Creating a Giving Tuesday Strategy That’s ‘Just Right’ | npENGAGE

Creating a Giving Tuesday Strategy That’s ‘Just Right’

By on Sep 13, 2018


Giving Tuesday tips

“And this chair is just right,” says a Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) Sister in a Giving Tuesday Campaign video.  The campaign raised $52,000 shattering our goal of $15,000—for new chairs. Far more than the previous year’s total of $15,000. Yes, you read that correctly. We raised more than $52,000 for chairs by just changing a few things in our fundraising.

What did we change?

  • We started using online giving forms—creating a custom donation page just for this event
  • We created suggested ask amounts
  • And we incorporated humanity within our campaign: showing the donors not just what but who their dollars were supporting.

Get even more #GivingTuesday tools and resources in Blackbaud’s most comprehensive toolkit ever! Download it now. 

But how did you make chairs sound good?

How do you make something as ordinary as new chairs look good? That is the dilemma our organization faced during Giving Tuesday 2017. Trust me, it’s easier than you think to present seemingly “boring” needs in a way that your donors are happy to show their support.

We knew there was a need for new chairs. They were old. They were hard for our elderly sisters to move. They were too tippy. And they simply weren’t safe.

Not everything our organizations need sound good. As nonprofit fundraising professionals, we can easily relate to the need for bathroom projects, building updates, or a new copier—those projects that are important but just don’t sound as necessary to support as sick kids, natural disasters, or abandoned puppies. It all comes down to focusing your messaging, clearly sharing what your needs are, explaining why your donors need to support those needs today, and how can they do it.

Here are some ways you too can shape a Giving Tuesday strategy that’s “just right”:

  1. Projects look good.

I get it. We all need money to support our missions, but if you use Giving Tuesday to simply “broadly support your mission” it may fall flat with donors. During giving days, projects are easier to fundraise for because you have a tangible thing that your donors can support.

You tell them how much a single chair costs or twenty. They can easily connect where their dollars are going.

That said, campaigns that aren’t tied to a project may work if you can clearly:

  1. Tell your donors specifically what their dollars are supporting.

I’m certain we had some people give far more than they would traditionally give because they knew exactly what their money was being used for. We were able to demonstrate that it would be a significant undertaking in terms of the costs of the project – knowing that we needed to buy 250 chairs, knowing that we needed chairs at $400 each, we were looking at raising a lot of money for this project to happen. So people did stretch, they gave more than they would traditionally give because we were able to deliver that story and the payout of: you’re going to provide a safe dining room chair for a sister to replace current ones that are 20 years old and just aren’t safe.

Example: After 20 years of use, many chairs in the Caritas Dining Room at Mount Carmel are beyond repair and unsafe for our Sisters. With your help, we can purchase new chairs featuring durable frames, longer arms for ease in getting in and out of them, shorter backs to keep them from tipping, and chair feet that will slide easily.

Your gift on #GivingTuesday will help defray the cost of 250 chairs that will be “JUST RIGHT” for our Sisters providing safety, support, and comfort.

Using a flexible technology solution, we were also able to make a custom donation page just for this one day that allowed us to match amounts to outcomes: $400 buys one chair.

  1. Engage donors who gave last year.

Our fundraising solution allowed us to easily filter our list to include specific messaging targeted towards persons who contributed to our Giving Tuesday campaign last year. Avoid a one-size-fits-all solution that’s too hot or too cold for your donors. Be thoughtful in your approach. Remind them of their prior support. If donors supported you on Giving Tuesday before, they might do it again.

  1. Target donors.

When we looked at the groups that we were asking to support Giving Tuesday via email, we used our database to focus on people who have given to our crowdfunding-based events, and, since this project directly impacted the care of our sisters, we looked at who has supported sister retirement care in the past. We felt that those donors had the highest likelihood of funding this initiative. In retrospect, our ability to match donors to specific projects impacts our ability to raise the funds and ultimately drive success while avoiding donor fatigue.

