Early Estimates Have #GivingTuesday Up 20%

Nonprofit hopes are high that #GivingTuesday will reach new heights after previous records were eclipsed on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Early estimates had donations up by more than 20 percent.

The #GivingTuesday Data Project by 92Y estimated a haul of $168 million worldwide, with the majority through online donations to U.S.-based nonprofits, according to a survey of 28 platforms that participated in the project. The release of yesterday’s estimates, which may be revised in the future, would be some 43 percent more than the $117 million reported last year. It’s unclear how many of the same platforms were included in last year’s figures. The total number of gifts was estimated at 1.56 million, with an average gift size of $107.69.

By Wednesday morning, estimates from four donation processing firms had already surpassed the previous year’s total, approaching $125 million. Blackbaud processed more than $47.7 million in online donations from U.S. donors, up about 20 percent from the almost $40 million raised last year. PayPal reported $48 million in donations, up 5 percent from $45.8 million. DonorPerfect reported $18.912 million in donations processed, about 27 percent more than last year’s total of almost $15 million. Network for Good processed $7.654 million, up from $6.55 million. The total estimate of $124 million, based on a survey of companies by The NonProfit Times, may include some overlap, particularly between Blackbaud and PayPal. In some cases, donations made on Tuesday might not necessarily be attributed directly to #GivingTuesday.

Online donations via Blackbaud were up 31 percent and the number of nonprofits receiving an online donation was up 33 percent. About 22 percent of online donations were made from a mobile device on #GivingTuesday, up from 17 percent last year, and 13 percent in 2014. About 45,000 organizations worldwide were expected to participate. The average online gift processed by Blackbaud was $126 — down 8 percent from last year’s average of $137 on #GivingTuesday but still considerably higher than the average $50 for online gifts of less than $1,000, according to Blackbaud.

During the evening hours past 7pm EST, about half of donations were coming in via desktop, with 38 percent from mobile devices and 12 percent from tablet devices, according to Jon Biedermann, vice president of the Horsham, Pa.-based DonorPerfect. “Online activity at this time of day is about half of the peak time during #GivingTuesday but still 2.5 times that of a peak day any other day of the year, except for Dec. 31,” he said.

Early reports were all good, according to Steve MacLaughlin, with the peak online giving period of 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern still being tabulated. “It’s interesting to see the peaks and valleys on mobile use as people wake up and then shift to desktops,” said MacLaughlin, vice president of data and analytics at the Charleston, S.C.-based cloud fundraising software company. About one in four donations made online from midnight to 9 a.m. was made via a mobile device.

Blackbaud has been tracking #GivingTuesday returns in real-time from NASDAQ headquarters in Times Square, in addition to hosting Facebook Live panels from there throughout the day. Early estimates by Blackbaud during last year’s #GivingTuesday approached $40 million, with a total  of approximately $117 million raised, including other companies.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) has seen #GivingTuesday donations grow about 50 percent year over year since the first event in 2012, according to President and CEO Cyndi Zagieboylo. Last year, the New York City-based nonprofit raised about $125,000. “Most importantly, people are seeing, taking part, being engaged, and joining the society,” she said during one of the Facebook Live panels.

Nonprofits of all sizes are joining in the annual kickoff to the holiday giving season. For some charities, the final month of the year accounts for a majority of contributions, with the biggest donation day of the year on Dec. 31.

While giving has been flat this year, according to Blackbaud Index of Giving, it’s typically been up 4 percent in recent years. Online giving grows more like 10 percent every year, Rachel Hutchisson, vice president for corporate citizenship and philanthropy at Blackbaud, said during a Facebook Live panel. “People are used to doing different methods. That makes sense; our lives are driven by interacting with technology. Giving is so easy now it’s just a part of life,” Hutchisson said.

The #GivingTuesday movement “has been far more than just a hashtag,” Hutchisson said. With the end of year around the corner, it can build on the momentum of Black Friday and Cyber Monday as charities head into the last month of the year. “It’s hugely important to get people’s attention,” she said, to amplify messages, but also to serve, and not just create dollars.

Nonprofits are increasingly incorporating new tools to increase their visibility as well as charitable contributions. Facebook Live has become a more popular method of interacting with supporters. The National Park Foundation and its centennial ambassador will put a Facebook spin the traditional telethon model. The official charity of national parks and Bill Nye, The Science Guy, will kick off a “View-A-Thon” on Mashable’s Facebook Live at 7 p.m., featuring quizzes on climate change and national parks, experiments, and surprise appearances.

The “View-A-Thon” aims to drive support and raise awareness of America’s national parks.

Matching gifts are becoming especially popular in the email messages that inundate inboxes on #GivingTuesday. The New York Restoration Project announced a $125,000 matching gift challenge from founder Bette Midler, which would triple any gift made on #GivingTuesday.

PayPal is again matching all donations by 1 percent starting today and continuing through the holiday season. It’s expected to release preliminary estimates on #GivingTuesday results later on Wednesday. In all of 2015, 38.7 million people donated $6.6 billion to charities via PayPal, with 23 percent of them made via mobile devices.

Even Black Friday took on a more philanthropic tone, at least for one company. Patagonia pledged to donate 100 percent of global Black Friday sales in its stores and website to grassroots organizations, expecting about $2 million in sales. The Ventura, Calif.-based B-Corporation more than surpassed that, yesterday announcing $10 million in sales on Black Friday.

“Along with many loyal customers, the initiative attracted thousands who have never purchased anything from Patagonia before,” CEO Rose Marcario said in announcing the results.

Since 1985, Patagonia has pledged 1 percent of all sales to nonprofit environmental groups, which has translated into $74 million in cash donations.

Different charities have different goals when it comes to #GivingTuesday. Here’s just a small sample of some of the campaigns going on today:

  • Chicago, Ill.-based Bright Pink had a goal of 100 donations, and was a third of the way there by 2 p.m. Eastern.
  • Coney Island USA, a nonprofit arts organization “defending the honor of American pop culture,” solicited new members for its exclusive membership program, Citizens of Coney Island USA. The organization provides innovative arts programming, including the annual Coney Island Circus Sideshow, The Mermaid Parade, and Coney Island Museum.
  • Legal Services of the Hudson Valley in White Plains, N.Y. marked its 50th anniversary with the launch of “Let Justice Grow,” a $1 million campaign to support the work of staff attorneys and paralegals fighting homelessness for children and families.
  • Leading up to #GivingTuesday, Panthera held its Big Cat Showdown – inviting people to vote for their favorite big cat, along with a donation. Actress Glenn Close, chair of Panthera’s Conservation Council, announced the results early this morning (not surprisingly, Tigers won). Another pitch with the results solicited donations of at least $50 today would be entered to win a 10th anniversary hat, Vineyard Vines big cat tie, or a copy of a new book from actress Jane Alexander, who also serves on the council.

Editor’s note: The original version of this story was updated on Nov. 30 at 8:45 a.m., at 10:30 a.m., and 2:45 p.m. EST with updated estimates from more fundraising companies on #GivingTuesday results. Estimates from 92Y were added Dec. 1 at 8:45 a.m.