Participation in Giving Tuesday has seen steady growth since it began 5 years ago. In 2016, USA Today reports Giving Tuesday brought in over $168 million to nonprofits in the U.S. alone, up 44% from 2015.
Small nonprofits feel an overwhelming pressure to add this global day of giving to our incredibly long list of projects during this busy end-of-year.
Yet we wonder, despite the reports of cash windfalls, to what extent should we participate in Giving Tuesday? Should we go all-in and take full advantage of the attention given to the day?
Or, if we choose instead to focus on our year-end campaign, will will lose out as donors contribute to other, more aggressive charities?
Will your Giving Tuesday message just get lost in all the noise? Could your full participation be counterproductive, adding to the clutter of donors’ inboxes? From the perspective of a donor myself, I’ve certainly felt a sense of overwhelm as every nonprofit I follow reaches out for an urgent donation.
It isn’t pretty.
So how should we as small nonprofits respond? To what extent should we participate in the frenzy of competition for a slice of the donor pie? We set out to answer these questions.
Shortly after Giving Tuesday 2016, Smart Annual Giving surveyed small to mid-sized nonprofits to find out how they participated in Giving Tuesday and results of their efforts.
For most survey respondents, it was their first or second year of their Giving Tuesday efforts. Overall, they were less than thrilled with the results.
Only 37% said that Giving Tuesday was important to their overall fundraising. Only 34% said Giving Tuesday raised money that they would not have otherwise raised.
More interestingly, 52% of respondents believed that if they do not participate, donors will chose to give to other organizations instead.
This indicates that small nonprofits are participating not because they are seeing significant results, but because they fear missing out (FOMO).
The only way to be confident that Giving Tuesday is worth your best effort, is to test it out in your own organization and carefully evaluate your results.
For example, were your Giving Tuesday gifts primarily from new donors (perhaps you did a great job at converting social media followers to donors) or were that day’s gifts primarily from repeat donors, who may have given their annual gift at some other point before year-end?
Because the timing of Giving Tuesday is at the beginning of year-end campaign season, incorporating your campaign theme into Giving Tuesday makes a lot of sense.
Here are some additional findings from our survey to guide your next Giving Tuesday Campaign.
The nonprofits in our survey who reported successful Giving Tuesday campaigns had several factors in common:
- Their campaigns involved matching gifts from either an individual donor or a foundation. So providing a specific incentive for donors to give on that particular day, appears to be important.
- Their campaigns involved a ‘warm-up’ posting, email, or direct mail postcard one week prior, announcing the campaign, financial goal and incentive.
- Social media postings included a simple video update of the campaign’s progress.
Several of these organizations also incorporated live events in partnership with local businesses or used peer-to-peer strategies.
Successful campaigns went beyond simple inclusion of the ubiquitous #givingtuesday hashtag. Yet none of these tactics need to send you over the edge in terms of resource expenditure. With some pre-planning and lead time, you can make a reasonable attempt at a solid Giving Tuesday campaign that will enable you to learn what works for your small nonprofit.