#GivingTuesday 2016: Better than Ever, but is a Plateau in Sight?

How did Jewish nonprofits fare on #GivingTuesday?

plateau-effectBy Ross Kasper

Reports indicate that on November 29th over $168 million was raised by nonprofits across 98 countries in celebration of #GivingTuesday. This represents a 44 percent increase from 2015’s record-setting one-day event that surpassed $117 million. Reports already indicate that 1.56 million gifts were secured in comparison to last year’s 1.08 million, with an average gift size of almost $108. In just five short years, #GivingTuesday has seen a 317 percent growth, representing an incredible statement about the importance of philanthropy!

My wife and I once again made multiple donations on #GivingTuesday to organizations that we felt were deserving of our money. We give to a number of charities each year but on #GivingTuesday we have two very specific requirements: the organization must have a #GivingTuesday campaign (the stronger the campaign and more active on social media, the greater the chance we will give) and they must have a donor match. We want to make sure, as we spread our donations to a number of worthy organizations, that each dollar is as impactful as possible.

How did Jewish nonprofits fare on #GivingTuesday? Here’s a sampling:

Pamela Fertel Weinstein, Director of Communications, and Ilana Fromm, Communications & Social Media Coordinator, from The Birthright Israel Foundation, reported that they raised more than $184,000, which is well over the $120,000 it costs to fill a Birthright Israel bus, a secret goal of these two enthusiastic #GivingTuesday ambassadors, and significantly more than the $30,858 raised on last year’s #GivingTuesday. They worked diligently throughout the year to refocus their communications and database of donors, improving their Facebook reach by almost 10,000 likes (2015 was the first year the foundation had its own dedicated Facebook presence), and now can boast of a 100% delivery rate for their 40,000 email address database. With a theme this year of “What Will You Give?” they put a focus on the donors not just giving money but giving adventure, friendship, and discovery; giving Jewish cultural experiences; and making significant contributions to the Jewish future. They focused on the emotional connection that Birthright alumni and their families have by featuring heartfelt stories that targeted different sectors of their audience. They received a $100,000 gift from a board member who was inspired by the idea behind #GivingTuesday; one $20,000 pledge; and $64,368 from 347 donors (including $1,392 raised via a Facebook fundraiser for which they received the Gates Foundation Facebook Fundraising match). They also created a unique staff campaign centered not only on having their staff members become donors to the campaign but also inspiring their staff to get involved in sharing the message to gain points toward rewards. In total they had 350 donors – double the amount from last year.

MEOR, an organization that looks to foster a vibrant Jewish future by engaging young people to have a deep connection with Judaism and Israel, celebrated #GivingTuesday in a slightly different way. On November 17th, they launched their #BeTheSpark campaign, created via Charidy. They used this software package to create a “live” and viral campaign lasting only 24 hours, when all donations, thanks to the generosity of a number of their donors, would be quadrupled! Using the power of their network, social media, and a phone-a-thon described by one MEOR staffer as a “Super Sunday style phone-a-thon with a party-like atmosphere,” they were able to double last year’s totals and raise over $2 million from 2,700 donors, 1,908 of whom shared their donation to this campaign via social media.

Jennifer Noparstak, Assistant Vice President, Campaign, at The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, described this year’s campaign as “a huge success.” While final numbers have not been confirmed, she was able to share that it continues to be their second largest fundraising event of the year (behind Super Sunday). With #GivingTuesday being an integral part of their annual fundraising campaign, which kicks off with Super Sunday each fall, one of the changes they made from last year’s campaign was a focus on increasing the notice that donors received via email about #GivingTuesday. They sent weekly reminders throughout November, multiple email reminders on the 29th, and a follow-up for the day after. These expanded efforts resulted in a tripling of their online giving results compared to last year’s campaign.

Despite all of these amazing success stories (and other incredible efforts too numerous to mention) – is #GivingTuesday in trouble? Are we nearing a plateau?

While the national totals are strong, there are some underlying numbers that should give pause.

Blackbaud, which handles a large percentage of online #GivingTuesday gifts made in the U.S., processed $47.7 million in donations this year, up from $39.6 million in 2015. It’s the fourth consecutive year of dollar growth but it’s just a 20 percent increase, compared to 52 percent last year. That 20 percent marks the lowest percentage growth for any year since #GivingTuesday’s inception.

DonorPerfect Fundraising Software reported that thousands of the nonprofits that use its software to process donations garnered over $18,912,000 – but this reflects only a 27 percent growth over last year’s total of $14.9 million. They reported an average online gift of $158 with a median gift for all donations (including cash, check, and phone donations) of $50.00.

Last year, in a post on eJewishPhilanthropy.com entitled “Embracing #GivingTuesday 2016,” I noted that Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger had raised well over their stated goal – totaling over $100,000. Joshua Malina, star of Scandal and West Wing, agreed to follow the Twitter handle of anyone who donated $25 to Mazon on #GivingTuesday. After reviewing their website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed, it seems as though they did not put as much of a focus on #GivingTuesday this year; with just a handful of Facebook posts and tweets, they still managed to raise $60,000. Obviously, this is much less than last year’s total. While I am in no way highlighting this as a failure (since raising $60,000 on a busy day like this is still an amazing feat), I’m trying to show how important it is to follow some tried and true steps to making sure your #GivingTuesday campaign reaches its full potential:

  • Plan ahead
  • Develop a creative strategy
  • Inspire your brand ambassadors with great messaging
  • Seek a matching gift!
  • Make sure to follow up and practice donor cultivation

Only time will tell whether #GivingTuesday is leveling off but as a staunch supporter of the holiday I hope that’s not the case. It is an important day of giving and one that should be celebrated and embraced. Our collective efforts can ensure that for at least one day a year philanthropy is championed across the world!
For more tips on creating a successful #GivingTuesday campaign and greater detail on the information outlined above, check out some of my previous eJewishPhilanthropy.com articles or see my posts on the Evans Consulting Group Blog.

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 can be reached at rkasper@TheEvansConsultingGroup.com.