#GivingTuesday 2016: The Ultimate Strategy Guide

#Giving Tuesday began in 2012 as a response to Cyber Monday, a day crafted by marketers to encourage a rush of commerce after the Thanksgiving holiday. #GivingTuesday, according to the day’s organizers, “harnesses the potential of social media and the generosity of people around the world to bring about real change in their communities. It provides a platform for them to encourage the donation of time, resources and talents to address local challenges.” Positioned close to the gift-heavy winter holidays, Cyber Monday encourages people to spend their money and time on pleasure. #GivingTuesday, said GreatNonprofits.org CEO Perla Ni, is “a terrific opportunity to change how we think about the holiday season.”

The work of nonprofits and purpose-driven organizations is bigger than one day, of course. But a day that compels attention and drives empathy and mobilizes action can also bring new and impassioned supporters to organizations that need their support, perhaps now more than ever.

And so Ignite wants to help you get ready. Last year, organizations involved with #GivingTuesday raised more than $100 million in online philanthropic donations from 700,000 donors. We hope that this year’s #GivingTuesday will be bigger, more generous and more impactful.

On that note, this week Ignite launches the first in a series of posts about #GivingTuesday. First on the agenda: Where should you begin? We have a few critical recommendations for you as you shape your #GivingTuesday strategy.

Register with GivingTuesday.org

The flagship site for #GivingTuesday features a handy directory for participating organizations, searchable by name, city, and organization type. In a sense, your registration with GivingTuesday.org ensures that their social media marketing works for your organization. In 2015, the campaign reached nearly 1 million people via Facebook and made 114 billion Twitter impressions. This year, #GivingTuesday’s Twitter account has already begun to share the plans of its affiliated organizations. An organization can never wholly predict where its next supporters may come from; let #GivingTuesday promote your cause, too.

Create a campaign strategy

Preparing a marketing campaign for #GivingTuesday should feel like a miniature version of your yearlong outreach plan. The recommendations from #GivingTuesday’s official toolkit—“partner,” “set a goal,” “share your story,” “send a save the date,” “build a drumbeat”—should already be part of your organization’s strategy.

However, the occasion is what makes this strategy distinct. #GivingTuesday’s place on the calendar dares people to consider the needs of others as they consider their own, and make the decisions—sometimes difficult, sometimes uncomfortable, often significant and consequential—necessary to help others. It’s an extra request for support, and your outreach should acknowledge that, and convey your gratitude. But it’s also an opportunity to explain your cause with a second dose of conviction.

Business 2 Community runs down a list of four types of #GivingTuesday emails, from the first announcement to the final thank-you note. That list should also be familiar; it likely bears some resemblance to your content strategy and email marketing program. But it’s important that each email or Facebook post or Snapchat post emphasize #GivingTuesday as a special occasion, an extra day for making an impact. Don’t merely let your previous outreach strategies drive your #GivingTuesday plans; let #GivingTuesday give shape to new outreach strategies.

Meet your neighbors

Many organization use #GivingTuesday as an opportunity to re-introduce themselves to locals who might support their work. The Getty Museum collected canned goods from visitors, and more than a hundred volunteers helped Community Missions to repair a local food pantry, according to the site. Reach out to your established social media audiences as well as to your community members through press releases to local news outlets, fliers, and word-of-mouth. Ask them to save the date, and then give them a place—somewhere other than just online—to be.

And if planning an event is a bit much for your organization to take on, then consider how your organization might insert conversations about philanthropic giving into its community. “Learning to Give launched the #TeachOne movement on #GivingTuesday to encourage over 10,000 elementary school teachers in America to teach one lesson to their students about philanthropy,” #GivingTuesday reports. “Thread, a Baltimore based nonprofit, organized a campaign to inspire 1,000 actions on #GivingTuesday. From “raking leaves for a neighbor” to donating to a nonprofit, Thread’s initiative inspired 1,163 actions on #GivingTuesday.”

Perhaps one of the finest examples of flexible thinking and careful planning comes from the Family Dinner Project. The project offered “tips for conversation and giving on #GivingTuesday,” and encouraged families to share their food during the Thanksgiving holidays by inviting neighbors over or gathering community members together.

The project also partnered with Boston Market to leverage its audience for a greater philanthropic push. “From November 25 through December 15, families visited thefamilydinnerproject.org and downloaded the #GivingTuesday ‘Dinner Tonight’ card, created in partnership with Blue Star Families, a nonprofit organization supporting military families. People could also visit the Family Dinner Project on Facebook and Twitter and share or retweet the card with the hashtag #familydinnerforward. Each time the card was downloaded or shared, Boston Market donated to support military families (up to $5,000).”

Count those strategic maneuvers! The Family Dinner Project linked itself to the #GivingTuesday mothership, and also partnered with a for-profit business that devoted important resources to families in need. It used #GivingTuesday to encourage discussions about philanthropy and community. And it used the popularity of #GivingTuesday to extend the holiday weeks beyond that single day. After all, the ultimate success of a campaign like #GivingTuesday should be to encourage people to consider giving every day.

Next week, we'll spotlight a few nonprofits who are creating exceptional buzz for their #GivingTuesday projects, and show you how you can adopt their strategies to promote your work.