Give Until It Hurts On #GivingTuesday

by Seth Rosen

I’m going to share a deep, dark secret that fundraisers and donors have in common but are loath to admit. We don’t love Giving Tuesday.

I’m going to share a deep, dark secret that fundraisers and donors have in common but are loath to admit.

We don’t love Giving Tuesday.

Yes, it may sound like I’m the grinchiest Grinch in Whoville, but hear me out and learn how your heart can again grow three sizes bigger.

What Is Giving Tuesday?

Giving Tuesday started in 2012 as a philanthropic counterpart to the materialism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. At its heart it’s an inspired idea meant to promote donations to nonprofits.

In its first year, Giving Tuesday really was a novel and very lovely way to draw attention to the nonprofit sector. But that was year one.

Year two? I think by the end of Giving Tuesday, every fundraiser and donor in the United States was getting a little Grinchy.

For fundraisers, Giving Tuesday 2014 was marked by:

  • Nonstop marketing from consultants about how to make Giving Tuesday appeals better. And yes, I see the irony here.
  • Executive Directors and board members asking a) “Where’s my nonprofit’s appeal?” or b) “Why isn’t it performing better?”
  • Every single nonprofit in the same sector sending out a Giving Tuesday appeal. And so no one stands out and donors are annoyed by everyone.

And for the donors? Well, Giving Tuesday was all about:

  • Email appeals
  • Facebook appeals
  • Twitter appeals
  • Snail mail appeals
  • And more email appeals
  • Appeals, appeals, appeals!

You get the idea.

Even the organization behind Giving Tuesday is concerned about this issue.

How to Overcome “Giving Tuesday Fatigue”

So far it looks like we’re on an express train back to Whoville, but perhaps, to paraphrase Dr. Seuss, Giving Tuesday can mean a bit more.

After all, what is Giving Tuesday really about? Giving, not asking. It’s time for nonprofits to give back to their supporters.

Here’s my three-step plan.

Step 1: Honor your volunteers, clients and staff.

  • Ask your Board Chair to send a message of thanks to your entire staff letting them know how appreciated they are. Don’t forget, working at a nonprofit can be stressful (to say the least.)
  • Have a small reception for your volunteers thanking them for their time and service. At the least, send them a thank you email. Don’t lose site of the fact that oftentimes volunteers are the best source of donors.
  • Recommit to great customer service and a fantastic experience for your clients. Make sure they know you are honored that they chose your organization to receive services. One way to do this is to have coffee and donuts or fruit available for clients on Giving Tuesday. It is an extra cost, but it will create goodwill with your clients and be highly appreciated. Another idea — have a staff training on the elements of great customer service. Everyone needs a reminder sometime.

Step 2: Thank your donors.

Run a list of donors that have been giving every year to your organization for a long time, whatever a long time is for your nonprofit. Call and thank them. Don’t ask for money, just say thank you for their years of giving. No phone number? Email works great. Snail mail sometimes works even better.

For the rest of your donors, do something similar. On Giving Tuesday, instead of an ask, just send out a thank you. Think about recording your staff saying thanks (an iPhone works great for this.) Put it up on YouTube and include it with the email. Put it up on Facebook and Twitter as well. Instead of asking for something, set your nonprofit apart on Giving Tuesday by giving.

Step 3: Schedule a “Giving-Back Tuesday” every three months.

The pressure to fundraise is so intense that we don’t schedule enough time to say thank you to donors. And I don’t mean a thank you and an ask, or a thank you after a gift. Just a plain honest, authentic thank you to a donor for making a gift to a cause they care about because they know it will help someone in need. This needs to happen far more than once a year.

How are you thanking your donors, volunteers and staff?

Join the conversation in the comments below.

16 thoughts on “Give Until It Hurts On #GivingTuesday”

  1. We don’t participate in Giving Tuesday as we have worked diligently so that donors give based on our mission, our impact and their connection with both versus a particular day of the year. So many non-profits do also send a Thank You on Thanksgiving – something else that I think has become white noise. We we send a Happy New Year, thank you, we love you communication on New Year’s as a way to still tie into the holidays.

  2. Great ideas, Joan! As the CEO of a non-profit, I have “asker fatigue,” so I can only imagine how tired my donors must be. Well, I can imagine, because I am on the receiving end of many appeals from other organizations. I love the idea of increasing the thanks in lieu of asking for support. We’re pretty good at it now, but this was a good reminder that we can always be better.

  3. Stephanie. You are not alone in this. CEO gets tunnel vision around fundraising and the appreciation piece often falls through the cracks. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. My organization has made this day 90% appreciation and 10% solicitation. In North Texas, we have a local day of giving on the third Thursday in September called North Texas Giving Day. Donors in my community need a little “love” in the form of “thank yous” not more requests for funds.

  5. We don’t really ask during the year and we just sent out personal thank yous to our donors a couple of weeks ago. For us #GivingTuesday is a chance to get our message out to a new pool of people and spread the word of the work we do. So, I am sorry if the folks responding here feel it is overkill but for us this is critical for our growth.
    We’ll definitely be connecting with the new donors and making sure they feel connected to our organization as I agree that stewardship is an often missed step for organizations but please don’t forget that for us tiny organizations we need any chance we can get to join a marketing and outreach wave and here in Portland our #PDXGives hashtag is trending!

  6. I have always had a problem with Giving Tuesday. We will have just finished a mail campaign and our Gala (Nov 7th), during which, our donors give and give and give some more. I’m a member of the Non-Profit Council through our local Chamber of Commerce, and the Council always wants to do Giving Tuesday up big. I personally dread it. So, I’ve agreed to put a link on our FB page to our website and a piece about Giving Tuesday on the website, but, that’s about all I can give to “Giving Tuesday.”

  7. One of these ideas (holding a volunteer thank you event) is one we started kicking around last week… another is featuring a donor story in our communications that day.

  8. I love this idea. We have been searching for new ways to thank donors and volunteers and have been loath to jump on the #givingtuesday bandwagon because I was personally hit with so many requests.

  9. Janyce, I really agree with you, and I think its terrific that you are thinking of new ways to thank donors and volunteers. If you have to time to share I would love to hear what works for you. Thank you for your comment and good luck with your fundraising!

  10. Kirstin, I really like the idea of the donor story. I think these can be so inspiring, and they make the profiled donor feel great. Thank you for sharing!

  11. Priscilla, I think your instincts are spot on. Too many asks can feel extremely overwhelming for donors, especially when they just gave. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and thoughts!

  12. Seth, I love this post. Couldn’t agree more. Our team at Givkwik is working to evolve GivingTuesday as a great day for companies to celebrate philanthropy, promote their cause-related partnerships, and get employees and customers involved in giving – in person. We’re working with the #GivingTuesday organizers and several corporate sponsors to put together a celebration of giving in NYC, featuring the best 100 nonprofits in NYC. It’s called GIVNYC 2015: GivingTuesday. Live. NYC. and it’s on the evening of December 1 at the Impact HUB in Tribeca More info here: Hope you can join us!

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