Giving Tuesday, and How We Get It Wrong

This past Tuesday, many not-for-profit organizations (NFPs) jumped on the #GivingTuesday bandwagon. #GivingTuesday began in the United States seven years ago, and has been held annually every since on the Tuesday immediately following Thanksgiving. During the four days before #GivingTuesday, consumerism is at its highest (Black Friday, Shop Local Saturday, and Cyber Monday).  Because of the global conversation to give back, it makes sense for organizations of all sizes to participate.

#GivingTuesday Mistakes

#GivingTuesday provides organizations with the opportunity to use digital platforms such as social media to raise additional funds to benefit their missions. Many NFPs are sprinting to secure calendar-year-end gifts immediately after Thanksgiving, and #GivingTuesday should be the extra marketing boost to raise those funds. Sadly, the large majority of NFPs get #GivingTuesday wrong. Even worse, they’re getting it wrong from the moment they decide to participate.

1st Mistake

First, many organizations forget that participating in #GivingTuesday isn’t a motivating reason for individuals to donate to their mission. If you want to inspire people to give on #GivingTuesday, you must give a compelling reason why your organization is a charity that is worthy of receiving the donors’ hard-earned funds. Simply asking people to donate just because its #GivingTuesday, and trying to guilt them into using the money they saved from their shopping deals, will not bring in more donations.

What will bring in more philanthropic support is authentically sharing your NFP’s compelling reason for existing. Potential investors want to know how your organization is making a positive impact on the community you serve.  And more specifically, they want to know how additional donations will help your community to grow and thrive. If you’re going to do #GivingTuesday correctly, you have to provide a strong reason why people should support your mission. 

2nd Mistake

The second way NFPs get #GivingTuesday wrong is that their #GivingTuesday campaign isn’t a part of their organization’s comprehensive philanthropic strategy. You shouldn’t be throwing together your #GivingTuesday campaign in the last minute (or even the month before). Your #GivingTuesday campaign needs to be a continuation of the engaging conversation you’ve been having with individuals who have shown an interest in your mission and with your organization. 

Make Your Campaign Disruptive

This year, I received over 100+ #GivingTuesday solicitations. Scrolling through my inbox, I saw the following subject lines:

  • It’s Giving Tuesday! 
  • It’s Time to Plant (with various plant emojis) 
  • Help Support Org 
  • We Need Your Help to Enrich More Lives

On this global day of giving when I was overwhelmed with solicitations, these subject lines didn’t move me to open the message. To be frank, out of the 100+ solicitations received, there was only one that truly motivated me to act, the National Legal Aid and Defender’s Association (NLADA). This organization is committed to providing quality legal representation to all individuals, regardless of socioeconomic status. Their #GivingTuesday campaign wasn’t about consumerism. Their campaign focused on their mission, and this was the very first #GivingTuesday solicitation that motivated me to open it.

Attention Grabbing Subject Line

Do you want to know how they disrupted my inbox clean-up? Quite simply, it was their subject line, “24 hours to make bail.” I was intrigued and opened up the message. Immediately, NLADA drew me in with its opening paragraph:

“Mark spent 23 days in jail because he could not afford bail on his limited disability income. Without a lawyer advocating for his pre-trial release as a non-violent offender, Mark would have spent considerably more time beyond bars.” 

Content that Inspires You to Give

That opening paragraph made me uncomfortable and I wanted to learn more. I continued to read the email even though it was longer than most emails. Why? Because it was compelling – it wasn’t fluff, and it made me want to act. NLADA told me something that I wasn’t aware of: 

“Hundreds of thousands of Americans like Mark are incarcerated, not as a sentence, but simply because they cannot afford bail while waiting adjudication. As a consequence, these men and women risk losing employment, medical benefits, custody of their children, and housing. The ripple effects from money bail disproportionately impact communities of color, trapping individuals, families, and communities in the devastating cycle of poverty.” 

The Only Choice is to Give

Reading this, how could I not support NLADA? If we want our community to thrive, and if we want to achieve true social justice, then supporting NLADA makes sense. What’s even better, after I made my gift to NLADA, I received an immediate email thank-you that warmed my heart. They thanked me by stating, “You are transforming justice in America.” Damn right, I am! That’s why I made the gift. 

When you look at NLADA’s #GivingTuesday campaign, and compare it to your own, how do you measure up? Did you create a campaign that disrupted the normal flow of life? Did it inspire people to invest in your mission? If you answered no, now is the time to plan for next year. This is the easiest way to help your NFP get it together. Don’t wait – #NFPgit your #GivingTuesday campaign and your overall philanthropic plan. 

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