4 Things We Learned from #GivingTuesday 2017

Five years ago, at the Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact in New York City, #GivingTuesday started as a response to the Black Friday and Cyber Monday crazes that follow Thanksgiving. #GivingTuesday lives online through social media—as evidenced by the hashtag in its name—and aims to create a sense of global collaboration for an annual day of giving.

#GivingTuesday has grown in popularity since its inception, with people from all over the world continuously giving their time, money, gifts and voices to the causes they care about. This year, the agencies behind the event, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and DataKind, analyzed results in an insight report covering how much money was raised, how many people donated, what the impact of the money was and many other factors that came into play on Nov. 28. Asha Curran, Chief Innovation Officer at the Belfer Center, authored the report. We read through it for you and are bringing you what we think are the four most valuable things we can learn from 2017’s #GivingTuesday.

1. Millions of dollars were raised in the 24-hour time period

Over $1,640,000 in gifts were given this year, and over $177,000,000 was raised online for charities and nonprofits. And these numbers are just what the Belfer Center could find; there could be hundreds of thousands of unreported dollars that people donated on #GivingTuesday. By the looks of the trends, #GivingTuesday could keep growing stronger. Researchers and analyzers found that since 2012, there have been sizeable and increasing donation spikes each year during #GivingTuesday, and that data projections show this will only continue.

2. Storytelling works

In 2015 and 2016, #GivingTuesday created #MyGivingStory, a campaign that aimed to raise awareness by using storytelling as a marketing tactic. Individuals reflected on why they gave to a certain nonprofit organization and then shared these personal stories in a contest form on the #GivingTuesday website. All the submissions were shared in a public gallery and entrants were encouraged to share their stories more widely to garner votes. Project organizers analyzed the results from the 2015 and 2016 contests to find what helped them succeed and get more votes in 2017. Elements of effective storytelling in #MyGivingStory entries included:

  • A polished, thoughtful and complete narrative.
  • Photos, especially those of young children. On the other hand, images that featured any type of organizational branding or logos did not work well and received extremely low engagement.
  • A story length of only 500-600 words.
  • Stories that followed a Greek or Shakespearean story arc with five key components: an exposition (setting the stage), rising action, climax, falling action and resolution.

3. It was an international effort

Organizations in almost 100 countries around the world benefitted from #GivingTuesday this year. By tracking the hashtag’s geographical use, Curran and her team could see where people were giving and were able to map it. Though people gave all over the world, the use was more heavily concentrated on the coasts in the U.S. This could be due to their higher population densities, the report speculates. In the future, if your nonprofit decides to participate in #GivingTuesday, make sure that you utilize the hashtag so that you can be placed on the map.

4. More still needs to be done

In the report’s executive summary, the experts tell us that while #GivingTuesday and other charitable efforts have grown over the years, philanthropic giving in the U.S. still has not risen above 2% of our Gross Domestic Product. Curran writes that “if we, as philanthropic community, could increase it by even 1%, the impact would be massive – almost $4 billion of additional funding for causes addressing tough social issues from poverty to health care to education and more.” The #GivingTuesday campaign will have to look ahead to the future and figure out tactics on how it can work to push philanthropy further to improve upon the good they’re already doing.