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?


Fabulous Fridays: A little clowning around helps the Houston Food Bank

HFB circus July 2015Photo courtesy Amy Ragan

It’s not a typical day at work when the circus shows up, but it was a special occurrence for employees and volunteers of the Houston Food Bank earlier this week. HFB Chief Development Officer Amy Ragan tells us about this fabulous instance of philanthropy:

Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey Circus has a different theme every year, and they select a different nonprofit that they think ties in with their theme. This year’s theme is Legends and because we were selected as Food Bank of the Year, they saw us as a legend in helping feed thousands of people in the Houston area. We distributed 67 million nutritious meals last year, feed 800,000 people annually and have 50,000 unique volunteers pass through our doors every year.

The circus sent clowns and acrobats to put on a mini show in our facility for volunteers, partners and staff.  Chik Fil A was a sponsor and provided lunch. They also had 6 cows here dressed up as clowns for the morning. The circus donated $5,000 to us, which will provide 15,000 meals for people in need. This is particularly timely given the challenges of summer hunger. This time of year is difficult because children who rely on breakfast and lunch at school often don’t have an alternative during the summer. Additionally, utility bills go up and cars overheat, so those on limited incomes often don’t have enough money to put food on the table.

It was a great opportunity to partner with the circus and shed more light on the issue of hunger in our community. Though hunger is in no way funny, I think having the circus out here brought a lot of awareness to the issue and they made it fun too. Brian Greene, our CEO, will serve as the ring master at next Thursday’s show.  The circus also donated 400 tickets to their performances.”

Want to support the Houston Food Bank? You can donate, volunteer or get involved in a variety of ways.

Have a fabulous story of philanthropy in your nonprofit to share? Email and you could be featured in a future Fabulous Fridays post!

Want to Be Happier? Give More. Give Better.

Mind Wonder

Did you know that when you make a donation to charity, your brain acts in a similar way to when you are having sex or eating chocolate?

It’s true. Thanks to fMRI technology, researchers are able to see brain activity when certain acts are taken andin a study on charitable giving when people donated to a worthy cause, the midbrain region of the brain lit up. This is the area of the brain that is responsible for our cravings (food and sex) and pleasure rewards, showing the link between charitable giving and pleasure (Note: To my knowledge no study has been done looking at our brain activity when we have sex AND eat chocolate so I can’t say that giving to charity is similar to doing both at the same time. Although, I’m personally volunteering for that study in case you are a researcher who wants to…

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Welcome to the intersection of fabulous & philanthropy

When I was in high school, my career ambition was to become a teacher. Today, I’m finishing my seventh year of educational fundraising. I love that I have the chance to impact the lives of our future grown-ups, even if not as directly as my colleagues in the classroom get to experience.

Throughout my professional career (a path of journalism, to public relations, to development), I have always been passionate about continuing education, not just for myself but for colleagues too. So, I jumped at the chance in 2014 to complete the AFP Faculty Training Academy and become one of 269 Master Trainers worldwide (that’s 15 in Texas and 6 active in Houston, for those of you counting!).

2015 has been a year of putting this knowledge into practice: 6 conference presentations, a webinar and an article for the Association of Fundraising Professionals magazine are on the schedule. It fills my heart to be able to take my love of learning and nonprofit giving, and share it with others!

This blog will be another way to share. Whether you are a fundraiser, a volunteer, a donor, or a combination of all three (aren’t we all, really?), Fablanthropy will be a source to share what’s fabulous in philanthropy. Which means, I want to hear from you!

Follow along on Twitter too: @fablanthropy. I look forward to the conversation!