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Still in its relative infancy, by all accounts, #GivingTuesday seemed to gain some momentum this year. This past Tuesday I closely watched Twitter, Facebook, my email account, and various digital ad campaigns to see how different organizations chose to engage with the opportunity, and I found myself curious to understand two things:

  1. How did this phenomenon start?
  2. What impact – be it positive or negative – does this movement stand to have on our industry?

Getting the answer to the first question was pretty easy – according to the movement’s own website, in 2012 New York’s 92nd Street Y served as the catalyst and incubator for the concept which was quickly embraced by the United Nations Foundation before becoming a formal movement.  In 2013 the movement expanded and now boasts a powerful list of corporations and nonprofits alike – all of which have agreed to spread the word and commit to their own #GivingTuesday initiatives.

I’m not sure the second question will be one we can truly answer for quite some time, but in conversations with friends and colleagues across the industry, some interesting questions have been raised. Questions I think are valuable for each and every organization to explore as they determine their own strategies relative to #GivingTuesday:

  • On their website, #GivingTuesday cites that this year, giving on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving increased in the range of 46% – 53% and that the average size of gifts was 25% higher. If your organization participated in #GivingTuesday, how do your numbers compare to these benchmarks? And perhaps more importantly, how many of those who gave as part of #GivingTuesday were new donors to your file? As you explore those topics, I encourage you to consider how your next communication will reflect this unique point of inception for those that were acquired as a result of the movement.
  • Given that year-end is a critical fundraising time for most organizations, did your organization incorporate the #GivingTuesday movement to enhance and elevate the success of existing direct response strategies, or did you promote it as a separate and distinct effort? If the latter, did the promotion cannibalize or augment your year-end giving?
  • The Harvard Business Review recently published a study that suggested certain awareness campaigns can actually be counterproductive to fundraising efforts – citing that people who accepted a free poppy “to wear right now” in support of war veterans subsequently contributed 60% less money to a veterans’ fund. In looking at your file can you determine if the opportunity to promote #GivingTuesday badges on social media fulfilled a constituents desire to get involved and in turn served as a replacement for what may have otherwise been a gift?

My instinct tells me that #GivingTuesday is here to stay, at least for another few years. In my mind the question of whether or not this new movement becomes a positive or negative has everything to do with the intentionality behind your engagement. Time and time again we see the most effective and stunning results from any fundraising campaign come when an organization carefully and strategically conceptualizes and executes with vision and mission as the driving forces behind the campaign and when the right metrics and outcomes are measured.  Knowing this, I invite you and your team to take these questions and use them as a starting point to explore and then determine what role the movement will have relative to your organization.