Giving Tuesday – It works. How to make it work for your organization

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It’s been six short years since the United Nations Foundation and a New York City YMCA inaugurated Giving Tuesday (#GivingTuesday), and in that time it has become a mainstay of nonprofit fundraising. Last year, reports, online donations to Giving Tuesday grew from $116 million to $177 million – a 44 percent increase in the last year alone.

Annette Magnus is executive director for Nevada’s Battle Born Progress, a statewide progressive advocacy nonprofit. She says Giving Tuesday has become a financial anchor for her group.

“It is a great fundraiser for us,” she says. “It really launches our whole December, end-of-year giving campaign. We find that people are getting into the holiday season, and it fits well with Thanksgiving, Black Friday, online Monday and the holidays. It coincides perfectly with that giving spirit.”

Like any fundraising campaign, organizations that succeed in Giving Tuesday will be those that put staff time and thought into the program. You can find many tip sheets for Giving Tuesday success online, but we’ve tried to distill that advice here.

  • Plan ahead. A well-written and executed fundraising campaign doesn’t happen by accident or overnight. Edits and input – putting the brains of your communications, tech and fundraising aces to work together – will ensure an effective appeal.
  • Integrate ALL your communications capacity. A perfunctory Facebook post will not generate much of a return. However, a series of Twitter posts, a blog post, a well-considered and written email appeal AND a Facebook post – that will help build the campaign presence in the minds of your supporters. And it probably goes without saying that as a team effort, it makes sense for the entire staff and volunteers to work the phones. A phone bank (pizza, anyone?) can help bring in contributions from people who have already heard or seen your message that this Tuesday is different from all the others.
  • It’s not just Tuesday. Nonprofit Hub and other nonprofit advisors remind us that waiting until Giving Tuesday to launch the campaign is a big mistake. Let your friends and supporters know that Giving Tuesday is coming up – and by golly, there’s a lot of excitement down at the office! This reflects the two earlier suggestions – plan ahead, with a series of social messaging posts or emails, a blog post and more, to make Giving Tuesday a special day for your supporters. It’s not a surprise – it’s an “ask” that supporters expected and anticipated.
  • Stand out from the crowd. There will be a flood of emails and social messaging posts on the day of the event, so giving some thought to the subject line for the email, the look and content of that social messaging, can be very important. Think about the subject line FIRST, not after the rest of the email is written — this is the most important element of your email. Work with your best communicators to draft compelling and relevant subject lines and content. Envision the person on the receiving end of a Giving Tuesday email, and then ask yourself “why should they care?” I promise they will be asking the same thing when they see your email. We already know, of course, that Tuesday is the culmination of a longer program – but ensure that YOUR organization is the one that cuts through the clutter!
  • Enlist your friends. Again, plan ahead, advises MobileCause, by enlisting your key supporters as “social ambassadors.” Before and during Giving Tuesday, they can be reposting and sharing emails and social posts. Hint: A few minutes on the phone to some key supporters, asking them not for immediate financial support, but for help in reposting your communications, can be an important investment. People like to feel included in the events planned by organizations that they love and trust; they are likely to follow-through, and you can provide them with a few sample messages – i.e., “I wanted to share with you a message from one of my favorite groups” – can help them get started. (And of course, those volunteer ambassadors will be well aware and personally invested in the success of the campaign, so are also likely to give!)
  • What has worked for you before? Some organizations have had success with promises of matching contributions. Some appeals focus on numerical targets. As a fundraiser with various groups, I have had success asking for two dollars for every week of the year – $104, or one dollar for every congressional seat in the country – $535. Is there a number that is important in your organization’s work? Meals served, DACA applicants provided with legal services, the number of media references over the last year? The key here is that you are making and reinforcing a vital connection to the work that your friends are supporting with their money – and quite likely bumping up the total contribution.
  • Follow-up. Include the media and your full distribution lists to brag of your success, and remind people that it’s not too late to show support for your important issue. This reinforces connections to your organization, and makes people feel good about participating in this special day, with a group and an issue that they care about.

Part of the success of Giving Tuesday is that it has become a seasonal institution. There are opportunities to tie your appeals to the various religious and national holidays that occur late in the year, including Thanksgiving and (like it or not!) Black Friday, the big shopping day. The success of any fundraising appeal, of course, is not only about the money, although that is important. It is also an opportunity to meet and engage with friends, family and other supporters who believe in what your organization is doing. And by doing that, your campaign is not just a financial infusion. It’s one more step towards establishing a permanent partnership with your supporters.

Here are some additional websites for tips on making your Giving Tuesday program a success:


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