Last year it was the Unselfie. Now, the nonprofit sector is awaiting the next big surprise #GivingTuesday has in store next month.
“The thing about viral ideas are they’re only potentially viral until they actually go viral,” said Henry Timms, executive director of the 92nd Street Y (92Y) in New York City. “We’ll see some unexpected things work. What’s driving this is thinking about more engaged donors and supporters. People are trying to get others closer to their causes.”
While #GivingTuesday is owned by no one — the word “movement” is frequently used to describe the phenomenon — it could be considered the brainchild of Timms. Coming up on its third year, #GivingTuesday (yes, the hashtag is part of the name) will take place on Dec. 2.
“Year one was very last minute,” said Timms. “We launched it in September (2012), and the day was in November. Last year the momentum began to build. This year people were able to start planning earlier in the year. There’s going to be positive impact around that, especially as people think about it as part of a total strategy. At its best, #GivingTuesday doesn’t live in isolation.”
Volume jumped the second year compared to the first, both in terms of dollars raised and number of partners and participants. The first year saw $10.1 million processed by Charleston, S.C. software firm and founding partner Blackbaud. That was a 53 percent increase from the year before, when there was no #GivingTuesday.
Year two built on that response. Overall, The NonProfit Times determined approximately $32.33 million was processed on five platforms: Blackbaud, PayPal, Razoo, Network for Good and DonorPerfect.
According to Rachel Hutchisson, director of corporate citizenship and philanthropy at Blackbaud, the increased volume on #GivingTuesday did not cannibalize donations on the last few days of the year, traditionally the highest-volume giving days of the year. “It didn’t just borrow. It didn’t take people’s giving on December 31 and have it happen earlier. The data strongly suggests that #GivingTuesday was additive,” she said
The number of partners, too, has jumped. “In the first year we thought we’d do well to have a few hundred partners. We quickly got to 1,500,” said Caleb Tiller, executive director of public affairs for founding partner United Nations Foundation, with offices in New York City and Washington, D.C. The original goal was 100 partners, and by the end of the day the movement had about 2,500 signed on.
“The second year we had 10,000,” said Tiller. According to Timms, the movement had 12,000 signed on by early September and was on track to surpass this year’s goal of 15,000.
“I think you’re going to see some really creative work coming from the partner organizations,” said Tiller. “That’s the beauty of having 10,000 partners. There are more organizations on board earlier this year. Many did something last year for the first time, and they’ve gotten one under their belt, and as they go in the second time they’re primed and pumped to do it even better.”
One theme this year that will most likely come to the forefront is the continued global expansion of the movement. According to Hutchisson, there was #GivingTuesday activity in 40 countries, and organizers are expecting even more this year, especially in emerging markets such as Brazil and Latin America, said Hutchisson.
It’s not just countries getting in on the action for the first time this year, but U.S. states as well. Piggybacking the success of last year’s BMore Gives More campaign, which raised $5.75 million for Baltimore nonprofits, the State of Maryland will attempt a concerted, unified campaign, said Timms. The State of Illinois will also have a campaign. “Those community collaborations are really important,” said Timms. “#GivingTuesday is trying to tell a different story about values. The driving principle is not fundraising, it’s how to turn attention to give more to others.”
Hand-in-hand with that idea is the generosity of the nonprofit sector toward one another. Timms saw a tweet from a nonprofit in Bucks County, Pa., to a nonprofit in northeast England, encouraging their #GivingTuesday ramping up and letting the U.K. nonprofit know the U.S. nonprofit was willing to help. “It shows the generosity in the nonprofit community. It’s not surprising but very moving,” said Timms.
With more than $30 million in donations last year, #GivingTuesday could never be accused of slacktavism. “I was surprised and excited and happy to see that people were doing more than just Tweeting about it. They were also taking action,” said Margie Cadet, marketing associate of engagement at founding partner DonorsChoose.org, based in New York City.
DonorsChoose.org raised almost $200,000 last year on #GivingTuesday. This year, the organization plans to focus more on teachers. “Last year we didn’t do much messaging to them, so we’re excited to involve them and their students a little more this year,” said Cadet. “Our teachers are rock stars and always so happy to spread the word. We just really didn’t focus on our teachers last year. That was our biggest lesson learned, and the thing we’re most excited about changing this year.”
Tiller said one of the biggest changes the movement organizers made for this year was updating the givingtuesday.org website. “In this day and age, any website once it’s three years old, you’ve got to think about refreshing,” he said. Adding tools and making assets more readily available was key. Also helpful was “streamlining the home page and making information easier to see, and making it easier for people to share with a ‘Share your story’ button,” said Tiller.
Timms said one of the challenges in the first year was combating the perception that #GivingTuesday is an organization. “We heard a lot in year one, ‘How do I give to #GivingTuesday?’” he said. “We didn’t hear that last year or this year. I think most people recognize it as a movement. The general public only comes across it through an organization working on it. One of the things #GivingTuesday does well is the celebration of different causes, ideas and opportunities.”
The strength of #GivingTuesday ultimately lies in its open source nature. “It’s not an organization, it’s a movement,” said Hutchisson. “It’s opt in, ad hoc, and what I love about #GivingTuesday is the barrier to entry is very low. Anyone can get involved.”
That ownership is not just for nonprofits, said Timms. “One of the things we think about #GivingTuesday is people becoming donors, then owners,” he said. It might start with money for some on #GivingTuesday, and for others it might deepen the relationship they have with a nonprofit. “It’s all about how to encourage people to learn more about the causes that are important to them.”
Tiller said the movement comes at just the right time of year to be most effective. Not only does it act as a counterpoint to the consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the holiday season is also the busiest giving season as people make year-end gifts to nonprofits making a big end-of-year push for donations. “Frankly, it’s a really good story and a great message that people want to be a part of,” Tiller said. “It’s so positive, it comes at the right time of year when people start thinking about what really matters.”
#GivingTuesday is what you make of it. It can be an awareness builder or fundraising event, standalone or part of your year-end campaign. “Any organization that says, ‘I want to be a partner,’ is making it their own thing,” said Tiller. “That’s what makes it a movement.” NPT
As we celebrate our 36th year, NPT remains dedicated to supplying breaking news, in-depth reporting, and special issue coverage to help nonprofit executives run their organizations more effectively.