#GivingTuesday Is Here to Stay: What Are You Waiting for? Start Preparing for Dec. 1, 2015

GivingTuesday_Israel_-_HeartA #GivingTuesday gift opens the door to a conversation.

By Robert Evans

#GivingTuesday was everywhere this year. We were inundated with messaging in print and online media, in our inboxes, and on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds. Especially in 2012, and even last year, #GivingTuesday seemed to be a movement trying to establish itself. This year, #GivingTuesday felt like an established fact, an idea that will be with us for some time to come. The #GivingTuesday naysayers – and there have been plenty out there – are being overshadowed and overwhelmed by the popular embrace of the global movement to give.

Early indications demonstrate that charitable activity on Dec. 2, 2014 saw a healthy increase over Dec. 3, 2013. Initial reports from Blackbaud show a 36 percent gain over last year, with total giving climbing from $19.2 million in 2013 to $26.1 million in 2014. According to an analysis undertaken by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy that looked at five major donation processing platforms, nonprofits raised a total of $46 million online in one day, representing a 64 percent jump over 2013. When taking into account the runaway, unexpected success of the Ice Bucket Challenge that raised more $100 million for ALS research, 2014 may be remembered as the year online giving became a real factor on the philanthropic scene. In the broader picture, online giving accounts for only about 7 percent of all charitable giving in America. Expect that number to rise.

Forbes.com perhaps best summed up the buzz over mobile fundraising with its Dec. 1 headline “#GivingTuesday: The Philanthropy Revolution Will Be Hashtagged.” Revolution is a powerful word, but in this case, I think it is misplaced. Revolution connotes an overturn of everything we know, an out with the old, in with the new kind of tectonic shift. #GivingTuesday is nothing of the sort. It is a creative, solid approach to the old challenge nonprofits face of telling their stories, generating excitement and starting a conversation with potential longtime supporters.

In a #GivingTuesday preview published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Laura Otten, executive director of the Nonprofit Center at La Salle University, said that #GivingTuesday “flies in the face of good philanthropy” by relying on quick hit appeals. I’ve heard this from plenty of nonprofit leaders and while I understand where the sentiment is coming from, I respectfully disagree. A #GivingTuesday gift opens the door to a conversation. Now, the ball is in the recipient organization’s court to say “thank you” in a meaningful way and follow-up with purposeful, targeted communications. It doesn’t have to be a one-time gift.

This #GivingTuesday was certainly nosier than the first two. I received at least 20 requests to give via social media and email. Some might say that these requests are canceling each other out, but take the approach that the rising tide lifts all boats. The flurry of requests place philanthropy, and not consumerism, in the center of people’s minds – at least for a limited time. But the volume of activity shows that simply going through the motions are not enough to get good results. (That’s far from a revolutionary idea, by the way.) Organizations need to start thinking as early as possible about how to approach #GivingTuesday in a creative, meaningful way.

As far as the Jewish community is concerned, I don’t expect we will see any meaningful statistics tracking #GivingTuesday donations. Anecdotally, it was clear that more Jewish organizations, of various sizes, decided to participate. From the Jewish National Fund to local Chabad houses, Jewish groups took to the digital airwaves to make pitches and inspire donors. Once again, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore owned the day. Amazingly, the organization raised $1.3 million for its annual campaign from 388 donors.

The Jewish Communal Fund in New York City, the largest donor advised fund in the Jewish community, reports that its fund holders made $1.9 in donations on #GivingTuesday. This figure was 74 percent higher than the average number of daily grants dispersed in November. Clearly, this wasn’t by accident.

Perhaps more representative of the scope of the campaigns within the Jewish Community is the National Museum of American Jewish History. The organization more than doubled its goal and surpassed $5,000 for its Traveling Suitcase program to bring immigration stories to students across the United States.

#GivingTuesday also represents an opportunity for synagogues and I’m wondering if any congregations ran successful and creative #GivingTuesday programs. I invite readers to share interesting approaches that synagogues or other Jewish organizations took on December 2. Jewish organizations need to share stories and ideas with one another about how to maximize efforts in this social media, national phenomenon.

Please share your ideas by either giving feedback in the comments section below or you can contact me directly at revans@theevansconsultinggroup.com.

Robert Evans, President of the Evans Consulting Group in suburban Philadelphia, has more than 35 years of experience advising nonprofits on fundraising campaigns and strategic planning. A member of the Giving USA editorial review board and a board member of the Giving Institute, Mr. Evans is frequently quoted in media outlets such as The New York Times and is a regular contributor to www.eJewishPhilanthropy.com.