Does success on #GivingTuesday backfire?

One thing I always used to get concerned about at this time of year was sharing success.  It sounds strange, but with Giving Tuesday happening at the beginning of the holiday season, I was careful to share if we were doing well, because I thought it might cause people to make their year-end gifts elsewhere.  This fear was amplified by several situations where someone who typically made a gift at the end of the year didn’t choose to give, later telling me that “It seemed like you were doing okay, so I’ll hold off until next time.”

This year, we set an ambitious goal on Giving Tuesday to raise $10,000 in NEW donations (a gift from either a new donor, or an increased gift from a current donor) to support an additional triathlon in Dane County in 2017.  We achieved this goal with less than an hour left in the day, and the outpouring of support was incredible.  Now, we’re focusing on meeting our year-end financial goals to support our existing events and programs.

I do my best to trumpet the success and excitement of our campaigns on Giving Tuesday, because a) it generates momentum and additional dollars and b) people WANT to see us succeed.  By thanking people immediately and sharing updates throughout the day, it brings our supporters together and makes them feel good about giving…which you should!

But guys, here’s the deal – just because a non-profit meets a fundraising goal does not mean we don’t need all the help we can get.  Many Giving Tuesday projects fund very specific initiatives, and in order for those to succeed, the rest of the organization needs to be able to keep the lights on.  As someone who didn’t have a background in non-profits and fundraising, I was saddened to see that many people judge non-profits by how small their “overhead” and “administrative” costs are, when the salaries of the hardworking, dedicated people who are devoting their livelihoods to causes fall in to this bucket.  To learn more about this topic, I highly recommend this TedTalk.  Warning – it will make you angry, and if it doesn’t, let’s talk.

I don’t say any of this to bully you in to making donations to charities, I say it because at Tri 4 Schools, we’re happy about our successes, and we want that to continue.  Here’s how I plan to do that:

  1. Let people know about how we use donations and spend money – our Annual Report comes out in January 2017.
  2. Help provide stories of impact and put our requests in tangible terms (i.e. $75 will buy the 25 remaining safety vests we need, $25 provides one scholarship).
  3. Build relationships and connect people who care about our mission to our organization.  People will give if they care about the cause AND the people who are doing the work.

So, while I used to be worried that sharing our success would negatively impact our organization by causing others not to give, I’ve realized that people will give as long as they feel passionately about your mission.  We have great donors who understand us, trust us, and are willing to help us reach our goals with the full measure of their resources (yep, we’re pretty blessed).

I’m thankful for every person who has supported us along the way, and believed that we’re doing good work, and that we’re the right people to be doing it.  I’d be remiss in not putting in a plug for the work we’re doing in schools and in our community – so if you want to support healthy kids and active schools, you can give here.  PayPal is adding an extra 1% on all donations through December 31st.

But if not, find the issues you care about solving. Find people and organizations doing that work, and then get involved in any way you can.  Do the research, and not just the quick review on Guidestar.  Dig in and find out the impact they’re making, and their hopes for the future.  We’ll be featuring organizations in our area doing good work all month long on our Facebook page.