By now you’ve likely checked your email and started deleting all of the messages sent from not-for-profits, political campaigns, and even corporations looking for you to donate some of your hard earned cash to various causes. Feed starving animals, support LGBTQ rights, protect the environment, help elect the best candidate, you name it, they’re all waiting to scoop up your money.
Today is Giving Tuesday, or as it likes to be known since it’s a child of social media, #GivingTuesday, and as a good progressive activist you’re supposed to start digging deep. But here’s the dirty secret behind all those emails and money begs…
It’s all a sham. #GivingTuesday is a product of the nonprofit industry made to put their name and cause in your mental spotlight for a brief moment, but it’s not actually about the money.
Why not? Most people don’t give any money despite the repeated emails and social media posts.
According to a new report from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, “Pennies for Charity: Where Your Money Goes,” over a third of donations raised by professional fundraisers never make it to the organization. Instead, the fundraisers pocket it as payment.
If the organization doesn’t use professional fundraisers, the outlook isn’t that great either. Four nonprofit executive staffers from across the progressive movement spoke with me off the record since they weren’t given permission to speak to the press.
All four sources admitted that #GivingTuesday doesn’t make them much money. Donations do not pour in like they did the first year the initiative was launched and the amount raised is negligible for most established groups.
The vast bulk of money given to not-for-profits comes from corporations, foundations, and large money donors. Your $10 donation on #GivingTuesday helps, but it isn’t going to break the group if you spend it on your gas bill instead. Even progressives need electricity to charge their laptops and smartphones.
“The benefit to #GivingTuesday is in building our mailing list,” according to one source. “It’s more about name brand recognition than anything else at this point,” said another.
Nonprofit organizations generally retain about 43% of donors according to The Fundraising Effectiveness Project. The folks who throw $20 in the pot for special events like #GivingTuesday are retained at a much lower rate than those who donate more than $250. Only 18% of small money donors give again.
That means at least 57% of donors never give another penny to the organization, but the good news is that those who do donate again generally give larger amounts. And if a donor is retained with a second donation, the chance of repeat contributions goes up considerably.
It is in the organization’s best interest to get their name, mission, and emotional appeals out to their current donors than it is to get new small money donors who won’t return the following year. That’s why you get so many emails begging for money – especially if you’ve already donated before.
“First-time donors need education about your mission and cultivation to ensure further engagement with your organization,” according to fundraising coach Tina Jepson. “This takes significantly more time and resources than securing donations from current donors.”
Sure, the day is a quick money injection but in reality, it’s not even that much money. As one fundraiser said, “We’re a rather large organization. We make enough on #GivingTuesday to pay an intern for a year. That’s about it. That’s not the point.”
“We can see who opened the email about giving. We can see who has donated previously. If those two line up, we have someone to focus on for a repeat contribution. Those are the donors we want.”
Instead of picking a charity to quickly forget about, invest in one that truly interests you and become one of the repeat donors that actually benefit the organization instead of tossing them a twenty and considering yourself a philanthropist for a year.
Forget about social media hashtags and feeling better about yourself after spending scads of money on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. You don’t have that much left over in a tight economy and the orgs don’t really care. It’s not your money they want; it’s your time, your energy, and your willingness to help them again.
#GivingTuesday is a sham and doesn’t need your support. #GivingMonthly does.