By Timothy M. Winkler Sr., MA, CFRE, Principal and CEO of the Winkler Group

GivingTuesday—the Tuesday after Thanksgiving—is fast approaching, and many nonprofits will benefit from its messaging and its ability to generate philanthropy. People are reminded about the importance of making philanthropic investments. Many worthy organizations are brought to the forefront of our collective awareness, and countless individuals and communities will directly benefit from this generosity.

Last year, GivingTuesday 2020 resulted in gifts of $2.47 billion from 34.8 million donors
(Charity Navigator, 2020). So, what’s not to love and appreciate about a day that inspires such benevolence from the community? Does this altruism have a downside?

I encourage you to consider four factors as you ponder your organization’s involvement in Giving Tuesday or any other giving day.

Focused giving days will likely yield smaller gifts to your organization.

Giving days typically make broad community asks at lower gift ranges. This approach is very successful in securing $25, $50, and $100 gifts but larger gifts are left unrealized. 

If many of these same prospects were approached in a more thoughtful, cultivated manner, a $100 gift could become a $5,000 gift instead. Perhaps it is worth screening all your prospects and encouraging them to consider a more personalized approach as an alternative. The donor will appreciate the intentional, individualized manner by which you engage them, and you will likely secure a larger, more meaningful gift as a result.

Gifts made on giving days are not repeated. 

Retention has become a hot topic in philanthropy in recent years, and understandably so. While many organizations do a fantastic job in securing a large volume of gifts during a focused giving day, they also fail to implement any long-term retention strategies for all these new donors. In fact, some organizations that post gains in new donor acquisition are surprised to discover they are running at a net loss when they analyze their lapsed or lost donors. 

To embark on a giving day with no formulated retention plan in place is to lose before you even get started. While all organizations should have a robust donor retention strategy in place, the importance of having one is highlighted by such moments as a giving day. If you don’t have one, get started on one today. Make sure it is a priority for your team and not something that gets pushed aside. Also, remember, retention strategies evolve as your organization grows and should be constantly refined.

The timing of the giving day can impact your end-of-year-giving strategy. 

If you are participating in a giving day that takes place in November, this will most likely pose a conflict. Many organizations have chosen to opt-out of giving day events for this very reason. More than one-third of all giving (36 percent) is made in October, November, and December
(Blackbaud Institute, 2021). Do you really want to jeopardize an otherwise robust season of giving by encouraging smaller gifts to your organization? The timing of the giving day event and the impact it could have on your overall giving is something that should be examined and vetted by your leadership.

Giving days promote a transactional relationship with donors as opposed to a philanthropic one.

This may be the most significant argument against participating in an organized giving day. The idea of raising money on one big day of the year is antithetical to long-term, sustainable fundraising. Philanthropy is much more than a one-and-done event. Philanthropy is about fostering enduring partnerships with your stakeholders. Relationships that grow over years and transform the donor, the organization, and the causes for which you both advocate. It is more than a quick fix. It is about partnering together to find long-term solutions. Such an approach requires time, intentionality, thoughtfulness, and focus. Giving days accomplish very little, if anything, in fostering a healthy culture of philanthropy.

Clearly, no one is advocating against giving days as a whole. There is a tremendous amount of good that stems from these events. However, there are some downsides; these philanthropic practices might not be the best approach for every organization. As we approach calendar year-end giving, remember the vast philanthropic giving that results from personalized and intentional donor stewardship and cultivation. Evaluate your organization’s ability to cut through the noise and create real and meaningful opportunities for relationship building and giving. 

If you determine that participation in a giving day is worth the time and investment, make sure that your follow-up plan is strong. Say thank you immediately and start a course of stewardship that will ensure a repeat gift next year and larger gifts in the future. 


About the Author

Tim Winkler, Winkler Group Principal and CEO, author of "It's Time to Skip Giving Tuesday."

As founder and CEO, Tim Winkler provides the overall strategic direction, vision, and day-to-day management of the firm’s practice. He serves as a national director of the Giving Institute and is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE). Throughout his career, every campaign he has led has met or exceeded its goal. He has a B.A. from Wheaton College and an M.A. from Columbia Biblical Seminary.


References

Blackbaud Institute. (2021, February 24). Overall Giving Trends. Blackbaud Institute. Retrieved from https://institute.blackbaud.com/charitable-giving-report/overall-giving-trends/.

Charity Navigator. (2020, December 8). #GivingTuesday 2020: A record-breaking day. Charity Navigator. Retrieved from https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=8357.

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