#GivingTuesday Burnout?

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Only in its fourth year of existence, Giving Tuesday may be a movement that is already on its way to extinction. The fault lies not with the concept’s 92 Street Y innovators, but in the many, many nonprofits who don’t understand its potential and have therefore misused it.

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#GivingTuesday is a well thought-out program with two goals: (1) to attract new donors and/or (2) to create excitement around a grand, short-term fundraising goal.  There are plenty of success stories around to show that it works!  However, those BHAGs that you read about were likely planned a year in advance; and the new donors primarily came from people who first learned about a nonprofit by going to the #GivingTuesday website.

Of course it works – why shouldn’t it?  Some of the best minds in the field put the program together, from organizations such as Groupon, Mashable and the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).  These groups pooled their resources to create a website, a logo and a tremendous marketing blitz that spans all forms of social media.  As a result, individual donors looking to observe this recently-minted “day of giving” are offered the convenience of going to the GivingTuesday website, keying in their favorite search words, and finding impactful programs and projects to participate in that they might never have learned about otherwise.  Most importantly, webinars and tutorials were created to teach nonprofits how to plan campaigns, along with tool kits for building effective messaging that maximizes results.  The best part?  All of this expertise is available to nonprofits for free – all they have to do is go to the website and join!

Unfortunately, that part of the message hasn’t been received.

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Here’s what’s happening: nonprofits are not joining the movement and taking advantage of all of the tools and training at their disposal.  Instead, they have seized upon the concept as yet another opportunity to solicit their current donor pool.  This not only cannibalizes their annual appeal; it has the further potential downside of annoying their donors.  The worst offenders are those using shame tactics, such as:  Aren’t you feeling guilty about all of the money you spent on Black Friday and Cyber Monday?  Here’s a little charity therapy to make you feel better about yourself! Case in point: how many GivingTuesday emails did YOU receive on December 1 this year from nonprofits you already support, that were nothing more than additional solicitations?

Giving Tuesday is a great concept, conceived of by great minds.  What movement could be more unifying than a national day of giving?  But for it to work, nonprofits need to understand it first…  and then get with the program.

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Richard Beeman