Giving days are a fairly new concept in fundraising that many communities have adopted. Essentially the entire nonprofit community comes together to get everyone in the community revved up about the causes that they care about. We also have a national day of giving, that being #GivingTuesday in November which promotes giving on the national level.
I’m fine with the concept of these giving days. I love the thought of encouraging new donors to give, encouraging everyone to give more and just to think about it for a day. What I’m not fine with is the amount of time that the nonprofit participants must invest in getting ready for this one day of giving. You know, there are 364 other days in the year where giving can be important as well. So, putting all of your eggs in one basket for one day just doesn’t seem like a great idea. To make matters even worse, there’s not a lot of evidence out there that these days actually grow philanthropy. Do these days really increase charitable support at an organization or are we just rerouting dollars that would come otherwise? I’d love it if a foundation would fund a large national study to see if these days really make a difference. If they do, I’ll gladly hop on the giving day bandwagon and tell you to go in full speed ahead. I’m just not there because I need evidence that it works before I’m willing to advise clients to spend their time on it. And there is A LOT of time invested in these days. From the community coordinators, to the participation paperwork, to the required training sessions and webinars, to the huge amount of time spent on social media, it adds up to a week (or more) of staff time at most organizations.
So what I like to recommend is to still participate in the giving day if your community has one (you don’t want to be the one charity that won’t play ball), but use it as a way to get some publicity and focus on a low-level donor acquisition and renewing your lower level donors. You’ll need to figure out what that means to your organization, but I’m thinking of around $250 and below. The key is to shield your upper level donors from your giving day efforts. You want a more personal relationship with them. And they are most likely capable of giving you more than they would in a general giving day (online) appeal. We talk about segmentation a good bit here at Productive Fundraising and this is a great example of where it needs to happen. You might still want to contact your top donors on the giving day (so they don’t feel excluded), but be unique just contact them to say “thank you.” They’re probably getting hammered by every other charity in town, so just reach out and say “thanks.” Say “thank you so much for what you do for our organization, on this day of giving we just want to thank you for what you’ve already done for the people that we serve.” You’ll be amazed at the impact of this one simple action and the responses that you will receive.