Don’t Count on Giving Tuesday to Reach Your Fundraising Goals 

There are two constants on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving: Leftover turkey sandwiches and Giving Tuesday. Do you know which one is hurting your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts? 

At first glance, Giving Tuesday, seems like a powerful engagement tool for nonprofits to activate online donors at a time when consumers already have their wallets out, right?

Unfortunately, that’s not the case anymore. As is likely true of most small businesses that don’t have the reach of Best Buy or Amazon, nonprofits going all out for Giving Tuesday find that without the powerful brand and promotional engine of groups like United Way or Red Cross, their efforts to capitalize on the day for donations are lost in a sea of tweets and posts.

So, what does that mean for your nonprofit’s long-term fundraising strategy? 

With your limited resources, you’re investing too much into an initiative you simply won’t see the returns for. So instead of going all out for Giving Tuesday, it’s time to rethink how else you can focus your year-end donor drives. 

The Crowded Giving Tuesday Bandwagon  

In 2012 the 92nd Street Y in New York City came up with a strategy to turn post-Thanksgiving spending momentum toward community. If people were already spending, why not encourage giving back?   

They had great success, leading them to share the idea with other nonprofits and facilitate broad uptake of what is now a vast social media campaign — 30,000+ organizations across 68 countries. In fact, Giving Tuesday is now an independent organization that has evolved from a one-day-a-year event into a broader movement that encourages year-round acts of generosity and kindness.

Let the record state: Of course, we celebrate this initiative and the opportunity it creates to invite people into a wider community of collaboration, caring, and giving back. We believe in a world of hope, big hearts, and helping each other. We just believe the momentum should be sustained all year round. But back to the Giving Tuesday popularity paradox…

The vast popularity of Giving Tuesday has ultimately diluted its own strength. What started as a way to get existing donors energized when they already had their wallets open has now turned into a frenzied day of nonprofit vs. nonprofit competition, short-lived engagement, and one-time gifts. 

The broader nonprofit community has created a noisy hashtag with only a small blip in fundraising to success to show for it. And that’s not the only issue with Giving Tuesday. 

The Problem With Fundraising Through Social Media

Social media platforms can allow your message to reach those who may otherwise never hear about your organization and its mission. However, it usually isn’t conducive to forging long-term, meaningful relationships.

You need to capture names and email addresses in order to thank those donors who give through social media platforms as well as add them to your email newsletter list so you can keep them informed and engaged. And social media platforms don’t do that. 

Relying on social media donations prevents you from gathering crucial donor data, missing opportunities to engage a broad community more meaningfully. And you can’t build a sustainable funding strategy with one-time donations. 

How to Weave Giving Tuesday Into a Long-term Funding Strategy

One day of fundraising won’t offset what you should be doing all the time: Building a community of engaged supporters and donors. But how? Cultivating strong relationships with your donors over the entire year as well as creating multi-channel year-end campaigns that convey the impact your organization has had on its mission over the past 12 months. 

The goal is to inspire sustained engagement — converting one-time givers into lifelong supporters who give progressively larger donations, volunteer for the organization, and become excited mission ambassadors. 

We get it, though. A Giving Tuesday push isn’t something you can totally abandon. After all, your board and supporters have come to expect it. So, here’s how to include it in your End of Year strategy without spending too much time or energy on it (for such little return).

  1. Send a reminder. Yep, that’s it! One reminder in your email newsletter. A quick blurb reminding your community that Giving Tuesday is coming up and to make a plan to participate.
  2. Post once on social media. On Giving Tuesday itself, join your fellow nonprofits and encourage people to give — by posting once. Yep, that’s all the effort you need. Share a testimonial from someone who’s benefitted from your help and a photo can tell all the story you need to tell. Give a link to your website and encourage donations there, where you’ll collect their information.
  3. Wait a week! Don’t solicit donations again until the first of the month. Focus on telling stories, showing the progress your nonprofit has been making toward its mission. If you send a physical newsletter make a passive ask by enclosing an envelope. If you send an e-newsletter, make sure your donation button is front and center.
  4. Make one active ask before the smattering of holiday get-togethers and time away from work. Focus the message on the needs in your community. Tell a short story that paints a picture of the impact of your organization. 
  5. Send one simple message between Christmas and New Year’s. Keep your message short and sweet. You want to stay on their radar, but the reality is, attention spans are short(er) around this time.
  6. One last email on New Year’s Eve. Thank your donors, volunteers and community partners  for everything in the past year and include a donate button — that’s it!

Take note: This type of strategy works best for everyday supporters and donors and isn’t appropriate for your larger donors. Engagement with them should be one-on-one and personalized as much as possible throughout the year. 

Giving Tuesday Comes and Goes. Good Stewardship is Forever

Ultimately, Giving Tuesday should be just one small part of a diversified, year-round fundraising strategy. While you can’t ignore it completely, focus on using it as an opportunity for simple year-end outreach rather than an intensive campaign.

Stay present but low-key across all channels, without exhausting donors. After Giving Tuesday passes, refocus on sharing impact stories, stewarding supporters, and making intentional asks during natural giving moments. 

Bandwagons tend to break down over time. Real donor cultivation is tried and true.

With a balanced approach, you can tap into the Giving Tuesday momentum while building sustainable engagement that lasts all year long.