News and analysis
December 04, 2014

Giving Tuesday Shows Strong Growth in Both Donations and Volunteerism

Giving Tuesday showed strong growth on two fronts in 2014. The amount of cash raised increased 64 percent over 2013, according to one estimate. In addition, volunteerism is becoming an important part of the annual charity event.

Nonprofits raised nearly $46-million in connection with this week’s event, according to early estimates by Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, produced in partnership with the Case Foundation. The event raised $28-million last year, according to Lilly.

Lilly’s estimate includes $4.6-million in donations made through the Network for Good online platform, which works primarily with smaller nonprofits, and $26.1-million donated through the nonprofit-software firm Blackbaud.

The Lilly total doesn’t include $7.5-million that Indiegogo reported raising for 419 organizations through campaigns on its website.

“The data shows this year we've moved from an idea to a campaign to a traditional day," says Sheila Herrling, Case Foundation senior vice president for social innovation. "It's taken root and it's going to be a national day." She added, "The biggest thing for us is it directly challenges Black Friday and Cyber Monday, where you have analysts lining up looking at the numbers as a gauge of the health of our economy. What if, as a nation, we focused that kind of attention on giving and we wanted that to be our identity?"

Celebrity twitter posts, endorsements from President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, and millions of individual social-media exchanges helped power up the Giving Tuesday momentum that began in 2012.

"I think the whole movement came into its own this year," says Kathy Calvin, chief executive of the United Nations Foundation and a co-founder of the day of philanthropy. "I was intrigued by how many celebrities got on board and the ‘unselfies’—pictures showing them and what they cared about. They were key drivers in getting the social media going."

Volunteer Efforts

Calvin also noted an increase in volunteer efforts, which included mitten drives, clothing drives, tutoring sessions, and other community projects. Giving Tuesday has produced a wide range of benefits for charities large and small, Ms. Calvin says.

"I think we’ve gotten very good at building a powerful platform for the nonprofits," she says.

Nearly 18,000 corporate, civic, and charity partners registered to participate this year in Giving Tuesday, which was created by the United Nations Foundation and the 92nd Street Y, in New York City.

The most ambitious recent efforts included the Donors Forum of Illinois and its #ILGiveBig campaign, as well as Maryland Nonprofits and its #MDGivesMore. The two groups had set out to raise a combined total of $24.2-million in contributions to charities in their states.

Maryland Nonprofits had reached $8.3-million by around 10:30 p.m. on December 2, and donations continued to flow in after that, according to Allison Albert, the group’s membership and marketing director.

In Kansas, the Golden Belt Community Foundation surpassed the $30,000 it had set as a goal in a matching campaign. Christy Tustin, the executive director, says the day of giving attracted new donors to the 40 local charities that participated in the event with the foundation.

"The cool thing about Giving Tuesday is that any size organization can participate and meet some new donors and get a little more visibility and notoriety," Ms. Albert says. "I think that’s exciting and powerful."

The University of Michigan joined the effort for the first time with Giving Blueday, a campaign to generate $1-million for 70 nonprofits and groups tied to the institution.

"We know that donors like to give to projects that are personally meaningful, and they like to be invited to participate by the people benefiting from the project," says Judith Malcolm, senior director of executive communications. "Our inclusion of 70-plus student organizations meets that donor preference while introducing more students to philanthropy."

Beyond Online

Charities and businesses around the country took advantage of Giving Tuesday momentum in large and small ways.

The Great Falls Animal Shelter in Montana broadened Giving Tuesday beyond the campaign’s online roots by offering pet adoptions for $10 to raise money for the group’s Guardian Angel Fund, which pays for emergency veterinarian services. "Our thought process is to get people in here, get the pets adopted, and get the donations to help make our shelter better," says Lynn Formell, the executive director. "It goes to more than giving money to a charity or writing a check to someone. Giving also means giving an animal a home."

The Helen Woodward Animal Center, in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., worked with students from Solana Santa Fe Elementary School to create personalized cards for older homebound people and deliver holiday-theme toys and treats for their pets.

Statistics Elusive

Given such a wide array of giving and volunteering opportunities, tracking the total impact of Giving Tuesday has been challenging and inexact. Jean Case, chief executive of the Case Foundation, said the annual event is fast becoming an important part of the nation’s consciousness and its donating patterns, so better statistics are important.

The Lilly school and the Giving USA Foundation will issue a full report on this year’s tally in a "Giving USA Spotlight" report, to be issued on December 17.

"We’ve been wowed by the momentum that Giving Tuesday has achieved in just two short years," says Ms. Case. "And we think Giving Tuesday is ready to push forward from being a movement to its rightful place as one of the key days of the holiday season."

To do that, she adds, "we think more data is needed, including a figure that estimates the amount actually donated on Giving Tuesday, a number that, like Cyber Monday and Black Friday statistics, gives us an indicator of the health of our giving economy."

Una Osili, the director of research at the Lilly school, says the contributions to charity tied to Giving Tuesday likely exceeded the estimate produced Wednesday. The initial tally included only five online giving platforms and a small sample of offline gifts, Ms. Osili says.

The 53 percent increase in the number of donations to 296,291 was as impressive as the cash total, she says. “We are seeing a lot of positive momentum,” Ms. Osili says. “This speaks to the involvement and the engagement that nonprofits found.”

Ms. Osili says the Giving Tuesday data will help make the event more successful in the future. “We can capture data as it’s happening and see what’s influencing donor behavior, what are the messages that are inspiring donors, how organizations can use social media effectively,” she says.


Preliminary Results of Giving Tuesday

  2013 2014
Total money raised* $28.09-million $45.68-million
Total donations* 193,582 296,291
Total nonprofits receiving donations* 9,781 15,127
Average gift* $145.11 $154.18
Tweets mentioning #GivingTuesday† 269,000 698,600
Average tweets per hour† 11,202 29,108
Hours trending on Twitter in the U.S.† 10 11

Sources: * Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and the † United Nations Foundation


Editor's note: An earlier version stated that the December 17 "Giving USA Spotlight" report will be issued by Case and the Lilly school. The report will be published by Giving USA Foundation and the Lilly school.