If you are a professional fundraiser for a nonprofit, you are either actively thanking recent Giving Tuesday donors, already planning next year’s campaign, or contemplating if you should consider participating next year.

Even though the amount of giving rose again compared to last year, one must wonder if there was a cost in some of the situations based upon the potential effect on annual fund donors.

Let me share what happened to me personally:

My wife and myself are above the national average, in that we support more than a dozen nonprofits on an annual fund giving basis. Our giving levels have steadily increased over the years. This is especially true after we established a Donor Advised Fund.

Every single time I am contacted via an annual appeal by these organizations I let them know our fund will be supporting them in the late fall of every year. I also encourage them to communicate with me regarding their mission outcomes particularly with newsletters and other such informational alerts. We make it clear in any personal, phone or email conversations there is no need for any other appeals EXCEPT the first annual fund appeal of each year.

Fast Forward to Giving Tuesday

Each and every year after Thanksgiving, I am always on alert to see if our wishes about suppressing additional appeals are honored.

From the early morning hours until nearly midnight of that recent Giving Tuesday my various email inboxes became full of appeals, which ranged from aggressive to compelling to whimsical.

This was not a scientific research study by any stretch of the imagination, but of the over 250 Giving Tuesday email appeals sent to my email accounts there were nearly 20 nonprofits that sent three email solicitations within an eight hour period – four of which we had already made our annual fund donations to with the request of no further solicitations.

My experience and slight frustration led to the following insights:

1. Think Carefully About Giving Tuesday Solicitations of Above Average Annual Fund Donors

Please notice there is nothing in the subtitle above regarding honoring non-solicitation requests (we’ll get to that later).

The majority of annual fund donors come in the last two months of every year. No matter what the size of the past gifts, you run the risk of the carefully-thought-out annual fund gift to fund a specific project jumping over to a Giving Tuesday email blast. This is especially true if, like so many of the emails I received, the email message centered around a matching gift of some nature.

For example, instead of making my normal $1,000 donation, I spot the generous match being offered and think to myself I can fund the same level of project with a $500 gift from me and a $500 matching gift (especially if I respond to the first of multiple requests stating that the match was only going to go so far on this busy Giving Tuesday!).

Therefore, carefully analyze the possible harm or mixed messaging that can occur from multiple emails to existing above average (you define average) annual fund donors being sent right in the middle of the largest two months of annual giving.

2. Be Judicious and Innovative with Multiple Emails to the Same Email Account on Giving Tuesday

Yes, most people need at least one reminder to spur action. However, innovation can set you far apart from other charities. Once you properly segment your database, (please see insights #1 and #3), then establish a proper strategy with your team.

This strategy should include thinking about the following:

  • You have approximately 18 prime hours of 6 AM until Midnight in each time zone, how should we space the emails if more than one is to be sent?
  • Are we sending the same email to every member of our list, or are we segmenting by donor frequency, recency, gift size, gift channel, etc.?
  • Does sending more than two emails in any 8-hour period cause irritation?
  • Should we use different subject lines for each subsequent email?
  • Should we use different text and pictures for each subsequent email?
  • Should we try different strategies or appeals for each subsequent email?
  • Should we plan and execute a Giving Tuesday strategy at some other time of the year?
  • How can we stand out when compared to others sending Giving Tuesday appeals?

Just taking the time to answer the questions above relating to strategy should lead to much improved results and much less irritation to your donors.

3. Strictly Obey Donor Communication Preferences

As you could tell, being an above average annual fund donor, who had stated my donor communication preferences regarding solicitations, having those violated was a great irritant.

Any proper fundraising CRM or donor database must allow adherence to such requests to be easy and dependable. I know I am bias, but Bloomerang will not allow any user to accidentally bypass stated donor communication preferences!

Yet, in all of the years we have been providing Bloomerang, I can only recall one instance where this was asked about prior to a demonstration.

Fundraisers, this is a non-negotiable item!

No donor, especially your long time and perhaps above average donors makes their preferences known without expecting the courtesy of having them adhered to. This is one of the leading causes of our low donor retention rates sector-wide.

All in all, my experience underscores the importance of segmenting your appeals for every campaign, not just Giving Tuesday. Blasting the same appeal to your entire list will not only likely lead to disappointing outcomes, but also alienate your already loyal donors in the process.

How about those of you on the sending or receiving end of Giving Tuesday solicitations? Are there other insights you would like to add?

Please let us know in the comment section below.

Jay Love

Jay Love

Co-Founder & Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang
A 30+ veteran of the nonprofit software industry, Jay Love co-founded Bloomerang in 2012. Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth. Prior to starting eTapestry, Jay served 14 years as President and CEO of Master Software Corporation. MSC provided a widely used family of database products for the non-profit sector called Fund-Master. He currently serves on the board of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and is the past AFP Ethics Committee Chairman. Jay is also the author of Stay Together: How to Encourage a Lifetime of Donor Loyalty.