#GivingTuesday: Overhyped or is the FOMO Real?

Very often in the fundraising world, it’s considered poor form to not absolutely gush over a major national fundraising trend. But, I’m here to tell you that I don’t think #GivingTuesday is a good strategy for the vast majority of small to medium nonprofits (especially in our area). In fact, I have already gotten into pretty heated discussions with fundraisers around why I don’t like #GivingTuesday.

Allow me to preface this by saying that I used to work for the National American Red Cross – which I believe was one of the FIRST organizations to hop on and test drive #GivingTuesday back in 2012 when the concept launched – and I used to LOVE the campaign. I have literally worked for some of the biggest, and some of the smallest organizations participating in this campaign, which I believe gives me experience and perspective to have an unpopular opinion like this.

Reason #1: Capitalism (kinda)

Here are some fun stats for you – amount of money spent in 2020!

  • Thanksgiving + Black Friday: $14.1 Billion (source)
  • Cyber Monday: $10.8 Billion (same source as above)
  • #GivingTuesday: $2.47 Billion (source)

I intentionally left Small Business Saturday out because that at least has a direct positive effect  in supporting local economies, which I am ALL FOR, but for fun, that came in at $19.8 Billion (source)

What bothers me about this? The fact that #GT waits until society has spent more than $25 billion before asking for a piece of the thanksgiving-spending-spree pie. Not only does it play into the “charity as an afterthought” issues that nonprofits are constantly fighting, but it also simply says that your new electronic device is more important than saving a child’s life, or helping an organization provide critical humanitarian services. Timing is everything. This feels even more true given that Black Friday deals started in October (but I’m not here to discuss supply chain issues)

Reason #2: Sharks

In 2020, over 10,000 nonprofits around the world participated in #GivingTuesday (source). That’s over 10,000 organizations to compete with. How many of those have larger budgets than your organization? How many of those organizations have entire departments dedicated to executing multi-faceted digital campaigns? I’m willing to bet the vast majority of you reading this probably are wearing multiple hats, never mind having an ENTIRE DEPARTMENT to do this work for you. I worked for TWO of those mega organizations, and let me tell you, it’s awesome to do #GT when you have a large budget and people to do it.

So this is why I’m talking about sharks. As a small to medium nonprofit participating in #GivingTuesday you’re basically a minnow jumping into a sharknado blood bath. There are so many organizations competing for attention on #GT…it’s what business nerds would call a “Red Ocean Strategy” – I’d encourage you to adopt a Blue Ocean Strategy mindset…

Stop competing with this mess unless you have the money and resources to do so.

Reason #3: If You Can’t Full Ass #GivingTuesday, Don’t Half Ass it

This is a piece of advice I’ve taken to heart over the years (and yes, I’m using the word “ass” in a professional business blog – thanks Emily for signing off on that!).

As a small to medium sized nonprofit development professional – you only have so many hours in your year, and it feels like even fewer hours available between October and December. Not fully dedicating your efforts towards your end of year campaign and getting distracted by #GT can harm your End of Year results. Don’t half ass your end of year campaign, whole ass it.

Unless you’re executing a VERY thorough digital engagement program throughout the year, trying to half ass an ask as you’re about to kick off your End of Year campaign is going to look bad, cluttered, and will likely result in smaller gifts. Is raising about $5k here worth it? Probably not.

So yea, when I had money and budgets, #GivingTuesday was a fabulous day to participate in. But as a 1-3 person development shop, you’re going to be much better off focusing on getting your existing donors to give and increase their gifts this year.

If you ever have time to do something for #GivingTuesday, I’d recommend investigating a donor acquisition strategy instead – don’t make it about fundraising, make it about friendraising. THAT can pay off in the long run, just not on the day of.

So, may your End of Year campaign be jolly, and filled with lots of money…and take it from someone who has done the #GivingTuesday rodeo too many times…don’t feel bad for sitting it out – we’ve got your back.

Also, Emily and I did a Building Forward seminar on why we don’t like #GivingTuesday in case you’d rather hear the super sassy version of this post…