Giving it a Thought: Is #GivingTuesday the Right Route for Your Organization?

With sweet sunny days, farmer’s markets and seasonal happenings throughout the Hudson Valley – it may seem far off to sit down and think about your year-end goals. Yet here we are more than half way through the year, and strategic questions if not tangible plans should be coming together. Most nonprofits understand the value and tactics of appeal writing – but with the increasing visibility and success of #GivingTuesday, many are considering new and innovative methods (online and offline) to build out their end-of-year calendars. With over $177 million raised by more than 1.6 million donors just last year, the pull is palpable. Before breaking out your video recorders and begging for board buy-in, give your #GivingTuesday plans a thought:
Internal Resources: This is perhaps the most important consideration for undertaking #GivingTuesday (or any online giving day). Does your organization have the capacity to fully plan, execute and follow-up on #GivingTuesday without exhausting staff or jeopardizing other priorities? At a minimum you’ll need staff time for writing content, producing photos/collages/videos, monitoring and engaging across social media platforms, and meaningful stewardship after.   Take into account that it also lands at a time when staff may be taking holiday vacations, meeting with donors to secure year-end gifts, or processing returns from the year-end appeal.
External Resources: Does your organization have consistent and open channels of communication with its audience? Does your organization have a robust e-mail list? Does your organization have an actively engaged social media following? Does your organization have social media ambassadors? Are your colleagues and board members willing to like and share content? Are your donors on social media – and do they follow you there? Building your list and your online presence can make or break your plans – and could improve your efforts year-round. Months of planning and creative ideas will fall flat if they aren’t reaching anyone – just think, if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it…so too is your #GivingTuesday if no one is there to participate.
Timing: In the best case scenario (and in best practice) you would already be planning by now. Six months is the standard timeframe to create a meaningful and multi-channel campaign for #GivingTuesday. Perhaps that seems extravagant for what some may perceive as 'just' a day of heightened social media engagement – but with tens of thousands of organizations participating you’ll need to stand out. This will require consistent messaging so that your audience is aware of and excited for your participation; buy-in from your colleagues, board members and stakeholders; and a creative element – videos, photos, a challenge match…something that will get your organization noticed, and give people the sense that this day really is special.
Appeal: Does your cause have a broad appeal? Is your mission easily understood and compelling enough to convert new donors? The primary focus of #GivingTuesday (and other giving days) is to attract new followers and cultivate their support. If followers are sharing your snazzy posts on the big day, their friends and connections will be introduced to your work in visuals and limited characters. Can you convey your focus, impacts and outcomes well through this channel?
Follow-Up: So important, we’re listing it twice! Every organization and fundraising program faces the task of successful stewardship. Capturing enthusiasm for one day is great, but continuing and developing a relationship is better. According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project , the donor retention rate is just 45%. This means that less than half of donors to your organization returned after their initial gift. Where will a new donor acquisition day fit into your balance? Do you have sufficient plans to steward and retain those new donors? Or will #GivingTuesday give you more holes in your leaking bucket?
Creativity: Last, but certainly not the least crucial point: again, with tens of thousands of organizations participating around the world, how will your organization stand out? #GivingTuesday will be filling the newsfeeds of all your followers and friends, and given that facebook algorithms favor posts with engagement, what will you do to be seen?  You can find lots of ideas on trade blogs as well as the #GivingTuesday Ideas page, but we would recommend tailoring ideas specific to your cause. Not only will a unique effort capture attention, but it will speak loudly to your donors.
For some of the nonprofits in our region #GivingTuesday has the potential to be a gift that keeps on giving – and for others, steering clear might be the best advice we could offer (along with strengthening your year-end appeal, which we have some thoughts on here). Consider these points with your colleagues to determine if this could be a bolster to your year-end, or a burn-out at end of year. In our mission to support and strengthen the organizations of the Hudson Valley, we’re always happy to talk details – feel free to contact us for more.

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