Did “Giving Tuesday” Work?

Skeptical of #GivingTuesday? We wanted to share some early results and 5 perspectives about the success of #GivingTuesday as you’re probably building out your 2013 plan.

Network for Good reports that they saw a “significant spike in donation volume” on #GivingTuesday. They processed more than twice as many donations as the same day last year and 60% more than they processed on Cyber Monday just the day before.  Blackbaud corroborates these results. Blackbaud reports that they processed $10 million in online donations on #GivingTuesday – a 53% increase when compared to the Tuesday after Thanksgiving the previous year.

#Giving Tuesday shows promise in “lifting all boats” especially smaller nonprofits that don’t have extensive fundraising and marketing budgets. But not everyone is keen on the idea. Read on for some arguments for and against #Giving Tuesday while we wait for year-end data to see what kind of fundraising lift #GivingTuesday yields. Only then will we know if it was successful.

1. Fundraising should always be tied to need, impact, and urgency communicated through good storytelling rather than based on “a day.” Some argue that we all risk devaluing funding important causes through a gimmick of asking for money during a spending frenzy. “Black Friday” is analytic term to describe organic consumer behavior. Organic consumer behavior shows that the last two weeks of the year are when people are in the mood to give charitable donations. While this is absolutely true, who of us hasn’t “created urgency” in a fundraising campaign through a “creative deadline?”

2.  It cannibalizes year end giving. Even before #GivingTuesday came into existence, 2010 and 2011 testing shows that November fundraising doesn’t dilute year-end giving at all. In fact, we found we don’t really have to suppress donors from the first two weeks of December from 12/31 appeals. Dilution may be an issue if a future #GivingTuesday lands on December 1st or later, but even then, we’d need to see hard data to believe this one.

3. Give Days work. Minnesota’s Give to the Max Day, Colorado Gives Day, Seattle’s GiveBIG Day, and other state-based give days have grown in massive popularity and success. #GivingTuesday scales the Give Day concept nationally. Minnesota and Seattle host their “give days” during the mid-year to avoid cannibalizing year-end giving and have, indeed, been wildly successful for participating nonprofit groups–especially smaller grassroots groups. Give Days work because they usually have:

  1. Significant media and foundation partners that invest heavily in publicizing the giving day through earned and paid media
  2. Offer a “matching gift” component, and since the match is time limited to the day, there is …
  3. Built in urgency with a 24 hour campaign
  4. Coordinated promotion and marketing. While the media partners and major sponsors are giving “air” time to the impact Giving Day will have in a local community, participating nonprofit partners are coached and trained on how to market giving day to their individual files “on the ground” through email and direct mail.

4.  Any chance to engage with supporters is worth it. It may take some creative ways to tie your existing year-end narrative arc and messaging to #GivingTuesday, but the opportunity to “draft” on the earned media coverage of #GivingTuesday provides us all with another opportunity to engage with supporters to reinforce the impact they are having on our mission.

5.  Give it time to catch on. Small Business Saturday started in 2010, backed byAmerican Express advertising savvy and this year drove $5.5 Billion in spending on Small Business Saturday. It took three years with an American-Express level advertising budget–and earned media opportunities such as President Obama shopping at a local independent book store to catch fire. It did catch fire. Give #GivingTuesday a three year window, better coordination, and maybe a national foundation partner to underwrite some broader media coverage and see what happens. Local Giving Days — Colorado and Minnesota especially showed a three year growth curve similar to Small Business Saturday.

What do you think? What was your #GivingTuesday experience? Share your #Giving Tuesday experience and perspective in our Comments section below.