#GivingTuesday has no corporate headquarters. No official staff. And no single leader. And yet, in 2013, the online donation campaign has amassed 10,000 partners in all 50 states, received 1.2 billion media impressions, gained 1.2 million Facebook likes, and generated 500,000 tweets. The social media support has translated into real dollars, producing an average online donation of $142.05.
The grassroots “movement” and “national day of giving” relies on a distributed effort of people who volunteer their time at the start of the annual holiday season to encourage charitable activities that support nonprofit organizations.
At SXSW: Interactive last week, three panelists talked about how online behavior can leverage offline behavior for genuine movement building, in a session titled, “#GivingTuesday: Inside the Sharknado of Giving.”
As a follow-up to that event, the United Nations Foundation and 92Y will host a #GivingTuesday Best Practices Summit via Livestream from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m on March 18. The online summit is intended to help #GivingTuesday supporters prepare for this year’s event, which will occur on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, December 2, 2014, after the commercially popular “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday.”
A New Story
In 2012, Americans gave $316.2-billion to charity, representing 2 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. #GivingTuesday would like to try to move that needle beyond just a couple of percentage points.
But “as much as the money metrics matter, what’s really engaging people is telling stories about value,” Timms said.
He said the power of #GivingTuesday was allowing people to use it for their own purposes and tell their own story. For example, mommy bloggers used Giving Tuesday to kick-off a series of new posts about altruism. In Baltimore, it took on a whole new life as B More Gives More, raising more than $6 million in one day by bringing together the city’s community of nonprofits. And in Latin America, people transformed the movement into the locally relevant “#undiaparadar.”
Lydia Leffler, who runs the global partnerships team at Facebook, shared lessons about making things go viral.
She said #GivingTuesday was the perfect example of a confluence of the following things:
1.) Co-ownership. “People feel responsible at a local, personal, deep level,” she said of the campaign. “Relationships really matter.”
2.) Calls-to-action. The campaign has clear directives for how to get involved, whether it’s volunteering your time, contributing financially, or inviting others to join in.
3.) Multi-platform. Although she represents Facebook and Instagram, Leffler insists that she is platform-agnostic. “Using every platform you can to get the word out really matters,” she said.
Henry Timms of 92Y said #GivingTuesday taught him a lot about how entrepreneurial, alive and dynamic the nonprofit sector can be.
He was surprised to see how often it was the middle managers, not the CEOs, who took the risk to experiment with the #GivingTuesday campaign.
“We were humbled by how much it was owned by the middle of the organizations, not the top,” he said, referring to nonprofit social media coordinators, advisors and volunteers.
He was also impressed with the creativity in how #GivingTuesday activated new ways of charitable service, beyond monetary donations.
“If you treat the internet like a cash register, it’s not going to pay out,” he said.
Asking Too Much?
One of the critiques of the movement is that it happens to coincide with most nonprofit organizations’ end-of-year push for donations and so could cannibalize some of those contributions through an “oversaturation of asking.”
To combat this, Lydia Leffler says that #GivingTuesday should be seen as “an anchor for a yearlong opportunity,” almost like New Year’s resolutions, encouraging people to be more active in giving and service all 365 days of the year.