Should Nonprofit Marketers Give a Hoot About #GivingTuesday?

By Clint Demeritt

Though #GivingTuesday 2016 is barely a memory, it is never too early to start thinking about next year’s campaign.

A social-media-fueled day of giving, #GivingTuesday (because all good campaigns have a hashtag) has been gaining traction in recent years. In fact, it’s gained so much ground that imitators are starting to pop up. But as #GivingTuesday and giving events like it become more and more of a benevolence blitzkrieg, the question is whether or not it’s worth it for nonprofits to wade into the donation fray or save their energies for other campaigns?

For those who are unfamiliar, #GivingTuesday was created as a way to combat the commercialization of the holiday season, so it is always held the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (following Black Friday and Cyber Monday). The day of donation doesn’t have much infrastructure or any central platform to collection donations and works more as an international awareness campaign for people to donate.

#GivingTuesday has been so successful at gaining attention that we are starting to see communities, cities and states organize their own days of giving to encourage their residents to contribute to nonprofits.

Since #GivingTuesday started in 2012, it has steadily gained attention. Perhaps more importantly, it has been raising more and more money. In 2015, #GivingTuesday raised $116.7 million with 1.08 million total gifts according to The Case Foundation. 2015 also generated 1.3 million #GivingTuesday mentions on social media with 114 billion impressions on Twitter and a Facebook reach of 917,313 users.

It seems the giving holiday has yet to reach its peak. As the organization behind #GivingTuesday announced in a recent email, the event grew by 44 percent in 2016. The org said in 2016, the day raised $168 million (roughly $50 million more than last year), with 1.56 million total gifts. Total social media engagement for 2016 was clocked at 2.4 million mentions.

However, the average gift came in at about $107 for both years. $107.47 in 2015 and a slight increase to $107.69 for 2016.

Though #GivingTuesday has gained popularity, is it worth it for nonprofits to participate in this type of organized giving? Unfortunately, one of #GivingTuesday’s biggest weakness is also its biggest strength: popularity.

#GivingTuesday does generate a lot of buzz, but with so many nonprofits communicating at the same time, it is difficult for your organization to get noticed in all the noise. Though the thought is appreciated, there haven’t been too many nonprofit marketers enthusiastically endorsing #GivingTuesday.

So, the answer to our question is a little of both. #GivingTuesday is worth participating in, but not worth expending a whole lot of energy.

With enough marketing effort, most nonprofits should be able to generate more attention for themselves during a less noisy day of the year. The great thing about #GivingTuesday and days like it is that there is a lot of built-in buzz, so many donors are already primed to contribute a gift.

#GivingTuesday is a weird bit of calculus for nonprofits: A minimal amount of energy can help you capitalize on the buzz without putting in too much effort. A huge campaign can raise a bit more money, but the RIO might be hampered by all the #GivingTuesday noise.

When it comes time for nonprofits to brainstorm their year-end appeal campaigns, they should also keep #GivingTuesday in the back of their mind. Having #GivingTuesday piggyback off the creative of a year-end campaign is a great way to take advantage of the holiday buzz without the potential of wasting too much effort trying to get noticed on such a busy day.

But if you are looking for tips on how to rise above the giving day din, check out the DMA 2017 Washington Nonprofit Conference session “The Giving Movement – Why It’s Not Just About Tuesday.” In the session, the American Heart Association and a panel of marketing execs will talk about out-of-the-box approaches to getting noticed during busy giving days to create new opportunities that will help raise dollars beyond the year-end appeal season.

This article is brought to you by the DMA. Click here to register for Nonprofit Federation Conference, Feb. 22-24, 2017, in Washington, D.C.