Have You Made This #GivingTuesday Mistake?

I have serious concerns about #GivingTuesday. Recently, the Context with Lorna Dueck Canadian television show invited me to share some of those concerns. My interview begins at about the eight-minute mark.

Context with Lorna Dueck television show.

Click to watch Context with Lorna Dueck.

I also shared some of my concerns in two prior blog posts: “#GivingTuesday: Hype or Hope?” (2012) and “No Evidence of #GivingTuesday Success” (2013).

I have many issues with #GivingTuesday.

Nevertheless, I continue to hope it will ultimately prove worthwhile for the entire nonprofit sector. Time will tell. Meanwhile, I want to make sure you do not commit a serious #GivingTuesday mistake that can hurt your organization.

If #GivingTuesday attracts new supporters and successfully inspires increased contributions from current donors, you can’t just operate as you normally would and expect to retain such support. Business-as-usual would be a big mistake. You need to do more to retain support.

We have Black Friday immediately following Thanksgiving. We also have Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Thanks to the folks at New York’s 92nd Street Y, we now have #GivingTuesday. The 92nd Street Y served as the catalyst and incubator for #GivingTuesday. Early on, the United Nations Foundation joined as a partner, bringing its strategic and communications expertise to the project. #GivingTuesday has now attracted participants from around the world.

To be worthwhile, #GivingTuesday will need to encourage:

  • more people to give,
  • more people to give more often,
  • and more people to give more.

In other words, to be good for the entire charity sector, #GivingTuesday must significantly increase the philanthropic pie. Helping some organizations do better at the expense of others is not a beneficial outcome for the entire nonprofit sector.

Unfortunately, most nonprofit organizations are poorly equipped or motivated to do what is necessary to secure gains made through #GivingTuesday. While charities might be able and willing to leverage #GivingTuesday promotions to attract new donors, those same charities are doing little to ensure those donors continue their support. Sadly, it’s not a problem unique to #GivingTuesday donors.

In the USA, donor retention is a real problem. Seven years ago, the average donor-retention rate was just 50 percent. While that’s not good, the retention rate has become far worse, falling to 39 percent!

In Canada, the pool of philanthropists relative to total tax filers has fallen in recent years, from 30 percent to 23 percent. In other words, the donor-pie is shrinking, rather than growing, relative to the total population of tax filers.

If your organization has participated in #GivingTuesday, I hope you have developed a creative strategy for engaging and cultivating all new and increased donors. By properly stewarding these individuals, you just might be able to hang on to them. If not, what’s the point of investing in #GivingTuesday?

So, are you doing anything special to retain your #GivingTuesday supporters as well as your other donors? At the very least, I hope you:

  1. send an immediate, personal thank-you letter that does not ask for an additional gift,
  2. tell donors how their gifts are having an impact.

Let me know what else you’re doing to retain supporters by commenting below.

Now, I’d like to take a moment to thank two special people who helped me prepare for my televised interview:

Paul Nazareth is the Vice President of Community Engagement at CanadaHelps. He and his colleagues at CanadaHelps have been working hard to make #GivingTuesday a success in Canada.

Christina Attard is an advisor in philanthropy helping donors give smarter and charities ask better.

Both Paul and Christina are knowledgeable and giving. I greatly appreciate their willingness to share their insights. You would be wise to connect with them on Twitter by clicking on their names above.

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

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18 Responses to “Have You Made This #GivingTuesday Mistake?”

  1. I appreciate your thoughts. As a donor and as a volunteer and board member in a nonprofit as well as a donor in a religious organization, I’ve been uncomfortable with “Giving Tuesday”. It is just a vague feeling of discomfort without explanation, and some of the concerns you have expressed help me further define my own concerns. It seems to me that the entire season has turned into tremendous opportunity for exploitation and spending without careful consideration.

