I’ve long been an advocate of turning the tables on #GivingTuesday and using the “giving” part of the day to give to donors rather than add yet one more ask from them in an already crowded solicitation season.
#GivingTuesday is one of those things that sounds good on paper, but in actual implementation it can be less than ideal.
Because it comes smack dab in the middle of most folks’ annual campaigns. So there’s often little time to do it right. And it can suck your energy and focus away from other critically important year-end fundraising efforts.
I’ve got a better choice for you.
Flip the idea and rather than asking folks to make a symbolic gift to you, why don’t you make a heartfelt gift to them?
You see, even though reports show plenty of money is raised that day, there’s no way to tell if it’s ‘plus’ contributions. In other words, it may simply be cannibalizing your other fundraising efforts. Net/net? You raise the same amount of money, but it takes a lot more effort.
You may even raise less money, because nonprofits don’t tend to do their full court press on #GivingTuesday like they do for their annual campaign. So you may wind up with more of a token or habitual gift than a thoughtful or passionate one. And then it may be hard to go back and ask again.
The same for more? Less for more?
Hmmn… perhaps there’s a better way to get a bigger bang for your buck?
Consider Using November 27th to Reward Donors
This is a great time to set the table so folks are inclined to give when they receive your ‘real’ annual appeal.
And if you’re familiar with Cialdini’s principle of ‘reciprocity,’ you know people are inclined to return a favor.
- Thank them; they’ll be inclined to thank you too.
- Reward them; they’ll be inclined to reward you too.
- Inspire them; they’ll be inclined to act on that inspiration.
Why not do something to make your supporters feel like the heroes they are?
At this time of year we traditionally give gratitude for our blessings. Aren’t your donors among your biggest blessings? Aren’t you grateful to your donors for making your mission possible?
Tell them. Show them.
Express gratitude for all they do during the course of the year to make your mission come to fruition.
Make this special day one of Thanks(for)Giving.
Count your donor blessings by showering supporters with thanks.
Why Giving (Thanks) Tuesday Makes Sense
Fundraisers must be proactive to give donors the hugs they deserve.
Otherwise, they’ll go someplace else where they feel more appreciated.
Make no mistake: It’s these hugs that give donors the shot of dopamine that gives them a “warm glow.”
It’s simply how our brains are wired, and more and more research in psychology, neuroscience and behavioral economics shows this to be the case.
This warm glow needs constant infusions of love and gratitude to stay afire.
Why not use November 27th to light the kindling that will give you the greatest chance of igniting your donor’s fire when it comes to making their most generous year-end gift?
Consider #GivingTuesday Skeptism
I’m not the only skeptic when it comes to #GivingTuesday as it’s currently practiced.
There are others who worry you may lose an opportunity to get your best gift and, better still, create a lifetime of giving.
Let’s take a look at what some of the fundraising gurus I respect have to say:
Tom Belford of The Agitator expressed his own doubts over the past couple of years, suggesting we hijack the concept and go for something along the lines of #GivingTuesday. Since I share his sentiments, I responded to one of his posts. He followed up with another post, saying:
I was really taken by a great idea suggested by Claire Axelrad, a jujitsu idea really — instead of resisting and griping about , why not hijack it?! Capitalize on its visibility and convert it into ‘#GivingThanksTuesday.’ In other words, don’t ask for a symbolic contribution on the day; instead, make a heartfelt gesture of thanks to your donors. A big ‘Thank you’ day!
Michael Rosen of ML Innovations wrote there is no real evidence of #GivingTuesday success, suggesting we don’t know if it causes people to give more money overall during the busy November/December period.
Joe Garecht of The Fundraising Authority, suggested it encourages ‘spot giving’ that may cannibalize other fundraising, and may not make sense for nonprofits whose resources are stretched thin.
As tempting as it is to jump on the bandwagon, I fall in with the skeptics.
Because we ask our donors to give a lot. We don’t thank them enough.
Make Giving(Thanks)Tuesday Your Gratitude Pièce de Résistance!
What if you and your organization do the giving on this day?
What if you center this day on what your donor needs and deserves, rather than on your needs?
November 27th is a great time to put your money where your mouth is when it comes to making donor-centered fundraising a priority. By using #Giving(Thanks)Tuesday or #GratitudeTuesday as the pièce de résistance of your donor acknowledgment program, you show you’re serious about tackling the biggest problem facing nonprofits today – donor retention.
The Fundraising Effectiveness Project study paints a bleak picture. On average, charities retain just over four out of ten donors each year. For new donors, they retain only two out of ten. Does this not signal to you that you should be doing something active to keep more donors?
Putting in place a robust gratitude program can turn donor retention around.
The number one reason folks give for not giving again is that they weren’t thanked. And just thanking folks once won’t seal the deal. You’ve got to do it over and over so it sinks in.
Why Gratitude Offers a Bigger Bang for Your Buck
Most #GivingTuesday strategies can be pretty much the opposite of donor-centered.
Think about this day from your donor’s perspective. Every single charity on their list, and some that aren’t, bombards them with solicitations.
With all the appeals folks receive on this day, you really need to wonder: Is this the best day to ask?
You’re already going to be asking for gifts at this time of year. In fact, November and December are by far the biggest giving months of the year. So asking for yet another gift at this time may not really yield as much as you hope it will. Because it just substitutes for another year-end gift they would have given anyway.
