#GivingTuesday – a recent addition to the philanthropic lexicon – represents an enormous, still largely untapped opportunity for the Washington, D.C., region’s Jewish nonprofits to reach new donors, galvanize their supporters, and join in the conversation at the water cooler and on social media to raise money. And it will be here soon – on Dec. 2 – just a few days after we all put the finishing touches on Thanksgiving dinner! There’s still time to prepare and be part of the phenomenon, but you can’t afford to wait any longer.
The #GivingTuesday idea was hatched three years ago by the creative minds at New York’s 92nd Street Y and promoted by the United Nations Foundation. #GivingTuesday was designed to follow “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” as a national and international movement focused on harnessing the joy of the giving season and bringing philanthropy into the center of the conversation. It has also been described as a global movement for giving back. Try typing in the hashtag right now on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or any place that uses hashtags and see what comes up! Or try #UNselfie and peruse the images from last year of people donating or volunteering on #GivingTuesday.
Last year, #GivingTuesday generated approximately $19 million in donations, was tweeted as many as 700 times per minute and trended for 10 hours straight, reaching more than two billion users of Twitter and more than 300 million people on Facebook. Charitable donations associated with #GivingTuesday grew 90 percent from the inaugural year and the average gift size grew 40 percent, from $101 to $142. And it is truly international: #GivingTuesday 2013 reportedly saw more money given to charity than any day in Israel’s history.
Despite the fact that the idea originated with a Jewish organization, Jewish participation nationally and in the Washington area has been spotty. Here, the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington has embraced the concept.
And synagogues, it seems, remain wary of asking their members for money one more time. The Union for Reform Judaism’s Religion Action Center has been encouraging congregations to get involved and last week held a #GivingTuesday webinar. Yet too many synagogues are missing a chance to be part of something larger. It may not even be about raising money: #GivingTuesday can be used to organize a volunteer project or marshal resources toward another organization the synagogue supports, such as a local homeless shelter. Collectively, we should not miss the chance to start a new public conversation about the centrality of philanthropy in the digital age.
Last year, at the time of #GivingTuesday, nearly all of the oxygen within the Jewish community seemed to be sucked up by “Thanksgivukkah,” the extremely rare convergence of the holidays of Chanukah and Thanksgiving. I implore organizations to give #GivingTuesday some serious consideration. It is not too late.
In my conversations with Jewish nonprofit professionals and volunteers across the country, I have found some excitement about the idea, but a fair amount of confusion and even some trepidation about how to take advantage of a special national event featuring philanthropy. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
1. Nonprofits have generated buzz and donor excitement by securing matches for contributions made on #GivingTuesday.
For example, last year, the Jewish National Fund raised $150,000, with the total matched by a donor.
2. Donors are more likely to participate in #GivingTuesday if an organization they support highlights a specific project and tells them exactly how the dollars will be spent.
For example, this year the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan is using the day to highlight its Interfaith Living Museum Project. This program brings together Muslim and Jewishfifth graders for six months of cross-cultural learning and exchanges. The museum has already announced that, this year, they are aiming to raise $8,000 to pay for student activities such as bowling and a celebratory dinner for the kids and their families. This leads right to my next point.
3. #GivingTuesday is not a one-day affair or even a one-week affair.
Nonprofits need to start by formulating a plan, perhaps seeking a match, finding a specific project to highlight and then taking to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email and possibly direct mail to let stakeholders know about the campaign. Ideally, a nonprofit should use its social media presence to build interest and excitement about #GivingTuesday over the course of weeks and months. I scanned the Twitter feeds and Facebook pages of a number of Jewish organizations, including a few mentioned in this post. Even the ones that appeared successful did not generate nearly enough content on their social media accounts.
I encourage Jewish organizations of all types and sizes in the Greater Washington area to experiment with #GivingTuesday this year. Jewish nonprofits are in the business of championing philanthropy. Popular culture has handed our community an entire day focused on philanthropy. Not only would we be foolish to pass it up, we would be ungrateful.
This article was adapted from a piece that originally ran on www.ejewishphilanthropy.com
Robert Evans, president of the suburban Philadelphia-based Evans Consulting Group, has more than 35 years of experience advising nonprofits on fundraising campaigns and strategic planning. A member of the Giving USA editorial review board and the national steering committee for #GivingTuesday, Mr. Evans is frequently quoted in media outlets such as The New York Times and is a regular contributor to www.eJewishPhilanthropy.com.