But It’s Still a Great Opportunity for Nonprofits

For you nonprofit fundraisers out there who may be losing sleep over your #GivingTuesday strategy, here’s the bad news: You’re working against a pretty stiff November nor’easter. You aren’t simply competing against just about every other cause on the internet. You’re also facing a culture that is currently hell-bent on consuming its way to good cheer—probably to the tune of much more money than it can afford.

A note from the history of holiday shopping: For over 70 years, Thanksgiving was celebrated on the final Thursday in November. But in 1939 and 1940 President Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week, under pressure from retailers who wanted to provide an extra week of shopping in a year that Thanksgiving was set to come late. The holiday was eventually established as the fourth Thursday in November, ensuring anywhere between 26 and 32 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Those weeks are clearly a matter of great urgency for retailers, and have been for quite some time. In contrast, #GivingTuesday began in 2012. It’s the youngest of the “branded” days surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday. (Those who crave even more history can learn about its origins here.) Awareness of the day is still relatively low, but donations attributed to #GivingTuesday have shown steady growth year after year. Nonprofit digital strategists Whole Whale predict that #GivingTuesday donations will hit $250 million in this, its fifth-anniversary year.

In comparison, holiday spending overall is expected to top $630.5 billion this year, which comes out to something like $20 billion per day. That one-day, $250-million-dollar total starts to seem like a handful of coins clanking around in a pretty empty kettle.

That’s the “Bah! Humbug” part of the story. Here’s the “God bless us, every one” part: #GivingTuesday is still a great opportunity for nonprofits. Here’s a quick list of #GivingTuesday ideas we’ve culled from various sources, so that, next year, you can take advantage of the occasion without losing perspective.

  • With ever more groups marking the occasion, it’s even tougher to get noticed. So make #GivingTuesday a day that you focus on your strongest supporters. Which may mean leaning on email more than social.
  • When you do go social, set a #GivingTuesday goal and keep your donors posted on your progress. Or, to inject even more drama, put your CEO (or other high-profile booster) in a dunk tank. Facebook’s new live video feature (among others) should make promotions like this fun and easy.
  • Keep donating simple. This might seem obvious, but we’ve all been there: Working through online giving with unclear guidelines and too many unnecessary pieces can quickly wear down our resolve.
  • Make it mobile-friendly. Mobile sales were up sharply this Black Friday. It stands to reason that mobile giving will increase as well.
  • Innovate, test, and measure. #GivingTuesday offers a great opportunity to try new messages and strategies. You can use the opportunity to A/B test different emails or landing pages. And make sure your analytics are set up properly, so you know how your efforts fare against other campaigns.
  • Plan ahead. At this point, it really is all about next year. With 2017 in mind, explore the resources on offer from GivingTuesday.org, starting with this campaign timeline, which suggests having your first planning meeting in July. When did you start planning this year?

Finally, realize that there are 364 other days—all of them important in terms of raising awareness and telling the stories of your cause. If, like Scrooge at the end of the tale, your supporters resolve to keep the holiday in their hearts all the year, a well-crafted story and message should always find them ready to give. Whatever the day, or the season.