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New Analysis Proves Why You Need Giving Tuesday Branding and More


By Robertson Wang

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GivingTuesdayNow will take place on May 5, 2020, as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While this post was originally written for the annual Giving Tuesday event that takes place after Thanksgiving, the tips and strategies below can still help you achieve success during this new special day of giving.

This piece was written by Classy senior data scientist Robertson Wang.

In 2018, nonprofit organizations across the United States raised a whopping $400 million on Giving Tuesday—that’s 40 times more than the amount raised on the giving day’s debut in 2012. Here at Classy, we’re doing everything we can to ensure nonprofit organizations are as successful as possible in 2019. That’s why we dug into our platform data to better understand Giving Tuesday’s growth year over year and what nonprofits can do to make this Giving Tuesday the best one yet.

Here’s what we found:

  • Organizations are seeing year-over-year growth. The amount raised on Giving Tuesday has grown by 130% in the three-year window from 2015 to 2018, on average, for organizations that have stayed with Classy.
  • Using Giving Tuesday branding pays off. Having “Giving Tuesday” in a campaign’s name was associated with almost triple the amount of total fundraising revenue.
  • Donation-matching can help you stand out. Having a match component, and talking about it on your campaign page, is associated with twice the amount of dollars raised and 21.7% more than when the match is there, but not mentioned.

Let’s dig in.

Giving Tuesday Continues to Grow

At Classy, we’ve witnessed a tremendous amount of growth on our platform since our launch in 2011. However, this made it a bit more difficult to determine the trend in Giving Tuesday giving.

We didn’t want our analysis to be confounded by Classy’s growth or by the fact that more organizations are participating in Giving Tuesday each year. To address this, we focused our trend analysis on organizations that have been Classy customers since 2015 and have participated in every Giving Tuesday since 2015.

For this specific cohort of organizations, the average donation amount has shown a decreasing trend. It was $107.97 in 2015 and $78.86 in 2018. Similarly, the median donation amount was $40 in 2015 and it was $25.67 in 2018.

For all organizations on Classy, the average donation amount has shown an increasing trend from $107.59 to $114. The median donation was constant at $50. These differences likely reflect differences in these groups of organizations.

Organizations that have been with Classy since 2015 raise more on Giving Tuesday year after year. This fact, combined with lower average donation amounts, means that while the donation amount decreases for this specific cohort, the total number of donations is increasing.

We’ll show below that the composition of donations has been trending towards retained donors. That is, for organizations that have run Classy campaigns on Giving Tuesday each year since 2015, more donors are giving to them on Giving Tuesday (even though each donor is giving less), and donors are increasingly likely to have given to the organization in the past.

The good news is that, on average, organizations that have participated in Giving Tuesday on Classy have seen an increase in how much they raised on Giving Tuesday year over year since 2015, although growth has been slowing. Year-over-year growth for organizations that have been with Classy since 2015 was:

  • 70.3% in 2016
  • 20.0% in 2017
  • 12.7% in 2018

Taken together, this indicates that Giving Tuesday’s growth is felt at the individual organization level as well as across the nonprofit space. And while growth is slowing, Giving Tuesday is still a growth engine for organizations and is the second largest giving day of the year on the Classy platform after December 31. Retained Giving Tuesday donors are also more likely to become meaningfully engaged with an organization than other retained donors.

Giving Tuesday data analysis

In past analysis we’ve shown that Giving Tuesday is a goldmine of new donors, and updated data shows this trend continuing. Every year since 2015, we have observed an increase in new donors.

Interestingly, we have seen the composition of Giving Tuesday donors shift from new to retained donors. We define retained donors to be a donor that made a donation to an organization any time prior to a Giving Tuesday and then made their second donation on Giving Tuesday.

To be clear, the number of donors making donations on Giving Tuesday is growing year over year. In fact, there was a 59.1% increase in new recurring donors obtained in 2018 compared to 2015. However, the share of retained donors is making up more of the total: retention strategies work.

