In a recent blog post on this very website, Mary Cahalane wrote a piece entitled GivingTuesday is a day, not a strategy. I always enjoy Mary’s writing and I would say that nearly 99% of the time I am lock step with her around her thoughts. Yet on this particular item, I felt like I needed to respectfully disagree.
I generally do not like Twitter back and forth because a lot of nuance and understanding gets lost there. In turn, I felt like making comments on the blog or on LinkedIn wasn’t the appropriate response either so I simply reached out to Mary herself and entered into an honest to goodness conversation. She invited me to share my thoughts and I want to thank her deeply for the time and care it takes to listen and publish outside contributions.
With that being said, I do indeed feel that GivingTuesday has shifted the paradigm on how donors perceive philanthropy and warrants not only a coveted place in an organization’s appeals calendar but also folding in as a centerpiece of your organization’s strategy.
Mary is right about a lot
Many of the points that are brought up about GivingTuesday are ones that I myself cite as weaknesses implemented tactically by organizations and vendors when positioning what GivingTuesday is.
Some of the most common criticisms are the amount of emails that organizations send, the transactional nature of many of these communications, and the focus on obtaining money as opposed to leaning into why a donor may be excited about the organization itself.
The other critical item here is if organizations are pinning their full year’s success on this one appeal. It takes several touch points to make an impact with a donor and focusing solely on GivingTuesday is a recipe for disaster.
GivingTuesday as a strawman
Where things begin to fray for me is that these are the same criticisms that can be leveled at any fundraising revenue stream that your organization has. Before GivingTuesday was founded, similar critiques were leveled against December 31.The perception is that because of our individual inboxes, which some of us may have a higher amount of nonprofits because of our professional relationships with the industry, we think that our experience is the same as donors.
Unfortunately much of the practices and communications in our sector are centered around shame. Shame around not utilizing the right strategy, the right language, the right imagery, the right timing, the right software. This is not to say there aren’t struggles and inequities that must be addressed or that we should always put on a happy face. Quite the opposite.
Yet I think there is empirical evidence that by focusing on moments and flows of greatness in our strategy, they create more memorable experiences for our donors as well as help us look beyond our individual organizations toward a larger generous world. And there has been no better collective moment to come out of the history of philanthropy than GivingTuesday.
The data doesn’t lie – GivingTuesday works
Let’s start with some of the core data that GivingTuesday and data partners like my company have helped collect that also contrasts with giving across the world at other points of the year.
It is important to note that while individual case studies may point to successes without GivingTuesday, the data from billions of dollars acros.
s millions of individuals for thousands of organizations of all sizes is something that cannot be ignored.
Key findings from 2019’s summary report:
- Unlike disaster relief efforts that show huge spikes that subsequently drop off quickly, GivingTuesday shows an annual increase that has a net positive result for EOY giving since its inception
- 75% of GivingTuesday are repeat donors, which far outpaces the industry average retention rate of 45%
- 56% of people in the United States are aware of GivingTuesday and that number has consistently grown year over year
- Across all campaigns that GivingTuesday coordinates around the world, 84% of donors indicated that GivingTuesday has inspired them to be more giving in their communities
- Donation data analyzed pre- and post-GivingTuesday’s founding has shown that the same donors at organizations are now giving at higher levels
And if what Neon One found is any indication of what happened across all data partners for GivingTuesday in 2020, these numbers not only will get stronger but significantly stronger. One of the most encouraging data points that GivingTuesday has found is that the vast majority of individuals participating in GivingTuesday are doing so in non-monetary ways. There are many campaigns focused on generating volunteerism, caring for the elderly, doing community service projects in their neighborhoods, and many other creative ways to give back.
Why GivingTuesday though? There are 364 other days!
Ultimately, that question is the primary issue that folks may have with GivngTuesday. What makes it so special that it warrants its own attentive strategy? The answer lies in human psychology. In Chip and Dan Heath’s book The Power of Moments they outline that “for an individual human being, moments are the thing. Moments are what we remember and what we cherish. Certainly we might celebrate achieving a goal, such as completing a marathon or landing a significant client – but the achievement is embedded in a moment.”
There is something powerful about not simply creating an individual moment of celebration for a nonprofit but creating a world celebration of generosity in all its forms. Much of the criticism around GivingTuesday comes from US based folks and yet there are powerful celebrations of giving, generosity, and collaboration happening in over 240 community campaigns in more than 70 countries. There was $2.47 billion raised in 2020 in one day in the United States. And unlike waiting for Mackenzie Scott to swoop in and give our organizations money, GivingTuesday’s central philosophy is that “every act of generosity counts and everyone has something to give.”
There is much work to be done and there will continue to be organizations that send bad emails, put too much effort solely into making GivingTuesday a GimmeTuesday appeal, and that there should be emphasis around creating year round moments of generosity.
Yet I will continue to not only support but deepen the ways that organizations around the world can tap into the power of this unique moment and make GivingTuesday a key piece of their strategy. As usual though, industry thought leader T. Clay Buck has the best and last word.
Guest author: Tim Sarrantonio
Tim is a team member at Neon One and has more than 10 years of experience working for and volunteering with nonprofits. Tim has raised over $3 million for various causes, engaged and enhanced databases of all sizes, procured multiple successful grants, and formulated engaging communications and fundraising campaigns for several nonprofits. He has presented at international conferences and is a TEDx speaker on technology and philanthropy. He volunteers heavily in his home Niskayuna, NY.