imageedit_1_8895637489_NLMembers of my staff, and probably a few of my clients, may wish that I’d stop talking about #GivingTuesday, at least for now. Enough, I can almost hear them think. You promoted it plenty leading up to the day and have weighed in since then. #GivingTuesday takes place the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving and won’t be here for another nine months. Why not take a break? I understand that and wouldn’t want to over-saturate readers. But I felt, and still feel, that #GivingTuesday has the potential to be the important philanthropic innovation of the last decade. Yet, despite its rapid and impressive growth, too many nonprofit leaders have missed the boat or haven’t gotten the message. If I don’t try to call attention to it now – while there is time to plan for a creative 2015 campaign – I wouldn’t be doing my job as an advocate of philanthropy.

That’s one reason I’ve chosen to write about #GivingTuesday in February. The other is the release last month of the Giving Institute’s Spotlight Report “#GivingTuesday: A Planned Day of Spontaneous Giving.” The Spotlight report is an offshoot of Giving USA, the annual study released in June that offers a comprehensive statistical portrait and analysis of American giving. Like Giving USA, the Spotlight report represents a partnership between the Giving USA Foundation and Indiana University’s Lilly School of Philanthropy. This document represents the most serious, scholarly look yet at #GivingTuesday. As a member firm of the Giving Institute, my team contributed comments and feedback to this report. We are proud of the results and believe that the study offers further evidence that #GivingTuesday has changed the conversation on social media and philanthropy and inspired people to become givers.

I urge nonprofit leaders to check it out. Here are some of the key statistics included in the report:

  • Between 2013 and 2014, the total amount raised on #GivingTuesday grew by at least 63 percent. Five major fundraising platforms reported processing $34.9 million in online donations and $10.8 million in offline donations, combining for $45.7 million. The total will continue to rise as more offline donations are processed.
  • Gifts on #GivingTuesday benefited approximately 15,100 nonprofits.
  • #GivingTuesday builds on an established tradition of using social media to organize a time-based campaign. For example, over the last six years, the North Texas Giving Day has raised more than $86 million for roughly 1,600 local nonprofit organizations.

And here are some of the conclusions drawn by the authors:

  • Organizations must remain connected with new donors to translate a one-time gift into a sustained relationship. The key to this relationship is compelling and savvy communications.
  • #GivingTuesday as a singular event positively influences the number of donations given and the number of nonprofits receiving donations.

In the conclusion, the authors state that #GivingTuesday is “having a true impact on the charitable landscape through the number of donations given, the amounts raised and the number of nonprofits participating. These results positively support the intention of #GivingTuesday to move people to be charitable.”
I couldn’t agree more. There is one key message I would like to impart that was not contained in this report. Your nonprofit should choose/appoint/solicit/cajole a #GivingTuesday chair NOW. Today. This process can’t be started in the fall, or even in the summer. And it shouldn’t be the responsibility of a single staff member or volunteer leader to handle it. Maybe that was sufficient for 2013 or even 2014, but from here on out, #GivingTuesday campaigns must become increasingly sophisticated if they are to prove effective and inspiring. A full committee, either volunteer-led or a mix of staff and volunteer leadership, should be responsible for the planning, execution, and evaluation of a #GivingTuesday campaign. #GivingTuesday is no longer a lark or an experiment but is a force and an established presence in American philanthropy. It should be approached at or near the highest levels of a nonprofit’s leadership.