How to Stand out in the #GivingTuesday Crowd

To suggest that fundraising has become saturated would be an understatement. There are more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States alone, many with overlapping missions and visions. Nonetheless, each works tirelessly to secure your financial contribution.

Do you see what I see? Halloween costumes on the store shelves, Black Friday deals on the tv screens… It’s here, the end of the year is among us.

This week marks the beginning of the 4th quarter of the calendar year. October, November, and December represent (for many organizations) the busiest fundraising months of the year. You don’t need me to remind you how important a successful year-end appeal is — for some, the ability to raise dollars in these three months will make or break their annual fundraising goal.

End of year giving is anecdotally connected to a few motivators; an increased “giving spirit” due to holidays, and a tax-related incentive to give before the start of a new calendar year. For many individuals, it’s an easier case to be made for donating in October, November or December than it would be, say, in March when the aforementioned motivators aren’t present.

Even more compelling is the addition of #GivingTuesday. In its 7th year of existence, #GivingTuesday is a great complement to the holiday time fo year. The one-day event to raise money for individuals and organizations has exploded in popularity with the rise of social media, online interconnectedness, and more.

Yet, for all the good #GivingTuesday has brought to philanthropy, it has also created a few challenges. Today let’s discuss a few ways your organization can stand out from the crowd in an effort to raise more money for lower costs this #GivingTuesday.


At #GivingTuesday’s core is a commonly known marketing tactic called “novelty.” It has been scientifically demonstrated that being exposed to something new and unfamiliar releases dopamine in the brain. Dopamine, if you’re unfamiliar, is the “region [of the brain that] regulates our levels of motivation and our ability to predict rewards.” Providing something novel to an individual has positive effects on how they perceive you. That’s huge.

To suggest that fundraising has become saturated would be an understatement. There are more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States alone, many with overlapping missions and visions. Nonetheless, each works tirelessly to secure your financial contribution.

As we discuss tactics to stand out on #GivingTuesday keep in mind that we are identifying ways that your organization can offer novelty — that’s the name of the game.

Print, not digital

#GivingTuesday takes place primarily online. On any other day of the year, I’d tell you that raising money online is more practical, efficient, and effective than sending out direct mail (because, for most transactional fundraising, it is), but on #GivingTuesday, it might be worth thinking differently.

As you put the final touches on the email you have scheduled to go out to your supporters list, bear in mind that they will be receiving dozens of messages just like yours in the next few hours. How can you be different, how can you stand out? Would a direct mail piece work well?

Direct mail is expensive, especially when compared with the cost associated with sending an email (dollars vs. cents per individual), but when done right, the investment can be worthwhile.

#GivingTuesday occurs on November 27th this year. Imagine your direct mailer arriving at constituents’ doors that afternoon with a compelling message that makes it clear you wanted their attention.

If you can provide value in the mailer, and allow supporters to engage in a two way conversation you could very well be onto something. Remember, your most philanthropic supporters are going to receive dozens (if not hundreds) of email solicitations on November 27th.

Your e-blast will be similar, your direct mail piece won’t.

You give, they get

One thought that has always baffled me is why organizations don’t turn #GivingTuesday upside down and completely “flip” who does the “giving” that day.

It is called #GivingTuesday for a reason — it’s a day of giving. Every solicitation I’ve ever received on #GivingTuesday is asking me to give. That’s normal. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if the organization would give to me instead?

One way to stand out on #GivingTuesday would be to do exactly that. Instead of asking for support on #GivingTuesday you could proactively provide something of value to your constituency. For example, and to tie in to my print vs. digital suggestion above, you could send a direct mail piece to your list that contains a simple offer — a survey. The language on your mailer could be:

“On this #GivingTuesday, we thought we could be the ones to give you something — the chance to share your thoughts with us. If you’d like to let us know your feedback, please consider sharing it by taking our brief survey.”

Short, simple, and to the point. #GivingTuesday is about giving, and your constituents will be surprised by any marketing that offers them something rather than directly asks them for money. There’s an old adage, and it’s true: “Ask for money, and you’ll get advice. Ask for advice, and you’ll get money twice.” It’s the law of reciprocity at its finest. If your organization gives to the donor you’ll be providing novelty and encouraging engagement that deepens their relationship with your organization which may bear a cornucopia of bountiful fruit later (see what I did there?)!

Different date, same idea

Have you ever arrived early to a party? There’s something special to doing it. When you arrive early you tend to help the host set up the space, you get involved in some moderately awkward chit-chat, and you see the flow of guests that trickle in. There is another benefit to showing up first, the host remembers you did.

#GivingTuesday occurs on November 27th of this year, and similarly to how Black Friday deals now start on Thanksgiving day (or maybe even Wednesday night, it’s hard to keep up), you have an opportunity to show up first and be remembered.

Consider sending your #GivingTuesday e-blast a day or two early to ensure that you are top of mind with your constituency. But, as with showing up early to a party, don’t be surprised if some hosts (your supporters) don’t appreciate you arriving ahead of schedule. This form of novelty will work for some and annoy others.

Applying this at your shop

End of year fundraising is incredibly important, and maintaining the traditional way of raising funds at year end may work but is not the best. In an effort to get better results try some non-traditional approaches to your fundraising.

Leverage novelty to standout on busy days like #GivingTuesday and others. Discuss some of the immutable laws of marketing with your team and see if any of them are realistic for you to put into place this year. If nothing else, recognize that your donors will be bombarded with solications on November 27th. Empathize with them and strive to craft communications that stand out.

Best of luck!

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