#GivingTuesday was established in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y in New York City and the United Nations Foundation as a sort of corrective to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, two post-Thanksgiving "holidays" dedicated to spending and consuming. The idea, according to Henry Timms, executive director of the 92nd Street Y, was simple: "We were really just trying to say, look, everyone talks about the holiday season and the giving season, and we think there's space for the philanthropic community to make a statement, amongst all the consuming and buying, that giving is important, too."
PND recently spoke to Timms about a new report that provides an in-depth look at #GivingTuesday fundraising trends since 2012.
Philanthropy News Digest: A new analysis by Blackbaud shows double-digit year-over-year growth in #GivingTuesday donations for three years running. Is it your sense that the growth in donations is in addition to the usual giving that happens at the end of the year, or is it coming at the expense of traditional year-end giving?
Henry Timms: We haven't seen evidence of the latter. In fact, the data we have seen has been quite positive with respect to the additive value of #GivingTuesday, both in terms of gift size, which has been meaningful, and also from an overarching perspective. Our own #GivingTuesday campaign has been hugely beneficial in terms of additive donations. It would be naïve to suggest it doesn't happen, occasionally, but the overall trends are very positive. Steve MacLaughlin at Blackbaud has actually been very good on this topic and has written some really interesting pieces on how Americans think about giving, and one thing he talks about is that we do have this kind of default fear of scarcity in the nonprofit sector. It’s a kind of Oliver complex, where we tremble whenever we get up the nerve to ask for more. I wonder how healthy that is, especially this year, when we see first-half fundraising numbers coming in pretty bullish. It seems to me like it’s a good time to be asking for more. I was at an event in Westchester County recently, and someone there said to me, "You know what, I love #GivingTuesday because it gave me the confidence to ask, which is something I never had." Many of us recognize how important that permission is, and I think we need to encourage our colleagues in the field to ask more regularly. Not just on #GivingTuesday, but all year long.
PND: Was there anything in the Blackbaud study that surprised you?
HT: The finding which jumped out at me was mobile. Something like 17 percent of the online donation form views on #GivingTuesday were from mobile phones. But how many nonprofits are ready to accept mobile donations in a meaningful way? It's a wake-up call. If you've spent any time in Silicon Valley, you know that everyone is building for mobile. The same can't be said of the nonprofit sector, so I hope that finding starts to get people really thinking about mobile. I was also pleased to see a lot of smaller organizations report positive #GivingTuesday results, because one of the early criticisms of the campaign was that it would only work for large organizations. Generally speaking, the data in the Blackbaud study is quite interesting, and one of the many good things about #GivingTuesday is that, three years on, we have richer data and a lot more of it.