Warm Greeting

December 30, 2014       Paul Clolery      

There’s no intent to throw a bucket of ice over the efforts for #GivingTuesday but one has to wonder about the euphoria. The final numbers will show roughly $60 million was raised on Dec. 2 by some 20,000 partner organizations in the United States and another 6,500 or so abroad.

Earlier this year, and granted it might be a one- or two-time phenomenon, the ALS Association alone raised $61 million in one week on its way to $115 million with the Ice Bucket Challenge. In Colorado, 1,700 nonprofits generated $26.2 million in one day on Dec. 9.

It is probably a simplistic approach but basic math shows that worldwide #GivingTuesday brought in an average of just $2,264 per participant organization.

Organizers said that it is an advocacy event along with a fundraising appeal. And, it’s only in its third year. The Colorado event is only in its fifth year and raised roughly 40 percent of what the worldwide Tweetfest brought in.

Henry Timms, one of the event’s founders, said that the point is community. “We committed to how do we have a conversation about values, the promise of getting people to stop when time was all about spending and trying to start a conversation about giving, about connecting with people’s communities,” Timms said.

It’s a welcome addition if this is mostly new money. This was a worldwide event targeted at potential donors who are willing to give mostly through credit cards, debit cards and payment processing services. Since most of those bills won’t come due for 30 days, it might be a bit easier to just make that holiday gift on #GivingTuesday. That could be disastrous for year-end giving if gifts initiated through traditional response to solicitations ended up going earlier via credit card and donors then figure they are done.

The hope is that #GivingTuesday will become the sector’s answer to CyberMonday when retailers hawk their wares online. It seems as if philanthropy – both time and/or treasure – is being turned into a commodity when the example is a retail purchase, rather than an act of good will toward men (women and children, too). That is especially true as more for-profit firms publically pat themselves on the back via full-page ads in consumer media describing their work with charities.

Hopefully the events that raised a few bucks in a community did bring people together to hatch additional ideas. That would be a bonus.

It will be interesting to see the research being developed by the Indiana University Lilly School of Philanthropy. They are measuring whether people simply moved their year-end giving up a few weeks or if it is bringing in new donors. “These are your Sybunts, Lybunts (Last Year But Unfortunately Not This Year and Some Year But Unfortunately Not This Year),” said Jon Biderman of DonorPerfect.

There won’t be a real way to know until after the traditional giving is complete and the economics of an improving economic is factored into the results. One has to wonder if there is a Plan B if year-end giving is impacted.

#GivingTuesday as a concept for awareness is fine. And, it is early in the event’s lifespan to determine if it will be a fundraising machine. Between $50 and $60 million is far from chump change but might not be worth the effort of roughly 26,500 organizations. Clearly, many participant organizations ended up spending much more than they took in. The economics of the event need to be closely examined on an individual basis. NPT