The New Era of Opportunities and Challenges in Giving Days

Giving days have become quintessential moments in time for nonprofit organizations. They act as added events throughout the regular fundraising year to mobilize everyone internally at the organization to achieve optimal fundraising success, as well as opportunities to rally high-intent, passionate communities around a more specific, perhaps more urgent, conversation related to your cause.

In 2016, organizations raised a collective $168 million online on #GivingTuesday, reflecting a 44 percent jump in online donations over the previous year. With this knowledge alone, giving days represent a tremendous opportunity from a giving dollars standpoint, but as a social media-driven event, it also reflects a critical time to build your social audience and empower engaged donors with a platform to advocate for the cause within their own social spheres.

While our understanding of the giving days movement has evolved dramatically since the inception of #GivingTuesday in 2012, that definition has evolved still today, due to the complex nature and dynamic of the news cycle under our current administration. Organizations are still learning how to tap into the heightened levels of passion and advocacy, while building up a more operationally nimble process in order to both respond to conversations in real time and proactively plan for this new era of giving days ahead of the rapidly changing political climate.

As we reflect on the current state and how giving days have played a more significant role in the fundraising calendar, it’s certainly no longer just about #GivingTuesday or really any singular giving day. Rather, nonprofits have a much larger opportunity to understand how giving days and other critical moment-in-time campaigns fit into the bigger picture. That opportunity does not, of course, come without challenges, including how to operationally and financially sustain a comprehensive giving days approach, as well as how to align these fundraising days with the long-term strategy. We’ve taken a look at both ends of the spectrum, as well as how nonprofits should be thinking about the modern era of giving days.

Giving Days: Opportunities 

Meaningful metrics and goal-setting. While donor dollars are a key piece of the giving day pie, giving day campaigns allow organizations to identify what other metrics really matter beyond revenue when they ultimately evaluate success and understand how to plan for the future. You might have a range in mind for the giving goal, but consider what other metrics you’d like to achieve that are more reflective of donor engagement. For instance, maybe a large portion of your file has been cold for some time, and the goal of your giving day may be to reignite the spark with that audience. Or perhaps, you’d like to target for the number of entirely new-to-file donors. Giving days present an opportunity to rally your community around your cause, but it’s also a time to differentiate your brand against the broad range of other organizations who exist in a similar vertical.

Mobilizing the entire organization. Giving days are a critical moment in time for the culture of your organization—a time to motivate people across departments and teams to come together in support of your mission and your brand and a time to build a true culture of giving. Naturally, there is increased energy and urgency around a giving day, but take the time to offer inspirational messaging not just to your constituents and donors, but also to your staff. We all get bogged down by budgeting, planning and the tactical execution, but let your giving day be a time to connect in a meaningful way with each and every department—from web and social media staff, to board members, to non-fundraising staff. This can empower them to build advocacy and buzz around your nonprofit brand, which goes a long way at a time where many like causes are battling for increased advocacy and donations.

Giving Days: Challenges

Achieving operational nimbleness and alignment across the organization. Planning for an end-of-year giving day like #GivingTuesday can require months of planning and lends a little more internal flexibility to the process. However, when you’re planning around more fluid giving days, every process and person within the organization needs to not only be on high speed, but there also needs to be a heightened awareness of what other teams are doing. Today, we are starting to see more strategic collaboration between advocacy and fundraising departments, where in previous times, they likely developed separate strategies to meet different goals. It can take some serious time and motivating to break down the internal siloes, but it is a critical first step to becoming more nimble and efficient.

Converting first-time donors into loyal, sustaining donors. Giving days often attract new donors to your file; particularly as social media now plays a much larger role in channel strategy. The conversation around your giving day can ultimately be amplified across many digital and social communities. But almost as often, the challenge becomes how to build and foster that first-time donor relationship into someone who will give loyally over the longer term. When thinking about the communications strategy post giving day, nonprofits must think beyond the traditional “thank you” or follow-up email and determine the right method and the right type of content to continually engage that audience, rather than letting them slip through the cracks.

Identifying the right moments in time. Now, more than ever, our donors are surrounded by a new kind of noise and distraction. And while we’ve seen passion and advocacy sore to an all-time high, particularly over the last seven months, it’s not always the most efficient or valuable tactic to “jump on the bandwagon.” Our new reality is undoubtedly one of cultural and political upheaval, and it creates different kinds of opportunities for nonprofits to connect with high-intent, impassioned and sometimes, enraged audiences. But it’s important to decide when and where you can make the most impact and what moments are worthy of the extra time and investment.

While there are certainly challenges around how to approach giving days—both the more traditional, planned giving days and the modern, culturally and politically-driven
“moment-in-time” giving days—these challenges inevitably breed important opportunities for nonprofits to strengthen internal alignment, cultivate an increasingly engaged donor base and activate on a clear, cohesive story around your mission and brand.

Editor’s Note: This article appeared in the July/August issue of NonProfit PRO. Click here to view the entire issue.

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