Giving Tuesday — Does it Work?

I should preface this article with the statement that the views contained herein are solely my own. Personally, I have huge issues with Giving Tuesday. I actually think that this day does a huge disservice to our profession. Let me explain why:

  • Giving Tuesday focuses only on giving money. Essentially a transaction on the Tuesday following Black Friday and Cyber Monday. There is no worse way to engage your donors than by merely having a transaction and focussing solely on giving. There is no large-scale focus on impact at all. Furthermore, Giving Tuesday seems to have eclipsed National Philanthropy Day (November 15) which focuses on charitable giving and volunteerism. Here in Ottawa (Canada), our Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Philanthropy Awards Dinner is usually around November 15th. This event celebrates both the donors as well as volunteers who have shaped the philanthropic scene in our city.
  • I honestly believe that a large portion of the money raised by Giving Tuesday would have most likely come in to the charities anyways. There is a false sense of urgency created by the charities to promote this 24-hour frenzy. Sometimes charities even utilize matching funds to promote Giving Tuesday. There is, however, a potential for some new donors to come in to the organization, but likely at the minor level.
  • Giving Tuesday has become a shill for corporations. Wikipedia actually tracks how much money was donated and whether it was via Facebook, Blackbaud, PayPal or some other medium. It’s a direct parallel to tracing Black Friday through Amazon. A total focus on the wrong thing.
  • Giving Tuesday is not donor-centered at all. It is all about the charity (and even, to some extent, the corporations that facilitate the transactions). As we all know, donors who make gifts on their own timelines tend to do so with greater thought and impact than do the folks who make impulse donations.
  • Where you focus your efforts is where you get your results. Sure, there may be a diamond in the rough who makes a large gift on Giving Tuesday, but that is far from the norm. I surmise that a donor who makes a large gift on Giving Tuesday is either being cultivated for a while (and chose to actually make the commitment official on that day) or the donor finds the Giving Tuesday transaction trivial. If you focus on many smaller gifts, that is what you will receive.
  • Creating a movement needs to be organic and not forced. The creation of the ALS bucket challenge was created through a grassroots social media movement in 2014. When others tried (unsuccessfully) to replicate the program or when ALS tried to artificially recreate the buzz again in 2015, they saw some funds raised. Unfortunately, this was but a mere fraction of what is raised when it is organically created. Giving Tuesday was not created by volunteers or donors. Rather, it was started in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y and the UN Foundation in response to the Thanksgiving commercialization.
  • In Canada, there is always a push for year-end donations (under the auspices of the tax year ending December 31). I wrote an article about that last year (which caused some buzz). Giving Tuesday is almost along the same lines of thinking. People don’t need to be reminded of the commercialization around Thanksgiving and the official race to Christmas. It’s everywhere — from malls to restaurants, from emails to snail mail. I don’t think the goal of Giving Tuesday is to try to shame people (as a response to the Thanksgiving commercialization). I think that we can do better. Much better.

In conclusion, I have laid out some pretty strong opinions on my dislike of Giving Tuesday. I celebrate National Philanthropy Day and celebrate all those who make our profession such an honor to work in — from staff to volunteers to donors to sponsors.

So, Happy National Philanthropy Day next week.