reframe Giving Tuesday

So… how was your Giving Tuesday? If you follow my writing, you know I’m generally not a fan of the made-up holiday. I find too many nonprofits feel overwhelming pressure to mount a half-hearted Giving Tuesday campaign that simply distracts from their year-end fundraising push. It’s nobody’s fault. There’s just not enough bandwidth to do an effective job. And even if there is, is this the best use of your limited resources or should we reframe Giving Tuesday? 

It’s worth your consideration.

When it comes to this particular day of the year, I find myself channeling my mother’s oft-repeated query: “Just because everyone else is jumping off a cliff, does that mean you should jump off the cliff?” Oh, Mom! 

When Imitation May Be a Bad Idea

Mom had a point. When board members or your boss send you articles reporting on total dollars raised for Giving Tuesday – or, for that matter, any other general data point that may or may not be applicable to your experience – it’s tempting to just jump on the bandwagon (or off the cliff). They say: “Why don’t we do this?” And “I’ll get right on it” is a lot easier than going against the tide. Plus no one is going to fault you if you bring in even a few ‘extra’ dollars.

Yet, if you want to be a leader (and a smart fundraiser), you should fault yourself if you don’t think this through carefully.

Consider whether the dollars raised on Giving Tuesday are really ‘extra,’ or might you simply be cannibalizing your annual campaign and getting donors to give a bit earlier than usual? Or might you be getting them to give less than usual, because the Giving Tuesday appeal is less compelling than your usual year-end appeal – but your donor considers it their ‘annual gift,’ so they’re done for the year?

Don’t Go Blindly Off a Cliff

Lemmings do this – to their death. Jeff Brooks’ recent article, How not to feel like a failure next Giving Tuesday, talked about setting goals for the day; then evaluating whether you reached those goals. If so, good. Keep doing what you’re doing. If not, reconsider. Maybe it’s better for you to concentrate your fundraising efforts on another day (like December 31st).

Think about this now, while this year’s experience is still fresh on your mind. 

You can tuck this away for next year, and plan and budget accordingly – once you know where you’re going with this strategy.

I know you need money. But you’ve got 364 other days of the year to ask for money. And, given the timing of Giving Tuesday, you’re already about to launch into your busiest asking period of the year. And, if you’re like most nonprofits, you could be doing a lot more to supercharge your year-end fundraising success. It might be a more effective use of your time than trying to generate a bunch of smallish gifts on the last Tuesday in November.

People generally don’t love being nickel-and-dimed.

So what about using this one day to be truly donor-centered rather than money-centered

4 Ways to Reframe Giving Tuesday

I’ve considered various ways to reframe Giving Tuesday, all focusing on how you can bring greater joy and meaning to supporters’ lives. Take your pick. Consider this your YouCanChooseDay!

Living Schmoozeday

A day to chat it up with supporters and get to know them better. Penelope Burk, author of Donor-Centered Fundraising, famously found donors really most wanted one thing from the charities they supported: “Show me that you know me.” Alas, if you never take the time to ask for feedback and listen to what supporters most care about, you don’t really know them. And this will be reflected (not in a good way) in all your fundraising strategies. What about dedicating a day to fixing this? Here are a number of strategies you might employ.

  • Invite donors to a group online call (e.g., Zoom) where you can engage in real-time feedback. There are all sorts of ways to structure your session, ranging from launching polls and surveys… to asking folks to answer a question in the chat box… to calling on folks individually to unmute themselves and add to the conversation. Also, use break-out rooms to foster community and help donors derive even greater meaning from their affiliation with you.
  • Invite donors to a live, in-person (when safe) “it’s your turn” event to let you know what keeps them up at night and which programs and services they most value. Be sure to offer time for folks to schmooze with one another, as the opportunity to engage with like-minded folks and feel a member of a community is one of the things that draws people to affiliate with causes.
  • Invite donors to participate in a brief survey. Donor surveys offer you a “twofer.” One is for you (useful information); the other is for your donor (a way to usefully participate other than giving money). A good survey says you care about what your donors think and feel.
  • Be sure to record whatever you learn in your donor database. There’s nothing more off-putting to folks than feeling they were unheard, or having to tell you the same thing over and over.

