#GivingTuesday reflects the changing landscape of online fundraising

#GivingTuesday, a one-day charitable promotion on social media, has become an effective online fundraising strategy. The campaign presents a great opportunity for brands and nonprofit organizations because it reminds people of the meaning of the holiday season by encouraging them to give back to others.

This 24-hour online campaign was initiated by 92nd Street Y in New York City and the U.N. Foundation back in 2012. At the time, the two organizations were looking to create an appetite for something similar to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but focused on giving.

“Black Friday and Cyber Monday ‘kick off’ the holiday shopping season. We thought it would be great to have a day that kicked off the holiday giving season in a similar way. We also hoped that Giving Tuesday would balance out the shopping weekend in some ways, and help people to refocus on the more community-oriented aspects of the holiday season,” says Beverly Greenfield, director of public and media relations at the 92nd Street Y.

As of 3 p.m. today, Giving Tuesday saw a 48 percent increase in online giving compared to 2014, when the campaign raised around $45 million, according to software company Blackbaud. This year, more than 30,000 organizations signed up, including brands like Coca-Cola, Ralph Lauren and Old Navy.

Something new

Many brands and nonprofits have participated in #GivingTuesday since its inception. Some of them are looking to experiment with new marketing strategies, such as the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) and its fundraising arm, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation (USOPF), doing a donor match.

Through December 7, the USOPF is encouraging Americans to donate via its fundraising website, Team USA Registry, by purchasing symbolic gifts. All donations up to $75,000 will be matched by a private donor, with a goal of raising $150,000.

“This is the first time that we’ve focused on Giving Tuesday in this way, so we’ll know more about how that affects our giving patterns once we see the results,” says Jon Denney, chief development officer for the USOC and the USOPF.

“[But generally speaking,] following a day of giving thanks and a handful of days of sales, [Giving Tuesday] is very genuine to the sentiment of the season, which is such an important time of year for non-profit organizations. So it has the potential to be very impactful,” he adds.

Crowdfunding platform CrowdRise debuted a virtual reality (VR) app, called Giving Tower, to show the overall impact of Giving Tuesday. Every brick in the tower represents a donation and is erected in real time. On December 1, as donations are made on the Giving Tower website or the mobile app, users can interact with the tower while it grows.


“We’ve never had our own Giving Tuesday campaign so we wanted to flip that. We reached out [the 92nd Street Y] and learned that one of its challenges was to measure the accumulated donations. So we wanted to build something cool and could show the overall impact of Giving Tuesday,” says Robert Wolfe, co-founder and chief executive (CEO) of CrowdRise.

Beyond #GivingTuesday

The #GivingTuesday campaign shows that nonprofits can utilize Twitter to promote their causes and build conversation into a movement. But in fundraising, any medium – be it Twitter, Facebook or a mobile app – in which organizations can communicate directly with their potential donors is an important one, according to Denney from the USOC and the USOPF.

“When it comes to the Olympic Movement, there’s a natural tendency for Americans to pay attention during Games years, but forget about those athletes who are training constantly even in off years. By establishing a large and engaged audience on social media, we are able to stay top-of-mind for fans for more than just a few weeks every couple years, and that is crucial to our mission,” he explains.


Looking at the larger picture, technology advances like social media and VR have entirely changed how people think about philanthropy and how organizations raise money for a good cause. Online fundraising has also evolved from the notion that people send a donations via check and organizations write letters back, to companies having direct conversations with potential donors, as evidenced in the the viral ice bucket challenge.

In addition, social has changed the way young people look at philanthropy, according to CrowdRise’s Wolfe.

“Five or six years ago, people might have felt uncomfortable talking about their donations. But now, young people think it’s cool to show the world how they give back. Such change has implications for brands because now it’s more important for companies to show their consumers that they care as well,” he notes.

Giving Tuesday harnesses the power of social media, while being very genuine to the sentiment of the holiday season. The campaign’s evolution demonstrates that online sharing has become a crucial motivator for making a charitable donation.

If you feel a little guilty for spending too much on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, make a donation on #GivingTuesday and you will feel good on Wednesday.

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