Giving Tuesday – A Lost Opportunity

Giving Tuesday – A Lost Opportunity

Yesterday marked the first ever online event known as “Giving Tuesday.” Whether or not it will have a sizable impact on nonprofit donations or resonate for years to come has yet to be seen. But there is a question that needs to be asked –  is this actually helping?

For some background – “Giving Tuesday” is an effort co-sponsored by both 92 Street Y, a nonprofit based in New York, whose mission is to “enrich lives, create community and elevate humanity,” and dozens of partners organizations, including fundraising websites and global companies. It had a sizable media effort behind it, with public support from Bill Gates, Katie Couric, and Charlize Theron, amongst others. Additionally, the Twitter hashtag promoted by the cause, #GivingTuesday, remained near the top of most mentioned items on the site for much of the day.

Any public push for donations and charity has to be a positive event, right? Especially when considering that reports indicate that donations are down or stagnant this year for two-thirds of American charities. But what was this the best way to highlight charitable contributions? And is this what the nonprofit industry actually needs to succeed?

As any development or executive director of a nonprofit can tell you, fundraising is a year-long activity. While the holiday season accounts for one-third of all charitable donations throughout the year, it is not the only time nonprofits need public support.

And while the sentiment is commendable, is making a financially driven push in response to individuals over indulging on themselves really the most effective pitch? From a marketing perspective, does guilt for overspending on oneself or loved ones really have the greatest impact on spending habits?

As we’ve discussed previously, factors that impact giving tendencies are very much related to communication efforts on behalf of individual nonprofits, specifically in relation to showing impact and engaging volunteers. While making the pitch about the donor, and not the needs of the nonprofit, is key, there has been little research to show that guilting donors is a useful soliciting technique. Donors want to be empowered, they want to know that their donation is having an impact, and they want to be thanked in a meaningful and timely way.

Finally, some of the most ardent supporters of this campaign have in fact been donation processing websites. We’ve written about and reviewed several fundraising sites here before, and they are an invaluable tool in reaching new audiences and easing the processing of donations. But in that most of these sites charge a nominal, and in some cases substantial, fee in order to use their services, why didn’t any sites who promoted the campaign waive their service fees in association with this campaign? If this was truly in the spirit of giving, why wasn’t there a greater push for more accessible donations?

We commend anyone and everyone who participated in “Giving Tuesday” – any awareness to charitable donations and the amazing work being done by nonprofits is crucial to the health of the industry. In years ahead, however, we hope that more effort is made in crafting a stronger, more effective message in the importance of giving and the impact that donations of time and money can have in local communities. We work with amazing nonprofits, and we want their work to be supported and honored. But we also want to make sure that they are helped not just in the holiday season, but in the months and years to come.


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