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How to Leverage #GivingTuesday to Significantly Boost Holiday Donations


If you’re a fundraiser looking to increase donations to your nonprofit organization over the holidays, #GivingTuesday, a crowdsourced grassroots movement spurred by social media, can be an extremely valuable asset to your campaign.

A counterweight to shopping-driven promotions like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday is a national day of giving held on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

The movement was hatched in summer 2012 by Henry Timms, interim CEO of the 92nd Street Y, the New York-based nonprofit community and cultural center. Developed with key assistance from the United Nations Foundation and other major influencers in the philanthropy world, #GivingTuesday wasted little time getting off the ground.

According to Asha Curran, the director of 92Y’s Center for Innovation & Social Impact and a project lead from day one, the initial goal was to have 100 partners on board by the first #GivingTuesday, which took place on November 27, 2012—just 90 days after the initial idea was formed.

By that date, however, 2500 partners had signed on from all 50 states. As of November 20th this year, 6000 partners have signed up for the second #GivingTuesday, which will take place on December 3, 2013.

#GivingTuesday partners include charities, corporations and consumer brands alike, such as Microsoft, Unilever, JCPenney, the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross and the United Way. The movement has already gone global, with initiatives in Canada, Australia, Mexico, Latin America and Singapore, to name a few.

Nonprofits that partner with #GivingTuesday can reap significant rewards. Blackbaud processed over $10 million in donations on the first #GivingTuesday—a 53 percent increase over the Tuesday after Thanksgiving in 2011—while DonorPerfect reported a 46 percent increase in donations between the same dates. With December already of such crucial importance in annual donations, this is a potential revenue booster that shouldn’t be ignored.

Although this year’s #GivingTuesday is almost here, getting involved is quicker and easier than you might think, and it costs nothing to join. Here are some strategic tips to help your organization get the most out of this unique fundraising opportunity.

Incorporate Fundraising Playbook Best Practices 

“Knowing what you want to get out of #GivingTuesday is one of the absolute first things you need to do,” says Curran. Establish what your organization’s mission is, what your donation goal is, which donors you’re looking to raise money from (new or existing) and if you’re trying to increase your brand and social media profile as well. You also need to determine how your #GivingTuesday efforts will align with your organization’s existing end-of-year campaign.

Once these goals have been established, Rachel Hutchisson, Blackbaud’s director of corporate citizenship and philanthropy, recommends using the following four-step strategy from the playbook developed by the San Diego Zoo’s Global Wildlife Conservancy:

Capitalize on social media trends. Social media is at the very core of the movement. Use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to put up regular #GivingTuesday-related posts to raise awareness (countdowns to Giving Day, any special events you’re holding, etc.).

One popular fad started by #GivingTuesday is the #unselfie, where users post a picture of themselves with a handwritten sign supporting a cause or telling a story about it. The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research makes tremendous use of #unselfies on social media featuring people with family members who live with Parkinson’s and bringing greater awareness to the organization’s mission. 

Take advantage of your organization’s website. Add a dedicated #GivingTuesday section to your site with special donor opportunities tailored to your cause (include small-dollar gifts to encourage individual and first-time donors). Many organizations tweak the main #GivingTuesday logo to incorporate their own organization branding, and feature this on their site as well.

Use direct mail. The San Diego zoo is placing a #GivingTuesday sticker on the back of a Thanksgiving card that will be sent to regular donors as a follow-up to an event held earlier in the month. This is an extremely easy and memorable way to alert people to your cause.

Conduct day-of on-site promotion. Calling it “thanking the troops,” the zoo has printed up 5000 stickers, which are customized adaptations of the #GivingTuesday logo, to distribute on Giving Day. Fifteen hundred will go to staffers, 1200 to volunteers and the remainder to every visitor who comes through the gates. 

Utilize Resources on the #GivingTuesday Website

The #GivingTuesday website is a valuable resource that can help you get things off the ground. It supplies tools to help your organization promote your campaign and get the exposure you need to make it a success. Call it open-source philanthropy: you can find the source code, so to speak, right on the website in the form of toolkits, templates, badges and logos.

