Challenged by #GivingTuesday, Philly nonprofit launches #DoingTuesday

By Nancy Astor Fox

My “inbox” is filling with emails: “prepare for #GivingTuesday now,” and “your must-have list for a successful #GivingTuesday,” and “download these resources to make your #GivingTuesday the best one ever.”

It is 90 degrees outside, Rosh Hashanah is still weeks away, and already we are inundated with invitations for “must have” webinars, planning sessions and resources to start our #GivingTuesday campaigns scheduled for the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (and, coincidentally, right after Cyber Monday).

When these emails started to flood my inbox this summer, I thought back to last year’s #GivingTuesday. My most cogent memory of the day is of getting a torrent of emails from every nonprofit that I have ever supported and many more that had simply put my email address on their lists. There were so many emails that day that they became a blur, and instead of taking the time to read each message thoughtfully, I found myself hitting delete rather than looking at these often wonderful requests. I also remember feeling guilty about this, recognizing the tremendous time and energy that fundraising professionals spent in crafting the “perfect ask.”

Not only was my reaction uncharacteristic for me as a person, but made me feel particularly guilty as a development professional at a Jewish nonprofit agency. I deeply understand the importance of online giving, of the use of social media to expand and educate our donor base, of how we all need to try what is new and innovative to encourage new and past donors to click that “donate now” link in our emails. And, I know firsthand of the vital work that nonprofit agencies are doing across the globe. We see it, we live it and we work as hard as we can to make people understand the impact and importance of their contributions to support our work.

#GivingTuesday is a brilliant idea. When it was started in 2012, its purpose was to create a “global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.” It has expanded over the past five years to levels that none of us could have imagined. I am the first to applaud its “team of influencers and founding partners” who created this wonderful idea to capitalize on individual’s generosity and caring. In 2016, “#GivingTuesday” raised $168 million worldwide. Hopefully even more will be donated this November 28th.

That is all to say that I get it and I certainly celebrate its successes. But, despite its positives, it is just not working for our organization. At JEVS Human Services, a nonprofit located in Philadelphia, we received few, if any, contributions on #GivingTuesday, and so we will be changing our focus this year. Not because we do not need the donations… WE DO! And not because we don’t value the success of social media campaigns… WE DO and are grateful that this initiative has resulted in millions of dollars given to worthwhile organizations across the globe.

This year, however, we are taking a pass. In place of #GivingTuesday, we are instituting #DoingTuesday to encourage our donors (and hopefully non-donors) to support our clients in an active and hands-on way.

On Tuesday, November 28th, we will gather volunteers to help pack “winter care packages” for our clients and their families. We will collect donated items in the weeks before and will spend time creating packages with a team of volunteers. We will also deliver these packages to the individuals directly – to not just tell their stories, but also to show these families that we are thinking of them and that there is a community of folks who care.

Why #DoingTuesday? We hope to engage our donors in giving of their time and talents to directly help our clients. We hope that it will inspire more to become involved, to learn more about our work, and, ultimately, to click that “donate now” button in November as well as other months throughout the year.

JEVS Human Services is about helping people achieve independence, live with dignity and find their own path to self-sufficiency. We were founded over 75 years ago to help refugees fleeing Nazi Germany. We have remained committed to this mission and have expanded to help thousands of people each year. We are excited to share our mission with many others as we work toward our next 75 years. We hope that #DoingTuesday will encourage many more to share our story.

We know that there is not one way to give – and we are looking to capitalize on this wonderful day of giving by adding a bit of “doing” as well. We’ll let you know how we “do” – together we will all work to make a difference in our global communities.

Nancy Astor Fox is the Chief Operating Officer of JEVS Human Services in Philadelphia, PA. JEVS enhances the employability, independence and quality of life of individuals through a broad range of programs. Consistent with its core principles and entrepreneurial spirit, JEVS creates innovative and sustainable solutions to address current and future needs. Throughout its work, JEVS Human Services embodies the highest level of tzedakah: to help an individual to become independent. For more information, visit: www.jevshumanservices.org.