Nonprofits · Philanthropy

Giving Tuesday: Yea or Nay? Actually: Both

I’m of two minds on Giving Tuesday–mostly negative.

Typically, nonprofits don’t end up getting new donors from things like this. If you get money from an existing donor, it more than likely cuts into the other gift they were going to make. I’ve heard from some donors that it increases “donor fatigue”–the constant barrage of asking asking asking is annoying, and when you participate in giving-day events, you and 100 other nonprofits are all sending ask and reminder emails. (Even if you’re restrained and only send two…if every nonprofit does that, it’s a ton of messages in 48 hours.) These giving days usually promote small gifts, like $10; a small gift from a donor who’s capable to giving much more leaves donors feeling like “oh, I already supported XYZ this year” without considering what impact they want to make or can make with a carefully considered investment. And for me, that’s the worst part: Philanthropy should be fun, but you need to do your homework and give to high-quality, well-run organizations that will help you meet your philanthropy goals. That’s not going to happen $10 at a time. Some donors feel this makes philanthropy less serious, and I think there’s some truth to that.

On the positive side, you can ask key supporters such as board members to make a new gift to challenge others to increase their gifts or participate. Challenge grants (“A board member will match every dollar you give up to $25,000!”) are a popular tool for giving days and definitely work, though you don’t need the “giving day” aspect to use the tool. Giving Tuesday does get people to think about charitable giving, but honestly, at the holidays, people are already doing that.

Either way you look at it, it’s work, and most nonprofits have small development/fundraising staffs. They can’t run with every idea and must pick the best tactic for their geographic region, donor base, area of impact, time of year, and their overall fundraising strategy. If you’re a fundraising professional, I suggest thinking about how this will impact the giving of your donor base, if you can come up with a strategy that won’t alienate current donors (and maybe pull in some new ones…more about that soon), and how this fits in with other asks in November and December.