How to Get the Most from Your 2020 Giving Tuesday Campaign

Yep, you read that right. If you’re thinking about planning your Giving Tuesday campaign this week (it’s December 1, 2019), you’re about a year too late.

Listen, I know you’re busy and dates have a way of sneaking up on you. By reading this now, you’ll give yourself plenty of time to take my advice, reap the benefits and launch a successful Giving Tuesday campaign. Next year. In 2020.

The most important thing in this article is a single idea: For most nonprofits, especially small ones, a person’s relationship with your organization will determine how much they give when asked.

Fundraising professionals know that everything hinges on relationships. Who introduced you? How much time have you spent with them? What kind of rapport do you have? Do you know their dog’s name? If you get that right, you bring in the big bucks.  

Yet when it comes to digital fundraising, relationships are forgotten and left to fall by the wayside. Instead there’s just a stranger’s hand, outstretched, saying, “We don’t know each other, but click here to donate now!”

To get great outcomes for your Giving Tuesday campaign, you need to spend the entire year building great relationships.

To set you up for success, let’s look at some common qualities in great interpersonal relationships and understand how they manifest in digital communications between an organization and its audience.

Imagine a good friend. Someone that you trust, that you like, and that you would inconvenience yourself for if they asked you to. My bet is that your relationship with them feels:

  1. Relevant
  2. Respectful
  3. Consistent
  4. Meaningful

If you want to nail Giving Tuesday, you have to nail these four qualities with the people you’re talking to. Now, let’s dig in.

Relevance may feel like a weird way to think about a relationship, but hear me out. The people you are close to now had to become relevant in some way in order to allow the relationship to grow. Maybe they are family. Maybe they sat next to you in fourth grade. Maybe they share a hobby, a neighborhood watering hole, or another close friend. It’s not about how you met, it’s about how your life and theirs are connected in some way. In the same way, these people can move out of your life and lose relevance. You lose touch, you move on, you change, and having sat next to them in Mr. Ross’ class isn’t enough to keep them relevant.

When it comes to translating that to an organization, it’s actually pretty easy. Why is your work relevant to your audience? Maybe it’s a cause they care about, or it’s geographically related to where they are, or maybe you were introduced to them by a good friend. It works the same. Your job is to communicate that relevance, over and over again, all year long so that they feel connected to you.

If I accused you of being disrespectful to your online audiences, you’d probably get a bit defensive, but take a second and imagine yourself on a first date. After a few minutes of small talk, your date asks what you’re doing next Saturday because they are moving and could really use an extra set of hands.

How would that feel? There’s nothing really rude about the request, but it still feels disrespectful, right? If it were me, I’d be like, woah, dude, who are you? I’m over here with a whole life full of hobbies and people, and you think buying me a few pieces of raw fish makes you relevant?

I see nonprofits do this ALL THE TIME, especially on Giving Tuesday. If you are asking people for first-time donations in a social media ad, you are guilty. If you are asking people who have never given you money to tell their friends to give you money, you are guilty. If you are expecting people to read many paragraphs to understand your work on their first visit to your website, you are guilty.

Sure your language may always be appropriate, and you’re probably the most polite nonprofit on the block. You answer emails in a timely manner and you’re always the first to say thank you. But let me ask you this: Have you ever asked for a larger commitment from your audience than is appropriate based on your relationship history?

Rule: To be respectful, your ask of time or money should directly correlate to the time or money your audience has ALREADY given you. 

The longer the relationship, and the more they have engaged with you, the more you can ask of them. If you have literally never done anything but interrupt their social media feed, you have not established a strong enough relationship to respectfully ask them for money. You’re being the person who takes them to sushi and then wants hours of their precious weekend for manual labor. What can you give to them before you ask them to give to you?

Nothing builds great relationships like consistency. I hope you’ve had the sweet stability of a good friend. I’m talking about someone who exercises with you twice a week for months or years in a row, or who always picks up when you call. I hope you have friends who are steadfast and reliable, because they can be a tremendous source of strength, comfort, and service when you need it. 

Of course, we all have those friends who disappear for months at a time, then come around and need a favor. Hopefully, we’ve all outgrown those friends who are truly unpredictable and dramatic. Regardless of the source of inconsistency, we should be honest that our connection to those people is weaker and our willingness to make sacrifices for them is less than those we know we can count on.

And yet… our organizations do the same thing all the time. We let months and months pass in between updates. Our poor donors never know if the email they are going to open will have great news, a party invitation, or some tragic and moving tale designed to open their wallets. Inconsistency breeds mistrust. Even if it’s small and subconscious, you can be sure it is enough to impact the success of an annual fundraising campaign.

Only when a relationship is relevant, respectful and consistent can it become meaningful, and meaningful is where it’s at.

To help you understand what I mean, picture your dental hygienist. I’m sure he or she is a lovely person, and if you can picture them, then it’s likely that they are relevant, respectful, and consistent, so good for you! A healthy mouth is a happy mouth!

But, you probably wouldn’t call that relationship meaningful. To be meaningful, there has to be a deeper connection borne out of mutual concern. Wonderfully, this is the easy part! If you’re talking to the right people, then you know that they care about the problem you are trying to solve. The mutual concern that connects you is the one certain thing you have going for you in a fundraising campaign!

It’s so tempting for organizations to focus only on the meaningful part of their communications and relationship building with donors. It’s easy to think that your people care about your cause, so you can leverage that and turn it into dollars. In the end, you may not have overflowing budgets or sold-out events, but your Giving Tuesday campaigns do okay.

If you want to really see your people show up on Giving Tuesday, see what happens when you show up for them all year long. Consistently and respectfully remind them of your relevance so that they are confident in the meaningful work you are doing and the importance of their contribution to support it.

So how do you start building relevant, respectful, consistent, and meaningful relationships with your people?  If you’re already planning to attend Cause Camp, sign up for my strategic marketing workshop on April 22, 2020, and we’ll hatch a plan together. If you’re interested in learning more about my workshops or agency services, connect with me on LinkedIn. I promise to do my best to stay relevant, respectful, consistent and meaningful!

Get your tickets today! Early bird pricing available now, register HERE.

*Early Bird pricing available until January 31, 2020.