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How Does GivingTuesday Work?

8 min read
September 28, 2022
Ronnie Gomez headshot
Ronnie Gomez
Content Marketing Manager, Neon One

Since its inception, GivingTuesday has grown from a simple idea into a global movement to unleash the power of radical generosity around the world. Every year, nonprofits and donors all over the world team up to make an impact on their communities. It’s one of the biggest giving days of the year! But, if you’ve never participated in the 24-hour celebration of giving before, you might be wondering, “How does GivingTuesday work?”

Even now, there are still a lot of misconceptions about how nonprofits can get involved with GivingTuesday and how they can make the most of the big day. Is it worth all of the required preparation? Will smaller nonprofits be blown out by the larger, more tech-savvy ones? Is the whole thing simply too good to be true?

The good news is that it’s not too good to be true—nonprofits really can accomplish wonderful things on GivingTuesday. In this post, we’ll explain how GivingTuesday works and break down four common misconceptions about this important giving day. Here’s everything you need to know.

What is GivingTuesday?

GivingTuesday began in 2012 at the 92nd Street Y, a community and cultural center in New York City. Their goal was to create a day that encourages generosity to counteract the consumer rush of Black Friday. 

To say that they reached their goal would be an understatement. Since 2012, GivingTuesday celebrations have spread to over 200 countries. In 2022, it raised $3.1 billion

If you’re a nonprofit and are new to participating in GivingTuesday, this article is for you.

How Does GivingTuesday Work?

GivingTuesday is an international day of giving when donors and nonprofits come together to make a difference in their communities. Participating organizations set up fundraising campaigns for the big day, and they’ll typically put together a communications strategy that will help them connect with new and returning donors alike.

No two nonprofits run identical GivingTuesday campaigns. Some create a simple communications plan that includes an appeal and a handful of posts and updates on social media. Others run more elaborate campaigns, including multiple reminders in the run-up to the event, segmented email campaigns, live streams, and more. 

Regardless of the complexity of a nonprofit’s campaign, GivingTuesday tends to be a digital-forward occasion—most communications and updates happen over digital channels instead of more traditional channels like direct mail and phone calls.

Most of your GivingTuesday activities—from awareness campaigns to impact reports—will take place online.

A standard GivingTuesday campaign will include these elements:

  • A fundraising goal. As with most fundraising campaigns, many nonprofits set a specific goal for GivingTuesday. This is most effective when the goal amount is connected to a tangible outcome, like funding a set number of scholarships or providing means to a specific number of people. 
  • Pre-event communications. Many organizations spread the word about their upcoming GivingTuesday campaigns in emails or social media posts before the big day.
  • GivingTuesday communications. On GivingTuesday itself, nonprofits will typically share a mix of appeals and updates with their supporters. Sending one or two email appeals is most effective. They’ll share more frequent appeals and updates on their social media channels.
  • GivingTuesday-specific fundraising assets. Campaigns launched on this day are typically supported by client stories, pictures and videos, and even live streaming video. Many organizations will even create an online donation form specifically for GivingTuesday.
  • Post-event communications: Since GivingTuesday occurs right at the beginning of the end-of-year fundraising season, thanking donors promptly and sharing their gift’s impact before they receive an end-of-year appeal is key.

Planning a GivingTuesday campaign with those elements might feel a little overwhelming, especially if you’ve never done it before. Check out our GivingTuesday Resource Center for social media and email templates for every stage of your campaign, plus planning worksheets and other handy resources.

Visit the Resource Center

Those are the basics of how GivingTuesday works. Now, let’s take a look at some common myths and misconceptions about this event.

Myth #1: You Can Receive Donations Through the GivingTuesday Website

Fact: All GivingTuesday participants are responsible for their own fundraising initiatives. That means the GivingTuesday organization that oversees the event does not collect or distribute donations on your behalf. 

