*Please take a moment to review our 3 question survey at the end of this blog post.

$28 million. $46 million. $116.7 million. Those are the reported total dollars raised each year from 2013 to 2015, respectively, on #GivingTuesday. Notice a trend? For those who may not yet be “in the know” on what #GivingTuesday is, it is a global philanthropic phenomenon that takes place on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. The concept is that #GivingTuesday harnesses the potential of social media and the generosity of people around the world to bring about real philanthropic impact on a specific day; it connects diverse groups of individuals, communities, and organizations around the world for one common purpose: to celebrate and encourage giving.

Now, before you stop reading and say “I work for a small nonprofit. With so much activity on #GivingTuesday why even bother?” – Wouldn’t you prefer to have a small percentage of $116.7 million than nothing at all? With proper preparation, even smaller nonprofits can realize a huge return on their investment!

My colleagues and I at Evans Consulting are very encouraged by the reported increase in total donations. 2015 saw a 153% increase from the total dollars raised in 2014. This is the largest year-to-year increase to date in the short history of the giving “holiday.” There were 1.08 million gifts made by 698,961 donors. This year we saw 114 billion (yes – billion) impressions on Twitter and 917, 313 users reached on Facebook and all of this took place in seventy-one countries around the world.

As they do each year, the visionaries at the 92Y (who helped to create the concept) and #GivingTuesday created an infographic to highlight the incredible presence and growth of the day. The top five issues mentioned in all of that social media activity were: education, the environment, animal welfare, health care, and international affairs.

Something is glaringly missing! Religion, usually the dominant category of charitable giving by donors across the U.S., seems to be absent from the highlighted results. This is not to say there wasn’t any participation by religious organizations this year. Although there were very few synagogues, churches, or mosques listed as #GivingTuesday participants, there were a number religious nonprofits that were wildly successful in their #GivingTuesday campaigns including:

  • The Alabama Baptist Children’s Home & Family Ministries raised over $85,000 from almost 300 donors.
  • Mazon, an organization fighting hunger in the United States and Israel, stated a goal of $50,000 for their #GivingTuesday campaign. They raised over $100,000 and even got Scandal and West Wing star Joshua Malina to agree to follow the Twitter handle of anyone who donated $25 to the cause.

Unfortunately, from what I could tell, these organizations and others like them are the outliers when it comes to religious nonprofits. My Evans Consulting colleagues and I received a lot of emails from a variety of organizations. Over the span of the few weeks leading up to the day, newsletters arrived in our inboxes. I saw countless uninspiring and seemingly last-minute #GivingTuesday appeals. There were too many organizations that didn’t even bother to mention the holiday until Tuesday morning and put together a lackluster “You really should give to us” type of email. But why should I give to your organization when you didn’t bother to “earn” my gift? To be successful on #GivingTuesday requires work. As the saying goes, “you get out what you put in.” For a refresher on how to run a successful #GivingTuesday campaign, you can review these articles.

My wife and I made multiple donations on #GivingTuesday to organizations that we felt were deserving of our money and where we felt our gift would make the strongest impact. One of our requirements was whether or not we felt they had put together an effective #GivingTuesday campaign and were truly dedicated to making the day a success.

My questions are: Why aren’t more religious organizations embracing #GivingTuesday? Do they think it is too much work? Are they unsure of how to put a campaign together? Do they feel they can’t compete? Do they even know what #GivingTuesday is? Are the dollars “not big enough”?

I contend that participating in #GivingTuesday is just as much about raising your profile and reaching new people or a new audience as it is about raising dollars. Technically, I’m a Millennial – although I’m certainly an “old fart” in the eyes of the youngest of my generation – and the Millennial Generation has enthusiastically embraced social media and #GivingTuesday. If you choose not to participate in #GivingTuesday aren’t you missing an incredible opportunity to reach an always sought-after, often elusive, and increasingly unaffiliated demographic?

We could blame the media for paying too much attention to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. We could say that nonprofit leaders haven’t bought in to the power of the four year old phenomenon. Let’s not place blame or point fingers. Instead, let’s be inspired! Here’s the Evans Consulting Group’s “Call to Action” to both the major “umbrella organizations” in the religious community as well as smaller nonprofits – mobilize your congregations, schools, community centers, and organizations to embrace #GivingTuesday!

If you start preparing today you are already a few days behind some of those wildly successful organizations I highlighted previously. Now is the time to develop your strategies for next year’s #GivingTuesday celebration on November 29, 2016. Put together a committee. Make a plan. Share your plan with your constituents early and often. Take full advantage of what is an incredible day of camaraderie and community. It’s time to embrace this global day of giving.

Please take a moment to fill out our short survey below to let us know about your #GivingTuesday campaign.

#GivingTuesday 2015 Results