#GivingTuesday is Here to Stay

Last month, we sent a survey to our nonprofit community asking you about your experience with #GivingTuesday. A huge thanks to all who participated, and here is what we learned.

When it comes to the value of #GivingTuesday for the nonprofit sector, it seems that fundraisers fall somewhere along a spectrum. On one end, there are those who, quite frankly, do not see the value. They feel it is oversaturated, it distracts from their annual appeal, and donors are sick of their inboxes being inundated with asks. On the other end are the people who, as you might expect, are having significant success. Not only are they raising money, but they are acquiring new donors, engaging volunteers, and building awareness for their online audiences by leveraging this national day of philanthropy.

What we found most interesting about our survey results (and it should be noted that the response rate and sample size here is small—just 161 organizations participated), is that, no matter where you fall on along that continuum, if you participated in #GivingTuesday this year, you are likely going to again. A whopping 87% of respondents said they plan to participate next year—even many of whom expressed frustration. Why? Because the belief is that #GivingTuesday, like the Black Friday that inspired it, is not going away.

Data from Giving USA’s Spotlight on #GivingTuesday bears this out: #GivingTuesday donations doubled in 2014 and raised nearly $46 million. With numbers like that, there is immense pressure to get in on the action. Indeed, many of you commented that your board, your boss, and/or your supporters simply expect you to be involved. Perhaps you see this as a good thing: “With little overhead and no expenses, it's a day worth our efforts to develop donors, raise awareness and communicate with our constituencies,” said one respondent. Or maybe it is something you are simply resigning yourself to: “Although it's not the most effective way to promote the agency, the message for not participating might be worse,” said another.

Not all organizations participate in #GivingTuesday, but increasingly we are learning about the power of giving days in general. The question seems to be less about whether to participate in #GivingTuesday or in a giving day, but rather what approach to take (and, of course, how much time and energy to invest in the effort). Here are some tips that we have seen, both in the survey results and with the organizations we serve, that may help.

Talk about it.
Our advice to the organizations we work with and to you is to, at the very least, have a conversation with your staff and board about #GivingTuesday. Consider sending a short survey to your constituents to see how they feel about it. With three years behind us as a sector, you can come equipped with real data (whether from your experience or others’, if you have never participated) and questions that will help you determine what the right strategy is for your organization. Whether it is a simple nod on social media encouraging folks to “give back this season,” or a full-blown strategy with months of planning and work is up to you.

Set goals.
Respondents who had set fundraising goals and/or other goals around things like building awareness and acquiring donors reported higher overall satisfaction rates with #GivingTuesday, and they raised more money than those who said they had no specific goals. 

“We increased our donations 10-fold from less than $10,000 in 2013 to over $100,000 in 2014. We found having a specific focus for our fundraising—help us raise 500 bikes for schoolkids—was very effective.”

Plan ahead and use a toolkit.
When we looked at the median range of total funds raised from #GivingTuesday campaigns, we saw a direct relationship between how far in advance an organization started planning and dollars raised. Organizations that started planning less than two weeks before GivingTuesday tended to raise less than $500. With just two to three weeks of planning, that range rose to between $1,000 and $5,000; two to three months: between $5,000 and $10,000; four to twelve months: $10,000 or more. We saw a similar correlation between total amount raised and organizations who used a #GivingTuesday toolkit in their planning versus those who did not (although the people who planned ahead were usually the ones using a toolkit).

“Next year, we need to "prime the pump" for #GivingTuesday in advance, instead of waiting to send out our appeal on that day.”

Make it part of your overall strategy.
Many expressed concerns about #GivingTuesday distracting from your annual appeal. Interestingly, those at the other end of the spectrum commented that it was a good way to kick off the annual appeal season, especially in terms of donor acquisition and reaching younger and lower-tier donors. Just because it is #GivingTuesday does not mean you have to do a specific ask on that day.

Tie it to a challenge gift or specific mini-campaign.
Simply sending or posting a generic ask only contributes to white noise and donor fatigue. (One organization mentioned they heard the day referred to as “Begging Tuesday.”) Give your donors a concrete reason to give on this day as opposed to another.

“Another local nonprofit shared its plans [with us] to have a board match for #GivingTuesday. We thought it was a good idea, tried it, and were stunned by the response.”

Local or national?
It also bears mentioning that many respondents who do not plan to participate in #GivingTuesday next year said it was because they prefer to focus on a local giving day, such as #ILGiveBig. And that is great! The key is to think through your approach strategically, regardless of where you direct your resources.

After all this, you still might decide that #GivingTuesday is not for you. But, as one respondent noted, it “has become a recognized brand in itself.” It is important to consider carefully whether to stay out of the pool, dip in a toe, or dive right in.

We plan to continue reporting on how #GivingTuesday continues to evolve, and of course we will provide resource and recommendations throughout the year to help your organization get the most out of giving days.

We would love to hear how your organization feels about #GivingTuesday and giving days in general. Leave a note below to let us know. 

Nonprofit Trends, Nonprofit News, Fundraising Tips

Sarah Barnes

As an Online Fundraising Consultant, Sarah Barnes works with organizations to optimize their online presence through analyzing data that ultimately reveals strategies for the future. In her work with clients, Sarah most values opportunities to review and assess online data from multiple channels such as an organization’s website, social media channels and email marketing initiatives, to inform decisions, as well as working closely with organizations to brainstorm and identify and optimize strategic online fundraising initiatives.