"She’ll Tell You It’s the Only Way to Be:" Initiating Change with a Ruby #GivingTuesday

Here’s a game for you to play: See how many songs about Tuesday you can name off the top of your head. For me, it’s two. Upon searching for songs about Tuesday, it turns out there’s (at least) a couple dozen songs about the second day of the workweek.

I found that surprising because Tuesday doesn’t get much love in our daily lives. We have “case of the Mondays,” Wednesday is “hump day,” Thursday is the day for primetime entertainment, Friday has “TGIF,” and Loverboy reminds us that we’re all just “workin’ for the weekend” as Saturday and Sunday give us a break from the realities of our professional lives.

However, in 2013, Tuesday finally received its moment in the spotlight—and not only is it a big deal for Tuesday, but it’s also a unique opportunity for YOU.

In the early 2000s, as if it needed more attention, Friday added to its resume with the birth of “Black Friday.” A few years later, “Cyber Monday” emerged and offered us an opportunity to save big on holiday purchases. That brings us to Tuesday. As more people began to sour on post-Thanksgiving consumerism, one organization—the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan—saw an opportunity to cleanse our spending palate with a national day of charity.


The inaugural #GivingTuesday brought in about $10 million, then nearly tripled in 2013 when an estimated $28 million rained down from around the globe. The upward trend didn’t stop there, as donations soared to $45.7 million in 2014 and $116.7 million last year.  (These figures are based on gift reports from Blackbaud, DonorPerfectGlobalGivingNetwork for GoodRazoo, and Indiegogo.)

So what’s happening here? Why is #GivingTuesday making these huge annual strides?

I would argue two main factors. First, digital fundraising continues to grow. Whether it’s crowdfunding, giving days, or text-to-give campaigns, digital fundraising is resonating with younger donors. We know that millennials, statistically speaking, have a high participation rate when it comes to making an annual donation to a nonprofit organization. Combine that with the fact that they’re the largest generation in history, that they’re beginning to move from school to professional careers, and that they live their lives online, you have a perfect storm for #GivingTuesday.

The other factor is the increasing amount of negative press associated with “Black Friday,” and even “Cyber Monday” to some regard. Tonyehn Verkitus, senior vice president for nonprofit engagement at GiveGab, a crowdfunding campaign site, sees the growth in #GivingTuesday donations as a reflection of the public’s desire to do more for those in need:

“#GivingTuesday reflects peoples’ desire to do more and to do better. In this time of dwindling government and corporate funds, and widespread social unrest, individuals search for a way to give back.”

Whether it’s contempt for over-consumption or disdain for stores that force employees to work on Thanksgiving, “Black Friday” has a PR problem, and for many, the way to combat the shopping bonanza is to promote giving over purchasing.

I won’t sit here and tell you that by throwing your hat into the #GivingTuesday ring you’re going to raise tens of thousands of dollars (seriously, I am NOT telling you that), but even if you don’t hit the jackpot, there are many benefits to being involved in a global day of philanthropy.

“Who Could Ever Hang a Name on You?”: Brand Exposure

Far too often, fundraising pros are focused on short-term fundraising goals. To be fair, historically speaking, we’ve fared well at that.  However, we frequently ignore the long-term benefits of digital engagement.

According to AdWeek, the 2015 installment saw 1.3 million social media mentions related to #GivingTuesday. I’m not a scientist, but I’ll bet we pass that number this year. That is a ridiculous amount of social chatter for one day, and you need to be part of it, regardless of how much revenue it yields. Verkitus explains how nothing good happens from sitting on the sidelines:

“The first bit of advice is to participate. Not everyone sees the value in #GivingTuesday, but it is the perfect opportunity to take part in a global movement that brings together the collective power of businesses, nonprofits, and individuals to create a better community.”

Participation in #GivingTuesday will continue to grow, so creating awareness and introducing yourself to prospective donors is very important—even if you cannot convert them right away.

“When You Change With Every New Day:” Less Money, More Ambassadors

People like to bet on a winner or be part of a winning team. Using targeted giving pages or crowdfunding sites, you have an opportunity to set up a small, one-day campaign for your organization that focuses on donors more than dollars. What could you do with $500? $1,000? $2,000?

It’s not uncommon for organizations to get excited by digital fundraising platforms, leading to a temptation to swing for the fences. There’s a misconception that just by setting up a campaign on a fundraising site, people will find the campaign and the money will flow into our coffers.

This is an unlikely scenario, especially in a 24-hour span. You’re better off setting a modest goal that clearly illustrates the impact the campaign will have. “The water heater just broke in our homeless shelter, and we need $2,000 to buy a new one” or “$1,000 provides a feast for international students who can’t afford to travel home.” Not an overly sexy storyline, but it’s a small goal, it’s affordable for donors, and it’s important to your organization.

Charlie Mulligan, CEO of GiveGab, stresses the importance of understanding what the day is all about.

“I think the key is to have the right perspective. #GivingTuesday is probably not going to help you gain a big part of your budget. It is, however, a fantastic way to engage with your donors.”

Again, the idea here isn’t to fund the annual expenses of your entire organization in one day; it’s to bring more people into your pool that can help you long term. Think small and you could see a big uptick in the number of people in your network.

“Catch Your Dreams Before They Slip Away:” #GivingTuesday as a Springboard for Year-End Gifts

Every institution and nonprofit organization makes a big push for year-end gifts. It’s our civic duty to remind our constituents that the IRS will take their money if they don’t give it to us before December 31st.

Considering this, it should come as no surprise that 30% of all donations occur in the month of December. So instead of focusing on a single day of giving, use #GivingTuesday to kickoff a year-end campaign with a specific dollar or participation goal.

I would lean towards participation over dollars since it’s more in tune with the #GivingTuesday vibe. Focusing on more donors versus more money is a great way to hook more people during a month when they’re already feeling the most philanthropic they have all year.

“A Life Where Nothing’s Lost and Nothing’s Gained”

You can call #GivingTuesday a fad, but like many of the digital fads before it, there’s nothing to indicate it’s going away anytime soon. There’s no one approach that will work for every organization, but you certainly can’t accomplish anything if you’re not in the game. With so much social media chatter around the day, you have an opportunity to capitalize on the benefits that come with a global marketing movement that you’re not paying for.

You might get 100 gifts, you might get five, but the only way to guarantee you get zero is by not participating.

Need some #GivingTuesday inspiration? Check out our round-up of the best campaigns of 2015 and learn how EverTrue can help you create an amazing online giving experience for #GivingTuesday. 

Keith Hannon is the associate director for communications and alumni relations at Boyce Thompson Institute and was formerly the associate director for digital innovation for Cornell University Alumni Affairs & Development. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or catch him on Twitter @KeithHannon.

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