Giving Tuesday may be helpful to organizations that do not have defined constituencies. However, for independent schools, this day may not help elevate philanthropy in our communities or assist in helping us stand out in the nonprofit marketplace. Our fundraising strategy needs to be rock solid and in place, not molded by external events that are not tied directly to the experiences we want to create for our donors. Giving Tuesday isn't a substitute for strategy, but it does provide our schools the opportunity to stand out in our local philanthropic communities.
The legendary business consultant Peter Drucker was quoted that “the purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.” In our mind, the purpose of philanthropy is to create and keep a donor. Utilizing #GivingTuesday to create and keep a donor is similar to relying on the purchasing of a ticket at Disney World to bring customers back instead of the experience in the parks being the key driver of retention.
At Tampa Prep, our decision to send a thank you video for Giving Tuesday worked nicely into our stewardship calendar. We wanted to take advantage of the “me too” strategy employed by most nonprofits and send a different message. We were surprised by the range of positive reactions. In fact, one of our most supportive and loyal donors responded, “Well that's a first! Thank you for the expression of gratitude. It is greatly appreciated.”
Long-term success in fundraising requires organizations to move from focusing on creating individual transactions to designing positive experiences for the people that choose to be financial supporters.
If you have ever stood in the middle of Times Square and looked up at all the signs and then did a quick 360, you'll understand. After the exercise of spinning around and trying to list the signs you recall you'll realize it's difficult because so much information is coming at you. Today donors are standing in the middle of a philanthropic Times Square. There is no shortage of places for them to support. Since we are all asking for money, there isn't a competitive advantage in that activity. Which means the only place any nonprofit can stand out in that crowded marketplace is how they manage the relationship with the donor between the points of asking. For us, this means first and foremost that we are in the business of designing donor experiences. If we get that right, we can create emotional momentum that is beneficial for both the donor and the organization.
Our little experiment with sending a thank you on Giving Tuesday and raising ten times the amount we raised the previous year when we did do an actual solicitation is an anecdotal piece of data that suggests our donors are seeking different kinds of connection. While our experiment isn’t scientific what is real is the national data on donor attrition rates. In a business that is all about sustained relationships, it appears to be the one place we fall down. I guess the question we all have to ask ourselves is what will make the relationship with our donors special for them?
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