A Look Back on Giving Tuesday Performance: Opportunities for the New Year

Last week, hundreds of fundraising and marketing professionals joined in Washington DC to exchange new ideas and innovations for how to improve relationships with donors. At the DMA DC Nonprofit Conference, the discussions touched topics ranging from advanced analytics and predictive modeling solutions, to multichannel acquisition strategy, to crowdfunding as an online fundraising technique. As the marketing landscape continues to shift and donors become more sophisticated, and at times, more difficult to reach, nonprofit professionals have also changed their methodologies to make a true multichannel impact.

As we look forward to the opportunities of 2016, it’s also critical to reflect on the strategies that resonated over the past year in order to build upon them for an even more successful 2016. The measure of that success often comes from the ever-important End of Year giving season during the month of December. Historically, performance during end of year has been the main driver for kicking off the new year of fundraising efforts, particularly in terms of budget allocations and channel strategies. But we detected an interesting trend this year, and one that has been slowly gaining traction over recent years past: Giving Tuesday is emerging as a central focus for end of year fundraising efforts. According to Blackbaud’s annual report, Giving Tuesday 2015 garnered a 52% year-over-year increase in online donations from 2014. Additionally, they determined the average online gift to be up 6% from the year prior. M+R pulled results from their clients that showed a 79% lift in Giving Tuesday revenue between 2014 and 2015. What does this all mean? Giving Tuesday is no longer the “bridesmaid” of end of year giving, and it’s something all nonprofits should take notice of.

A Giving Tuesday Case Study – Storytelling to Engage the Heart

In tandem with this trend, in addition to the knowledge we gained about previous end of year performance, we applied a Giving Tuesday-centric strategy to the American Heart Association’s “What’s Your Why?” campaign, a play off their powerful tagline, Life is Why. Not only did AHA seek to leverage the growing significance of Giving Tuesday, but they also planned to reinvigorate their integrated approach through a more personal and human perspective. Ultimately, the team’s goal was to take all of their data, research and scientific discovery, and put it into a platform where people could connect intimately and emotionally with it – the numbers wouldn’t just be numbers, rather they would become real people with real stories.

AHA used three unique 30-second digital spots as the primary drivers for their Giving Tuesday campaign. Each video highlighted a different “why” – grandparents who are at the Thanksgiving table because of caregiver support for stroke recovery, mothers who are baking pie because Go Red for Women educated them about catching the early signs of heart attack, and a baby whose congenital heart defect was repaired thanks to AHA-funded research. It was a way to amplify their message through stories that people could universally connect to. On the actual day of Giving Tuesday, an appeal was sent that leveraged still photography from the final video and the 431 “whys” – loved ones, friends, family members – that could be saved from cardiovascular disease that day. The stories came to life not only through digital video and email, but also through a comprehensive social media “field guide” strategy that touched both national and local audiences. The team produced creative assets including video stills, quote overlay images and showcases of AHA research that were shared across the Twitter and Facebook accounts of the national American Heart Association brand, as well as their local divisions. This allowed AHA to maintain brand consistency and provide a holistic and engaging user experience, while giving their local field staff a platform to bring a relevant voice to their own constituents.

Through the alignment of email, social, and digital video, AHA achieved a truly integrated branding campaign that was ultimately able to compel many more donors. The dollar amount of their Giving Tuesday donations increased 155% year-over-year. Because the content of the campaign was extremely relevant not only to the time of year, but also personally significant to their donors, Giving Tuesday proved to be an extremely important factor in their overall end of year performance. Depending upon your vertical, this type of Giving Tuesday strategy has the potential to garner similarly positive results, especially if you can engage through a compelling story.

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