Skip to Content

Jumping on the #GivingTuesday Bandwagon: How to Do it Right

By October 3, 2018

By: John Haydon, Fundraising and Marketing Strategist

Giving Tuesday is a key part of many nonprofit fundraising plans.

This November 27th is #GivingTuesday, the Global Day of giving that has been growing exponentially each year since 2012.

Let’s look at last year’s numbers:

  • Almost 300 million raised – almost twice the amount raised in 2016.
  • Over 2.5 million gifts averaging $120 each.
  • Top causes were all the feel-good causes: Human Services, Health, Education, Animal Welfare, Environment, Public and Societal Benefit.

In short, #GivingTuesday is not going anywhere:

Giving Tuesday donations over time

Should YOUR nonprofit participate?

Yes, #GivingTuesday is huge. But size isn’t everything. Nonprofits should consider their own audience, resources and strategy before jumping on the bandwagon.

Last year, I asked a few of my colleagues, “Why nonprofits should or shouldn’t participate in #GivingTuesday?”

Most shared many pros for participating:

    “By taking part in GivingTuesday, nonprofits learn, in a very short amount of time, how to set impact-based fundraising goals, tell a compelling story, and use social media.”
    – Rob Wu, founder of CauseVox

    “It’s great at getting nonprofits focused on building a real audience – an army! – and communicating with them via social media.”
    – Joe Waters, author and founder of SelfishGiving

    “If they’re already focused on the right things, especially building a solid email list, go for it.”
    – Pamela Grow, founder Simple Development Systems

Others offered caution around #GivingTuesday:

    “Rather than create a separate #GivingTuesday campaign, I think most orgs should integrate it into their overall calendar. If you are worried that it might take away from other efforts, consider testing a single channel ask – such as a 24-hour match promoted on Facebook or a selfie sharing campaign (giving voice over money) on Instagram.”
    – Farra Trompeter, VP at Big Duck

    “Most nonprofit organizations have campaigns that last days or months. Keeping donors attention for that long can be tiresome. A giving day campaign condenses your tactics to just 24 hours with immediate results.”
    – Noland Hoshino, Director of Creative Marketing at High Five Media

Here are a few questions I pose to my clients who are considering a #GivingTuesday campaign:

    1. How much have you already adopted and embraced online fundraising strategies? If you’re a novice, how willing are you to learn?
    2. How does #GivingTuesday fit in with your existing acquisition and retention strategies?
    3. How well does it dovetail with your year-end giving strategy?
    4. How will you retain all the new donors you acquire on #GivingTuesday?

#GivingTuesday Done Right – Putting Together a Solid Plan of Action

Planning can be boring yes, but it’s everything. After working with hundreds of nonprofits over the past year, I have to say that a key element of success is planning.

#GivingTuesday Done Right – Your People

You can’t achieve even a basic level of success on #GivingTuesday if you don’t understand what motivates your supporters. No one will like, retweet, or donate if you haven’t answered the only question that really matters: What’s in it for them?

The reason why supporters donate is simple: You give them a heart-breaking problem that they can solve.

To do this, you have to understand what made them decide to give in the first place. What’s their story? Why do they care enough about breast cancer to donate or volunteer?

Your ideal prospect for #GivingTuesday are people who already like, know, and trust your nonprofit. Proof of this exists in the fact that hey have donated, volunteered, pledged, or showed up at an event. They’re in your community. They’re right under your nose in your database!

Start by segmenting your database into:

  • First-time donors – The only thing you know about these people is that they’re willing to part with their money at least once. But most probably won’t come back.
  • Repeat donors – Holy cow, they came back! (For more on recurring giving, read this comprehensive report.)
  • Lapsed donors – Why did they lapse?
  • Donors by giving level – Given level only reflects ability to give, not passion.
  • Volunteers who haven’t given – Since they’ve already given their valuable time, asking for a donation should be a slam dunk.
  • Board members – Come, people! All board members should salt the jar for #GivingTuesday.

Decide which segment is best to target for your #GivingTuesday campaign and then develop messages that speak to them.

#GivingTuesday Done Right – Your Objective

If you don’t have a destination, any tool will do. Any best practice will do, too.

Clear objectives help you determine if you are successful or not. Long-term success with online fundraising requires a lot of trial and error, and clear objectives can tell you very quickly what’s a trial and what’s an error.

The objectives you choose might vary depending on your overall goals for fundraising. Maybe your goal is to increase your number of monthly donors. Maybe it’s to increase your number of new donors. Maybe it’s to retain more repeat donors. You get the idea.

#GivingTuesday Done Right – Your Strategy

Your strategy is more than just a plan. It’s a plan that will meet your objectives based on what you know about your people.

A good strategy focuses on a value exchange between you and your supporter. What are you going to give in exchange for their email, money, time, influence and attention?

Whether it’s a meaningful pledge or a sweepstakes, write down exactly how you will offer enough value to encourage them to help you achieve your objective.

In my experience, a winning strategy is one that weaves your #GivingTuesday event into your overall fundraising strategy and especially year-end fundraising – your biggest money-maker for the entire year. Here are a few ideas:

    1. Use #GivingTuesday as a way to celebrate and appreciate your donors, setting the stage for greater year-end participation.
    2. Focus on donor acquisition during #GivingTuesday, and upgrading those folks to monthly donors at year-end.
    3. Promote your monthly giving program during #GivingTuesday, and one-time gifts during year-end.
    4. During #GivingTuesday, ask donors to make a year-end pledge (promise to pay) and close these pledges during year-end.
    5. Ask donors to support local retailers who are sponsoring your year-end event.
    6. _______________________ (Your amazingly creative idea goes here.)

#GivingTuesday Done Right – Your Tactics and Tools

Once you understand your people, objective, and strategy, you can confidently select the tools and tactics you’ll use for your campaign. And definitely use all marketing channels!

Multichannel fundraising via postal mail, your website, telemarketing, and social media, is the most effective way to raise money.

Here’s why:

    1. First time donors often start online.
    2. Many online-acquired donors may eventually switch to direct mail.
    3. Without the ability to donate via direct mail, online donors would be worth far less.

One of my favorite social media strategies is to use Facebook or Instagram live to promote your #GivingTuesday campaign. Here are 35 ideas for telling your story on #GivingTuesday.

#GivingTuesday Done Right – Your Timing

If you’re a small or medium-sized nonprofit, you have to get the word out early to compete with the flood of messaging your donors will receive from the big orgs.

Consider this 3 part plan for your timing:

Announce: Announce your #GivingTuesday campaign early November. Focus on getting core donors in the door so that they can be your core spokespeople and promoters leading up to #GivingTuesday.

Remind: Remind donors who haven’t given yet. Timing on this varies by segment but shoot for reminding folks the week before.

Last Chance: The night before and the day of #GivingTuesday, remind your supporters several times that today is the day. Give it all you’ve got!

Is #GivingTuesday Right for Your Nonprofit?

It depends. It depends on resources, staff, willingness to learn and other factors. The key factor in my experience is have 100% executive support. If you’re a marketing coordinator and you’re the only one excited for #GivingTuesday, you’ll have to build support OR you’ll get very frustrated.

It also depends on your cause. According to the research from #GivingTuesday, top causes were all the feel-good causes: Human Services, Health, Education, Animal Welfare, Environment, Public and Societal Benefit.

Lastly, if you’re new to any sort of online fundraising, consider using #GivingTuesday to build your muscles and knowhow for future campaigns. And start with the ideas and the plan I shared with you in this article! Check out our #GivingTuesday resource page for more advice you can use.


#GivingTuesday 2018