Why nonprofits hate #GivingTuesday


GivingTuesday 2015What’s not to love about a day when people across the country are encouraged to donate to charity? For nonprofit organizations, there’s plenty not to love. Here’s why.

Giving days are created by outside organizations, usually nonprofits themselves but not the nonprofits you would actually give to on a giving day. Amplify Austin in March, for example, was created by I Live Here, I Give Here. The goal of these giving days is to change the culture — or sometimes create a culture — of giving, and they do that by enlisting other nonprofits to participate and spread the word.

While you might be cursing nonprofits for flooding your email inbox on a giving day, they’re not the organizations that created the day, rather they’re just participating in it. Why and how they choose to participate in it is where the friction lies.

So a few things are at play here for #GivingTuesday. Here are some things to love about it….

1. It’s almost ubiquitous. The campaign, “#GivingTuesday” was created by the 92nd St. Y, a cultural center in New York City, which has been pushing #GivingTuesday for years, urging nonprofits across the country and the world to participate. They’re trying to make #GivingTuesday a thing.

2. It’s in antithesis to the gluttony of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, to remind us that the holidays are about giving rather than about discounts and door-busters.

3. Like most giving-day events, it raises real money for nonprofits, mostly from new donors that have never given to that nonprofit before.

4. It’s all online. It takes advantage of the tools most nonprofits already have — email and social media — to give donors something to be excited about.

Not all nonprofits participate in #GivingTuesday, and here are some of the reasons they don’t love it…..

1. You know this, of course, but nonprofits have a small staff that tends to be focused on serving their mission. Only a fraction of a nonprofit’s staff is available and knows how to raise money. And giving days are a lot of work.

2. They are a lot of work. Giving days take weeks of planning if they’re going to be done right. Then there is usually one staff member completely devoted to working it the day-of. It can be exhausting.

3. It can cannibalize other end-of-year solicitation efforts. About 50% of all nonprofits receive most of their donations between Oct. – Dec. every year, so there’s always a big push from fundraising departments to capitalize on seasonal generosity of their long-cultivated donors. Adding a giving day in there to try to capture a few $25 – $50 donations can take away from their more sophisticated efforts.

4. They hate sending all those emails almost as much as you hate receiving them. Nonprofits are actually very careful about how they solicit online donations. They don’t want to jam your inbox with asks. But that seems to be the strategy behind a giving day and it makes nonprofits feel … well, kind of like spammers.

All this being said, I myself have encouraged and executed giving days at many nonprofits, simply because of the payoff. And the payoff is not the money, necessarily, rather it’s in the increased visibility for the nonprofit and in the new donor acquisition. It’s an opportunity for a nonprofit to expand its audience. What it does with that new audience, however, is up to the nonprofit.

We also encourage donors to give on giving days. In the end, giving days are less about the nonprofits and the donations and more about you, the donor. It’s designed to sweep you up in the simple and fulfilling experience of make a quick donation to a cause you’ve cared about all year. Take advantage of it, share it and enjoy.


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2 Comments on Why nonprofits hate #GivingTuesday

  1. Nice article, Monica. Hospice Austin doesn’t participate in Giving Tuesday primarily because of Amplify Austin. We would much rather support I Live Here, I Give Here’s home-grown initiative and you’re right, we don’t want to spam our donors.

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