How to Plan a Successful #GivingTuesday Campaign

It may be annoying that retail stores crank up the Christmas music beginning on November 1, but they’re actually on to something.

Planning in advance for the holidays is a smart move.

For fundraising organizations, there’s no bigger holiday than one that falls between Thanksgiving and Christmas — and we don’t mean Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

Giving Tuesday — or #GivingTuesday, as it’s more often called online — takes place each year on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, and has quickly become one of the biggest fundraising events of the year.

Since it began in 2012, donation totals have increased dramatically year after year. In fact, from 2015 to 2016 donations increased an incredible 44%. People in 98 countries and territories around the world participated in the event last year, raising $177,000,000 online.

Advancement offices have taken note, and they’re getting better at creating targeted #GivingTuesday campaigns that connect with constituents. Year after year, schools are meeting and beating their fundraising targets on this charitable holiday.

Combine the following tips with advanced planning, and your development organization can make a big difference this #GivingTuesday.

Get Specific: Build Excitement

It’s easier for prospects to connect with your mission and rally their support when they can identify it — and identify with it.

Create a central purpose for your development efforts — and ideally, make it one that emotionally resonates with your constituents. Not sure where to start? Here’s some inspiration:

  • Your school’s mission statement or tagline
  • Major initiatives or organizations that are funded by the money your office raises
  • The primary theme or focus of your school’s founding (e.g. academic freedom, advancing women’s education, or social justice)

Here are two examples of schools that have done an outstanding job with this — and raised more money as a result.

Giving Blueday

The University of Michigan designed their theme around one of their school colors — and their rallying cry (Go Blue!). As part of their #GivingTuesday campaign from 2014 forward, they named the day Giving Blueday, and announced that all gifts given on that day would go toward the university’s Victors for Michigan campaign.

In 2016, they added the tagline “your day to be a victor,” and gamified giving with hourly challenges. Their result? Over $5.5 million in donations.

Giving blue day

Rams Against Hunger

In 2016, Colorado State University planned their #GivingTuesday campaign around highlighting their Rams Against Hunger program. This program provides meal cards for students struggling to afford food — which no doubt touched alumni hearts deeply.

The school didn’t restrict donors from contributing to the cause of their choice, but it’s clear from the final numbers that giving the campaign a central theme made a difference. The campaign raised more than $47,000, and $26,908 of that went toward Rams Against Hunger.

Form Partnerships: Matching Donations Create Urgency

#GivingTuesday is a great opportunity to partner with organizations that share your mission. Matching gifts and giving a portion of profits are two of the most common ways organizations partner with schools — and finding those willing partners can be as easy as looking at your current and past donor list.

Which organizations, institutions, companies and local businesses have already given to your school? Reach out to them first.

Secondarily, large donors can be a great source for matching partnerships. They’re almost certainly in the holiday spirit around this time of year and much more likely to participate. And even if holiday giving isn’t their top priority, end-of-the-year tax deductions might be.

Laurentian University kicked off their #GivingTuesday campaign in 2016 with a partnership with Barrydowne Paint. The paint company donated $10 for every gallon sold of Regal Paint, and $12 for every gallon of Aura Paint.

Lul giving tuesday

You’ll see Barrydowne’s logo on the #GivingTuesday campaign assets, so this was also an easy way for the paint company to get some visibility. Though altruism is nice during the holidays, the realities of doing business still exist! Make it worthwhile for your partners.

Northern Illinois University proved that you don’t always need to look outside your own school for a worthwhile partnership. Last year they pitted seven NIU colleges against one another in a friendly fundraising competition. Each of the colleges launched their own campaign to gather donations. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was the winner, earning an additional challenge gift from the president’s cabinet. The result? The university as a whole beat their dollar goal by a whopping 91%.

Make It Personal: Share Stories

Help your constituents recognize themselves — and their own values — in your #GivingTuesday campaign by gathering and sharing personal stories of students and donors.

Student stories are often the most compelling, helping donors see exactly who their money will be serving. Take a look at one of the videos Brown University put out during their 2015 campaign:

Donor stories can also help move prospects to action. Encourage past givers to share their stories of why they gave. Quotes can be used for social media campaigns, on landing pages and in emails. Videos, however, will have a much bigger impact — so plan in advance to get your supporters on camera! Take a page from the Michael J. Fox Foundation playbook on this one …

Check Your Systems: Make It Easy to Give

Above everything else, the absolute, number one thing you need to make sure of while you’re planning your #GivingTuesday campaign is that it’s easy for constituents to give.

  1. Check your content — make sure all instructions are crystal clear.
  2. Check your forms — and check them again. Test them every day and respond immediately to reports of problems.
  3. Make sure your forms are accessible to people with disabilities, too. Follow all Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Any friction, stumbling blocks or points of confusion could cost your advancement office thousands of dollars in donations. Making it easy to give is mission critical.

Make the Most of the Holiday Spirit

#GivingTuesday has grown beyond its foundation, a movement to combat holiday commercialization and consumerism. It has become an international day of change.

Many of your constituents are looking forward to giving generously this season. Make it fun and easy for them to do so, and your school will reap the benefits.