Giving Tuesday: You Have a Decision to Make – Yay or Nay?

by Laurence Pagnoni

There is no harm in making a hard choice to skip Giving Tuesday, especially if you have other parts of your year-end giving program designed and ready to launch – and if your social media platforms are not what they could be.

Tuesday, December 3 is this year’s Giving Tuesday, the Tuesday after “Black Friday.” Started in 2012, Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving over social media. According to the data, the average gift is $111.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of Giving Tuesday – within its proper use. Last year, Giving Tuesday raised over $380 million in the U.S. alone. But the preponderance of the funds went to very large nonprofits with robust social media programs.

Also, in a 2015 national survey by the John Templeton Foundation, 93% of consumers said they were familiar with Black Friday, while only 18% were familiar with Giving Tuesday. Sadly, online searches around these two keywords are even more disproportionate, according to Google Trends data that indicates search volume.

Is Giving Tuesday right for you? That all depends on your current needs. Here are a few cautions:

  1. Your Message Will Likely Be Overlooked. Every other nonprofit, large and small, is going to be sending messages that day. How sure are you that your email or social media campaign is going to be able to cut through the clutter?
  2. Social media is a poor fundraising method. It’s impersonal and fast, and the average gifts range from $40 to $111, depending on which stat you’re looking at. Social media is best for cultivating interest in your mission by driving the reader to go to your website and then asking them to share their email with you so that you can build a deeper relationship with them.
  3. One-time gifts take your donors out of their normal giving pattern. A real donor is not someone who gives once; it is someone who gives repeatedly at increased levels. When you ask for a one-off gift, you’re asking out of context of their past giving. It makes no sense to receive a $100 gift if that donor’s last gift was $250!
  4. Will this raise the most funds?What if you spent the same amount of time on major donor calls or doing end-of-year donor meetings? Let’s say you spend 10 hours on Giving Tuesday. Do you think you would have raised more if you had spent those the same time meeting with your top donors or calling your most engaged givers?

Overall, if you already have a strong year-end program designed, and your social media presence is not strong, you may decide to pass.

However, if you need a one-day drive to fund a specific goal, Giving Tuesday may be a solid option. Fundraise for your exact need. Do not pitch, “We need to raise $25,000 to pay program costs for 2019.” Instead, talk about one dog or cat in need, or that one child and the difference a gift can make in his or her life. One thing – not more than one.

“We need to raise $16,000 to buy a new rover for our local garden conservancy, which will allow our seven gardeners to serve 4,000 visitors,” sounds a lot better, right?

That’s because this goal is impact-focused with a definite plan. When you only have 24-hours to make your case for giving, this approach is necessary.

If you are committed to launching a Giving Tuesday drive, there’s a complete toolkit that’s chock full of vital content.

Of note, it’s important to register your nonprofit on the Giving Tuesday website.


If you’re still undecided, I suggest that you reach out to other local nonprofits and talk it through. Your best approach may be for a small group of you to come together and maximize the size and scope of your Giving Tuesday marketing efforts. Identify a shared specific goal that the public will resonate with.