2015-GivingTuesdayBy Ross Kasper

$28 million. $46 million. $116.7 million. Those are the reported total dollars raised each year from 2013 to 2015, respectively, on #GivingTuesday. Notice a trend? For those who may not yet be “in the know” on what #GivingTuesday is, it is a global philanthropic phenomenon that takes place on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. The concept is that #GivingTuesday harnesses the potential of social media and the generosity of people around the world to bring about real philanthropic impact on a specific day; it connects diverse groups of individuals, communities, and organizations around the world for one common purpose: to celebrate and encourage giving.

Now, before you stop reading and say “I work for a small nonprofit. With so much activity on #GivingTuesday why even bother?” – Wouldn’t you prefer to have a small percentage of $116.7 million than nothing at all? With proper preparation, even smaller nonprofits can realize a huge return on their investment!

My colleagues and I at Evans Consulting are very encouraged by the reported increase in total donations. 2015 saw a 153% increase from the total dollars raised in 2014. This is the largest year-to-year increase to date in the short history of the giving “holiday.” There were 1.08 million gifts made by 698,961 donors. This year we saw 114 billion (yes – billion) impressions on Twitter and 917, 313 users reached on Facebook and all of this took place in seventy-one countries around the world.

As they do each year, the visionaries at the 92Y (who helped to create the concept) and #GivingTuesday created an infographic to highlight the incredible presence and growth of the day. The top five issues mentioned in all of that social media activity were: education, the environment, animal welfare, health care, and international affairs.

Something is glaringly missing! Religion, usually the dominant category of charitable giving by donors across the U.S., seems to be absent from the highlighted results. This is not to say there wasn’t any participation by Jewish nonprofits this year. Although there were very few synagogues listed as #GivingTuesday participants there were many Jewish organizations that were wildly successful in their #GivingTuesday campaigns:

  • The Jewish National Fund (JNF) reported raising over $825,000 (which included a full matching gift) and is even expecting to reach the million dollar mark as donations continue to trickle in.
  • Mazon, an organization fighting hunger in the United States and Israel, stated a goal of $50,000 for their #GivingTuesday campaign. They raised over $100,000 and even got Scandal and West Wing star Joshua Malina to agree to follow the Twitter handle of anyone who donated $25 to the cause.
  • The Associated, the Jewish Federation of Baltimore, had a goal of $1 million and ended up raising $1.4 million from 331 donors. Another great campaign from the Associated had them partnering with local businesses so that a portion of the proceeds from sales on December 1 would be donated back to the Federation.

Unfortunately, from what I could tell, these organizations are the outliers when it comes to the Jewish community. My Evans Consulting colleagues and I received a lot of emails from a large variety of Jewish organizations. Over the span of the few weeks leading up to the day, newsletters arrived in our inboxes. I saw countless uninspiring and seemingly last-minute #GivingTuesday appeals. There were too many organizations that didn’t even bother to mention the holiday until Tuesday morning and put together a lackluster “You really should give to us” type of email. But why should I give to your organization when you didn’t bother to “earn” my gift? This applies to all nonprofits – not just the Jewish ones. To be successful on #GivingTuesday requires work. As the saying goes, “you get out what you put in.” For a refresher on how to run a successful #GivingTuesday campaign, you can review these articles.

My wife and I made multiple donations on #GivingTuesday to organizations that we felt were deserving of our money and where we felt our gift would make an impact. One of our requirements for which organizations would receive our donations was whether or not we felt they had put together an effective #GivingTuesday campaign and were truly dedicated to making the day a success.

My questions are: Why aren’t more Jewish organizations embracing #GivingTuesday? Do they think it is too much work? Are they unsure of how to put a campaign together? Do they even know what #GivingTuesday is? Are the dollars “not big enough”?

I contend that participating in #GivingTuesday is just as much about raising your profile and reaching new people or a new audience as it is about raising dollars. Technically, I’m a Millennial – although I’m certainly an “old fart” in the eyes of the youngest of my generation – and the Millennial Generation has embraced social media and #GivingTuesday. If you choose not to participate in #GivingTuesday aren’t you missing an incredible opportunity to reach an always sought-after, often elusive, and increasingly unaffiliated demographic?

We could blame the media for paying too much attention to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. We could say that nonprofit leaders haven’t bought in to the power of the four year old phenomenon. Let’s not place blame or point fingers. Instead let’s be inspired! Here’s the Evans Consulting Group’s “Call to Action” to both the major “umbrella organizations” in the Jewish community (JFNA, URJ, USCJ, RRC, OU, Ravsak, JCCA, Chabad and others too numerous to mention) as well as smaller Jewish nonprofits – mobilize your congregations, schools, community centers, and organizations to embrace #GivingTuesday!

If you start preparing today you are already a few days behind some of those wildly successful organizations I highlighted previously. Now is the time to develop your strategies for next year’s #GivingTuesday celebration on November 29, 2016. Put together a committee. Make a plan. Share your plan with your constituents early and often. Take full advantage of what is an incredible day of camaraderie and community. It’s time to embrace this global day of giving.

Ross Kasper is a consultant at the Evans Consulting Group, a firm that helps nonprofits meet and exceed their strategic and fundraising goals. The Evans Consulting Group advises nonprofits, manages fundraising campaigns, facilitates strategic planning processes, engages in donor research and cultivation, coaches nonprofit leaders and performs a number of other development-related services. Ross is experienced at online and social media marketing and has overseen multiple website design projects. He is passionate about nonprofit storytelling, social media, and #GivingTuesday. Ross can be reached at rkasper@TheEvansConsultingGroup.com.