Nonprofit Avoids #GivingTuesday Email Flood

The National Book Foundation (NBF) decided to not send emails on #GivingTuesday this year. If your inbox was any indication, the New York City-based nonprofit probably was in the minority.

“I love the theory of #GivingTuesday,” Executive Director Lisa Lucas said, setting aside a day to think about giving back. But she also finds it overwhelming when it comes to her inbox. “It felt like sending email into the ether, giving someone else just another thing to delete or not have the time to read. It isn’t necessarily going to move them,” Lucas said. “It doesn’t feel as effective,” she said.

“Spiritually, #GivingTuesday is a reminder of why we give,” said Lucas, so she put together a Twitter thread making the case for why the National Book Foundation deserves support. “I woke up in the morning, and just wanted to do something more personal,” she said. “The things I tend to do online, from my own account, are education about what we do, encourage people over a long period of time to think about us as philanthropic initiative,” she said, helping people understand the cost behind things like filming and streaming the annual awards ceremony and hosting a gala. “By threading it, you’re really able to talk to a lot of different folks,” Lucas said.

There were several responses to the Twitter thread, including one that pledged a donation, and NBF also raised about $1,500 via Facebook.

“The point to me was to start building the case, more than bringing in the dollars,” Lucas said. “Our strategic plan is to build the case for why this place needs support. We use #GivingTuesday to keep building the support rather than focusing on the take,” she said. “The hope is that there will be a yield over time, how many people are willing to give $5 or $5,000.”


Email overload is a frequent complaint heard from some donors during the year-end season, said Farra Trompeter, vice president at Big Duck, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based communications and branding agency. “Generally, the data shows that the more you ask, the more you raise, and with email open rates in general on the decline, most organizations email more than once on key giving dates,” she said.

If nonprofit marketers see a much higher unsubscribe rate this year than in previous years, they should consider how to amend its strategy, Trompeter said, while also stressing the importance of looking at other performance indicators. “It’s important not to let one or two vocally frustrated donors direct your strategy,” she said.

“Counting the number of emails you received doesn’t really mean anything. Measuring conversion rate and gifts is all that really matters,” said Steve MacLaughlin, vice president, product management at Charleston, S.C.-based Blackbaud. “If you look at your data, then it can help inform your decision making. How many emails are too many emails? Look at your data. How many social media posts are too many? Look at your data.”

“Focus on the outcome, not the output,” he said.