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Top Lessons from GivingTuesday 2023

13 min read
November 29, 2023
Tim Sarrantonio headshot
Tim Sarrantonio
Director of Corporate Brand

GivingTuesday is an opportunity for people to give back to their communities by donating money, volunteering their time, or advocating for causes that they believe in. As nonprofits continue to navigate a challenging economic climate, GivingTuesday continues to play a unique role that is special to the nonprofit sector. 

GivingTuesday 2023 by the Numbers

Most leading headlines focus on the overall total dollars raised on GivingTuesday. Instead of repeating those numbers, we’ll focus on the practical “in the weeds” analysis that can support you in making data-driven decisions that go well beyond this time of year.

Let’s take a look at the impact of what we call the “Generosity Experience”—the overall trust that a supporter has when interacting with a nonprofit’s marketing, revenue, or impact activities. Where appropriate, we’ll also draw out some conclusions and comparisons to help contextualize where and how GivingTuesday can fit into your nonprofit’s overall strategy. 

Top GivingTuesday 2023 Highlights

Here are some of the top highlights from this year’s GivingTuesday. These data points come directly from nonprofits using Neon One’s tools:

  • 65% of Neon CRM clients participated in GivingTuesday in some way
  • Both online and offline revenue was up compared to last year’s GivingTuesday
  • Online revenue in particular was a highlight—GivingTuesday donations were up 18% from last year
  • 28% of donors were new to the organizations they chose to support this year
  • The number of emails sent on GivingTuesday was up an astounding 90% compared to last year
  • The median and average online donation amount went down this year, but not significantly
  • The average offline donation amount went up by 75.80%!

With those statistics in mind, let’s take a look at what this reveals about donors.

Who Is Giving?

A common misconception about GivingTuesday is that it’s a day focused only on extracting money out of people. If that’s the case, we’d expect to see a high volume of one-time donations made by donors who never engage with a nonprofit after their initial transaction. But healthy donor retention numbers within Neon CRM users show that donors are more than happy to support organizations they’ve previously been involved with. 

Digital-forward campaigns are still powerful new donor acquisition opportunities: 57% of new donors who gave to organizations using Neon Fundraise were acquired through digital channels. Small dollar donations continue to be the primary driver of GivingTuesday revenue both online and off, which is a powerful testament to the day’s significance in reaching new individual donors. 

GivingTuesday is a valuable day to engage new donors, reconnect with existing ones, and engage a group of primarily small-dollar donors.

According to data from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, retention rates for new donors and donors who give small gifts are some of the most important trends for nonprofits to prioritize during campaigns both during year-end and in the next year. As Neon One clients engage donors in these critical segments, GivingTuesday continues to be an invaluable opportunity to connect with new and returning supporters alike.

What Causes Do Donors Support?

Our clients include all types and sizes of nonprofits, but donors tend to prioritize certain segments more during GivingTuesday than during other times of the year. The top causes donors supported this year included:

  • Human Services
  • Animal Protection & Welfare
  • Christianity
  • Theater
  • Environmental Quality, Protection, and Beautification

Neon One may be based in the United States, but some of the most successful campaigns were run by organizations that operate in other parts of the world. Donors from 100 different countries gave to Neon One users this year—GivingTuesday really is a global movement of generosity!

When Do Donors Give?

This screenshot shows a graph that visualizes donation transaction volume for GivingTuesday 2023.
Here’s a visualization of transaction volumes on GivingTuesday 2023—that 3:00 a.m. spike is scheduled transactions, but the main takeaway is that donations stayed fairly steady throughout the day. Click here to see a larger version of this graph.

We’ve been reviewing GivingTuesday donation volume on an hourly basis for several years now, which has revealed two important trends in donor behavior this year:

  • Scheduled Gifts: The number of scheduled recurring gifts heavily increased on GivingTuesday. This correlates with an encouraging 39.5% increase in new recurring donations established on GivingTuesday itself. 
  • Steady Hourly Volume: No, your donors probably aren’t making GivingTuesday donations in the early morning hours. That spike in online payments at 3:00 a.m. CST represents pre-scheduled donations that were processed at that time. With that in mind, we can remove that from the general understanding of donor behavior for the rest of the day. The chart above shows that 2023 saw higher overall volumes throughout the day, with a small spike at 9:00 a.m. S+CST.

As we’ll outline below, the time of day our clients sent emails on GivingTuesday did not have a direct impact on when donors made gifts. This is a good indicator that campaigns run on other marketing channels, like social media and personal phone calls, influenced the broader awareness of GivingTuesday campaigns. 

Where Do Donors Give?

