If your inbox was overflowing with email messages on #GivingTuesday, you weren’t alone. The seventh annual global day of giving, held on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, has become the kick off to the annual holiday giving season, and email seemed to the channel of choice for solicitations.
The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tenn., about 90 miles southwest of Nashville, sent four emails to supporters on #GivingTuesday, at midnight, 1 p.m., 3 p.m., and 8 p.m. Supporters didn’t seem to mind the flurry. The opt-out rate on #GivingTuesday was less than one percent, according to Kate Mason, communications coordinator.
Thanks in part to the matching gifts, the organization raised almost $300,000 on #GivingTuesday, well on the way to its $500,000 goal by Jan. 2 via CrowdRise By GoFundMe. The sanctuary also leveraged additional bonus prize money based on how much it raised on #GivingTuesday. Last year’s campaign exceeded its goal, raising more than $606,000 by the end of the holiday giving campaign, which was more than double the $276,000 raised in 2016.
Early estimates by 92Y, a co-founder of #GivingTuesday, pegged fundraising at more than $380 million on Nov. 27, continuing double-digit growth with overall giving eclipsing $1 billion since the annual day of giving started in 2012.
The $380 million preliminary estimate is some $80 million more than what was raised last year, an increase of about 27 percent. Among the more than 3.6 million donations, the average gift size was $105.55, down from $120.40 last year. Organizers attributed the decline to an increase in total gifts.
Matching gifts were prominent marketing strategy for many charities.
“Any sort of element of urgency and surprise that you can give your supporters, I would definitely encourage,” Mason said. Some donors gave twice, once in reply to the morning email, and again later, she said. “People love elephants.”
The highest response for the sanctuary was to its 3 p.m. email, which announced an unexpected matching gift of $30,000, she said. The organization was founded in 1995 and reported revenue of $8.3 million in 2017.
“We imagined a way to use people’s collective power to overcome what divides us. HENRY TIMMS
“When we first conceived of # Giving Tuesday, we imagined a way to use people’s collective power to overcome what divides us, and unite behind our shared values,” said Henry Timms, executive director of 92Y and co-founder of #GivingTuesday. “To now surpass a billion dollars in giving and volunteering is a testament to a global spirit of generosity that may not always make it into the headlines but is evident in every corner of America and around the world,” he said.
#GivingTuesday has its critics, including folks who feel inundated by email asks and those who fear that a nonprofit’s message might get lost amid the sheer volume of messages.
Although fundraising asks seemed to be the most popular way for charities to participate in #GivingTuesday, there were some that made it a day to thank donors or direct volunteer and community service efforts. At Second Helpings in Indianapolis, Ind., volunteers spent most of #GivingTuesday calling donors.
Katie Prine, senior director of philanthropy, said the idea of a thank-a-thon started three years ago. “We tried to reach as many donors as we can,” she said, adding that they reached 1,100 donors of their goal of 1,500. Volunteers for the phone bank include staff and board members and this year the hours were extended until 7 p.m.
The organizations provides scripts for calls, who thank donors for their support and try to give them one impact statistic to give them an idea how much a difference their gift has made the last year. The calls also help to learn more about their donors, be it general information, disconnected phone numbers, or whether they’ve transitioned out of their jobs.
Second Helpings provides hunger relief, food rescue and culinary job training through a $7.5 million annual budget, with about $2.1 million in cash.
“We tried this year to engage more online, we did some Facebook Live videos, showcasing what was going on in our production kitchen,” Prine said, garnering views ranging from 330 to 560, along with more than a dozen shares.
It wasn’t an entirely fundraising-free day for Second Helpings. Thank-you calls led to nine gifts totaling more than $1,000, according to Prine, and it also had a matching campaign. A $25,000 match was promoted via four emails: one a month before the day, another the week before, and month, and one the day before and day of. In all, including the match, more than $90,000 was raised on #GivingTuesday.
Almost one-third of the $380 million tallied so far was raised through Facebook, which along with PayPal matched up to $7 million in gifts and waived transaction fees. The $125 million raised via Facebook was almost three times as much as the $45 million raised last year.