News and analysis
December 07, 2015

Early Planning and Offline Engagement Lift Giving Tuesday Totals

Fundraisers must engage millennials in the real world as well as on social media to win their support on Giving Tuesday and other days devoted to philanthropy, according to a report released Monday.

The study by Achieve, a consulting firm that has conducted previous research on millennials — people born from 1980 to 2000 — examined how nine organizations prepared for this year’s Giving Tuesday, seeking to uncover the strategies that helped them successfully appeal to young supporters.

Seven of the nine charities exceeded their 2015 goals, some by significant amounts; the remaining groups have not yet reported complete data. Rutgers, participating for the first time, aimed to raise $500,000 on Giving Tuesday and raised more than $1.1 million, though it did not track the ages of its supporters. The University of North Carolina sought $150,000 and raised nearly $236,000, with 29 percent of those donors being millennials.

Factors the researchers cited included:

Early planning. Some groups, like College Mentors for Kids, began developing their strategies as early as the spring. College Mentors sought $18,000 on Giving Tuesday and raised more than $27,000. Most of the participants in the study told researchers they would give themselves more ramp-up time in 2016.

Thinking beyond digital. All of the organizations used social media extensively in their appeals, with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, being the most popular, in that order. Most groups started their online campaigns in November.

However, the report cites too great a reliance on social media as a potential pitfall. The report noted that in initial interviews with fundraising staffs, none of the groups had a clear strategy on how to reach millennials: "The majority of organizations felt that simply promoting their participation through social media would engage a younger (millennial) audience."

Social media played a big role in some success stories, notably that of Rutgers and the University of North Carolina (which also used Snapchat extensively). But offline appeals, such as events or peer-to-peer fundraising, also helped.

Forefront, previously known as Donors Forum, sought $6 million on Giving Tuesday for 612 charities with which it has partnerships. Forefront said organizations with active associate boards — largely composed of millennials — did best on the giving day. Though their data from the event is still incomplete, 205 of those partner organizations indicated in data reported so far that they raised a total of $2.4 million, an amount and pace of giving that suggest Forefront’s $6 million goal will likely be reached or exceeded.

Engagement. Groups that got millennial supporters to serve as their advocates or ambassadors leading up to Giving Tuesday reaped rewards on the day itself. In late September, Rutgers launched a program called Scarlet Voice, which gave its campaign ambassadors social-media tools to help them spread positive messages about the university. More than 350 people signed up for the program, which Rutgers intends to use year-round to communicate with supporters.

Send an email to Heather Joslyn.