11 Tips for #GivingTuesday Success

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Black Friday. Cyber Monday. #GivingTuesday.  Social media and online marketing and communication have dominated the months of November and December for several years, so it makes perfect strategic sense that your nonprofit organization capitalize on this somewhat captive audiences and harness their power for good. Cue comic book hero metaphors….

So, you start to see the buzz around all the holiday sales coming up, you catch a friend’s post on Facebook describing how his social club is collecting coats for kids or donations for holiday meals, and you decide now is a great time to add your organization’s needs to the mix.

Wait…. Before you consider down the gauntlet and hosting your own #GivingTuesday or Giving Day campaign, consider these 10 steps:

  1. A crowd isn’t sourced in a day.  While Giving Day campaigns are designed to be one-day, telethon-like online “events,” they are just like any other fundraising challenge – they take planning time.  Start working with a small team that includes internal staff and external stakeholders at least two to four months ahead of the actual #GivingTuesday or Giving Day date.  I recommend four months if you’ve never done this type of fundraising before. Why so early?  That question is answered in tip #2. 

  2. Planning makes perfect.  Raising your goal amount in 15-24 hours takes more than a few well-placed Facebook posts a day or two before.  Here are areas of planning to consider:  


    How many people follow your social media pages now, and how can you increase those numbers and maximize engagement in the next few months to have as much of your audience’s attention on #GivingTuesday as possible? 

    -  What logistic pieces need to be in place and tested ahead of time to effectively and efficiently manage online donations: Thank You messages and donation receipts, and donor stewardship? 

    What is your organization’s “why,” and what goals (which of course tie into your organization’s over-arching strategic goals) are you hoping to accomplish by conducting a Giving Day campaign? 

    - Do you have staff, volunteers, board members, and/or community members who can act as Brand Ambassadors and spread your Giving Day messages (and who will be your “Early Adopters” to jump-start the campaign by giving to it!)?  

    - Do you have community business partners who can offer matching gifts or employee campaigns for you to leverage in order to drive individual donations? If you can answer these questions affirmatively or have a plan to address them, you are prepared to start the fun part of the campaign: marketing!

  3. Sell the “why,” not the “what. People ultimately give to people. People connect with an individual at an organization, whether it’s a staff member they trust, a customer the program has positively affected, or themselves having been a recipient of services in the past. I highly recommend watching Simon Sinek’s TED Talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” where he describes a simple shift in messaging that can change how your organization’s brand stands out to potential donors, employees, and customers. Once you’ve established or clarified your organization’s “why” in messaging, use it. Keep that focus through visually-appealing posts with multimedia, and use community-centric, outcomes-focused messaging in pre and post-campaign communications. 

  4. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do… Think from your audience’s perspective – have you asked them to “like” and “share” posts in the past? Have you encouraged them to click on links to articles? Would you personally want to “like” and “share” the information your organization posts? If your answer is ‘no’ to any of these, do a little work ahead of a Giving Day to “drip” some call-to-action style posts to your audience.  If you’ve done your engagement-building work and see an increased number of people following your page, put out a quick poll to get a sense of what your audience expects from your page.  Take that feedback and make small tweaks to your posts over the following month to see if it brings an uptick in engagement.  If it doesn’t work, try something else. If your adjustments do work, awesome!

  5.  Be creative. Social media is a great platform to experiment with messaging, visuals, multimedia, and communications tactics. Use the time between now and your Giving Day to create a variety of different kinds of posts you can “test” on your social media audience to gauge responsiveness.  (live video, stories with images, questions to the audience, etc.)


    Now, it’s time. You have herded the metaphorical cats, vanquished your allegorical enemy (lack of time and staffing to plan an extra campaign), and it’s the day of the show, y’all. Time to execute your plan:

  6. At least a week ahead: test all technology around your campaign – online “donate” buttons on your website or social media page, actual online donation pages and secure credit card processing, etc. The last thing you want is to take months of planning and have it all thwarted at the last moment by the glitchy world of Cyberland…

  7. Remember your customer service – if someone asks a question on your social media page, or calls/emails about technical trouble he or she is experiencing while trying to make a donation, make sure someone is available to answer it. Your ability to quickly respond and resolve these issues could mean the difference in dollars and relationships with your public. One and done? No such thing in the world of fundraising: 

  8. Remember that question about having logistics pieces in place for thank you messaging and stewardship? Time to put that part of your plan into action. Make sure every donor gets a thank you (email/confirmation page), maybe even “shout outs” to some/all from your social media page during the campaign day. 

  9. If you have corporate or community partners/sponsors for your campaign, put together a short report to show them some statistics of how their brand reached your audience and the ROI (Return on Investment) for their support. Include sponsors in future communications from your organization and continue to cultivate those relationships.

  10.  After the campaign, don’t forget about them! Plan at least 2-3 updates that thank donors for participating in your Giving Day campaign, including one that celebrates how much in total was raised and at least two more during the rest of the next year that highlight the impact those donations have made on your work and in the community. These updates (without additional asks) will bring your donors into your story and build relationships with them for future campaign success. 

    The After-Party – CQI (Continuous Quality Improvement):

  11. Last step – take everything above and analyze it. Did you plan far enough in advance to get everything done and done well? Did you have the resources and tools you needed when you needed them? Did anything come up during your planning or execution of the campaign that helped (or hindered) your success? What feedback can you gather from your committee, internal staff, and donors that will improve future campaigns?

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These steps are not the Colonel’s secret recipe, but they certainly will help you set the stage for a successful online fundraising campaign. The landscape of social media for nonprofit organizations is continuing to evolve and grow. It’s more like great food than your neighbor’s basement, though – it has the power to connect and unite us rather than puncture our senses with terrible smells and cause us to fear for our lives.

So, go forth, create your campaign, and may success in online fundraising be with you. Always.


Liz holds a Master of Arts in Strategic Communication from the University of Iowa, and a B.A. in Philosophy from Augustana College. She has served as the Director of Community Engagement for SAL Family and Community Services since 2011, where she leads fundraising and marketing efforts, donor relations, and volunteer engagement for the organization’s four programs. Liz has provided consultation on crisis communications and emergency preparedness planning for UCS Healthcare - a non-profit organization in Des Moines, IA, and has developed social media campaigns for the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce and Skip-a-Long Child Development Services centers. Liz is a single mom of three girls, ages 10, seven, and five, and in a previous "life" she worked as part of the performing wait staff - the Bootleggers - at Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse in Rock Island, IL