You have a chance to be the exception!
5 Ways to Put #GratitudeTuesday in Practice
In A Time to Ask and a Time to Thank I note we are approaching the season of Thanksgiving and holiday goodwill. November 27th comes at the perfect time of year to channel gratitude towards your treasured supporters. It’s a time when many of us take stock of our blessings and tell others why we are thankful to have them in our lives.
1. Create a Full Gratitude Day
What if you put together a full day of pure thank you activities?
Rather than building a plan to send a letter, email appeal and social media campaign asking folks to give you money, you could create a full day multi-media event that is all about gratitude.
Here’s an example from Concordia College-New York. Their gratitude initiative included on-campus and community activities, sending an email to everyone on their list with a link to a heartwarming video (uploaded to YouTube) featuring students saying thanks, and a “thank you take-over” on the home page of their website that day. They clearly sat down and thought about everyone who they considered a blessing — students, teachers, neighbors and supporters — and made sure to shower them all with gratitude.
2. Ask for Gifts of Time and Action
Appreciate your supporters for their many and various gifts — not just as monetary donors, but as volunteers, advocates, ambassadors and influencers.
This shows you care about supporters for more than just their wallets. And it’s a creative way to build stronger relationships that will hopefully lead to increased investment the next time you make an ask.
Here’s an example from JVS in the San Francisco Bay Area, who went the engagement route, listing ways folks can become involved with them other than by giving money.
If you’ve no present plans for acknowledging the day, here’s something super simple you can do:
Just send a thank you email that gushes gratitude for all your constituents make possible.
Here’s an example from Imagine Bus Project in Northern California. In addition, at the end of their email (which I failed to capture on this screen shot) was an invitation to a free event with hors d’oeuvres, music and an opportunity to take home some of the children’s art. What a nice way to demonstrate gratitude, and also potentially draw in some folks who might wish to become more invested in the future. [Okay, they threw a little annual campaign ask in at the end, but it was close to a pure thank you]
4. An Appeal that’s Not about Money
When you ask for something concrete, like shoes, warm winter coats, new socks, toiletries, kid’s toys or food, people feel they’re directly involved.
They like this, and it seems different than their annual monetary gift. So it doesn’t tend to cannibalize your other year-end giving.
Here’s an example from DOROT USA, a New York-based social services organization. Two years ago on #Giving Tuesday they asked for donations of cellphones for seniors. Okay, they did ask for money to buy the phones rather than the goods themselves, but it could have been done without money necessarily changing hands. Or they could have offered the option to either drop a phone off or send a check. It’s still good food for thought!
5. Seize the Time to Create an Organizational Gratitude Culture
It’s easy to fall into an us/them routine.
This may mean departmental silos. Or staff vs. board and volunteers. Or even staff vs. donors.
One savvy fundraiser, Meredith from the U.K, commented on a post on the Agitator blog with another take on the day. Her nonprofit’s greatest challenge wasn’t finding things to ask donors for. It was helping staff connect with supporters. So they came up with a great recommendation.
Use the momentum of the noise around #GivingTuesday to have conversations about the importance of giving internally.
We get the entire charity (senior management, services staff, finance, IT, and, of course, fundraising) to take time to write hand-written thank you letters to supporters. It has been a great way to get staff across the charity engaged in sharing stories about our work and thinking about the importance of our supporters.
This can be a win-win all around.
In Meredith’s case, they were even able to demonstrate the impact. Since they couldn’t thank 100% of their supporters in a single day, they kept a separate control group and tracked results. Six months on, there was an uplift in value from the group of donors who received these personal thank yous, an effect that increased after a year. Feedback from staff was also overwhelmingly positive.
- Think about having a #GratitudeTuesday at your nonprofit this year. A day where you turn the tables and, rather than asking for gifts, you give them!
- If you do plan to use this occasion for fundraising, make sure you have a robust gratitude program in place. Plan ahead to thank your supporters.Online and offline. Don’t make thank you an afterthought.
- Create a robust year-round gratitude program. Thank donors again. Then thank them again. All through the year.
Whatever you do, don’t just stuff your “#GivingTuesday donors into your database, send out automated receipts, count up the results to report to your board, and call it a day. Really, truly, make sure these folks feel thanked for having done something selfless and special.
If you’re doing a bit of jujitsu this November 27th, please share in the comments below so we can all benefit.
Giving thanks is just as easy as asking for a monetary gift, and I believe the long-term value will be well worth your jujitsu.
What are You Doing for Donor Gratitude Season?
Ready to respond promptly and personally to the onslaught of gifts you’ll receive this season? If not, get going now! Because your thank you is what sets you up for your next gift. And it’s much cheaper to renew an ongoing donor than recruit a new on. Get a leg up with the Donor Retention and Gratitude Playbook — a 6-Volume set of Companion eGuides to help you put in place a full-blown acknowledgement program and transition your culture to an organization-wide “Attitude of Gratitude.” Get a ‘Bargain Bundle’ at a generous discount – almost a third less than buying them separately — or just get the ones you need. If you don’t find them well worth your while, I’ll refund your money within 30 days of purchase, no questions asked.
With deep gratitude for all you do to make our world a better place.
A version of this article appeared first on Clairification October 13, 2015