Giving Tuesday data analysis of new donors versus retained donors

We’ve shown time and again that having a solid retention strategy gets donors engaged and maximizes fundraising potential from your donor base. Above, we can see that organizations who have been with Classy since 2015 have seen their donor retention increase every Giving Tuesday since 2015.

Giving Tuesday Retention

Giving Tuesday retention looks pretty different when compared to the retention of typical 2018 donors and year-end donors. If a Giving Tuesday donor is retained, they’re far more likely to become a recurring donor than a typical retained donor in 2018, or a donor retained from the last day of the year. They’re also more likely to become fundraisers than retained year-end donors.

The tree plots below show the actions that retained donors take after they make a one-time donation. The top plot shows Giving Tuesday donors, and the bottom plot represents typical 2018 donors. The bottom plot is from The State of Modern Philanthropy 2019, where we dove deeper into the topic of return donor behavior.

Giving Tuesday retention analysis

If a one-time Giving Tuesday donor is retained, they’re most likely to make another one-time donation. They are also more likely than typical 2018 donors to purchase a ticket to one of the same organization’s events and become recurring donors. Compared to typical 2018 retained donors, retained Giving Tuesday donors are just as likely to become fundraisers and are 3 to 4 times more likely to become fundraisers than year-end 2018 donors.

We know from past analysis that the lifetime value of recurring donors is significantly higher than one-time donors. We’ve shown that organizations are obtaining more recurring donors every Giving Tuesday. Even better, we’re also seeing new recurring donors stick around longer after every Giving Tuesday.

Below, we’ve estimated the monthly survival probability of new recurring donors obtained on Giving Tuesday for 2016 and 2017. We only included recurring donors from organizations that participated in both Giving Tuesday 2016 and 2017 and remained on the Classy platform one year after Giving Tuesday 2017.

Our estimate is based on a survival rate analysis of recurring donors over a 12-month period following each Giving Tuesday. The data shows that Giving Tuesday is a windfall of recurring revenue.

New Recurring Donor Survival Rates Giving Tuesday data

As observed in the chart above, more donors who signed up to be recurring donors on Giving Tuesday in 2017 were still giving monthly donations 12 months after their first donation than in the year prior (73% vs. 52%). If organizations can continue to effectively steward their new donors acquired on Giving Tuesday, it’s possible these numbers could continue to rise.

It’s clear Giving Tuesday donors are even more likely to engage meaningfully with your organization after a one-time donation than donors during other periods. Make sure to have a plan to optimize retention after Giving Tuesday.

The Power of the Giving Tuesday Brand

Naysayers have criticized Giving Tuesday because they claim it’s difficult to stand out from the crowd. The argument goes something like: “Everyone is being flooded with appeals on the same day, so your message is going to be drowned out.”

But that’s not what we see in the data. Rather, we found that Giving Tuesday is a tide that lifts all boats.

From 2015 to 2018, campaigns that had “Giving Tuesday” in their campaign name raised on average three times more on Giving Tuesday than campaigns that did not. Furthermore, campaigns that had “Giving Tuesday” in their campaign name had 2.4 times more donors than campaigns that did not. Additionally, that same pattern holds up each year since 2015.

We saw the same thing when looking at the #GivingTuesday hashtag usage on campaign pages and mentions of Giving Tuesday in a campaign’s text. Campaigns that used the #GivingTuesday hashtag on their campaign page received, on average, 1.8 times more donations and 1.7 times more donors than campaigns that did not.

Campaigns that mentioned Giving Tuesday anywhere on their campaign page received, on average, 1.3 times more donations and 1.3 times more donors than campaigns that did not mention Giving Tuesday at all. What’s more, the average donation to Giving Tuesday-branded campaigns on Giving Tuesday was $127.33, while the average donation amount for non-branded campaigns was $97.97.

These results demonstrate the power of leveraging the Giving Tuesday brand. Campaigns that had Giving Tuesday in their campaign name, used the #GivingTuesday hashtag, and talked about Giving Tuesday somewhere on their campaign page raised 3.7 times more on Giving Tuesday than campaigns that made no mention of Giving Tuesday.