REMEMBER: For communication to truly be a two-way street, you must proactively keep your lines of communication open. You’ll improve donor retention when you give donors an opportunity to communicate with you and each other. Did you know 53% of donors leave due to poor communication

Forgiving NoLoseDay

A day to call lapsed donors to apologize for anything you may have done to cause them to not renew their giving and to ask them if there is anything you could have done better. In other words, use the day to give gratitude and ask for forgiveness rather than ask for monetary support. Of course, you can use this tactic with all donors, but I really like the idea of dedicating a day to trying to reconnect with lapsed donors. These folks have already stepped up to the plate to show they care about what you do, and yet they’ve somehow disappeared from view. You owe it to them, and yourself, to endeavor to find out why.

  • Let donors know it’s “Giving Tuesday” and you’re using the day to ‘give’ them a call  to thank them for their past support and let them know you do not take them for granted (the ‘Forgiving NoLoseDay’ moniker is just for your internal usage!). 
  • If you don’t reach them personally, be sure to leave a message with contact information (your name, phone and email) so they can respond with their important feedback – to which you promise to pay close personal attention. 
  • Follow up with a handwritten note card, email or brief, texted or emailed video thank you. Nothing ‘corporate’ or mass produced, but something personal that’s direct from you to them. As appropriate, let the donor know how much you enjoyed chatting with them, referencing something from your conversation
  • Be sure to record whatever you learn in your donor database. See above. Your database is the foundation of your ability to sustain lasting relationships with supporters.

If you have too many lapsed donors for one person to reach, split the task up among several staff and/or volunteers. Do not forget to oversee the important follow-up steps!

REMEMBER: Just because donors stopped giving – maybe due to your lack of stewardship – does not mean these folks don’t still care about your cause. They may welcome your attention. When you forgive yourself for past donor transgressions you can move forward to right those wrongs. It’s a no-lose for both you and your donors.

Reliving You’sDay

A day to celebrate all the accomplishments your donors – the “you’s” — made possible last year. I often quote fundraising copywriter extraordinaire, Tom Ahern, who says “You is the glue.” He is referencing the need to liberally sprinkle “you” and “your” throughout your appeals and print materials rather than reveling in your own, not the donors’, glory. “You made it possible” trumps “Look what we did” any day of the year. Donor-centered fundraising is all about the “you.” 

  • Consider  reframing Giving Tuesday and branding this publicly as “Thanks(for)Giving Tuesday,” Giving (Thanks) Tuesday, or “Gratitude Tuesday.” It will surely make you stand out from the crowd.
  • Rather than asking folks to make a symbolic gift to you, make a heartfelt gift to them. I often say If you want gifts, you must give them.” This might be a simple gift of content or a token gift like a bookmark.
  • Hold an online thank you event. This can take the form of a Zoom session, conference call, fireside chat, Facebook live session or whatever you can dream up. Consider your constituents, and what they’re most likely to show up for.
  • When safe, hold an in-person thank you event. Or a daylong series of events such as a breakfast, lunch and learn, rally, on-site tour, reception or dinner.
  • Send donor thank you’s via a format that’s likely to be noticed. Examples include: a handwritten note; a handwritten post card; a personal email or text, or a brief personal selfie video of you just saying ‘thanks for all you do!”

REMEMBER: Showing heartfelt gratitude has numerous benefits, both for the giver and the recipient. We ask donors to give a lot. We don’t thank them enough. Dedicating a day to giving thanks makes a lot of sense, spiritually and practically.

Outliving DuesDay

A day to promote legacy giving. In other words, use the day to encourage supporters to leave a legacy that will outlive them. It’s a way for them to ‘pay their dues’ – backwards in gratitude to past generations or forward in promise to future generations. The day gives you a rationale to focus specifically on legacy giving, something too few nonprofits are proactive about.

  • Let donors know it’s “Giving Tuesday” and you’re using the day to encourage gifts that will give to future generations – not just one day, but in perpetuity (the ‘Outliving DuesDay’ moniker is, again, best left for your internal usage!).

Reframe Giving Tuesday: YouCanChooseDay

Learn more with the Donor Retention and Gratitude Playbook a 6-Volume set of Companion eGuides to help you put in place a full-blown acknowledgement program and transition your culture to an organization-wide “Attitude of Gratitude.”

Claire Axelrad

Claire Axelrad

Fundraising Coach at Bloomerang
Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE is a fundraising visionary with 30+ years frontline development work helping organizations raise millions in support. Her award-winning blog showcases her practical approach, which earned her the AFP “Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year” award. Claire runs “Clairification School” online, teaches the CFRE course that certifies professional fundraisers, and is a regular contributor to Guidestar, NonProfit PRO and Maximize Social Business.
Claire Axelrad