As featured in The Guardian’s Pick of the blogs
As the UK begins to assess the impact of Giving Tuesday 2014 – its first annual nationwide generic charity giving drive – US charities could offer some useful insights into success as they enter year three of the same campaign.
Launched in the US in 2012 by New York’s 92nd Street Y and supported by the UN Foundation, Giving Tuesday has become the US’s fundraising finale to the post-Thanksgiving retail excesses of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Each year, thousands of US charities and NGOs piggyback on the still-fledgling campaign, using it as a focus to get individuals and business to donate their money, time and skills to good causes.
Kathy Calvin, CEO of the UN Foundation, comments: “#GivingTuesday is a counter narrative to Black Friday and Cyber Monday because it reminds us that the spirit of the holiday giving season should be about community and not just consumerism.
“The most meaningful gift we can give our children, loved ones, friends and neighbors is the commitment to work together to help build a better world.”
But how does this “counter narrative” work for a nation that does not have a Thanksgiving tradition and the related history of retail excess? Would a post-Boxing Day sales campaign not have more resonance and result?
Earlier this year, veteran UK fundraiser Stephen Pidgeon told delegates at the International Fundraising Congress that Giving Tuesday was unlikely to gain much traction with UK givers. He argued that contriving a day on which people gave to ignored the logic that the best way to engage donors is to use a cause they feel personally connected to: “You have to move people to do something about that – it’s not a process, it’s a feeling.”
Inevitably, social media has driven Giving Tuesday both in the UK and US. According to tweet analysts Topsy, #givingtuesday has racked up eight times as many mentions in the US this year as it has in the UK.
This year, charities and their supporters have been encouraged to post photos tagged with #UNselfie (think the still life version of the #icebucketchallenge videos). Other tips include promoting funding recipient story sharing, highlighting the experiences of volunteers, and sharing social media best practices on your blog to encourage others to develop a Giving Tuesday strategy.
California immigrant support charity Refugee Transitions is using the #GivingTuesday campaign via Facebook and Twitter to harness support for its education, family engagement and community leadership opportunities. A board member and donor at the NGO says: “When you give to RT, your donations aren’t merely consumed. There is a multiplier effect. Your donations help change lives, families, and communities.”
But, as proponents insist, Giving Tuesday isn’t just about raising money. It’s also about telling people about your mission and raising awareness. Phoenix House, a national organization helping men, women and teens to overcome addiction, asked its networks to write letters of encouragement to the people in its treatment programs. The group had a template letter on its website for people to download, customize and send back to the organization, which then delivered those letters on Giving Tuesday. From its efforts, the group gained a lot of media attention and was included in articles on Mashable and the Huffington Post.
US-based nonprofit innovator Beth Kanter comments: “Giving Tuesday is more than just a kickstarter for nonprofits to launch their annual appeals.
“The day has so much more potential… to be a day when nonprofits give to each other and create abundance.”