Two Lessons from Giving Tuesday

Two Lessons from Giving Tuesday.

Reason #47 I shouldn’t be in charge: I thought Giving Tuesday was a dumb idea and would never work.

Boy, was I wrong.

But my wrongness is a great reminder of the big lessons that the success of Giving Tuesday teaches all nonprofits that are paying attention.

Lesson #1: the generosity of donors should surprise and delight us

Listen. “Giving Tuesday” is a made-up holiday, during one of the busiest seven-day periods of the year, immediately after donors have spent outrageously – and it is working like crazy.

If that doesn’t make you realize how generous donors are, nothing will.

While at their busiest, donors give. They give sacrificially. They give heroically. Of all the other things they could be doing that day, they give. In droves.

That should be a surprise. It should be a delight.

If I were King For A Day, one of my mandates would be for all Fundraisers to take ten minutes the day after Giving Tuesday to be surprised and delighted at the gifts their donors just gave.

Lesson #2: most nonprofits can Ask their donors for support more often

Ask yourself this question: if your donors will give your gifts on a completely made-up holiday, when won’t they give you gifts?

I’m convinced that Giving Tuesday succeeds – especially with smaller organizations – in part because of pent-up giving.

These organizations have donors who would love to give more. But those donors just aren’t Asked often enough. Or they are usually Asked in ways that hide the real need.

I could go all data-nerd on you, but instead, I’ll just tell a short story. In my 25 years of fundraising, I’ve only seen one organization where the data showed that the organization was Asking their donors too often. And that organization was mailing about 24 appeals and 12 newsletters per year.

Your organization shouldn’t be mailing that many. Or even nearly that many.

But I think the success of Giving Tuesday should teach you that your donors love to give to your organization – and that they will give gifts when you ask them well and you give them good reasons to give!

Looking back, I should have known that Giving Tuesday would work. Because the generosity of donors is a wonderful surprise that we can count on. And because most organizations don’t Ask their donors often enough.

For all you small-to-medium organizations out there: you have pent-up giving among your donors. Go give them powerful reasons to give gifts. They will surprise and delight you!


Steven Screen is Co-Founder of The Better Fundraising Company and lead author of its blog. With over 25 years' fundraising experience, he gets energized by helping organizations understand how they can raise more money. He’s a second-generation fundraiser, a past winner of the Direct Mail Package of the Year, and data-driven.

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