Don’t Be Distracted by Giving Tuesday

At first glance, Giving Tuesday, an effort to help nonprofits jump on the consumer bandwagon that surrounds Black Friday and Cyber Monday, seems like a powerful engagement tool for nonprofits to activate online donors.

However, as is likely true of most small businesses that don’t have the reach of Best Buy or Amazon, nonprofits participating in Giving Tuesday find that without the powerful brand and promotional engine of groups like United Way or Red Cross, their efforts to capitalize on Giving Tuesday are lost in a sea of tweets and Facebook posts.

At its inception, Giving Tuesday was a creative strategy designed by the 92nd Street Y to activate their donors on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. They had great success, leading them to share the idea with other nonprofits and facilitate broad uptake of what has become a vast social media campaign — 30,000+ organizations across 68 countries. In just three years (the fourth Giving Tuesday will happen on December 1, 2015), that is a huge amount of audience gained.

But it is in the vastness of Giving Tuesday that the value was lost. What worked for the 92nd Street Y was getting their existing donors excited about giving when they were already thinking about spending. And while the amount of giving on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving has increased by an estimated 470% as a result, the number of organizations participating has increased by 30,000% (from one organization to 30,000). We’ve created a noisy hashtag.

Ultimately, most nonprofits are better off focusing on cultivating strong relationships with their donors over the entire year and creating multi-channel year-end campaigns that are donor-centered and convey the impact the organization has had on its mission over the past 12 months. As my colleague Kyle Pate said recently in his blog post about this same topic, “Your donors do not have an emotional connection to Giving Tuesday.”

If you absolutely must be a part of the crowd, use Giving Tuesday as a way to prime your donors and followers to hear future messages about your organization. Drive them back to your mission, not to the Giving Tuesday mob. Regardless, focus on the basics:

  • Cultivate your donors
  • Segment your lists and asks based on donors’ past giving
  • Highlight your impact
  • Share stories, pictures, testimonials
  • Help donors personalize your mission
  • Build thought leadership among your board and donor pool to create an echo chamber around your mission and impact
  • Make asks as personal as possible.

As we all know, bandwagons tend to break down over time. Real donor cultivation is tried and true.

Special thanks to the Creating the Future NPCons Facebook group for their thoughts on this piece.

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