Learn More
Get your Fundraising Strategy Assessment Learn More

You may have seen in the news that REI, the outdoor retailer, is closing its doors on Black Friday. Not only is the chain of 134 stores going to be closed that day, its online orders will be frozen and its employees are all getting a paid day off to #optoutside.

Could shuttering its doors on the busiest shopping day of the entire year be a good thing for REI?

We think it’s a very good thing. REI may not be getting any sales on Black Friday, but they just put themselves in a separate category from every other retail store in the country. Forget applauding stores that don’t open on Thanksgiving, let’s applaud the store that’s not even open on Black Friday.

Today we want to deconstruct what REI did right and how you can apply those principles to your nonprofit. If REI is giving Black Friday the middle finger, should you abandon #GivingTuesday? We’ll leave that to you. But here are five things your nonprofit can learn about fundraising from REI’s #optoutside campaign.

What Your Nonprofit Can Learn about Fundraising from REI’s #optoutside campaign

1. Your WHY should dictate your actions and how you approach your donors. On REI’s website, it says, “REI believes that being outside makes our lives better. That’s why this Black Friday, we’re closing all 143 of our stores and paying our employees to head outside.” Maybe it’s a landing page and a hashtag like REI or maybe it’s a social campaign including testimonials and images of people whose lives have been changed by the difference your organization is making. What can you do to reconnect your WHY to your fundraising efforts this year?

2. What is new and innovative one year may be oversaturated and common the next year.  Remember when #GivingTuesday was the hot new thing? We all jumped on it trying to get our slice of people who are feeling generous that day. Of course, we should maximize the opportunity the day brings but let’s not limit our innovation to a widely publicized day that every nonprofit is focused on. Instead, be on the look-out for a way to get your donors’ attention in a totally different way. Maybe you encourage them to spend an hour that day volunteering. Maybe you ask them to take part in spreading your message on social media by sharing a photo. Just remember that year-end fundraising and especially #GivingTuesday is no time to go on autopilot.

3. Every day you should be building into your tribe. To pull off a massive paradigm shift, you need to enlist and engage your tribe. We’ve seen organizations like the Alabama Athletics do this flawlessly utilizing our “Plant Your Flag” campaign. You should be continually stoking the relationships with people who are passionate about your cause. Let them help share your story and take ownership in it.

4. Give people several ways to take part. REI not only wants you to buy their products, but they also want you to use their hashtag, post your own photo, share their photos, and take part in a conversation on their social pages. Every year you should have new ways for people to actively take part in sharing your story with their own communities. We have to do more than just ask for the gift.

5. Include video, images, and a beautiful website to really convey your story. When was the last time you gave your website a refresh? REI’s website for #optoutside is gorgeous. Not only does it incorporate multimedia, it also has a hashtag that encourages visitors to use as well as a countdown clock that runs every minute of the day until Black Friday. Remember, your nonprofit’s website is competing with websites like this one for the attention of your donors. So take it up a notch.

Our executive vice president Kelley Stewart said it best: “REI’s campaign is authentic and consistent with the company’s roots. It harnesses the power of Black Friday without competing on Black Friday. It gets out in front of the noise. And perhaps best of all it’s clean, simple and easy to activate.”

What will you do differently this year to engage your tribe and share your “why”?

For more ideas on how to innovate to win in fundraising, download our brand new content paper written by CEO Trent Ricker, Moneyball Fundraising: how nonprofit leaders can adapt and win within the new rules of the game.