Despite the amount of money raised earlier this summer, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is still a polarizing topic among fundraisers. It has been endlessly debated in the blogosphere, on webinars and via interviews to the point where no definitive conclusion has been reached as to whether or not it was good for the sector.

#GivingTuesday seems to share the same fate.

Many nonprofits will be cowed into participating in #GivingTuesday in the same way that pouring a bucket of ice on your head was almost unavoidable a few months ago.

Over the last few weeks, there has been an endless supply of advice on how to prepare for one of the largest single-days of philanthropic giving. I would be shocked if you were able to avoid receiving an invitation to a #GivingTuesday webinar or eBook download.

This year has also seen the most amount of backlash, from fundraisers and consultants alike, who claim that it’s nothing more than a make-work job. Many of their points are completely valid. (see also: Small Business Saturday)

After all, aren’t fundraisers focused on giving every day?

While I’m not convinced that #GivingTuesday is either good or bad, or worth shunning or throwing yourself headfirst into, I do think that there’s an alternative day of devotion that might generate greater longterm dividends for nonprofits.


Consider creating a #ThankingThursday for your organization: a day solely devoted to showing appreciation to your supporters. Why? We’re bad at appreciation. Really bad.

Our own $5 donor communications experiment showed that nonprofits typically struggle with gift acknowledgement speed, format-optimization and personalization.

Why should you care?

Well, 53% of donors lapse because of poor gift acknowledgement:

  • 5% thought the charity did not need them
  • 8% received no info on how the donation would be spent
  • 9% have no memory of supporting
  • 13% never got thanked
  • 18% received “poor service or communication”

Worse yet, 39% of all donors lapse on average, and a staggering 73% of first-time donors never give again.

So if ever there was a need for one day dedicated to something, it should be dedicated to thanking donors properly.

Here are a few ideas for #ThankingThursday:

1. Make a quick “thank you” video for your Facebook page. It doesn’t have to be anything special. Check out how Doctors Without Borders uses video to say thanks:

2. Call all first-time donors from this year. Yup, pick up the phone and call them. Why? According to Tom Ahern, first-time donors who get a personal thank you within 48 hours are 4x more likely to give a second gift. Better late than never if you haven’t already done so.

3. Gather your board members together to mail some handwritten notes. Order a few pizzas and get those pens moving. Try something like “Just wanted to say thanks for all your support this year. We couldn’t have done it without you.”

4. Shoot a quick video for social media followers who say nice things about you or frequently share your content. Identify your most influential or active followers and send them a quick video. You don’t need anything more than your iPhone.

So if you haven’t already sunk a ton of time into #GivingTuesday emails and social media posts, consider setting this Thursday aside to just show gratitude. You’ll be glad you did.

Are you participating in #GivingTuesday? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below!

The Art & Science of Digital Donor Retention

Steven Shattuck

Steven Shattuck

Chief Engagement Officer at Bloomerang
Steven Shattuck is Chief Engagement Officer at Bloomerang. A prolific writer and speaker, Steven is a contributor to "Fundraising Principles and Practice: Second Edition" and volunteers his time on the Project Work Group of the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, is an AFP Center for Fundraising Innovation (CFI) committee member, and sits on the faculty of the Institute for Charitable Giving. He is the author of Robots Make Bad Fundraisers - How Nonprofits Can Maintain the Heart in the Digital Age, published by Bold and Bright Media.