On #GivingTuesday, Don’t Fall for These 9 Misperceptions

Now in its seventh year, #GivingTuesday is forecasted to surpass last year’s record of $300 million in donations. In spite of the day’s popularity and effectiveness, the 24-hour giving spree is riddled with misperceptions.

This #GivingTuesday, we’re disproving nine common misperceptions to help nonprofits sidestep the myths and make the most of the day.
 

Misperception 1: #GivingTuesday makes or breaks your year-end fundraising plan.  

#GivingTuesday is now the largest fundraising day, but it’s still only one day. It’s risky to hinge your fundraising success on #GivingTuesday alone.

To stress-test your annual fundraising strategy, imagine #GivingTuesday was cancelled—or, perhaps due to technical difficulties, your organization was unable to receive online donations. How would this impact your nonprofit? Would you still be able to support existing commitments and programs? If not, it’s time to diversify your strategy.

#GivingTuesday should be a piece of your giving efforts, not the main source of funding or the only opportunity to connect with donors. Savvy organizations will use #GivingTuesday to lay the groundwork for strong, sustainable, and ongoing fundraising. 
 

Misperception 2: All your #GivingTuesday donations have to go to programming. 

Due to the “overhead myth”—the assumption that low overhead costs are a good measure of a nonprofit’s performance—nonprofits may feel pressured to spend their #GivingTuesday donations on programming. It’s important to remember, and reinforce with your donors, that focusing only on programming is unsustainable long-term.  

Roughly 1 in 5 nonprofits surveyed in BDO’s Nonprofit Standards benchmarking survey report spending between 90 to 99 percent on program-related expenses. While this may make a nice talking point to donors, it could mean the organization is underfunding areas necessary for long-term growth, such as technology (including cybersecurity), employee training, and fundraising.

This phenomenon, known as the “starvation cycle,” creates an unhealthy environment for the organization. This #GivingTuesday encourage donors to make unrestricted donations to support your organization’s long-term growth. As you allocate contributions, adopt a business mindset to fund the most critical areas for your nonprofit.
 

Misperception 3: #GivingTuesday is oversaturated. Nonprofits are competing against each other for a finite pool of donations. 

Some nonprofits fear prospective donors will be overwhelmed with solicitations on #GivingTuesday and assume the arena will be too crowded. As a result, some organizations choose to stay on the sidelines.

But the data tells a different story. Year over year, the number of nonprofits receiving #GivingTuesday donations increases—growing 8 percent last year and including organizations across 150 countries.

Time and time again, concerns of an oversaturated market prove unfounded. Last year, there was an outpouring of humanitarian aid following the hurricane season. Many industry experts forecasted #GivingTuesday donations would slow down as a result. Instead, donations increased by 55 percent compared to the year prior.  

Instead of counting yourself out of the day, ask: How can my nonprofit stand out in the crowd? Using compelling storytelling, piloting new fundraising techniques, and appealing to core supporters can help your nonprofit make its mark this #GivingTuesday.   
 

Misperception 4: A tech-driven #GivingTuesday fundraising campaign will replace fundraising professionals.

Many nonprofits use #GivingTuesday to pilot fundraising tactics and experiment with new technology to target donors.

For many nonprofits, launching a tech-centric campaign is unknown territory. When organizations are considering a digitized approach to fundraising, some fear that technology will replace a fundraising team or believe that tech can serve as a stand-alone fundraising strategy.

The truth is, a tech-driven campaign—and a predictive analytics model, specifically—is only as effective as the information and guidance that’s provided to it. Managing innovative campaigns and performing predictive analytics requires institutional knowledge and continuous refinement. It is useful only if it is designed, implemented, and evaluated by data and industry experts.

This #GivingTuesday, combine the power of technology and people to achieve the best results.


Misperception 5: #GivingTuesday is a solo activity.

While a lot of nonprofits work independently on #GivingTuesday, many of the most successful campaigns are a collaborative effort between nonprofits, businesses, governments, and other institutions. #GivingTuesday provides the perfect opportunity to test out partnerships, or strengthen existing ones, while working toward a mutual goal.

