The real problem with Giving Tuesday

I’ve finally figured out what’s wrong with Giving Tuesday.

Giving Tuesday works well for some organizations. And not for others. On the whole, it’s a better online fundraising day than the other 51 Tuesdays — except this year, when December 31 is on a Tuesday.

The problem is, Giving Tuesday brings out the crappiest, sloppiest, most irrelevant, navel-gazing fundraising. It seems many fundraisers take Giving Tuesday to be a day when they don’t need to try to enter their donors’ worlds.

It’s Giving Tuesday, send out an email or two. No, don’t worry about what it says. Just send an email!

Let me show you one that showed up in my inbox. It’s from an organization I’ve never heard of. I think they got my address from a company I do business with.

The subject line (I promise I’m not making this up): Giving Tuesday Announcement. When you open it, there’s a message that’s one big jpg — which assures that the type will be tiny no matter what my email reader settings are.

At the top is this headline: A FOCUS ON GIVING TUESDAY. (Again, I’m not making any of this up.)

Here’s the message, in full. I’ve changed the name of the organization and some of the facts to hide the identity of the perpetrator:

We at Springfield Medical Alliance are so proud to bring you our yearly update! As we reflect on the past year, we would like to thank all of you who have donated time, supplies, or funds to help us run our clinics in Africa. This year we have been able to examine, diagnose and treat more than 1,000 Tanzanian patients!

We are also very excited to pass along some updates. SMA will be hosting private group outings in addition to our regular trips starting in 2020! We hope to lead a nonprofit which makes volunteering in a healthcare space accessible to everyone. Even those without healthcare experience and make a huge positive difference in the lives of our Tanzanian neighbors.

With all of this in mind, please consider making a donation to Springfield Medical Alliance through our website this Giving Tuesday (Dec 3). Anyone who donates over $100 between Dec 3 – Dec 6 is eligible for a free Springfield Medical Alliance T-Shirt! If you feel compelled to donate, make sure to ask your employer if they match donations so that your generosity can be doubled, even tripled!

We will continue to collect materials to bring with us on our trip. On our upcoming outings we will be looking for donations of (but not limited to) used glasses, pencils, paper, old cell phones, calculators, etc. Any items can be dropped off in the office.

Thank you so much for all of the unconditional support! We hope to make 2020 even more fruitful and productive than 2019. Our work in Tanzania is becoming a mature, streamlined operation that is producing real results. We could not have done this without the generosity of all our supporters.

Should you have any question regarding tax exemption paperwork, or anything else, do not hesitate to contact me at myname@springfieldmedicalalliance.org. If you are interested in donating for Giving Tuesday, Please follow this link – http://www.springfieldmedicalalliance.org/support

Happy Holidays,
My Name
Executive Director

Every single sentence in this message is deeply problematic. I’m sure you received a few Giving Tuesday emails like it. Written, it would seem, by people who were abandoned in infancy in a pond to be raised by newts, where they never learned how you communicate with humans when you want humans to do something.

I don’t know if Giving Tuesday somehow encourages this kind of thing. Maybe it just gives it focus, a non-reason reason to send people emails.

If terrible fundraising wasn’t enough, I also got (on Giving Tuesday itself) several press releases from organizations urging me to mention them on my blog on Giving Tuesday because they are amazing and deserving organizations. (It’s pretty clear none of them actually read my blog. They’d probably be hiding from me if they did!)

I hope you had a fruitful Giving Tuesday, and that you used the occasion to communicate with donors about them.

Fundraising is about connecting with donors on a personal and emotional level (remembering that they are busy, passionate people with a lot going on in their lives) and showing them how they can change the world. That’s how you raise funds.

No matter what day of the year it is.


Comments

8 responses to “The real problem with Giving Tuesday”

  1. Good post, but it would be even more helpful if you shared a Giving Tuesday email that in your opinion was effective…

  2. Good post, but it would be even more helpful if you shared a Giving Tuesday email that in your opinion was effective…

  3. Hi Jeff, I agree with your points. We do two giving days annually – Giving Tuesday and Arizona Gives Day in the spring. There is a really solid group of our donors that love the excitement of a single day, knowing they are part of a larger movement, and the inherent urgency of seeing if we meet our goal. It’s also great to spotlight a single program and kick-start the holiday season of giving. Also, it is a great staff spirit day that engages program staff in fundraising in a fun way. I really agree that sending a few eblasts and facebook posts isn’t useful. Which is hard to explain to our board of directors. I think they are a good strategy that nonprofits can use to supplement other campaigns.

  4. Hi Jeff, I agree with your points. We do two giving days annually – Giving Tuesday and Arizona Gives Day in the spring. There is a really solid group of our donors that love the excitement of a single day, knowing they are part of a larger movement, and the inherent urgency of seeing if we meet our goal. It’s also great to spotlight a single program and kick-start the holiday season of giving. Also, it is a great staff spirit day that engages program staff in fundraising in a fun way. I really agree that sending a few eblasts and facebook posts isn’t useful. Which is hard to explain to our board of directors. I think they are a good strategy that nonprofits can use to supplement other campaigns.

  5. Vernon Hills Avatar
    Vernon Hills

    Two words – Donor centric

  6. Vernon Hills Avatar
    Vernon Hills

    Two words – Donor centric

  7. Two words. Donor centric

  8. Two words. Donor centric

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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