Our friends at Giving Tuesday have designated May 5th “Giving Tuesday Now,” a new global day of giving. It’s a day of unity and philanthropy designed to support people, businesses, and nonprofits struggling both directly and indirectly from the effects of COVID-19. But what are the implications of Giving Tuesday happening in May? 

How much focus should we give this?

It’s unclear yet if this moment will be understood or embraced by donors in the same way it has been in November. The amount of publicity and support that the day generates in the run up to it will have a significant role in its success — and we’re happy to see that major media partners have signed up to support the initiative.

In scenarios like this, it’s best to plan for a big day and then re-evaluate as needed: expect this to be a significant event, but adjust your schedule and spend up or down based on initial digital response, media coverage, and social commentary. For nonprofits directly working against the disease, this will be a moment in which you should be able to raise a significant amount of revenue to support your work. For those nonprofits who are affected by COVID-19 indirectly (i.e. budget and cashflow challenges due to a softer response rate/additional expense), Giving Tuesday Now could be a good opportunity for you to regain some lost ground. 

What should your message be? 

Telling the truth clearly and concisely is never more important than in a moment of crisis. We call that “honest simplicity.” You need to clearly explain how COVID-19 has affected your mission and the important role the supporter has in responding to this unique moment. You still share values and worldviews with your donors — tell them what this means in this new global context and how they are the center of the mission and the movement’s response. Accordingly, we’d put the weight of the message on your mission — not the Giving Tuesday moment. Use fewer words — repeat your message and the benefit to the donor so it can’t be missed.  

What do we know about Giving Tuesday that can help us with Giving Tuesday Now? 

It’s likely that May 5th is going to be a highly competitive day, with many organizations and nonprofits seeking to maximize their impact. This has two main implications:

  1. With Giving Tuesday 2019, triple matches were the new double matches. It’s likely that most nonprofits will be organizing a match campaign for this response — and may be offering higher-value matches once again. Not having a matching gift offer will likely leave your nonprofit in an uncompetitive space and should be avoided.

  2. It’ll be a high-volume day: Many organizations will be planning multiple sends throughout the day. We’re hearing that most nonprofits are planning on being a little less aggressive than a traditional Giving Tuesday campaign, but we’ll be unsurprised if some organizations use more than five sends that day if the revenue is flowing. 

Many organizations have historically tried to “extend” Giving Tuesday after the event has passed, and while there’s been mixed results, we’ve seen greater advantage in getting Giving Tuesday messaging in the days leading up to the event, rather than the days after the event. So aim on getting out early. And if you have a specific genuine need or financial goal you could use this to leverage support — but make sure your target is real and authentic, not made up for the moment. 

How can you maximize long-term revenue?

Maximizing long-term revenue should be the goal of every fundraiser. Recurring giving is central to this and we’d actively encourage you to explore whether recurring could sit at the heart of your Giving Tuesday Now campaign — as long as you don’t need an immediate short-term cash boost. 

We tested the returns on a recurring versus single gift ask with a number of clients on “normal” Giving Tuesday, and the response was mixed: Some clients raised more with a single gift; some raised more projected revenue with recurring. That said, as average gifts are often higher at year end, you may see lower average single gifts in May, leading to more revenue being generated with the recurring, rather than single gift asks. Given that many nonprofits have had to hit pause on their Face to Face fundraising, Giving Tuesday Now could help you catch up on a significant hole in your budget. 

What should you prioritize for Giving Tuesday Now?

We’ve already talked about a clear, honest message and the importance of a match. We’d add a robust email cadence, co-ordinated telemarketing campaigns, homepage takeovers, unique donation page creative, organic and paid social campaigns and a robust SEM spend and creative. 

What else should you be thinking about?

If you’ve got a list of celeb supporters with large networks, this might be a good moment to tap into that asset. Go to them with a specific, singular ask (e.g. record a video in which you say these three things). Many celebs are at home with free time — and you might just catch the right person at the right time and increase the spotlight on your cause. 

Final thoughts: 

Most of all, we’d stress that in these unique times, it’s more important than ever to make the experiences you’re providing your donors thoughtful, pleasant and transparent. In a moment of sensitivity like this, there’s an opportunity for gain — but also a risk of reputational damage if you aren’t respectful and honest with your supporters. 

Many people you are communicating with will be struggling with their or a loved ones health, finances and the worry associated with the realities of life right now. Empathy will be crucial in all of your communications. So be thoughtful. Embrace honest simplicity. And go raise the money! 


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