Partnerships can take many forms, including joint promotional efforts and corporate sponsorships. Collaboration can provide you with the resources to showcase your mission and give you access to new donors. It can also open the door to further collaboration down the road. 
 

Misperception 6: #GivingTuesday is only for large nonprofits. 

#GivingTuesday was founded by the 92Y, a 140-year-old powerhouse organization, in 2012. Smaller organizations might feel like they lack the resources to participate, but #GivingTuesday was designed for organizations of all sizes and with varying resources.

Social media is the primary communication vehicle for #GivingTuesday, allowing donors across the world to identify and help fund organizations supporting the causes they believe in. Since engaging in organic social media requires relatively low overhead cost, the day can be accessible to organizations regardless of their means and sophistication.  

And you don’t need to go it alone. The official website contains resources from social media toolkits to press releases to campaign timelines that can help smaller nonprofits get involved. Regardless of your size, your nonprofit can share your story with the world. 
 

Misperception 7: #GivingTuesday should focus on attracting new donors. 

While #GivingTuesday is a great opportunity to reach new potential donors, don’t leave loyal supporters behind. Your donor base is already aware of your work and feels passionate about your mission. That level of loyalty makes them indispensable to your #GivingTuesday campaign.  

Returning donors’ participation in #GivingTuesday can make a significant difference. According to last year’s #GivingTuesday Insight Report, long-term loyal donors are more likely to give, and give more on average, on #GivingTuesday than at other times of the year.

Your nonprofit’s supporters can also be powerful advocates for your organization and help amplify your message on #GivingTuesday. Reach out to donors and key stakeholders well in advance to let them know you’re participating. Encourage them to join you by donating and spreading the word to their personal networks.


Misperception 8: Online fundraising is the only game in town on #GivingTuesday. 

#GivingTuesday was born online, and many nonprofits seize the opportunity to try innovative fundraising techniques across social media. Last year, an impressive 75 percent of all participating nonprofits launched a new fundraising campaign or experimented with a new tactic according to Henry Timms, co-founder of GivingTuesday and executive director of 92Y.

But the global day of giving is not confined to the web. As your fundraising team is developing plans for #GivingTuesday, adopt an omnichannel approach that combines fresh, digital approaches with traditional tactics. Don’t overlook the value of leveraging #GivingTuesday to create an event or in-person touch point with donors.  

Online giving still makes up a relatively low percentage of annual donations. As many fundraisers know, the large donations that move the needle are more often secured at galas. This #GivingTuesday, prioritize cultivating touch points with your diverse donor base across platforms that align with their giving behavior and potential. 
 

Misperception 9: Donation totals is the only metric that matters when measuring the success of a #GivingTuesday campaign. 

The primary goal of all fundraising campaigns is to drive donations, and #GivingTuesday is no exception. However, #GivingTuesday has more benefits than a one-day surge in giving. One of the most valuable aspects of participating is the chance to gain increased exposure for your organization and its mission. 

On Nov. 27, people across more than 150 countries will participate in #GivingTuesday in some way. This participation could take the form of a donation, but it could also manifest in a Tweet or sharing your nonprofit’s Instagram story with friends. Last year, #GivingTuesday garnered over 1 million social media mentions, and the social network around the day is likely to continue expanding.

Focus on telling your nonprofit’s story in a compelling way this #GivingTuesday. The opportunity to spread your nonprofit’s message and reach new audiences will pay dividends far into the future.

With these nine misperceptions in mind: What are your plans for #GivingTuesday 2018?

To spark a dialogue, reach out to one of the authors:
Laurie De Armond, Co-Leader of BDO’s Nonprofit & Education practice, at lDeArmond@bdo.com
Adam Cole, Co-Leader of BDO’s Nonprofit & Education practice, at ACole@bdo.com
Andrea Wilson, Leader of BDO’s Nonprofit & Education Advisory practice, at aewilson@bdo.com

Be sure to keep up with the latest happenings in the nonprofit industry by subscribing to our blog, and following us on Twitter @BDONonprofit.

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