Our clients may have attracted support from 100 different countries, but the majority of our clients are located in North America. Here’s a breakdown of the top-performing ZIP and postal code locations in both the United States and Canada:

United States

Largest Number of Nonprofits ParticipatingCalifornia, New York, Illinois
Largest Number of Donors GivingCalifornia, Illinois, New York
Largest Sum of Dollars GivenCalifornia, New York, Massachusetts
Highest Donations Per CapitaDelaware, Oklahoma, Kentucky
Most Generous Zip Codes (Sum Total)New York City (NY), Chicago (IL), Sacramento (CA)
Most Generous Zip Codes (Per Capita)Wilmington (DE), St. Johnsbury (VT), Tulsa (OK)


Largest Number of Nonprofits ParticipatingOntario, British Columbia, Alberta
Largest Number of Donors GivingOntario, British Columbia, Alberta
Largest Sum of Dollars GivenOntario, British Columbia, Alberta
Highest Donations Per CapitaPrince Edward Island, Ontario, New Brunswick
Most Generous Postal Codes (Sum Total)Central Toronto (ON), East York (ON), Richmond Hill (ON)
Most Generous Postal Codes (Per Capita)Richmond Hill (ON), North Bay (ON), Central Toronto (ON)

However, there is a wide diversity of contributions being given to nonprofits in metropolitan, suburban, and rural areas throughout North America. The power of community-driven nonprofits continues to be a highlight of GivingTuesday campaigns within the Neon One ecosystem. 

Why Do Donors Give?

It’s tempting to try and motivate donors with situation-based appeals (e.g. Give because it’s GivingTuesday!) instead of with identity-centric appeals (e.g. Give because you deeply care about water conservation). Resist that temptation!

There are six primary identities that provide insight into the different ways donors view themselves and how they view giving. Using identity-based fundraising, fundraisers can encourage donors to give as an expression of who they are. It’s a much more effective tactic than asking someone to donate simply because it’s GivingTuesday.

These next few takeaways will be helpful even if you’re not familiar with those six identities. If you’re interested in this topic, here’s where you can learn more about them

Let’s highlight a few GivingTuesday campaigns from across the Neon One ecosystem that align with each of the different identities:

Personal Identity

Each year, I give my children a small budget to give to a nonprofit of their choice on GivingTuesday. This year, my daughter Rosie wanted to support an animal nonprofit. After a short review process that mainly consisted of whether she liked the pictures the nonprofit put on their website, she settled on donating to Texas-based nonprofit Animal Rescue Connections.

What you can learn: It will be impossible to anticipate the personal reasons that someone may give to your nonprofit. But don’t discount the importance of your nonprofit’s homepage in helping donors understand what you do. 

Relational Identity

Not every GivingTuesday campaign needs to be focused on monetary contributions. The Redeem Fellowship Center utilized Neon Fundraise, our peer-to-peer platform, to empower supporters to solicit in-kind donations for their One Warm Coat drive. They hit their goal of collecting 150 coats.

What you can learn: Whether you’re raising money or collecting coats, empowering board members and community advocates to participate in a peer-to-peer campaign is a great way to tap into your supporters’ affinity for your work. 

Group Identity

Understanding why donors support your cause can lead to insightful campaigns like this one from Groundwork Jacksonville. By highlighting a combined focus on improving the aesthetic beauty of their local S-Line while also fighting against food insecurity, this campaign created a sophisticated connection between donors and the cause itself. 

What you can learn: Create a cohesive story about what GivingTuesday campaign donations will fund. This will help donors establish a sense of connection to the mission itself and create a tangible, demonstrable impact that will lead them to support you beyond GivingTuesday.

Organizational Identity

Certain nonprofits—like healthcare organizations—have missions that make it very easy for donors to connect with them. St. Rose Dominican Health Foundation ran a successful campaign to support their Helping Hands of Henderson transportation and nutrition initiative, which is focused on providing lower income or disabled residents with services that help them maintain independence. 

What you can learn: Never underestimate the power of your nonprofit’s brand recognition in your community. GivingTuesday campaigns are most effective when there is a steady awareness campaign that precedes the day itself and includes trust-building communications after GivingTuesday.

Geographic Identity

Many large community giving days explicitly choose to hold their events on days outside of GivingTuesday. That said, there are a handful that use the day as a launchpad for their own community-focused campaigns. GoodGiving Challenge in Kentucky, for example, ran a powerful campaign that has seen over $1 million donated to 195 nonprofits.

This animated gif shows the homepage for the GoodGiving Challenge, a community giving day held on GivingTuesday 2023
Some community giving days used GivingTuesday 2023 as an opportunity to engage their communities.

What you can learn: Research reveals that people assume gifts made to local nonprofits have more of an impact than gifts made to organizations further away. This is a benefit for donors, but it’s great for nonprofits, too: When donors can see and experience their donations’ impact, they’re more likely to become an ongoing (and enthusiastic) supporter.

How Do Nonprofits Engage Donors?

As GivingTuesday evolves, the tactics nonprofits use to engage their communities should evolve, too. With that in mind, it’s important to base strategic fundraising and communication decisions on real data, not anecdotal evidence. Take social media as an example: A handful of very visible naysayers who dislike GivingTuesday can undermine the reality that millions of people appreciate a day dedicated to celebrating generosity.

