The Giving Tuesday Paradox

The Giving Tuesday Paradox


Founded in 2012, Giving Tuesday has enabled nonprofits to raise a staggering amount of money over a short period of time, with more than $166 million raised last year alone.  As Giving Tuesday continues to grow, the scale of its impact may be the very thing that threatens its long-term success unless participating nonprofits, particularly the smallest organizations, understand the strategic opportunities - and limitations - of this single day of philanthropy.


Several years ago, while working on a project in Mumbai, I wandered into a marketplace to explore a sampling of local crafts.  Knowing that I would be returning home in a matter of days, I was intent on picking up a few choice souvenirs.  Perhaps sensing my eagerness to make a few purchases, vendors bombarded me from all sides, clamoring to grab my attention, push merchandise, and insist that their product was superior.  Feeling overwhelmed from the start, I left the market that afternoon having purchased nothing.


With each passing year, my inbox on Giving Tuesday feels more and more like that marketplace in Mumbai.  The paradox of choice and the sheer noise on a single day has left many donors feeling overwhelmed and even irritated, and the number of solicitations is only expected to grow this year.  An over-reliance on a single day of fundraising not only exposes an organization to increased risk and potentially siphons off support provided at other times of the year, but also fails to recognize the long-term, strategic relationship needed between a nonprofit and its donor base.  


When thinking about a donor’s reaction to a Giving Tuesday email solicitation, one can expect one of two likely results: Either your email is ignored (sadly, the more likely scenario) or a transaction takes place, hopefully in the form of a large donation.  But what if Giving Tuesday was about more than that single transaction?  What if Giving Tuesday was treated less like a one-off solicitation and more like a matchmaking opportunity for nonprofits to find and create relationships that are driven by repeat donor engagement opportunities well beyond the checkbook? What if, instead of asking their donor base to click “Donate”, they asked them to instead serve as an ambassador to the organization and share its mission with their friends, family, and social networks over the holidays, arming these ambassadors with collateral, videos, and personal stories?  What if every political post on Facebook was replaced with personal stories of triumph thanks to your local nonprofit?


At the core of any innovative fundraising strategy, regardless of what day it falls, is to acknowledge that the next generation of donors is looking to do more than just click “Donate”.  This emerging donor base, driven by socially-mindful and social-media savvy Millennials, are seeking a sustained, personal relationship with the organizations that they support.  This type of relationship rarely comes with a 24-hour campaign that is centered on raising dollars. The true measurement of a donor base comes in sustained, repeat engagement - not single-day totals.


Giving Tuesday will continue to grow and thrive so long as participating organizations recognize the need to build a fundraising campaign beyond that single day, not around it.  The power to drive meaningful social change needs to start, not end, with Giving Tuesday.  The onus falls on every participating nonprofit and donor to be the catalyst for that engaged conversation.  The end result will hopefully be a fundraising and engagement model where giving happens every day of the year.


Learn more about #GivingTuesday at

Solve for "Why" - The Beginning of ethostrategies

I am thrilled to announce today as Day 1 in the life of my new company, ethostrategies.  I’ve come to this day after months (actually, years) of consideration, and ultimately feel like the time is right to venture out and create a resource for companies that will empower them to do more good in the world.

I am a firm believer in Simon Sinek’s TED talk, “Start with Why”, which is why I intend to build my business around this very simple idea: Your business - no matter the size - is not driven by WHAT you do, but by WHY you do it.  Your employees don’t just want to come to work to do their jobs.  They want to come to work because they are a part of a movement.  A clearly articulated “why” is what will get your employees out of bed and fired up to come to the office every day, and connecting your employees with a strategic social mission is an integral part of a genuine and meaningful “why”.

In the world of corporate social responsibility (CSR), writing a big check or holding one big service day per year is simply no longer enough.  Employees, customers, and investors are asking for more: CSR programming that is integrated, strategic, and deeply personal.  When a company effectively creates meaningful CSR programming, their “why” becomes that much more alive and actionable.  Working at Constant Contact for the past six years, I felt great coming to work because I knew we were doing everything in our power to make our customers and their communities more successful.  Our “why” got me started and kept me engaged every day.

The ethostrategies model is simple: Find those companies that are not only offering incredible products and services, but are also primed to build out a strategic CSR program that connects all of their key stakeholders, particularly their employees.  My vision with ethostrategies is a world where companies of ALL sizes have CSR programs, not for PR purposes or to offset some negative externality, but because they recognize the deep connection between social impact, an engaged workforce and a loyal customer base.

Just here in Boston, we are seeing extraordinary growth with new companies sprouting up every day that have the power and the mindset to truly change the world.  At ethostrategies, we will find those companies, harness their energy, and empower them to use their powers for good.

Join us in the movement.  Starting with “Why”, and starting… now.