Giving Tuesday Fatigue

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on November 8th, 2019 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Giving Tuesday is fast approaching.  According to reports, Giving Tuesday raised 27% more money in 2018 than it did in 2017; it raised 50% more money in 2017 than in 2016.  But where did these billions go? How much of that money did your organization see?

There may be something in the downward trend of those percentage increases.  Has Giving Tuesday run its course?  In a recent conversation with a dozen executive directors, not one was singing its praises.  In fact, the opposite was happening; there were lots of laments about the amount of work required for the paucity in return.  And they reported they were hearing the same from other colleagues:  more and more nonprofits are bowing out of Giving Tuesday.  I’ve yet to meet a nonprofit that has participated in Giving Tuesday that declares it worthwhile.”  And, yet, I know that many of those lamenting nonprofits will still participate in Giving Tuesday on December 3rd.

The banner ad across The Nonprofit Center’s Facebook page.

No surprise, if you think about it.  Everyone else will be doing it, so we better too.  So, they jump in, often without plan or strategy, to one of the most crowded fields in all of fundraising.  Most nonprofits have a hard time differentiating themselves from the pack, and a pack it is on Giving Tuesday.  Is it really worth it for any nonprofit to spend any effort on Giving Tuesday?  Yet, everyone will tell you, if you don’t spend effort, you won’t get anything. 

According to Giving Tuesday stats for 2018 (and I’m not sure how accurate any of these are, given that you can find different numbers, each attributed to reliable sources; but none can be off by enough to really misrepresent the reality, unless, of course, the datasource has a vested interest in the success of Giving Tuesday, which many do), there were 14.2 billion mentions of Giving Tuesday on social media (and it seems like half as many are in my in-box).   The average gift was $105.55 (down from the high of 2013 when it was $143).  But, according to one source, if you could announce that you had a matching gift for all of your Giving Tuesday gifts, you doubled your fundraising success.  Of course you doubled it – that was the whole point of the match.  It isn’t anything magical about Giving Tuesday.  You can take the same approach on non-giving Thursday, or Monday or Saturday. 

This is all about dollars and cents, but perhaps not in the way you may be thinking.  Do you know how much it costs to capture a new donor, as opposed to retaining a current one?* 

You should.  Research consistently reports that the average retention rates of current donors is about 43-45%; they decrease or increase inversely with the amount given.  (Donor attrition rates, on the other hand, are about 57%.) 

Retain your donors for at least five years, and you can start to woo major gifts, provided, of course, you’ve done some good stewardship.  Seek out new donors and it will cost you between half or all of that first-year gift, or 10 times more than it will cost you to retain a current donor.  Take your pick of statistics.  

My point here isn’t to disparage or be a Debbie Downer.  My goal here is to encourage—maybe even give permission—nonprofits to stop scatter shooting when it comes to fundraising.  Everyone is currently rushing (or already rushed) to get their end of the year appeal out, so they can be one of tens of thousands soliciting funds in this final quarter.  Many will be rushing headlong into Giving Tuesday, so their tweets can be part of the 14+billion social media messages going out to do what?  Secure funds?  Not miss a possible donor? Chase possibilities rather than working to retain a surer bet?

Think long and carefully on where to expend your limited resources:  trying to secure donations while being one of a throng, or doing curated touches to folks who already know you and have demonstrated past support?

*Check out our upcoming webinars on donor retention strategies and  winning back lapsed donors

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.