Creating a Philanthropic Pandemic

Cannon in fog | NPS

I am tired of talking about viruses and germs—aren’t you? What I would like to talk about is a really well-conceived, worldwide, coordinated effort to help the countless nonprofit groups around the world.

GivingTuesday started in 2012, and since then has rallied increasing numbers of charities to work with their supporters to shore up fundraising efforts at the end of most organizations’ financial years. The apex of the campaign takes place the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. The genius is that it feeds on the widespread feelings of hope that surround the day of Thanksgiving and the opening of the holiday season. People worldwide flock to shops and online businesses in a spirit infused mission of spreading love and caring. Giving Tuesday brings people out from the last day designed for personal shopping and asks people to turn their attentions to the charities that are doing so much good.

We all appreciate that tax years end on December 31, and so the month of December is a time for getting affairs into order for the tax returns. It is a last chance in the year to vector your money to places you want it to go while minimizing what mindlessly goes to federal and state taxes—it is brilliantly conceived.

This year, #GivingTuesday is set for December 1, but like most fundraising events, it is a multiweek event that requires considered planning to maximize it. Worldwide, the movement raised an estimated $500 million online and three times that offline. Facebook, which introduced us to the program, raised $100 million in 2019, with another $20 million raised in additional campaigns conducted in the weeks before and after the main Tuesday event. As an incentive to organize Facebook matches, the first $7 million given after 8 a.m. Eastern Time—the match—is usually gone inside of 90 seconds!

BGES has had success raising money through Facebook and from online appeals through our Email hub EMMA. Increasingly we are meeting fundraising goals for projects without turning to snail mail, although as statistics associated with Giving Tuesday document, $3 was raised offline for every $1 raised through social media.

We recognize the potential impact this event can have on us, and I wanted to introduce you to the universal appeal this coordinated effort has on the charitable community. If you spend a little time on the Giving Tuesday website, you will get a better sense of the magnitude of the movement. They are currently organizing a special Giving Tuesday for Covid Relief for May 5, but primarily the focus will be on the December 1 annual event.

I would like to leave you with a couple of thoughts as we contemplate the buildup to December 1, 2020.

The spirit has spread throughout most money-processing agencies—PayPal and Facebook have both waived all fees for charitable contributions processed through their platforms, which can add 1% to 3% to the total donated.

The spirit of the day is toward volunteerism of all stripes—not just cash donations, but time and services as well. We will be primarily emphasizing cash transactions, but there are volunteering opportunities, and we will work to encourage that within our community.

BGES’s campaign efforts will have four distinct fundraising components tied directly to Giving Tuesday, and several housekeeping tasks that will wrap up our year in good order. The four components will be:

  • A Major Gift targeted toward matching funds through Facebook’s partners “Network for Good.” Since the Facebook match is such a longshot, we will work to create our own matching funds sources for contributors to work against.
  • A Structured Effort to bring Facebook friends and followers for both Len Riedel and BGES—a total of some 2,200 people—into a giving relationship at this one dedicated time. Currently 10% of that group is noted for contributing online through Facebook.
  • A Concurrent Effort through willing BGES friends and followers to sponsor separate BGES fundraisers with their friends networks. We will provide the resources and checklist items to hopefully spur scores of other people to focus on BGES and our needs.
  • We will then Work Concurrently using PayPal and our EMMA constant contact network that reaches out to more than 6,000 BGES followers via email and finally by direct mail to those people who do not do “online stuff” or prefer the paper and ink means of donating.

As we work our goals and pulse our fundraising muscle to see what we are actually able to do, you will be contributing to moving the BGES to a new level of security, so that less time is spent worrying about paying light bills and salaries, and more time is spent completing projects that “Help Save America’s Civil War History.”

I am excited to walk this new path with you. Stand by for excitement.

—Len Riedel, Executive Director, Blue and Gray Education Society