The comprehensive Logos and Toolkits section, for example, features a Giving Day playbook with planning and day-of logistics tips. There’s also a “Social Media Ambassador” toolkit with best practices and sample Facebook posts, Tweets, images and banners you can use across your organization’s social channels.

GivingTuesday sample Tweets

Sample Tweets from GivingTuesday’s “Social Media Ambassador” toolkit

Partner With Other Organizations to Tell Your Story 

According to Curran, “The better a story you can tell and the more powerful your narrative is, the more money you will raise.” She gives the example of Juvenile In Justice, a project designed to document the treatment of juveniles in the criminal justice system in the hopes of reforming it. 

InLiquid, a Philadelphia nonprofit organization, partnered with the project’s founders to host a month-long exhibition at a local art space that displays photos of teenagers in juvenile detention facilities around the country. The exhibition is tied to a #GivingTuesday effort, which seeks to raise $30,000 via Indiegogo to create a Juvenile Record Expungement Clinic that helps clear past offenses from an offender’s record.

Juvenile in Justice Indiegogo

Juvenile In Justice’s #GivingTuesday campaign on Indiegogo

“An initiative like this hits many of the #GivingTuesday best practices,” Curran explains. “It tells a really human story, it has a tangible goal, it inspires people and it has a great visual to help attract media attention.”

“We’re trying to empower and educate local communities,” says Philadelphia entrepreneur and self-described “artist and instigator” David Gloss, who created the Indiegogo campaign with a friend. He says they chose to align their efforts with #GivingTuesday because the movement has a powerful network with a regional focus.

“We had a chance to make a big splash,” he says. “Our goal is to give back on this day and raise enough money to conduct these clinics regularly.” 

Conduct a Matching Gift Campaign

According to Curran, holding a matching gift campaign is a highly successful tactic for nonprofits who participate in #GivingTuesday. Ask a board member, corporate partner or celebrity spokesperson to offer up some kind of matching gift on Giving Day. 

Last year, for example, the Pennsylvania SPCA held a $5000 #GivingTuesday challenge match campaign with one of their board members. According to Kathy Giles, the organization’s annual giving manager, the effort was enormously successful, raising nearly $20,000. “We were then able to add the $5,000 from the match, which brought our total up to $25,000,” she explains.

Giving Tuesday PSPCA

The PSPCA’s #GivingTuesday challenge match campaign banner

This year, the PSPCA is looking to raise money for a Second Chance Medical Fund to provide veterinary care to the sick and injured animals they treat in their shelter hospital. “We will be asking for $10,000 this year,” says Giles. “Because the offer is different from last year, I am more conservative around the goal, but I’m hopeful will be able to match what we raised last year.” 

Join Forces With Local Businesses 

Another useful strategy is to ask local shops and businesses to donate a portion of their proceeds to your charity on Giving Day. Jamie McDonald, the founder and president of GiveCorps Baltimore, is spearheading that city’s active #GivingTuesday effort, Bmore Gives More. She appreciates the city’s larger partners, but says she is most excited about working with local businesses because of how the collaboration brings the community together. 

Joe Squared, for example, a popular local pizza joint, is offering a “Bmore Gives More” pizza during the week leading up to #GivingTuesday, and will donate a portion of the proceeds. In a similar effort, a local pastry shop created a #GivingTuesday raspberry macaron, while another company is designing a special T-shirt and selling it to their employees on Giving Day.

“Using the umbrella of #GivingTuesday to let people celebrate our city, we feel like we’re shining a bright light on all the amazing things that happen in Baltimore every day,” McDonald says. 

These are just a few of the many tactics nonprofits can use to benefit from #GivingTuesday. Regardless of your nonprofit’s goals, this movement can be an incredible resource to boost your fundraising efforts. The most important thing is to establish connections with other organizations and individuals whose goals align with your own to help fuel your campaign.

“The power of #GivingTuesday is the people who make it happen,” explains Kathy Calvin, president and CEO of the United Nations Foundation. “When people come together to donate their money, their time and their voices to support a cause in partnership with others, that’s philanthropy at its very best.”

Thumbnail image created by Arts_for_LA.

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About the Author

Wes Eichenwald is a contributor to Software Advice.

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