Campaigns that just used Giving Tuesday in their campaign name and talked about Giving Tuesday, without using the #GivingTuesday hashtag, still raised about 3 times more than campaigns that made no mention of Giving Tuesday. Using any one of these branding efforts resulted in an increase in funds raised over not mentioning Giving Tuesday at all.

The smallest increase was simply talking about Giving Tuesday somewhere on the campaign page. Using the Giving Tuesday brand in the campaign name resulted in almost 3 times higher total funds raised. The plot below shows the percentage increases in Giving Tuesday fundraising totals when compared to zero mentions of the Giving Tuesday brand.

Giving Tuesday branding results

These findings suggest that running a regular campaign during Giving Tuesday runs the risk of being drowned out by Giving Tuesday-branded campaigns. If you have a campaign running during Giving Tuesday, you might want to consider doing something special with Giving Tuesday branding in order to capitalize on the influx of donors.

Matching Donations Encourage More Giving

Beyond mentioning Giving Tuesday wherever they can and using the hashtag, donation matching is another avenue to grow your Giving Tuesday success. According to professors Dean Karlan and John List, people give more when there is a match. The researchers found that simply mentioning a match increased donations by as much as 19%, although the size of the match doesn’t seem to impact how much people give.

This is a bit counterintuitive. A one-to-one match effectively amounts to a 50% discount from the donor’s perspective, so a “rational” economic agent would be expected to give 50% less. However, we see the opposite: people give more. Your donors want your nonprofit to succeed and they want their donation to make an impact, and a match is one way to extend the impact of their donation.

For this analysis, we focused on campaigns that explicitly had “Giving Tuesday” in their campaign name to control for Giving Tuesday-branded campaigns and see if matching makes an incremental difference on Giving Tuesday. All numbers exclude the amount matched. It turns out that having a match program is associated with a 45% increase in Giving Tuesday donations.

Mentioning the match explicitly in the text of a campaign is associated with a 77% increase in Giving Tuesday donations compared to campaigns that did not match, and a 21.7% increase in Giving Tuesday donations compared to campaigns that did match but did not explicitly mention it in the text of their campaign pages.

Giving Tuesday matched donations analysis

If you’re considering a matching program on Giving Tuesday, be sure to talk about it on your campaign page. As our analysis reveals, supporters respond to matching campaigns, and organizations stand a better chance of leveraging a match to its full effect if they highlight it front and center on their page.

Final Takeaways

Giving Tuesday is getting more popular every year. We found that organizations that have run Classy campaigns on Giving Tuesday since 2015 are raising more every year on Giving Tuesday, acquiring more new donors, and activating more of their retained donors to join their Giving Tuesday donor base. Furthermore, retained Giving Tuesday donors are more likely to engage meaningfully with your organization than donors from other periods.

We also found how important the Giving Tuesday brand is for fundraising on Giving Tuesday. Campaigns that mentioned Giving Tuesday as much as possible (via hashtags, branding their campaigns, or simply mentioning it in text) all raised more than campaigns that made no mention at all.

Finally, we found that donation matching encourages donors to give more, even after controlling for the Giving Tuesday branding effect discussed above. If you’re considering a donation matching campaign, you ought to think about rolling it out on Giving Tuesday.

All told, Giving Tuesday is a huge day for fundraising. To help you prepare for the big day, we created a new Giving Tuesday resource center. Check it out below for free templates, guides, campaign examples, and more.

A Quick Note About the Data

For this post, we focused on Giving Tuesday data from 2015 through 2018. For the trend data, we looked at organizations that have been on the Classy platform since Giving Tuesday 2015. For the Giving Tuesday branding and matching analyses, we relaxed this requirement because we were interested in the differences between campaign fundraising outcomes instead of trends over time.

For these analyses, we looked at all organizations instead of a subset. In each year, we looked at donation behavior on the following days (after converting the donation times into Pacific Standard Time):

  • December 1, 2015
  • November 29, 2016
  • November 28, 2017
  • November 27, 2018

Giving Tuesday Resource Center 

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