  1. Don’t treat Giving Tuesday like every other day.

I think the single biggest mistake that organizations make on Giving Tuesday is they treat it like every other day. It’s a special day of giving, so if you’re treating it as the 364 other days to support your organization, you’ve completely missed the mark.

If you can’t differentiate that day in some way, shape or form you’re not going to be successful.

A lot of organizations participate on Giving Tuesday, so if donors are going to get hundreds of requests, what makes yours different than theirs? We have gone with the humorous video as a way to differentiate our self from other charities, but what sets you aside? As you’re planning, really ask yourself, “What makes this campaign different not just from other nonprofits competing for attention, what makes it different from our own campaigns?” We’re all inundated with requests from nonprofits. Establish the things that set you apart.

  1. Plan much sooner than you think you need to.

Plan much sooner than a week before Giving Tuesday.If you want to be successful on Giving Tuesday, you need to plan ahead. You need to spend time to hone down what you’re promoting to essentially a tagline:

Your gift on #GivingTuesday will help defray the cost of 250 chairs that will be “JUST RIGHT” for our Sisters providing safety, support, and comfort.

Create a plan ahead of time to define what messaging will resonate with your donors. What does your organization need? How are we reaching those donors? Email campaigns? Social media? Plan your messaging in advance.

  1. Don’t forget humanity.

Your ask on Giving Tuesday needs to incorporate some sort of human element if possible. We explained how the chairs would impact our sisters because the chairs aren’t really for us they’re for them. So we used sisters, but shelters could use dogs or organizations that work with kids can show how the kids will be impacted. Be able to demonstrate that human and emotional element of what it means to make that gift. If it doesn’t have that emotional pull, people will just move on. Keep it simple but meaningful.

  1. Set realistic goals.

Set your goals. Challenge yourself, but not so much that the project would be considered a failure or a shortcoming if you failed to meet your goal.We knew that chairs were going to be an expense and had even budgeted a significant portion of the costs for new chairs in our operating fund. This meant that we were able to have more dollars in our operating fund because we had this campaign.So for us, the chairs were realistic because we believed that we could get it done. If it was going to cost three times as much, this project might be more suited for an annual appeal. When setting goals, remember you’re shooting for the moon, not Pluto.

  1. A thank you is more important than an ask.

I cannot stress just how important it is to say, “thank you” in a timely manner. Two years ago, there was a local organization that had an appeal that really touched me, so I sent that nonprofit a gift. Four months later (yes, four months), I finally received a form letter with an electronic signature. During that time between my initial gift and my thank you, I received not one but two additional asks. I haven’t donated to them again.For our organization, because we thanked our donors well the previous year, it was so much easier to capture those gifts from people that gave last year because they were educated on where their dollars went, they were thanked multiple times, and even in our ask this year, we thanked them one more time for what they had done a year ago. We treat every gift that comes in this way.
Many of our donors will make an additional gift thanking us for the thank you. Because it’s personalized using the information we have in our Blackbaud database. We have a staff of four people. It’s not like a machine here—we’re still doing other things but we know in our office thank-yous are our number one priority.

  1. Leverage your networks.

Think about the people connected to your organization: the board members with a lot of friends, the parents who care about your programming, your staff. In some cases, maybe they don’t have the ability to contribute financially but they know others who do. By leveraging our existing networks, we are able to tap into new donors every year and so can you.



Andy has served as director of development for the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) at Mount Carmel in Dubuque, Iowa, since April 2015. Before coming to Mount Carmel, he was a major and planned gifts officer at Clarke University in Dubuque, where he worked in development for seven years. Andy is also a BVM associate who is involved in his local parish and community as council and board member, and volunteer.

Andy has been recognized locally as an “Outstanding Professional Fundraiser” and has presented for numerous conferences and webinars on using data analytics to drive fundraising results.

Have questions for Andy Schroeder? Email Andy at [email protected]

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