The Elusive Giving Tuesday Bonanza

The Elusive Giving Tuesday Bonanza


9 November 2021


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


I was informed last year that one of my clients had raised $6,000 from Giving Tuesday, which turned out to be 20% or so more than in 2019. Woohoo! Given the work they put into it, I estimated they netted about 53 cents an hour.

Could they have raised that much from a single donor? By investing that same time and energy into major gift fundraising – into building relationships with people who support them?

Perhaps. And they could have raised a lot more.


In case you missed it, I’ve been writing for several years about fundraising as a relationship-building exercise. Among other ideas, I’ve pointed out that:

  • In a perfect world, we would know every donor individually, and we would understand why each one will say yes to a request for funding a specific program, project, or outcome.
  • Getting to know people at this intimate level is what distinguishes major gift fundraising from other fundraising strategies, and it has nothing to do with wealth.
  • Getting to know people individually engenders loyalty – people give, and increase their giving, for years and years. An important consideration for organizations that need to last into perpetuity.
  • Every donor is a prospective major gift donor, once we understand why s/he might be motivated to give. (It’s major GIFT, not major DONOR.)
  • Building strong relationships with donors is an important role for Board members.
  • Organizations that fared the best through the 2009 economic recession were those who had strong, personal relationships with the donors who supported them.
  • The median 5-year value for new members is right around $800; at least in the studies I have conducted since 2016. Those whose 5-year value was substantially greater than $800 had strong major gift development programs, while those with value much lower than $800 tended to be those dependent on less personal, electronic communications.


I’ve also pointed to strong development programs having four “systems” operating all the time:

  • Marketing to bring in new people;
  • Renewal to secure repeat giving and challenge donors to get more engaged and give more, up to about $250;
  • Annual Gift Leadership (donor clubs) to build relationships with donors giving from $250 to $25,000 every year; and
  • Major Gift Development to deepen those annual gift relationships by matching donor interest to organization need and opportunity.


I don’t mean this to sound as linear as it does. People bounce around all the time. Their circumstances change. Their attention spans wear thin. Their interests evolve. Sh*t happens. That’s what relationships are all about.

And fundraising is all about building relationships.


So against that backdrop, where does Giving Tuesday fit in?

A: It really doesn’t.

  • It doesn’t raise a lot of money
  • It doesn’t advance your most important relationships
  • It tends to reinforce the idea that the match is a prime motivator for giving (it’s not)
  • It tends to reinforce transactional giving instead of philanthropic giving
  • It diverts staff and Board member attention away from actually building relationships with donors


So why do we all rush in so eagerly?

Because we’re sheeple. And we’re not thinking critically.

We’re worried about being conspicuously absent. Missing out (FOMO).


I think Giving Tuesday has two things going for it: It’s an antidote of sorts for the commercialism of the season represented by Black Friday (so is a walk in the woods). And it has the potential for attracting new support (marketing), even though we don’t use it that way and new donors is rarely the actual metric we use to evaluate success.

My advice is to participate, but at a very low level. Minimize the organizational effort it takes to have a presence on Giving Tuesday, and that specifically includes getting Board members involved.

Spend the time you save building relationships with individual donors, and that specifically includes getting Board members involved also. Call donors to say thank you. Host a small gathering for friends and neighbors in your home. Show people the difference your land trust is making in their communities. Go for a hike .

You won’t raise as much money from Giving Tuesday.

But you will raise MORE money. And over a longer period of time.


Cheers, and Have a great week!




PS: Your comments on these posts are welcomed and warmly requested. If you have not posted a comment before, or if you are using a new email address, please know that there may be a delay in seeing your posted comment. That’s my SPAM defense at work. I approve all comments as soon as I am able during the day.



Photo by World Wildlife courtesy of



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1 Comment
  • Robert
    Posted at 08:01h, 09 November

    Excellent advice David. One caveat: if you can get your team to act in unison, the FaceBook bonus can yield $4,000 to $6,000, as it did for one charity over the past three years. A team experience that builds community and is over in less than ten minutes.