Don’t wait until November to plan for #GivingTuesday

3 min read

I’m not a #GivingTuesday fan.

I know it is part of the holiday season frenzy. But, for many nonprofits, it isn’t… well, profitable. And, according to Nonprofit Tech for Good, not even 25% of the 1.1 million public charities in the U.S. are on the Tuesday bandwagon.

But what about the 40,000 nonprofits that do participate?

If all those charities were created equal, each nonprofit raised about $4,425 in 2016 on the day. I know a few local organizations that raised much, much more than that. I also know some that were left frustrated at how little return they received for a day full of effort.

Just like Black Friday, the reality behind dedicating one day to giving doesn’t live up to the hype. #GivingTuesday is the one day of the year when fundraisers seem to lose their collective minds and forget everything they’ve learned in philanthropy school.

Bottom line: You cannot send a few social media posts on the last Tuesday in November and expect to rake in the cash. Yet, inexplicably, this is what many otherwise great nonprofits do.

Giving is a relational transaction. All good relationships have a few things in common. They take time. They’re built on respect. They require honest communication (and a lot of it). They grow stronger the longer they last.

If you are going to jump in the #GivingTuesday waters, you need to be paying attention to your relationships now. Yes, right now, in August and September.

The best campaigns begin raising money well before the actual #GivingTuesday. Here are a few ways you can start getting ready:

  1. Clean up your donor lists. If you haven’t already, make sure you have updated contact information and working emails for all your active donors.
  2. Build your email database. For every 1,000 names, you will raise $44 on average. More names, more potential. Here are 50 email marketing tips to build that list.
  3. Figure out the story you want to tell. Do you have good photos of your programs—or better yet, good videos? If the answer is no, take them now. Videos, in particular, have much higher response rates than text-only stories.
  4. Assemble your champions. Every organization has its top donors and volunteers. Survey them. Ask them why they give and what you can do to entice more people like them. Use that information to build a campaign to reach more people like them.
  5. Ask for a matching grant. Ask a larger donor to match #GivingTuesday donations dollar for dollar, up to a target giving level. That encourages more giving from more people since every gift is doubled.
  6. Prepare your staff, partners, and volunteers. Start a countdown clock. Give them talking points. Arm them with your photo and video links. Write out suggestions for social media posts. Give them a sample email. That way they can reinforce your message with their own networks.
  7. Build a landing page or donation form. Rather than running a text-to-give campaign or driving traffic to your general contact page, create a special page that provides succinct information about who you are, what you do, and why you make a difference. Most digital gifts come from first-time donors who may not know all you do.

And once you reach the big day, there are three other things to remember:

  1. Don’t rely on social media alone. Just because it has a hashtag doesn’t mean #GivingTuesday can only happen on Facebook and Twitter. 67% of donors age 40 – 59 give online, but prefer to give via an email link. Be sure you are reaching out in multiple ways.
  2. Be prepared to say thank you. Most organizations know to thank their donors, but often lack the staff to do so quickly.  If you set up a landing page (see #7 above), you have their emails. Send a personal (yet pre-written) thank you email the next day with a little encouragement to stay involved.
  3. And finally, don’t stop on November 29. According to the Network for Good Digital Giving Index, the average gift size for #GivingTuesday is $142. The average gift size for December 31? $223.


#GivingTuesday 2017 is November 28. Download the official toolkit at