Giving Tuesday Part One: A history of Giving Tuesday

By October 16, 2019 October 24th, 2019 Fundraising Best Practices, Giving & Philanthropy

Note: This is Part One of a three-part series about Giving Tuesday. Be sure to visit Part Two: Should your nonprofit participate in Giving Tuesday? and Part Three: How to make your day a success story.

Giving Tuesday 2019: What you need to know

’Tis the season for shorter days, pumpkin-flavored everything, and… one of the most significant fundraising days of the year. But is celebrating that big day – December 3 – right for your organization?

Whether you have elected to participate or not, Giving Tuesday has no doubt had an impact on your consideration of giving strategies. At a minimum, you may find yourself fielding questions regarding the rationale for your depth of participation (or non-participation).

Though Giving Tuesday is universal, there are many variables that factor into your decision about whether getting involved is right for your organization’s unique goals, approach, and mission. As a result, the intent of this blog series is three-fold:

In Part One, you will gain an understanding of Giving Tuesday and its history.

In Part Two, you will learn the key questions to ask yourself when it comes to Giving Tuesday participation.

In Part Three, you will become equipped with six Giving Tuesday success strategies, no matter the size of your effort.

A brief history of Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday is a growing phenomenon. In the last three years alone, Giving Tuesday has grown by $100 million annually, from $168 million in 2016 to nearly $400 million in 2018.

The steep increase of Giving Tuesday support should be contrasted with the Giving USA results of individual philanthropy in the United States (which totaled $427.71 billion in 2018). When considering the impact of Giving Tuesday, it is important to recognize that it comprises only .13% of overall annual giving in the United States. This begs the question: Is Giving Tuesday truly driving new philanthropy or simply consolidating it into a specific time frame?

Giving Tuesday was started in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y in partnership with the United Nations Foundation in New York City as a response to the consumer-focused “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” that follow the Thanksgiving holiday. Just this year, Giving Tuesday became its own independent 501(c)(3) organization and is led by Asha Curran of the 92nd Street Y. As of now, Giving Tuesday does not seem to be doing a great deal of independent fundraising but is instead primarily a resource and conduit for participating nonprofits. That said, they have gained a great deal of foundation and corporate support, especially from technology companies.

Giving Tuesday has become a global initiative, with more than 60 countries participating in their own nation-focused campaigns. During Giving Tuesday 2018, total donations were estimated to be nearly $400 million in the U.S. alone. Of this, $125 million was raised through Facebook’s charitable giving platform. Facebook’s giving program, which launched in 2016, has been transformative for the effort, with nonprofits now able to process donations through the platform.

In past years, part of the allure of giving was the huge matching program offered by Facebook, PayPal, and the Gates Foundation. Fast Company reported that, during Giving Tuesday 2018, “the companies agreed to mirror up to $7 million in contributions on a dollar-per-dollar, first-come, first-served basis.” According to a Facebook spokesperson, the funds became available at 8 a.m. and were gone “within a matter of seconds.”

Historically, Facebook has waived its transaction fees on Giving Tuesday. PayPal also waives its transaction fees for a number of verified nonprofits as part of their “PayPal Giving Fund,” even outside of Giving Tuesday. Be sure to check and ensure your nonprofit is included as a verified recipient. Additionally, Amazon encourages users to sign up for their AmazonSmile program, which is another year-round offering. Donors can even make a Giving Tuesday donation by telling Amazon’s Alexa-enabled devices, “Alexa, make a donation to <your nonprofit>” using Amazon Pay!

Where are dollars going?:

Dollars given are processed through a number of platforms and not centrally. In addition to Facebook, other major gift processing services include Blackbaud, PayPal, Mightycause (formerly Razoo), DonorPerfect, Network for Good, and Classy. Thus, it is important to consider that reported totals on giving are an aggregate supplied by many sources and may not be exact.

Currently, Blackbaud provides the most comprehensive breakdown of Giving Tuesday revenue by sector. Higher education and K-12 education rank highest among the sectors when it comes to support, but we’re quick to point out that this is likely due to the number of educational institutions deploying Blackbaud as a gift processing service.

Human services also receives a significant proportion of gifts and, aligning with the results of Giving USA, 2018 saw an uptick in giving to animal welfare and environmental organizations.

In spite of the wide net cast during the Giving Tuesday efforts, large organizations (those with philanthropic revenues of $10 million or greater) still receive more than half of Giving Tuesday support. However, this gulf narrows every year. For example, 2014 saw 74% of gifts going to large organizations, and last year saw this reduced to 56%. Meanwhile, support of small (less than $1 million) and medium ($1-$10 million) organizations is growing – but only by a few percentage points annually.

Giving Tuesday is free, including access to all resources on the organization’s website. However, they do not accept or distribute donations; participants are responsible for their own fundraising initiatives and transactions.

Up next:

In Part Two, you will learn the key questions to ask yourself when it comes to Giving Tuesday participation.

In Part Three, you will become equipped with six Giving Tuesday success strategies, no matter the size of your effort.

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