Give Until It Hurts On #GivingTuesday

Giving Tuesday

Why does #GivingTuesday bring out my inner grinch?

I’m going to share a deep, dark secret that fundraisers and donors have in common but are loath to admit.

We don’t love Giving Tuesday.

Yes, it may sound like I’m the grinchiest Grinch in Whoville, but hear me out and learn how your heart can again grow three sizes bigger.

What Is Giving Tuesday?

Giving Tuesday started in 2012 as a philanthropic counterpart to the materialism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. At its heart it’s an inspired idea meant to promote donations to nonprofits.

In its first year, Giving Tuesday really was a novel and very lovely way to draw attention to the nonprofit sector. But that was year one.

Year two? I think by the end of Giving Tuesday, every fundraiser and donor in the United States was getting a little Grinchy.

For fundraisers, Giving Tuesday 2014 was marked by:

  • Nonstop marketing from consultants about how to make Giving Tuesday appeals better. And yes, I see the irony here.
  • Executive Directors and board members asking a) “Where’s my nonprofit’s appeal?” or b) “Why isn’t it performing better?”
  • Every single nonprofit in the same sector sending out a Giving Tuesday appeal. And so no one stands out and donors are annoyed by everyone.

And for the donors? Well, Giving Tuesday was all about:

  • Email appeals
  • Facebook appeals
  • Twitter appeals
  • Snail mail appeals
  • And more email appeals
  • Appeals, appeals, appeals!

You get the idea.

Even the organization behind Giving Tuesday is concerned about this issue.

How to Overcome “Giving Tuesday Fatigue”

So far it looks like we’re on an express train back to Whoville, but perhaps, to paraphrase Dr. Seuss, Giving Tuesday can mean a bit more.

After all, what is Giving Tuesday really about? Giving, not asking. It’s time for nonprofits to give back to their supporters.

Here’s my three-step plan.

Step 1: Honor your volunteers, clients and staff.

  • Ask your Board Chair to send a message of thanks to your entire staff letting them know how appreciated they are. Don’t forget, working at a nonprofit can be stressful (to say the least.)
  • Have a small reception for your volunteers thanking them for their time and service. At the least, send them a thank you email. Don’t lose site of the fact that oftentimes volunteers are the best source of donors.
  • Recommit to great customer service and a fantastic experience for your clients. Make sure they know you are honored that they chose your organization to receive services. One way to do this is to have coffee and donuts or fruit available for clients on Giving Tuesday. It is an extra cost, but it will create goodwill with your clients and be highly appreciated. Another idea — have a staff training on the elements of great customer service. Everyone needs a reminder sometime.

Step 2: Thank your donors.

Run a list of donors that have been giving every year to your organization for a long time, whatever a long time is for your nonprofit. Call and thank them. Don’t ask for money, just say thank you for their years of giving. No phone number? Email works great. Snail mail sometimes works even better.

For the rest of your donors, do something similar. On Giving Tuesday, instead of an ask, just send out a thank you. Think about recording your staff saying thanks (an iPhone works great for this.) Put it up on YouTube and include it with the email. Put it up on Facebook and Twitter as well. Instead of asking for something, set your nonprofit apart on Giving Tuesday by giving.

Step 3: Schedule a “Giving-Back Tuesday” every three months.

The pressure to fundraise is so intense that we don’t schedule enough time to say thank you to donors. And I don’t mean a thank you and an ask, or a thank you after a gift. Just a plain honest, authentic thank you to a donor for making a gift to a cause they care about because they know it will help someone in need. This needs to happen far more than once a year.

How are you thanking your donors, volunteers and staff?

Join the conversation in the comments below.