Our past research into GivingTuesday engagement shows that nonprofits are extremely effective at email—take a look at this year’s Nonprofit Email Report for more insight on this topic.

This year’s data was particularly encouraging. Here’s how email engagement on GivingTuesday 2023 compared to the numbers from last year.

GivingTuesday 2023GivingTuesday 2022Difference
Number of emails sent2-3 per nonprofit1-2 per nonprofit
Average open rate35.92%28.71%+25%
Average click-through rate3.08%1.63%+89%

So what does this mean?

These numbers show that engagement rates were higher than they were last year, even though email volume increased significantly. 

This bar graph shows a dramatic uptick in the number of emails sent on GivingTuesday 2023 compared to previous years.
The increase in emails sent on GivingTuesday 2023 was significant, but it didn’t have a negative impact on engagement rates. Click here to see a larger version of this graph.

Much of that performance improvement was influenced by emails’ subject lines. Using generative language artificial intelligence tools, we performed an emotional sentiment analysis of 1,177 subject lines sent out on GivingTuesday. 

Here are the most effective types of subject lines sent this year:

  • Urgency and Time Sensitivity: Many subject lines created a sense of urgency, often using symbols like ⌛ (e.g., “⌛There’s still time!”) or direct phrases like “Last chance for Giving Tuesday” and “Only a few hours left!”. This approach was a valuable way to prompt immediate action by emphasizing the limited contribution window.
  • Appeals to Altruism and Empathy: Subject lines such as “Help bring health care to kids!” and “Support Art on GivingTuesday” appealed directly to the reader’s sense of altruism and empathy. They highlighted the opportunity to contribute to meaningful causes, emphasizing the impact of donations on others’ lives.
  • Gratitude and Appreciation: Expressions of gratitude were prominent in subject lines like “Thank you for your support today” and “We are Grateful for You”. These lines aimed to acknowledge and appreciate the support of donors, fostering a sense of community and shared purpose.
  • Encouragement and Positivity: Some subject lines used encouraging and positive language to motivate potential donors. For instance, “Join Us on GivingTuesday!” and “You Can Make a Difference” focused on the positive impact and potential of collective efforts.
  • Challenge and Competition: A few subject lines introduced challenges or competitive elements, like “Can you help us close the gap before midnight?” or “⚓Can you top the Class of 2002?”. These subject lines aimed to engage the reader’s competitive spirit and sense of challenge to spur action.

These insights are valuable beyond GivingTuesday—try using some of these sentiments in your year-end campaigns and in next year’s communications.

Key Takeaways From GivingTuesday 2023

It’s critical to give context to GivingTuesday as part of the larger goals you may have at your nonprofit. 

Approaching the day as a one-off appeal will likely end in disappointment. But there’s a lot to learn from GivingTuesday, both within what we see in our system-wide data and in what individual nonprofits have shared about GivingTuesday in community forums and social media. 

Shifting towards an abundance mindset around GivingTuesday (and your overall strategy) will have a major payoff in the years to come. 

Here are three key takeaways from this year’s analysis you can apply at your own organization:

  • Embrace diversity in giving motivations and communication channels: People are motivated to give for lots of different reasons, ranging from personal and relational identities to organizational and geographic connections. This diversity underscores the importance of recognizing and respecting the different drivers behind each donation, whether it’s a monetary contribution, volunteering, or even advocacy. Create a more inclusive and holistic approach to fundraising by looking for ways to create multifaceted engagement opportunities that resonate with different donors.
  • Use data-driven strategies to enhance engagement: The significant increase in scheduled gifts and the effectiveness of acquiring donors through digital campaigns demonstrate the power of strategic, data-driven approaches. Use data analytics to understand your donors’ behaviors and preferences. This will enable you to run more effective campaigns by ensuring you reach and resonate with the right audience at the right time. Ultimately, this will help you foster stronger, more meaningful connections with your supporters.
  • Build trust through transparent, high-impact communications: The success of various communication strategies—such as appealing to altruism, expressing gratitude, and creating a sense of urgency—highlights how effectively you can build trust with donors through transparent and impactful communication. Focus on clear, honest, and compelling messaging that communicates your organization’s needs and demonstrates donors’ tangible impact. By doing so, you can strengthen the bonds of trust with your supporters, encouraging long-term engagement and support.

As you turn your attention to end-of-year campaigns and planning for next year, spend some time on a critical analysis of your current fundraising tactics. It can have an immediate impact on revenue! 

Nonprofits who connect their marketing, revenue, and impact data to people-centric engagement will stand out from fundraising tactics that feel shallow or transactional. You don’t have to take our word for it! Our clients—and their outstanding GivingTuesday campaigns—showcase how occasions like GivingTuesday can be opportunities to build powerful connections between nonprofits, donors, and the communities they serve together.

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