About six weeks have passed since Giving Tuesday. With the year-end giving rush now completed and perhaps the January lull upon you, this becomes a good time to reflect on how your organization fared.

I can pretty much guarantee that those who did well on Giving Tuesday started planning and implementing that plan last January so today is not too early to start planning for next year.

On Giving Tuesday eve, a friend called to ask me what predictions I had heard. Her question prompted me to pay more attention on that day and thereafter.

Because I received a lot of solicitations, I looked at the day through the eyes of a donor.

Here is what I learned:

1. Giving Tuesday is not a one day project. Success requires that you build an audience and following throughout the year. I got a lot of emails from organizations I had not heard from in a long time, probably not since last Giving Tuesday. There seems to be a “shotgun” approach to Giving Tuesday: “Let’s throw out an email and see what comes in.” I deleted those. You can’t love me only once a year and expect me to love you back!

2. Giving Tuesday is not an “if you build it, they will come” endeavor. You need a plan to actively engage your constituents multiple times that day and throughout the year. The ones I supported cultivated my loyalty. They sent out emails throughout the year, I follow them regularly on social media, and they effectively stewarded my previous gifts. As I reflect, I had previously donated to everyone organization I supported on Giving Tuesday; my gift became “extra” to them and, to be honest, not gifts I had planned to make before that day.

3. The message is king (or queen). My pet peeve are messages that say “Our goal is to raise $x; help us reach our goal.” Not very persuasive! More than a few Giving Tuesday emails I received had a message that amounted to “It’s Giving Tuesday. If you plan to give, give to us.” Wow! You would never write that in a letter or ask a major donor that way; why says it online? Instead, tell stories about my gift will make a difference in the lives of those you serve.

4. Focus your message. One organization did a great job specifying their needs and gave my numerous options of ways that I could allocate my gift. But when I looked all of at their messages, I felt they offered TOO many options. The research suggests that when you give people too many choices, they feel overwhelmed and do nothing. I also noticed that most options had a only a few gift on them. While they all had modest goals, few came close to reaching those goals. But, if they had put their eggs in fewer baskets, I wonder if they would have been closer to goal on more projects.

5. Seed your campaign with gifts raised ahead of time. Some of the social media posts I saw listed both their goals and the amount raised with huge gaps. One had a goal of $10,000 and had raised $20 as of 8:00 that night. This approach does not engender confidence that they will make their goal or encourage me to give! Never start with $0 as your baseline. You have a quiet phase for your capital campaign because people want to give to a winning endeavor. Do the same for your online campaign. Solicit lead gifts or sponsorships ahead of time so you publically launch with at least 50% of your goal raised.

What experiences did you have on Giving Tuesday and what can you – and others – learn from these? Let me know in the comments below!

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Linda Wastyn
M. Linda Wastyn, Ph.D., President of Wastyn & Associates, has nearly 30 years of grant development and fundraising experience. Founded in 2011, Wastyn & Associates provides grant development, fundraising consulting, strategic planning facilitation, and leadership development for organizations across the country.