Giving Tuesday. Bah! Humbug!

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on December 6th, 2013 in Thoughts & Commentary

1 comment

How many email, tweets or other communiques did you receive about “Giving Tuesday? ”

The Nonprofit Center chose to refrain from sending any pleas on its own, or anyone else’s behalf. Some may wonder why thinking that our role as unofficial spokesperson for the sector demanded it.

Our reasoning was why would we want to be part of the hordes? Why would we want to waste time drafting a pitch to entreat people to give to us while thousands of other nonprofits around the country are doing the same? In the amount of time for which we would have a recipient’s attention, what could we possibly say that would convince a thinking person to give to us? And how likely would we be to retain a donor who responds to such a flimsy appeal aimed at a crowd mentality?

Giving Tuesday goes against everything we know about successful development. Requests for money are supposed to be targeted for the particular audience which you are addressing: those who have never given to you vs. those who are regular contributors to your annual appeal vs. those who are your major donors, for example.  Appeals are supposed to connect, to be part of a relationship.

Pushes to support nonprofits should not be a one day of the year effort or someone’s thought process on charitable giving. It absolutely should not be about assuaging guilt for having spent too much money on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday or Cyber Monday; yet that was a loud part of its message. And it should not be allowed to cheapen or detract from the great charitable work that so many individuals and families do at Thanksgiving. It is possible that some who gave of their time on Thursday also gave of their money on Tuesday; but many chose to give of their time on Thursday knowing they can’t spare the money on Tuesday-or any other day. Why would we degrade that heart-felt gift?

Helping nonprofits help others and communities should not be put on a par with shopping. It should not be 10 for me, one for a charitable cause. That approach doesn’t change attitudes, instill real values or feed people’s sense of responsibility-the responsibility of those of us who have more to help those who have less, those of us who live in families and communities that have much to help those whose communities have less but deserve more. When giving to charities is a salve for something that made us feel guilty, that giving to charities becomes a punishment or penance rather than what it should be -a free-flowing desire to help, give back, make a difference, etc.

And so what did we, as a sector, accomplish with Giving Tuesday? Did we raise our collective profile as a sector? Did we gain credibility or stature by jumping on the bandwagon last, behind the others? (We weren’t really last, actually. I just received an email from an organization that somehow managed to miss Giving Tuesday. Their message: we missed yesterday so we have named our own day–All Heart Wednesday; so give to us today.) Besides some dollars—and, trust me, I’m not dissing the value of dollars, what exactly did we achieve vs what we lost by getting wrapped up in Giving Tuesday? How many new donors were there? How many will still be donors next year? How many gave because they really understood what the nonprofit does and know it does it well vs. how many gave just because they recognized the name? And how many potential donors just got annoyed at the additional emails flooding their in-boxes the second day of a work week following a shortened work week?

Because we name it they will give? Hardly. Because we make it cute, play on guilt and pull in peer pressure, will they give? Maybe. But it should be that they give because we are solid, sustainable organizations that provide a valuable service to individuals and/or communities, with the data to support the claim. For this, people will support us, become loyal to us and come to be part of the good work we do. Such a partnership doesn’t happen one day out of 365.


The opinions expressed in Nonprofit University Blog are those of writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of La Salle University or any other institution or individual.