Giving Tuesday - Is it Worth the Effort?

by Natasha Dresner, Mentor, JCamp 180

Not too long ago, we asked, "Is Giving Tuesday Worth the Effort (for Nonprofit Jewish Camps)?" Thank you to those camps who took the survey. it worth it? Yes and no. According to the survey, the utilization of the ubiquitous annual Giving Tuesday campaign as a strategy varied from camp to camp. While one camp saw it as a strategy to acquire new donors, another saw it as a tool for camper enrollment. Their degrees of success varied as well, confirming the old maxim that what you put into it is what you get out of it.

In this article you can find our conclusions and findings from the survey. You may also want to check out this case study of Camp Ramah in the Poconos' experience with Giving Tuesday (not included in the results defined here) and their tips for making their campaign a big success in 2016. 


JCamp 180 camps were asked to take the survey ONLY if they participated in Giving Tuesday in 2016; we received 13 responses. Of those 13 camps, 10 have run Giving Tuesday campaigns before (1 camp for 5 years; 1 for 4 years; 6 for 3 years; and 2 for 2 years). 

1. Goals and Gifts: The campaign goals varied from no set amount to $24,500 (without a match).  Four of the goals were not met, while the rest were met or slightly exceeded, collectively raising $81,703 (without matching funds). $250 represented the smallest amount and $24,971 the highest raised by an individual camp with the average gift amount per donor being $109.09. Seven of the camps also shared additional (non-monetary) goals they had for the campaign, and all of those were met.  A few examples of the goals were:

  • "Sustain Your Match renewals & new donors"
  • "make giving easy"
  • "engage alumni - young alumni in particular"

2. New Donors: The total money raised came from 749 donors, of which 379 were new donors (51%). The new donor impact and potential (if retained) presents multiple opportunities for both the individual camps as well as the Jewish Camp world at large. 

3. Promoting Channels: The majority of the participants indicated the use of Email and Facebook as the primary channels to promote their Giving Tuesday campaign. Only about 1/3 of the responding camps used Twitter, Website, Peer-to-Peer, or Instagram to promote their campaigns. The type of channel used did not show any clear correlation to performance.

4. Strategies: The top three strategies utilized were:

  1. "Launched/showed/announced something new/exciting"
  2. "A challenge match"
  3. "Used referrals

The most "dollars raised" and the most "new donors acquired" showed some correlation to the use of these strategies, though not in every case, suggesting that the execution of a strategy is far more important than the strategy itself

5. Donor Gratitude and Acknowledgement: The overwhelming majority of the respondents used automatically generated emails and/or snail mail thank you card or letter to thank their Giving Tuesday Donors. A few respondents used social media, personalized emails, or even phone calls to thank donors to the campaign.

Using best practices in donor stewardship, we recommend that the automatically generated email (usually impersonal) is used only to confirm the gift and be followed by something much more personal. Which one it should be (snail mail card or email, phone call or social media) should be determined by your individual situation, culture, campaign goals, and donor preferences. For example, if your goal was to engage young alumni, you may be better off sending your gratitude via a text message. A more important question yet is "How do you retain these donors?" How do you engage these young alumni, for example, in a way that is different from other donors? How do you engage them as a group that gave, perhaps, for the first time, on Giving Tuesday?  

6. Lessons from Participants:

1) What did you learn from previous experiences?

  • Giving Tuesday is best for young donors/young alumni. "We gave more options for payment - added texting"
  • Need to promote more; more personal interaction:
    • "Learned not to take pledges"
    • "Make it fun and easy to give"
    • "Not a good fundraising vehicle for us"
    • "It's easier to increase donors vs. dollars"
    • "First year we didn't do much and it showed…"

2) Is a Giving Tuesday Campaign worth doing and why?

  • "Makes sense as part of end of the calendar year effort"
  • "Not for our community that raises most funds through events"
  • "Yes, it does engage lapsed donors"
  • "Yes, for alumni to develop giving"
  • "Yes, gives us another lens to see our current/future donors & gain insights to behaviors/trends"
  • "It's amazing. Raises a lot of $ and excitement with little effort compared to a major event."
  • "Yes, but I wouldn't devote a ton of time to it"

3) How did it contribute to your overarching fundraising efforts?

  • Minimally (from 2 respondents)
  • "Based on last year's success, we budgeted a higher goal and made it!"  
  • "7% of our annual campaign"
  • "Little money, great buzz"
  • "Jumpstarted end-of-year annual campaign"
  • "More money, more donors"

4) Anything else you'd like to share?

