December 3rd was #GivingTuesday. Just for kicks, the K&C Team decided to go through our Inboxes to see how many solicitations we received and which ones came from organizations we had donated to before, versus new asks. Needless to say after we hit 65 in our respective inboxes our eyes glazed over, our ears glued shut and our collective sense of indignation rose. I mean seriously, how many times does one person need to be asked to give in one day? Donor fatigue is real, and this approach to fundraising only increases the sense of blase and reinforces, rightly or wrongly, the sense of duplication and in-efficiencies in the market.
What irked us most was the thoughtlessness of the solicitations. The sheer number of “Please sir, can I have some more?” requests. #GivingTuesday shouldn’t just be about asking people to donate their money, it really should be an opportunity for charities to engage with their donors in a more meaningful conversation about the overall needs of the community and how their organization addresses those needs.
According to a CanadaHelps 2018 Giving Report, the average Canadian donates $346 per year. The problem with this number is that it is based on tax receipts filed as part of an individual’s income tax return, not just donations made. Think about the number of receipts you have stashed away in a shoebox that might have gone un-remitted, or donations you have made that were too small to generate a tax receipt from the receiving organization. Consider all the boxes of chocolates purchased, the Girl Guide cookies consumed (we know… we understand… Thin Mints are the best…), bottles collected and donations made on GoFundMe and Patreon (neither of which issue donation receipts). It is estimated that with all of these “off-book” philanthropic activities Canadians give in excess of $1000 per year!
GivingTuesday alone raised $15Million in Canada in 2018 and had 6,500 registered agencies participating in the movement (registered = signed up through the GivingTuesday.ca platform). There are 90,000 charities in Canada. This means, for Canadian charities (since you did not have to register to be part of the campaign) the average raised was just over $166. That is just slightly higher than 10% of a person’s total philanthropic giving in a year.
Is it worth it?
While the intention of GivingTuesday is to get people to set aside some of their holiday consumption behaviours, one could argue that in its current format of “Spaghetti Against the Wall” mass solicitation, all it is doing is feeding into an old paradigm. A paradigm that continues the subsistence behaviour of charities eking out an unsustainable revenue stream. It is also a model that could be detrimental in how it is perceived in the eyes of its donors.
As Donors, What Should we do About This?
Action follows resources.
Organizations that have the financial and human capital to invest in targeted, meaningful campaigns raise more money than those that do not. This is not only demonstrated by
GivingTuesday but also by the work done by Dan Pallotta, author of Uncharitable. So it goes to show that if donors want to be solicited more effectively we need to engage with our recipient organizations more like investors not like panhandlers throwing change at a problem, walking away and hoping for a different result.
Perhaps we can use the lessons from GivingTuesday to empower each of us, as donors, actively seek out organizations to support instead of waiting to be begged. Consider in the weeks following GivingTuesday hosting a gathering of friends with organizations you support (or maybe considering) so that there can be an exchange of ideas that isn’t tied to an “ask.” This type of gathering can lead to deeper and a more meaningful engagement.
GivingTuesday shouldn’t be driven by charities with their hands out, it should be driven by investors walking alongside investees to co-create the world that we envision. So this holiday season consider the type of community you are building and the agencies you are walking alongside and ask yourself, am I being pulled into this relationship or am I standing there because I genuinely engaged in the partnership.