Overcoming 5 Giving Tuesday Problems

October 23, 2023
5 minutes

Giving Tuesday is a lot, any way you slice it. It gets so much attention and raises so much money. And, at the same time, you’re facing so much competition and so much pressure. With all that, how does a nonprofit organization overcome the many Giving Tuesday obstacles standing in the way of fundraising success? We have a few ideas.

Heightened donor expectations

The situation

On a day when everyone is shouting their impact from the rooftops, it can seem impossible to measure up to donors’ standards. No matter how many infographics you create or impact stories you share, donors expect a heck of a lot on Giving Tuesday–and that can make the giving day an uphill climb for nonprofits.

The solution

Listen: unless you’re a national nonprofit with near-boundless resources, you’re not going to have the most impressive and most persuasive Giving Tuesday campaign out there. So, stop comparing yourself to other nonprofits. Remember: community, not competition! Your superpower lies in knowing your donor base and having their trust. Rather than trotting out every statistic under the sun, focus on connecting this special day with your amazing history and clearly tying this campaign into your future work.

You can also demonstrate your transparency by making yourself available to answer donor questions and share specific information. Think about it this way: the purpose of your Giving Tuesday campaign is to validate donors' desire to be generous, not give them a reason to donate. 

Finally, this is a great time to break out the personalization. Show that you’re listening by meeting donors where they are. That means picking up the phone, sending a letter, or scheduling a tour of your facilities.

And if it feels like too much, it’s not worth anyone’s mental health. You can choose to run a Giving Tuesday campaign that’s all about spreading the word instead of raising funds. Or, you can take a pass and celebrate the day on a different Tuesday, when there’s less happening and more opportunity to stand out from the world-changing crowd.

Keeping all that data safe and secure

The situation

Donor privacy and security is always important to nonprofits. But on Giving Tuesday, with so many fake charities out there and so many opportunities with potential donors, it’s essential.

The solution

First, if you haven’t invested in a fundraising platform that prioritizes your donors’ security, get to it before the year-end fundraising season really kicks off. Then, you can go into Giving Tuesday and the following holiday season confident that you’re giving it your all and able to expand upon how you’re doing it. Of course, if donors don’t know that you’re making an effort, they won’t know to ask. This is when you want to showcase your impact, authenticity, and credentials. Be transparent about all the ways in which you protect donor data, and be willing to answer questions if they come up.

Countering marginalization

The situation

Giving Tuesday is a celebration of radical generosity, which is generosity based on our shared humanity and expressed as solidarity and reciprocity. But it’s easy for it to manifest as a day when the only goal is to raise as much money as possible, making it yet another celebration of major donors and institutions. How can we embrace the spirit of Giving Tuesday without further marginalizing communities that are less wealthy?

The solution

First, give yourself grace. You want to raise as much money as possible on Giving Tuesday because you want to make the world a better place! We’re all on the same two-steps-forward, one-step-back journey of rethinking philanthropy and equity, meaning there’s no quick fix for these larger social issues. Every day, including Giving Tuesday, should be THE day to reduce harm. 

With that truth acknowledged, we can all put forth the effort to rethink our approach to fundraising and engage with all communities on Giving Tuesday. Consider how you can encourage other forms of giving in your Giving Tuesday strategy.

We’re so consumed by data that we sometimes forget the main story. By being less prescriptive about what your campaign looks like and how you engage donors, you can make room for other voices and counter the marginalization that often occurs during major fundraising events. Specifically, use this opportunity to amplify marginalized voices while taking a good, hard look at your impact stories. You want to tell stories respectfully, in a way that centers each person’s narrative and captures their full humanity. The best way to do that? Ask members of marginalized or vulnerable groups to step in and tell their stories. Maybe you host a webinar or cede your social media posts to someone who brings a different perspective. Finally, sustainable design practices go a long way toward making your content accessible to people of all abilities and backgrounds.

Countering marginalization should be a part of every action you take and every part of your strategic plan, not an every-once-in-a-while event.

Just being a small nonprofit

The situation:

Small nonprofits have fewer resources than big nonprofits, and on Giving Tuesday, that can make being small feel like a big disadvantage. How do you approach this major giving day when you’re coming from a place of already having less?

The solution

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: don’t compare yourself to all those other organizations. Instead, know thyself and lean into thy (?) strengths. That looks like taking a hands-on approach with your tight-knit and dedicated supporters and the local community. Host in-person events for your constituents, where you can engage and educate your supporters. Schedule Q&A’s to answer their questions, no matter how specific. Bring your executive director to the local school to talk about your work.

Then, highlight that even though you’re small, you’re mighty! Share your success stories and show all the incredible work you’ve already done. And while you’re at it, you can also (subtly) share your wee organization’s efficiency. After all, smaller means less bureaucracy means faster decision-making means greater efficiency and effectiveness. And if you need more tips for standing out as a smaller organization, we’ve got you.

Keeping your team motivated

The situation

Giving Tuesday coincides with the beginning of the hectic holiday season and kicks off another month of year-end fundraising efforts. It's a busy, busy time when many nonprofit organizations raise a large percentage of their annual revenue. (In fact, M+R found that nonprofits raised 25% of all 2021 online revenue in December.) That's all great when it comes to meeting your fundraising goals, but when it comes to your staff's well-being, the news is decidedly more overwhelming. How can you keep your amazing team motivated and protect their mental health—and keep those fundraising campaigns running smoothly—during a time that's so go, go go?

The solution

First, accept what you cannot change: Giving Tuesday and the rest of year-end fundraising season is going to be busy and, at times, stressful. Next, start your stress mitigation efforts by having a plan and getting things done ahead of time. Write it all down, with dates and responsible parties, from social media posts to specific donor stewardship. If you can write content or design the campaign site in advance, do it. You won't be able to do it all, of course, but being prepared will lighten the load quite a bit.

Automate what you can. There are so many tools out there that make things easy—use them! And next year, there will be more tools, more AI and its ilk to change how we get things done, how we scale our impact, how we use small-scale innovations to create big, big disruptions.

Additionally, keep things light and be there for your team. Treat the team to peppermint mochas during a long day. Schedule time to vent and talk it out. Make sure people are still taking their well-earned vacation time. On a day when that long to-do list mostly consists of form letters and data entry, put on a well-loved winter movie in the background. Celebrate the wins and shrug off the losses as much as possible. And in early January, consider giving everyone an extra Friday off to enjoy themselves.

Giving Tuesday is a big deal, and sometimes, we rush through it head-on, not considering how we can best deal with some of the challenges inherent in the day. This year, take a deep breath and approach this giving day with intentionality and mindfulness. Together, we can focus on the heart of the movement while still reaching our fundraising goals.

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