Originally published on the Big Duck Blog
By Hannah Thomas, Senior Strategist, Big Duck
It’s fall, or, as I call it, “spooky season.” It’s also about that time when nonprofits start planning for year-end fundraising. In the last handful of years, this planning has included–and often centered on–GivingTuesday, a day most nonprofits hope they’ll generate record-breaking donations. GivingTuesday has evolved into an enormous movement that the vast majority of nonprofits worldwide partake in year after year, consistently generating positive fundraising results for the sector.
Giving Tuesday was created in 2012 by 92nd Street Y Executive Director Henry Timms, co-author of New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World – and How to Make It Work for You. He saw an opportunity to disrupt the way nonprofits and their audiences perceived and pursued fundraising. GivingTuesday wasn’t built for the 92nd Street Y. In fact, it wasn’t built to benefit any one single organization. Instead, it was conceived as a movement meant to benefit the collective sector. Every organization could use the hashtag, #GivingTuesday, build their own narrative about what the day meant for them, and appeal to their audiences using the momentum and spirit surrounding the day.
The momentum and spirit of Timms’ original vision for GivingTuesday are still very much alive. However, GivingTuesday has also become pretty competitive, with many nonprofits fighting to receive their piece of the pie on this single day. There’s an economic term for this phenomenon: the fixed pie fallacy. That’s the idea that there’s only a certain amount of wealth to go around, and you must compete to get your share of what’s believed to be a finite resource. Generosity is not finite, and neither is the money by which GivingTuesday measures it. In fundraising, the fixed pie fallacy is challenged by the regular emergence of new donors, thinkers committed to reshaping philanthropy, and the ebb and flow of relationships with existing donors.
Believing in the fixed pie fallacy hurts the sector and also goes against the principles upon which GivingTuesday was founded: power is for everyone to share and wield together and there’s enough money for every nonprofit to get the support they need. As Amanda Cooper at Lightbox Collective said, “There is enough of everything for everyone. And anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to scare you… because they’re hoarding wealth and power.”
An abundance mindset sure sounds nice. But beyond feeling warm and fuzzy, it might actually set the stage for a healthier, more equitable, and more financially robust sector. Philanthropy is uniquely ripe for iteration, disruption, and adaptation at this moment. When I think about how I hope fundraising practices evolve, my bet is that giving power to abundance thinking–rather than scarcity thinking–will generate the kind of outcomes we want and need to see in the nonprofit world and beyond.
So how can nonprofits bring a spirit of abundance to this year’s GivingTuesday? Some of the suggestions below may feel radical, because they are. Remember how radical the idea of a GivingTuesday was when it started?
Make room for others in your story
The story (or theme, concept, etc.) that you lead with throughout your GivingTuesday communications might be about your organization or it might be about a community, field, or the whole world. Here’s a story that is organization-centric: “We will develop a breakthrough cure with transformative impact.” A story that’s world-centric might read: “We work toward a future where this disease doesn’t exist anymore.” The latter statement makes room for more than just your organization’s hard work to get to that desired future state–it could be the product of a whole ecosystem of nonprofits, academics, legislators, and others working together. In your GivingTuesday communications, consider how your story does or does not place your organization’s work in the context of a collective effort.
Seek generosity in its many forms
Offer other ways for people who aren’t in a position to give their money right now to share their generosity with you. Provide volunteering opportunities, ask them to change their social media, profile photo, or some other way to engage. Make sure they know, through your communications, that the currency they have to give (time, energy, passion) is also valuable by sharing thanks and treating them as you would donors, too.
Pass the mic
It may feel counterproductive to deflect the spotlight off of yourself at a critical fundraising moment, but I encourage you to shout out other organizations in your landscape (such nonprofits whose missions inspire you) in your GivingTuesday communications. Perhaps you can include your nods to other organizations doing good work in your “thank you” email to folks who make a donation to you. That way, you’ve already received your gift, but can also play a role in “passing it forward” to other organizations. Not quite ready for that? Consider showing your support for other nonprofits via social media. Imagine new folks supporting you based on the good word of other nonprofits in your field. What a beautiful, symbiotic set of relationships that could create within the sector.
Partner up and create a pot
Another way to generate abundance is to partner up and coordinate your GivingTuesday efforts with a group or coalition of nonprofits who will share in the dollars raised. Perhaps your group comprises all organizations from a single town, or a single issue area, or an intersection of issues. There’s a good chance that you’ll be stronger together. You’ll likely also grow your audiences, because folks who’ve supported your partners will now be motivated to support you, too. And it’s cool to demonstrate how nonprofits are truly interconnected and can lift each other up.
Approaching GivingTuesday with an abundance mindset just might represent the spirit of generosity that will yield powerful results for the nonprofit sector. And these are just a few ideas to inject abundance into your GivingTuesday game plan. We’d love to hear from you if there are ways you plan to incorporate abundance and collectivity in your efforts. Please share with us!