#GivingTuesday: Tips from Behind the Numbers

When the Thanksgiving meals are over, the holiday season always kicks into gear with a variety of ways to spend your money. Black Friday and Cyber Monday offer some of the biggest discounts, while Small Business Saturday let’s shoppers reinvest in their communities.

But there’s only one day where our money has the chance to change the world: GivingTuesday.

Created in 2012, GivingTuesday started at the 92nd Street YMCA and its Belfar Center for Innovation & Social Impact in New York City. Its premise is simple: a day that encourages people to do good.

Eight years later, GivingTuesday remains one of the most popular celebrations in the world. This year in the United States, GivingTuesday resulted in $2.47 billion in donations, a 29% increase over 2019.

GivingTuesday has also been nominated for the Shorty Social Good Award for Best Social Movement Campaign. Using Brand24, I did some searching to find some of the most unique campaigns by nonprofit organizations this year. Here are some of the standouts and their metrics.

No Kid Hungry

One of the largest international nonprofits dedicated to fighting childhood hunger, No Kid Hungry won the day with an integrated approach. On social media they were amplified by a wide array of celebrities like Robert Downey, Jr., P!nk, and Meg Donnelly. No Kid Hungry also secured major media coverage with appearances on NBC’s TODAY Show and MSNBC Live with Ayman Mohyeldin. With corporate sponsorship from Citibank, No Kid Hungry’s 260 mentions led to $2 million (and counting) in donations.

St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital

In a time where online gaming and streaming are popular, St. Jude took its #GivingTuesday fundraising to Game Theory, a YouTube Live show produced by influencer Matthew Patrick (MatPat). Over the course of 10 hours, users controlled the show with their donations by activating a series of mini-games for MatPat and other top YouTube creators to compete in. Even corporate sponsor State Farm got into the act with Jake from State Farm playing as one of the game’s contestants. By the end of the show, Game Theory raised $3 million for St. Jude.

American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA)

The nation’s largest professional association for designers, AIGA leveraged its GivingTuesday as part of a month-long effort to raise money for its Worldstudio Scholarships program. They kicked things off with a livestream event on both Facebook and…LinkedIn (which launched its livestream platform in early 2019!). By the end of the day, AIGA raised $30,000 towards their goal of $100,000 for the program. It’s all part of their effort to award more opportunities to BIPOC students and increase their representation in the design profession.

Brief Tips for Nonprofits

So maybe your organization doesn’t have celebrity relationships or 71 membership chapters across the U.S. There are still takeaways from No Kid Hungry, St. Jude, and AIGA that you can use in your next digital fundraising efforts.

  • Leverage digital AND social media – Thanks to the coverage on NBC networks, No Kid Hungry recorded a sizable non-social reach, while St. Jude’s non-social reach exceeded its social efforts. You don’t have to land national media placements, but you can be effective in reaching local media with a compelling story.
  • Do something different to keep people engaged – St. Jude’s partnership with MatPat’s Game Theory on YouTube Live worked because it empowered donors to control the show. Meanwhile, AIGA engaged its network of design professionals by offering two ways to tune in to its livestream. Be open to finding new ways to meet your base of supporters where they are.
  • Go beyond GivingTuesday – Didn’t achieve your donation goal for the day? Don’t be deterred. You can use GivingTuesday as part of an overall effort when you have larger ambitions. AIGA raised only a fraction of its target, but the organization is still driven by its mission to make progress towards racial equity through its scholarship programs.

There’s a lot of competition to raise money on GivingTuesday. Learning from these, and other organizations, you can take pieces of their strategies and use them in your own way to stand out above the rest.

How Nonprofits and Associations Can Thrive in Times of Disruption

The following was originally authored for Hager Sharp’s agency blog. You can read it here.

Every four or eight years, the United States officially swears in a new president—oftentimes bringing a new set of challenges. That’s why as a social-change communicator, I felt it would be beneficial to attend the PRSA National Capital Chapter’s most recent Breakfast Breakthrough titled, “What the (Donald) Trump Administration Means for Associations and Nonprofits.” Attendees kept the discussion lively and came away with expectations, takeaways, and tools for news monitoring.

While observing and listening to attendees’ different perspectives, I discovered some helpful tips based on the presentation and my own experience with nonprofits:

  1. Social media is key: now more than ever—From the campaign trail to now, President Trump has never been one to shy away from voicing his opinions on Twitter. Nonprofits and organizations can adapt that same boldness on social media to advocate for their own causes. This may require a change in procedures for some organizations, where the clearance process can slow down their ability to seize the moment. In fact, a key thing about today’s social media is how quickly organizations can get their message out. The Pew Research Center found that Facebook was the third most popular source of news among all voters this past year. Being authentic on your networks is a great way to engage and gain public trust.
  2. Study the media habits of your audience—If you are trying to influence elected officials and their policies, it’s always helpful to understand their media habits. One suggestion for doing this is to utilize Twitter to follow their accounts and the accounts that they follow. Know which media outlets matter to them. For example, this Axios article provides information on President Trump’s daily media diet. For members of Congress, their hometown paper may carry more weight than The Washington Post. Once you understand the “media diet” of your elected official, you can understand how best to target your media messages towards getting his or her attention.
  3. Value insiders’ and outsiders’ opinions—When the breakfast attendees were asked about the last time we analyzed who our audiences are, not many of us raised our hands. Before your organization adapts boldness on social media, it’s important to know who your supporters are—on and offline—and assess how they feel. At the same time, organizations need to assess the sentiment of those outside of their base of supporters to get a sense of what they’re up against and whether there’s an opening to change hearts and minds.
  4. Embrace partnerships with like-minded organizations—Everyone knows the old saying, “There’s strength in numbers.” History has shown this to be true, from the early movements in the 1900s for women’s suffrage to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Both events were the result of individuals and organizations with similar beliefs coming together to advocate for the same cause. Even after those events, organizations benefitted by combining their efforts and becoming stronger advocates in the process.
  5. Facts matter, but emotions do too—Many of the great leaders for social change all share one thing in common: each of them successfully gained followers by incorporating facts into their messages along with relentless passion. As organizations seek to become thought leaders for their causes, the importance of using data and emotion to tell a compelling story will be crucial for inspiring current supporters and gaining new advocates.

Nonprofits and associations don’t have to fear the impending changes. Instead, by studying their new landscape and adapting boldness on social media, organizations can take advantage of opportunities to make sure their issues are at the forefront. It’s also important that organizations assess their own supporters and detractors, unite with like-minded groups, and combine emotion with facts to tell a compelling story aimed at securing more advocates. Attending this PRSA Breakfast Breakthrough gave me more confidence that the effective use of communications will serve nonprofits well—even in times of disruption.