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Four Ways to Use Oprah’s Big Give to Boost Your Nonprofit

The Big Give premiered Sunday evening March 2nd to record audiences (15.6 million, according to Nielsen ratings).

Now that’s a huge number of folks paying attention to giving; many of whom are likely to have little experience with nonprofits, donating or volunteering. This huge viewer count shows me that wanting to make a difference is a basic human instinct, reaching across ages, cultures and other demographic silos.

The show works like this: Ten contestants, ordinary people who auditioned in different cities like “American Idol” aspirants, are paired into teams and assigned a person who needs help. The team that raises most money – and presents the most moving case – wins. Each week the lowest-scoring contestant gets sent home. Good old American competition applied to giving.

Despite the fact that critics have panned the show as a not much more than a venue for product placement, rather than doing real good, The Big Give is clearly a dream come true for ABC advertising sales. I see it as a dream come true for nonprofit marketers as well.

Here are four low-cost/effort, high-return ways to put those 31 million eyeballs (and millions more who are reading about the show) to work for your nonprofit:

  1. Harvest volunteers – while interest is hot – via VolunteerMatch.
    Register today with VolunteerMatch. Oprah has wisely partnered with experts on this front; and VolunteerMatch is sheparding folks into volunteering, a service featured on the show home page. Make sure your volunteer ops are listed in the VolunteerMatch database.
  2. Make it easy for folks to give via Network for Good... Even if you’re already using another online giving strategy or service. Oprah has partnered with online giving service Network for Good on the donation side. Sign up today so you don’t lose viewers who are poised to give now:
  3. Invite supporters to throw Big Give parties for your org... And simplify the process by providing a downloadable party kit with e-invite text, stories of other giving parties, a party hotline, etc. Oprah offers tips for format and food.
  4. Sponsor or launch a local “We Give” in your community. I heard last week from Alicia Williams in Houston who has 20 friends and colleagues ready to launch Big Give Houston. Unfortunately, when I queried Oprah’s Harpo Productions, I learned that ‘The Big Give’ and ‘Oprah’s Big Give’ are trademarked and cannot be used in any other way. Well, your bad, Harpo Productions, for not sharing the wealth. Doesn’t matter though. I advised Alicia to go with “Houston Gives Big” – and to mimic the big give format. The name recognition won’t be 100%, but it’ll be close enough. Here are a couple of Alicia’s great ideas:
    • “We’ll tap into local assistance organizations and ministries, as well as Houston SEARCH (Service of the Emergency Aid Resource Center for the Homeless) Project for recipient candidates.”
    • “I envision a council of reviewers and formal criteria. For the first Big Give, I have a handful of candidates (peers and colleagues) already in mind. I want some real movers and shakers who will be able to stir up some big corporate donators.”

Is your nonprofit capitalizing on The Big Give in other ways? Leave a comment below.

I’ll spread the word, and the giving.

Nancy Schwartz in Fundraising, Strategies and Campaigns | 0 comments

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Nancy E. Schwartz helps nonprofits succeed through effective marketing. Nancy and her team provide marketing planning and implementation services to nonprofit organizations and foundations nationwide. She is the publisher of the Getting Attention e-update and blog. For more nonprofit marketing guidance like this, subscribe to her e-update at

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