    • Mary, thank you for sharing your perspective and concerns. I agree that #GivingTuesday presents an opportunity for exploitation of various types. I’m hoping donors will do their homework and only give to worthy organizations that justify the need for their support. However, I know that will not always be the case. Many donors will give reflexively to emotional appeals. In some of those cases, they’ll be giving to unworthy organizations. While this sort of thing goes on year-round, #GivingTuesday provides a unique opportunity for unscrupulous operators. I wish I had a solution.

      Now, having said that, I like the idea of promoting the idea of philanthropy. And I like the idea of putting the spirit of giving back into the holiday season. As you can see, my feelings about #GivingTuesday are complex as I suspect yours are. That’s probably part of why we’re so uncomfortable.

  2. Michael,

    As usual, I agree with your post. I am hopeful that #GivingTuesday will increase support for the nonprofit sector, but organizations must do more to strengthen those new relationships to retain the new support. Retention is the biggest weakness in the charitable sector, and more must be done to make donors more than a source of income. Donors must be made to feel they are partners of the organizations that they support. Organizations must thank them regularly, share the information donors seek to let them know that their support makes a difference, and seek their input on how organizations can be more effective. If they do not, the donors will not return.

  3. I say, Amen. Check out my post on Clairification (http://buff.ly/1FMdZgK) today, 12-3-14. 🙂

    • Claire, thank you for sharing the link to your post. You’ve provided two nice examples showing how #GivingTuesday can be used to give thanks to donors rather than ask them for money. Your donor-centered approach to #GivingTuesday makes good sense.

  4. Thanks for the great insights and reminders, Michael! We (Frisco Family Services) used #GivingTuesday to GIVE to one of our clients (see news story video) as well as an opportunity to offer a $10,000 match to our donors (thanks to some generous ‘pre-donors’). I will be taking this article into our Major Gifts Meeting tomorrow, as we continue to strategize how we leverage and thank not only our monetary donors, but those that gave toward the car AND even the media that came out and covered the story. http://www.wfaa.com/media/cinematic/video/19801225/frisco-mom-gets-gift-of-a-lifetime-on-day-of-giving/

    • Lon, thank you for sharing your insight and the link to the news video. It’s a terrific, heart-warming #GivingTuesday story. I’m glad to know my post resonated with you. I wish you and your colleagues the best as you work to build on your success.

  5. Reblogged this on Communicate! and commented:
    Are you doing anything special to retain your #GivingTuesday supporters as well as your other donors? Heed these words from Michael Rosen.

    • Dennis, thank you for commenting and reblogging my post. I’m glad to know the article resonated with you. I’ll be taking another look at #GivingTuesday once the results have been tallied. The preliminary numbers show strong growth over last year in terms of dollars raised. However, it’s still a relatively small amount. Stay tuned.

  6. Michael, thank you for another thoughtful and thought-provoking article. Our #GivingTuesday was a rousing success — because we used it to “Give Thanks” to our donors, much as Claire recommended. We did two things: 1. invited our corporate partners to reflect on our year-end theme of “The Power of Community” then provided visibility for them on our website (http://bit.ly/1tIcOq1) and through social media; 2. we had a thank-a-thon at our headquarters, with more than 30 staff HANDwriting thank-you notes to our donors. Did it generate more money or raise the response rate for our year-end appeals? I don’t know yet. But it did make our corporate partners feel appreciated and created great bonding experience for our staff — and I can imagine that those individual donors who will be receiving handwritten notes in the mail over the next week will feel pretty good as well.

    • Teri, thank you for sharing your #GivingTuesday story. I like what you’ve done to show your supporters that you appreciate them. I particularly like the idea of the handwritten notes. In this electronic age, people seldom receive handwritten messages. So, when they do, it’s a personal touch that really stands out. Don’t be surprised if you get a few thank-you notes for your thank-you notes.

  7. Michael,

    Good to see you back in form. I concur. Take away all the fluff and #givingtuesday is just another mass appeal. Hope we might connect soon on the idea of measuring impact j

    • Jay, thank you for commenting. There are some folks (i.e.: Blackbaud and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University) that are looking at the #GivingTuesday results. Let’s just hope they’re asking the right questions and looking at the right data.

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