On the very first Giving Tuesday in 2012, our team went all out. We didn’t quite know what we are doing, but we created a command center, borrowed staff from across the organization, and camped out on every single social media platform looking for conversations to join. It was loud and fun and exciting—and it felt like we were onto something special.
The next year, we went even bigger—our team was in the office at 5:00 a.m. recording personalized thank you videos for every single donor in real time. It was insane. And amazing. And the energy was off the charts.
Fast forward to this year. When Ian and I met for coffee on Tuesday (on our 12th Giving Tuesday…and our 12th year running GT campaigns for awesome organizations), we looked at each other and said the same thing, “Is Giving Tuesday dead?”
The short answer is, of course, no. Preliminary data shows that, this year, “donors contributed $3.1 billion to U.S. nonprofits on GivingTuesday, roughly the same amount as last year.”
Over $3 billion in charitable giving is incredible and absolutely worth celebrating. (And I hope that your organization felt this kind of success this week, too!)
But there are some alarming stats, as well:
- Just 34 million people made contributions on Giving Tuesday, down 10 percent from last year.
- “We’re seeing less dollars from the big donor that we’ve been relying upon and fewer grassroots donors who are so important to our resilience and long-term health of the sector.” -Woodrow Rosenbaum, GivingTuesday Chief Data Officer
- “We are loosely seeing a lot more support from existing donors over last year, and less from new donors.”
Basically, Giving Tuesday fundraising is about level with last year—but its coming from 10% fewer people. For a mass giving day, this is a problem.
The whole point of GT has always been to get a lot of people—and ideally a lot of NEW people—to make a gift. And while big donors giving big gifts is awesome, it’s also dangerous. Data Officer Rosenbaum explained it best: “When we see this increase in the average donation on Giving Tuesday, we see that as a warning sign, not as something that we should be looking for.”
For our team at S+G, the even more alarming trend we’re experiencing is a decrease in energy and creativity around Giving Tuesday. Put simply, the vibes just aren’t there anymore.
Maybe that’s just us (if you did something awesome and creative for Giving Tuesday, leave a comment and let us know. We would LOVE to be proven wrong!). But we miss the big swings that organizations used to take on GT—nationwide events, huge partnerships, custom landing pages, brand new content. Most of all, we miss how personal and scrappy and up-for-anything the day always felt.
So where do we go from here? Is the day dead?
No, of course not. It raises money, it raises awareness, and we are proud to be part of this incredible movement of generosity every year.
But we do think the door is open for some renewed creativity—whether on Giving Tuesday or somewhere else. We’re taking this week and our ‘meh’ feelings as inspiration to think bigger, go bolder, and swing for the fences. Every movement (Giving Tuesday included!) starts as an idea—and we think we’re ready for some new ones!