Giving Tuesday: The Right Time for Nonprofits to Turn to Outcomes Measurement

Courtney Kang, Nonprofit Industry Marketing Lead

November 19, 2019

With the holidays around the corner, the most charitable time of the year is approaching for nonprofit organizations. However, for some it can also be the most stressful, as nonprofits begin competing for donors’ attention amid a hectic fundraising environment.

Tis’ the season to be generous 

According to the Nonprofit Source(opens in new tab), 30% of annual giving occurs in December and 10% of annual giving takes place in the last three days of the year. Kicking it all off is Giving Tuesday(opens in new tab), a movement founded in 2012 as a response to the hyper-consumerism of post-Thanksgiving holiday shopping. With a global reach, immense social media presence and the backing of corporations such as Facebook and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, this annual day of giving has generated over $1 billion since its inception and is expected to garner even greater participation this year(opens in new tab).

While creating a Giving Tuesday social media strategy and email campaign is a standard and almost expected effort, going beyond the usual fundraising tactics is key in standing out from the crowd and creating opportunities for a nonprofit that can extend beyond the end of the year.

 Communicating impact for year-round engagement 

 For starters, nonprofits can effectively navigate Giving Tuesday and create awareness around their mission and the benefits of extra donations by measuring and communicating the financial outcomes of programs year-round. By directly linking donations to mission impact in key messaging, nonprofits are more likely to attract donors who are putting the time into researching where they should be giving. Informed donors want to know how their money will be used—sharing meaningful metrics will help cut through the noise and draw them in.

And while Giving Tuesday is undoubtedly an influential movement and a powerful celebration of generosity and giving back, it is not free from criticism. One of the main arguments is that the day encourages episodic one-time gifts. That means it’s up to nonprofits to convince first-time donors to make follow-up gifts or even pledge longer-term commitments. When donors are able to see the impact and tangible difference their previous donations made, it’s likely they will be inspired to give again—whether that be on a future Giving Tuesday or another time in the year.

This should give rise to both more rigorous and robust outcomes measurement, but also more frequent, clear and engaging communications with donors on how their donations were spent and to what end. Measuring outputs is the first step, and one many organizations do well. Measuring outcomes, on the other hand, can be quite complicated.

To link an organization’s activities to outcomes for an affected community involves causal relationships, theories of change and logic frameworks. However, because the sector has turned away from determining effectiveness purely based on low overhead costs and hitting basic outputs, organizations have the opportunity to re-think how they are measuring and communicating their work in a longitudinal way.

Luckily, there is a growing number of resources and tools available to help nonprofits understand and adopt more meaningful success metrics. The recent Connecting Dollars to Outcomes survey(opens in new tab) highlights the challenges nonprofit finance executives face in measuring financial outcomes; and how new technology, measurement tools and funding models are helping address the evolving infrastructure needs of nonprofits.

Not only is Giving Tuesday and the overall giving season an important fundraising period, but it’s also a pivotal moment for nonprofits in terms of raising awareness, demonstrating effectiveness, and setting up opportunities for longer term success. By building efforts upon a foundation of outcomes measurement metrics, nonprofits can avoid the post-holiday/giving season blues and use the charitable time as a launchpad for further successful fundraising.

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