Torn about #GivingTuesday

Today is Giving Tuesday, and one would think that as a fundraiser I’d be super excited about today. But I actually have a lot of mixed feelings about the concept. Much like any other holiday or celebration, you have good and bad parts about the day. So in the spirit of Technical Tuesdays here on Fablanthropy, let’s think behind the scenes about the day:

One good thing about Giving Tuesday is it focuses some holiday spending on nonprofits. In a season where consumerism runs rampant, it’s nice to take some time to think about those less fortunate…those who cannot afford to go out and get whatever they would like for the holidays. It takes the focus off us and back on others, which is what philanthropy is all about – making a difference in our communities.

But it comes on the heels of three major shopping days. First Black Friday (which now starts on Thanksgiving…), then Small Business Saturday, and finally Cyber Monday have already flooded our email inboxes, social media steams and television commercials (for those of you who haven’t cut the cord!). Which means Giving Tuesday messaging can feel like another barrage of spending encouragement, one which comes after many have already spent hundreds and thousands of dollars in the preceding days. It seem like bad leftovers!

It helps encourage and expedite year-end giving. For organizations doing an end-of-year annual fund push, this can help staff avoid the crunch of gifts on or immediately before December 31. For donors motivated by the tax benefits, it’s an extra nudge to make their gifts with plenty of time to spare.

But the implications may outweigh the benefits. Has your organization prepared to receive, process and steward hundreds or even thousands of gifts today? (Check out Lynne Wester’s blog to keep up with her experience of giving to several organizations on this day; results coming soon!) What is the long-term plan to ensure these donors continue to stay connected to the organization? What is the investment of extra staff resources today versus the amount your organization will raise? And perhaps most importantly, WHY are you doing a Giving Tuesday campaign? If it’s just because every other organization you know is doing it, that may not be the best reason to do it.

And, does it encourage philanthropy, or just one-time giving? I’ll admit, I’ve not made a gift on Giving Tuesday. Ever. For me, my giving decisions are made with much deliberation, and typically not due to a date on the calendar. It’s because either the cause speaks to me, I had a personal experience with the organization, or my favorite…because someone ASKED me.

What I think Giving Tuesday can highlight (for good or bad) about our industry is the fine line between fundraising and philanthropy. Sure, raising funds for worthy causes is great. But it’s not the end game. In fact, we have a celebration of the full spectrum: National Philanthropy Day. NPD honors not only giving, but also volunteering and overall charitable engagement with nonprofits. After all, it is time, talent and treasure that make our sector great. It’s about building relationships, not just one-time transactions.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t have Giving Tuesday at all, or that if you’ve made donations today they are any less valuable than ones made on another day. Rather, I’m encouraging both donors and fundraisers to be mindful about the extra attention focused on giving today, and let’s all do our best job to be sure this spirit lasts beyond these 24 hours and build some true relationships to better our communities.

Thoughts? What has been your Giving Tuesday experience? How can we make it a better representation of the philanthropic arena?

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2 thoughts on “Torn about #GivingTuesday

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