will receive cash prizes. First place will receive $1000; second place will receive $600; and third place will receive $400.
*What is GlobalGiving looking for in a Fail Forward story?
A clear and compelling story that includes a description of:
- What your organization was trying to achieve and why
- What the idea or method was that you tried
- Why the idea or method failed – admit responsibility!
- What your organization learned from the experiment
- How your organization is using that experience to improve its work
Don’t forget — part of talking about failure is admitting responsibility. We’re not looking to create a circle of blame, but instead, to take ownership over our own work, and also to be set free from past mistakes because we’re learning and growing, and ultimately improving from them!