Who Wins and Who Loses on Giving Tuesday
If you work in the world of nonprofit fundraising, it’s not hard to become a Giving Tuesday evangelist. A single day that brings in billions of dollars for charity and engages millions of people all across the world? Sign me up. But amidst all the excitement, we’re missing an opportunity to highlight how major giving days can reinforce inequality, further ensconcing us in a system where there are winners and losers — too often along lines of race and class.
- How do we reach new donors on Giving Tuesday?
- How do we stand out?
- Where do we even start?
I become a living, breathing Giving Tuesday machine in the final months of the year, answering questions like these each day with my arsenal of strategies and tools, examples, and templates to help nonprofits line up all of their resources and make the most of this global day of generosity. I spend hours cheering on one-, two-, and three-person teams, assuring them that they’ll have success if they start planning early, utilize the elements of impactful storytelling, build meaningful relationships with donors and pick up the phone.
But for small organizations with limited capacity, especially those led by and serving marginalized communities that are spending all of their time doing their critical programmatic work, the reality is that there is only so much that they can do by themselves. Great strategy only goes so far. At the end of the day, the saying goes, your network is your net worth.
The organizations that win big on Giving Tuesday already have major donors to match gifts, communications teams, people who can make graphics, you name it. If you’re starting out with a staff and donor base that’s small and resource-strapped, you’re going to be in a precarious position today no matter how optimized your website is or how many emails you send.
By promoting a bootstrap mentality, we’re setting many organizations up to feel like they just haven’t done enough when they don’t bring in the numbers they hoped for on Giving Tuesday. It’s no wonder people become jaded or even burnt out from fundraising — the whole philanthropic system is gaslighting them.
I’m not the first person to say that Giving Tuesday reinforces barriers for organizations led by people of color — not intentionally of course, but just by virtue of existing within our wider economic system in which there have to be winners and losers at all.
So what can be done to center equity on Giving Tuesday? Well, we can start by acknowledging that nobody is operating in a vacuum that creates a level playing field on Giving Tuesday. And then we can recognize that each of us has a role to play in upending this inequitable system.
For donors and philanthropic institutions, this means getting out of our comfort zones and putting our money where our mouth is. Take a look at who you’re already giving money to. If you’re only giving to people in your existing circle, if everyone in your circle looks like you, you have some work to do: read up, reach out and find the organizations that are often overlooked. Are you going to cater to the algorithm of your news feed this Giving Tuesday, or are you going to take out your magnifying glass and look around and what greater impact you can make with your dollars — not just in faraway places, but right in your own neighborhood?
For privileged entities like white-led nonprofits and fundraising tech, consultants, and marketers, let’s stop making Giving Tuesday a competition. Instead, let’s focus on how we can create more room for marginalized groups. Who can we lift up and promote? What groups are in the process of transformation and could use some extra support? How can we make sure that we’re talking about racial justice not only when it’s in the news but all year long?
And for the scrappy, nonprofits led by people of color that I’m talking about here, remember that it’s not all on you. We are all a product of the system we live in, and so we are relying on people of privilege to do their part, too. After all, giving days don’t change inequality — people and their intentional actions do.
Floyd Jones serves as the community and partnerships lead at Givebutter, a free fundraising platform that has powered more than $300 million in donations for millions of changemakers worldwide. Floyd supports Givebutter’s community strategy through partnerships, sponsorships, strategic campaigns and special events.