  • We just finished December with our highest enrollment ever this early in the year. This, we are sure, was due to the marketing campaign in Oct & Nov leading up to GT, followed by a strong calling/marketing campaign in December focused on camper registration."
  • "Need to work on getting recurring Giving Tuesday donors"
  • "Was a useful tool to engage Board Giving"
  • "Loved using Venmo"
  • "We've been fortunate at this point GT hasn't impeded annual campaign"
  • "More than anything, I think it motivates existing donors to make their year-end gift right then, online. I don't think it motivate many new donors; most would probably have been motivated to donate through our other year-end appeal channels... All in all, it's certainly not a waste of time, but I don't see it having a transformational impact on our year-end fundraising. Not yet, at least."
  • "(Giving Tuesday) takes some concentrated work, and it's all worth it, because in the end it's just a one day event that's way less work than something like a major event… The long-term effects are great as the marketing videos/posts we use create the image we want donors/families to know about camp. The videos were of campers talking about all the things they love about camp (friends, food, outdoor activities, overcoming fears, etc.)"
  • "All of the work is important…, BUT the KEY is the matching grant. This year it was great that our matching gift came from new and increased donors."

5) What would you do differently next time? 

  • Three respondents would utilize a challenge match
  • Three respondents would use more prep, more effort, more lead up, more individual champions ("online ambassadors," for example)
  • "This year, we eliminated something we did last year where we offered incentives like camper t-shirts and sweatshirts. People didn't want these, and it only created more work."
  • "Next year, the one thing we could do better is to get even more people helping the day of… we had around 20-30 people (only about 10 in the office)… This year, we used donor cards (like on Super Sunday), this was very helpful! With more volunteers we'd have been able to reach more people. We also need to be more organized - a few people received multiple calls."
  • "Ideally, we'd recruit a team of volunteers to act as online ambassadors, engaging and activating their individual networks to donate."

7. Giving Tuesday Big Picture: The big picture question in the survey further highlights participants' different experiences with their Giving Tuesday campaigns:                                                                                  

While the majority of the respondents felt that the survey categories "Giving Tuesday is important to their camp's overall fundraising" and "The money we raised from Giving Tuesday was worth the effort," only two participants agreed that "If we don't promote Giving Tuesday, our donors will choose to support other organizations instead," and the opinion about "Giving Tuesday raises money that we wouldn't otherwise receive" was, basically, split. Additionally, while more participants felt that "We put a lot of energy into our Giving Tuesday Campaign," the opposite was true about "My camp should put more effort into Giving Tuesday in the future."

Conclusions - So…is Giving Tuesday worth the effort?

Yes and no. Being a Nonprofit Jewish Camp - and not a Red Cross or St. Jude's Hospital - limits the audience you can hope to engage and appeal to. For the most part, you reach people already connected to your camp (past and current campers/families/staff/board, etc.). They tend to already be your donors, who are willing to give to you through other fundraising efforts. Plus, Giving Tuesday requires additional time and resources to implement. Therefore, those who say that Giving Tuesday is not worth the effort may not be wrong. 

That said, those who say it is worth it, may not be wrong either, mainly because of the various opportunities your Giving Tuesday presence creates. Your donors are likely to have other passions so, if you are not there on Giving Tuesday to be one of the choices for them to support, they cannot give to you even if they want to.  If you are not there, you are missing out on a natural opportunity to promote your camp, its values, stories, and impact - even if you think you are preaching to the choir, and even if you aren't asking for money. Have you considered not using Giving Tuesday as a fundraiser? Instead, consider having your Giving Tuesday "campaign" be about giving gratitude and celebrating generosity; after all, giving goes both ways. Of course, your Giving Tuesday campaign can also be a combination of the strategies above, which brings us to an overarching set of conclusions:

  • The question every camp should be asking is "Is Giving Tuesday worth the effort to MY camp?" If we learned anything from this survey it's that each case is different.
  • Giving Tuesday is just one of many possible fundraising campaigns, so you need to consider its use in the context of your overarching development program and goals, then test it out as you would any new strategy or program. 
  • If you are not going to participate in Giving Tuesday, make it be an educated decision that results from that testing. Then move on to testing other strategies.
  • If you are going to participate in Giving Tuesday to raise money, focus your efforts on engaging a specific group (e.g. young donors, young alumni, past parents who stopped giving, camp people who have never given, etc.). Consider other uses (promotion, brand strengthening, donor cultivation and stewardship, camper recruitment, etc.), and balance the time, energy, and resources you put in with the anticipated outcomes. 
  • Focus on donor retention as this is where the biggest return on your investment in Giving Tuesday lies. By extension, do not intentionally pursue one-time donors.   
  • And lastly, remember, that just like with any other fundraising (or other) effort, what you put into it is what you get out of it!

Still not sure if Giving Tuesday is worth the effort for YOUR camp? Check out this case study about how Camp Ramah in the Poconos made the most of Giving Tuesday in 2016.