GivingTuesday is a movement meant to energize everyday people around the world and promote generosity. GivingTuesday is itself a nonprofit organization! They don’t solicit donations. Instead, they inspire people to give. In order to accept online donations during the event, your organization needs to have a GivingTuesday donation page up and ready to go. 

We recommend creating a custom donation page that highlights the event and explains what the proceeds from your campaign will accomplish. Studies show that using campaign-specific messaging on a donation page can increase revenue by 420%. Even better, you can set up multiple GivingTuesday donation pages that speak to your specific donor segments.

Neon One Tip: If you use Neon CRM, you can create an unlimited number of donation forms. Check out this article on donation form best practices and tips for creating the most effective form possible.

Myth #2: It Costs Money to Participate in GivingTuesday

Fact: There is no cost associated with participating in GivingTuesday. That’s right—joining the movement is completely free.

GivingTuesday is an event that celebrates all forms of generosity. All the dollars you raise through your campaign belong completely to your organization. No hidden fees, no surprises, no “catch.”

The only costs associated with the event will be the standard costs associated with running and promoting a campaign, like processing fees and the time and resources your staff spends working on your fundraiser. 

Myth #3: GivingTuesday Will Promote Your Fundraiser on Your Behalf

Fact: As we said earlier, GivingTuesday is a movement: They won’t provide you with any advertising or promotional services. However, what they will provide you with is an entire suite of resources your organization can use to promote your campaign. 

These tools will be helpful as you plan your fundraising efforts before, during, and after the event. They allow you to take your promotion into your own hands while still benefiting from all the excitement generated by the event.

Participating in proactive outreach is one of the best ways to boost brand awareness for your organization. And, as you look for ways to connect with existing supporters and new donors, social media will be an important tool. Last year, GivingTuesday campaigns generated billions of social media impressions. 

Remember, a constituent’s participation may take the form of a donation, volunteer time, or in-kind donations. It can also include advocacy! People may be willing to amplify your messaging by sharing your posts to their networks. Make sure to use the hashtag “#GivingTuesday” to expand your reach and capitalize on this opportunity.

Myth #4: Giving Tuesday Is a Game-Changer for Nonprofits/Giving Tuesday Won’t Help My Nonprofit at All

You’ve probably seen a lot of “all-or-nothing” opinion pieces on GivingTuesday. Some people are skeptical of GivingTuesday, thinking it can negatively impact year-end fundraising or that it’s hard for nonprofits to reach donors on one of the busiest fundraising days of the year.

Others are over-optimistic about GivingTuesday, thinking that simply launching a GivingTuesday campaign and sharing a few social posts will result in thousands of dollars and an influx of new donors.

The truth is, neither of those two things are true. Like any campaign you might run, GivingTuesday is what you and your team make of it. 

Nobody can give you an exact amount that you’ll raise from your Giving Tuesday campaign. They probably can’t even give you an estimate (although our recent research into GivingTuesday email performance includes some interesting benchmarks). It all depends on your campaign strategy. 

What we will tell you is that, with the proper planning, GivingTuesday has the potential to be a significant day for your nonprofit. But, if you want your donors to make a donation, you need to develop a campaign that inspires your constituents to give. 

We recommend that you start small and work your way up to bigger and more complex campaigns once you’ve tested the waters. Start by setting a fundraising goal, gathering a few stories, and planning a simple GivingTuesday communications strategy. Set an easily achievable goal for dollars raised or new donors added.

Even a simple campaign can raise your organization’s profile and set the stage for future fundraising successes.

Make GivingTuesday Work for Your Nonprofit

GivingTuesday can be an invaluable fundraising opportunity for your organization. Go into it with a solid strategy and clear expectations: You’ll find it to be a worthwhile endeavor for your nonprofit. 

If you want some help building your GivingTuesday campaign, Neon One has got you covered!

Head on over to our GivingTuesday Resource Center where you can download a whole host of guides, worksheets (including one for planning that all-important strategy), checklists, and eBooks to help your team mount a successful GivingTuesday campaign!

Visit the Resource Center

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