A #GivingTuesday Reality Check

Jeff Gordy

This year marks the fourth year of #GivingTuesday, which means it’s officially a “thing.” The philanthropic movement has been growing significantly since it started, and 2015 is on track to be its biggest year ever.

With millions of donations totaling $45.68 million during last year’s #GivingTuesday, the movement is single-handedly reaffirming the importance of philanthropy and civic engagement. It’s especially big with young people, who are engaging with causes via social media and redefining the millennial “slacktivism” stereotype.

All of this shouldn’t be too surprising if you follow any nonprofit blogs/publications. It seems like every consultant, fundraising service and nonprofit thought leader has been talking about #GivingTuesday for the past six months. Blog after blog will you tell you how to make the most of #GivingTuesday, why you need to do #GivingTuesday — we even posted just last week about making #GivingTuesday about donor retention.

But there’s one thing they won’t tell you: nonprofits just aren’t doing #GivingTuesday.

Only 2% of nonprofits participate in #GivingTuesday

According to the #GivingTuesday website, the movement has over 30,000 partner organizations. For perspective, there are more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the U.S.

That translates to about a 2% participation rate. Sure, it’s nothing to sneeze at — but a philanthropic tradition? Not quite.

Note: The figure from the #GivingTuesday website includes organizations outside of the U.S., and not all of the partners are nonprofits — it also includes small businesses, government agencies and major corporations. We used #GivingTuesday’s estimate because we thought it might be more accurate than other estimates, which range from 15,000 to 20,000 nonprofits participating. We were a bit generous with our calculation, but the participation rate is between 1 to 2% with either figure.

Let’s be clear: we love #GivingTuesday. We think it’s great that we have a day devoted to philanthropy during the a time where we are pelted with marketing days leading into the holidays, and we love that nonprofits are going out of their way to engage and champion their donors. It’s a great movement, and we think it does — and will continue to do — great things as it becomes a yearly tradition.

At the same time, the numbers don’t lie. Yes, #GivingTuesday is growing. But it isn’t quite a global movement — yet.

So, what does this mean for your nonprofit?

It’s not the end of the world if you don’t do #GivingTuesday

While many prominent charities are already participating in #GivingTuesday, there are many more organizations that are not. Since it’s so close to the end of the year, it can be stressful for a lot of organizations to squeeze in another campaign, especially considering that this is prime time for annual fund solicitation and donations!

Whether you participate in #GivingTuesday or not will probably not make a significant difference for your organization. If it’s too much this year, don’t worry about it. There will always be a next year — and at the rate it’s growing, next year might be more effective!

But there’s no harm in trying

There are really no downsides to signing up for #GivingTuesday. It only takes a few minutes to sign up, and it’s up to you how much time you spend putting it together. Depending on how much you want to invest in your campaign, that might only involve sending an email and a few social media posts.

Choose a campaign scale that works for you. You know your nonprofit best, so you’ll know how much time and energy you should devote to #GivingTuesday. Keep your staff and donors in mind when designing a campaign. How much time do you want to spend planning? What are the best channels to reach your donors?

Just stay realistic

Last year’s #GivingTuesday drove more than $45 million in donations. Obviously, your nonprofit wants a piece of that — but how much should you expect?

Again, this depends on how much you want to invest in your campaign. Even the smallest nonprofit can have a successful campaign with the right outreach and promotion. But don’t expect the donations to come flooding in if you’re not spreading the word and telling a compelling story.

Be very self-aware about what your nonprofit can expect and try to balance your effort with the expected payoff. Don’t invest too much for just one day of donations, and don’t expect a significant amount if you aren’t going to put in the work. Find a balance that feels right for you!

Keep the focus on year-end giving

Worried about #GivingTuesday distracting from your year-end appeal? Instead of sacrificing one for the other, leverage the power of both by using #GivingTuesday to kick off your campaign, not distract from it.

Communicate to your audience that #GivingTuesday is the beginning of the year-end giving season, and your organization is trying to start off strong by hitting a certain goal on December 1. Some options that might encourage donors are matching gift promotions or putting on an event.

Either way, make sure your #GivingTuesday campaign fits with your overall year-end narrative. Don’t think of it as its own event, but rather just a point on your year-end campaign’s timeline.

There’s really no right or wrong answer on whether your organization should participate in #GivingTuesday — only you know what’s best for your nonprofit. Just be realistic about your expectations and approach, and you’ll see the success you want.

Is your organization participating in #GivingTuesday? Let us know in the comments.

Image: Freepik

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