#GivingTuesday just completed its fourth year, and by most measures it has already become a successful fixture in the charity landscape. Launched as a response to the overt consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday focuses the attention of the world on the true meaning of the holiday season: sharing our capacity to care for and empower one another. According to a preliminary estimate by the Case Foundation, #GivingTuesday raised $45.7 million for nonprofits this year, representing a nearly 240 percent increase from the $13.46 million generated just two years ago when the event first launched.
Given the rapid rise of #GivingTuesday in the global consciousness, now is a great time to examine the impact of this new tradition, especially on the most populous of all the generations in the workforce - Millennials. The leaders at Achieve, the organization behind the Millennial Impact Project - a comprehensive study of the Millennial generation and their involvement with causes - are well-suited to examine how #GivingTuesday is received by Millennials. On Friday, Achieve released “#GivingTuesday 2015: Attracting Millennial Donors,” a study which goes beyond numbers reporting to understand how organizations are reaching their donors – in particular, Millennials.
And the findings of the report reveal two key Millennial trends. First, #GivingTuesday has largely become the default start of the giving season. Second, organizations are using donor-centric messaging to emotionally elevate potential donors’ abilities to affect change.
As part of its research, Achieve recruited nine research partners that attempted to raise money from Millennials on this day of giving. The research team then analyzed the marketing approach and campaign success to draw conclusions about which strategies best engaged Millennials. Together, the nine research partners had a combined goal of raising $6,955,000; in the end, they fell short by raising $4,383,310.49.
For most of the nine research partners, this year was the first time they created a real #GivingTuesday strategy. While the partners are varied, they all shared a narrow range of reasons for getting involved in #GivingTuesday. Either they wanted to be a part of the movement; wanted to appeal to Millennials and have the opportunity to garner support and donations through social media; and/or they wanted to jumpstart their end-of-year giving campaigns.
The report’s researchers arrived at three conclusions and recommendations for nonprofits interested in community outreach to Millennials in next year’s #GivingTuesday:
- Plan early and strategically.
Most of the study’s research partners got a better jump-start on #GivingTuesday this year than last, but many said they would start even earlier next year. Partners also reported that approaching the event with more structure was instrumental to their success this year. Timeline and tactics are critical, but as noted by the report, “Don’t just rely on typical methods of communication (i.e. direct mail, social media or email) to attract Millennials, as this evaluation has shown that these methods have not shown higher than average response rates with non-Millennial organizations. Get creative with events, incentives and networking prior to #GivingTuesday to build up the excitement to this day.”
- Engage, don’t just solicit
Research from the Millennial Impact Project demonstrated that Millennials value financial giving as much as giving of their time and resources. Simply asking for money doesn’t cut it with this generation - they need to feel truly involved in the mission of the organization. “Establish online Millennial advocates or ambassadors prior to #GivingTuesday,” the report suggests, “so these ambassadors can reach their Millennial – and non-Millennial – networks and more people can become involved in your organization’s cause, increasing your organization’s reach and fundraising potential.”
- Think beyond digital
Social media activity does not equate to engagement, so don’t expect a single Facebook post to inspire much generosity. “#GivingTuesday can be a successful day of giving,” the report states, “but to engage Millennial donors, organizations need to expand their tactics and approaches to more than just digital (web/email) and social means of communication.” The most successful research organizations were the ones who incorporated grassroots efforts that directly connected peers or inspired personal challenges in clever ways, for example through games and events. Nonprofits need to remember that when it comes to Millennials, the offline world is just as important as the online one.
In the end, #GivingTuesday is indeed an inspiring event for Millennials, but the organizations that engage Millennials in their causes via both digital/social and grassroots efforts were the most fruitful. While #GivingTuesday may just be one day, its success begins many months before, through a timely and strategic effort that involve far more than financial giving to capture the attention of the Millennial generation.