Is Giving Tuesday a Waste of Time?

Good question, right?

First of all, the data says it’s been hugely successful in the past. Over 20,000 nonprofits participated last year, raising over $168 million.

Yes, some nonprofits probably raised very little money. But Giving Tuesday is NOT just a 24-hour fundraising campaign. It’s a movement that your supporters are embracing, more and more each year.

How did your nonprofit do last year?

If you participated in Giving Tuesday before, you can look at several metrics to judge your past success.

Depending on your goals, you can look at:

  • Total donations ($)
  • Number of new donors acquired
  • Number of current donors who gave
  • Number of new emails acquired
  • Number of people who engaged with campaign (clicks, conversions, shares)
  • Engagement with follow up messages (email, social, etc)
  • You get the idea

So should you participate? I asked a few peers this exact question:

why give tuesday is not a waste of your time

The comments I received are valuable recommendations and pearls of wisdom about Giving Tuesday, broken out into: CONS, PROS, PEARLS OF WISDOM.

Giving Tuesday CONS (WARNINGS)

Mary Cahalane

The one-off, or even one day a year, habit is bad for developing relationships between donors and organizations. If you can’t keep donors’ attention with good communications, a giving day isn’t likely to successfully fill that void, anyway.

I suspect strong organizations, with good fundraising programs already in place, could do well with Giving Tuesday as an addition. They’re ready with a strong message. They’ve got the staff to devote to that one day. And they’ve got systems in place to build on the relationships started with the one day.

Smaller organizations? Unless there’s a strong community-wide awareness of and participation in Giving Tuesday, I wouldn’t recommend putting a year-long program aside in order to participate. It’s a tool, and not every tool is right for every organization.

I’d ask:

  • Do you have time for a bootcamp? What will get put aside while you’re doing it?
  • What will the results of making that time be? Will they be lasting results?

Dennis Fischman

I wrote about ten reasons a nonprofit should not be on Facebook, and it all boiled down to what your nonprofit can and should do first.

I feel the same way about Giving Tuesday. IF you already take care of your donors as if they were your best friends, and you want to invite them to a party that you and other nonprofits are throwing, then great! But how many nonprofits are really showing the #donorlove that way?



Caroline Avakian

I think one of the best parts of GivingTuesday are the collaborations and partnerships that are forged because of it. I was working at Trickle Up, a global poverty alleviation organization, when GivingTuesday started and we got to publish a few pieces in the Huffington Post based on HuffPo’s partnership with the GivingTuesday campaign and the NGO alliance group, InterAction. It gives smaller NGOs a chance to be a part of something bigger than them. We also forged partnerships with other orgs we were on GivingTuesday coordination calls with. It’s a win-win all around. @CarolineAvakian

Rob Wu

At CauseVox, we have seen the sheer growth of GivingTuesday as the motivating factor to nonprofits trying online fundraising for the first time. By taking part in GivingTuesday, nonprofits learn, in a very short amount of time, how to set impact-based fundraising goals, tell a compelling story, and use social media.

A few case studies from CauseXox:

Kivi Leroux Miller

I was hired last year by a handful of community foundations to teach nonprofits basic communications planning and donor stewardship using both Giving Tuesday and Give Local America as hook. It’s a totally new concepts to at least 75% of orgs in training.

From the Nonprofit Marketing Guide: 5 Ways to Harness the Awesome Fundraising Potential of #GivingTuesday

Joe Waters

I think it’s great at getting nonprofits focused on building a real audience – an army! – and communicating with them via social media.

Pamela Grow

If they’re already focused on the right things, especially building a solid email list, go for it. I love what one of my subscribers did last year for Giving Tuesday.

Julia Campbell

GivingTuesday is a national day of giving and it gets a TON of media coverage. People search on the hashtag all day long. People that may never have made a donation online give for the first time on that day.

It is not something your org should overlook, or sneeze at! You may not raise millions, but you may get new eyeballs on your cause, new ambassadors to spread the word and best of all – new donors!

Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz

GivingTuesday has grown such that nonprofits have an opportunity to embrace it, and leverage the day as part of a well-planned, overall yearly communications, outreach and development strategy.

Is Giving Tuesday: PEARLS OF WISDOM

Noland Hoshino

Giving Tuesday and other giving days force a nonprofit organization to sharpen and fine tune their message while competing with other organizations.

Most nonprofit organizations have campaigns that last days or months. Keeping donors attention for that long can be tiresome. A giving day campaign condenses your tactics to just 24-hours with immediate results.

Farra Trompeter

Giving Tuesday has grown in popularity, recognition, and success to a point where I don’t think nonprofits can afford to ignore it.

The challenge lies in figuring out how to plug it into the rest of your communications, especially if you are implementing a year-end appeal or annual fund campaign at the same time.

Rather than create a separate Giving Tuesday campaign, I think most orgs should integrate it into their overall calendar. If you are worried that it might take away from other efforts, consider testing a single channel ask–such as a 24-hour match promoted on Facebook or a selfie sharing campaign (giving voice over money) on Instagram.

If you are worried that asking for money on this day can hurt other efforts, ask for something else. Use Giving Tuesday to ask for time, passion, activism, and other efforts that might engage your donors beyond giving money.

Ehren Foss

A successful Giving Tuesday campaign depends on:

  • How much the nonprofit has already adopted these kinds of tactics and technologies (how valuable is learning/training?)
  • How well it aligns with their existing strategies and programs.
  • How well they can segment and steward their constituents to make sure to ask the right constituents to join them in GivingTuesday in the right ways.

Practice working together as online communications, online fundraising, and major gifts teams. What happens if a major prospect gives to Giving Tuesday or comments on a post? Does your team know how to work together?

Mickey Gomez

Taking part in a broader effort can bring new attention to your nonprofit, whether through donations, education or simple awareness. The messaging around national, state or regional giving is also quite inspiring, and confirms the power of philanthropy by amplifying giving on a single day to maximize quantifiable impact.

Where the sector needs to focus, in my opinion, is on maintaining the momentum AND further developing ongoing communication strategies that respect how donors would like to receive information after taking part in such an initiative.

The takeaway

Giving Tuesday, like any campaign, is much more successful if you do your homework.

If you’re community isn’t as engaged as you like, maybe Giving Tuesday can be a catalyst to build a stronger community. Success largely depends on how well you plan, your definition of successful participation, and what investment (and sacrifices) you’ll need to make.

John Haydon