8 Recommendations from a Giving Tuesday strategy expert

September 19, 2021
7 minutes
Jamie McDonald, GivingTuesday.org's Chief Strategy Officer, is surrounded by Giving Tuesday heart logos in a cloud of blue paint.

If you're a fan of Funraise's podcast, Nonstop Nonprofit, you probably heard one of 2020's most-listened-to episodes, featuring Jamie McDonald, then GivingTuesday.org's Chief Strategy Officer, now UpSurge Baltimore's CEO.

We were recently reminded of the value of Jamie's conversation with Funraise CEO and Co-founder, Justin Wheeler, and in relistening, we just had to gather the advice and support for nonprofits everywhere. Here are the condensed talking points so you don't have to search for the nugget of golden giving guidance that stuck with you all year.

Bonus content: Put these strategies to work with the tools and templates in Funraise's Giving Tuesday Guide.

Giving Tuesday Strategy Guidance

The linchpin to scaling a movement

My perspective on scale is that it's about transformation. So it's how many people who connect with you are transformed by what you do, and therefore they feel motivated enough to share...
The easy example... imagine if one of your kids had a rare disease, God forbid. Maybe it's got a thousand people in the whole world who have it. That is never a movement that will have scale, but the researchers who work on it, the parents who are advocating for a cure, the donors who give money to make the research possible, those actors in that movement are transformed by the potential of what this work can accomplish.
So transformation is the linchpin there. Not scale because that movement will never have scale. Can they flip the switch and stop thinking, like how many social followers do I have or how many donors do I have? And start thinking, "How many people connect with me who can actually feel a sense that their life has been transformed by our work?"

Using transformation to guide nonprofit leadership

The other really pivotal aspect of taking a transformation stance is it helps you reframe the way you engage and interact with your supporters... it transforms your storytelling.
...when you give you get to shape the community you want to live in. You're transforming your life by being part of our community.
And when leaders start to think in that mindset, it really shifts a lot of the other decisions that they make and also makes everyone on their team realize that our goal is not one hundred more disengaged supporters who might give to us one time and walk away. Our goal is people who really believe that their investment in us can transform them.

Is digital savvy really important in the nonprofit world?

...we're in a digital age. The social sector was the last. And in it in a lot of ways, it's still such a laggard. But it's the last sector of the economy to be revolutionized by digital.
But... not being a super savvy digital organization is not a kiss of death for really effective supporter engagement and fundraising. Because, for example, if you think about what the mutual aid networks have done across the country this year [2020]... many of them are next door groups. Or they're neighborhood churches... And so it's a mistake to make any organization feel that if they're really small and they don't have a twenty-five-year-old digital native on their team who's really making them super cool on the Internet, that they can't be really effective at supporter engagement. And at building support.

What not to do for Giving Tuesday

For Giving Tuesday wherever an organization is, they can be successful, they just have to think about the mistake I think some organizations make... they say, oh, well, Giving Tuesday is a social media day and I've got 42 followers, but I'm going to try to run a social media online giving campaign. Yeah, that's just not going to work.  
So they have to start where they are. They've got to recognize, like, what is their strength, where is their core base of support? How do you reach them, where they are? How do you engage them with compelling stories or give them opportunities to engage with you that feel right to them... and some of that can be really analog.
I don't want anybody listening to feel like they can't be successful, whatever way they need to be for their organization on a day like Giving Tuesday. Yeah, you just have to resist the temptation to try to do it like everybody else.

The connection between learning a language and digital fluency

A lot of us maybe grew up taking Spanish, but all of a sudden you land in Spain and you're like, oh, ah, ah! Like it's hard to feel confident. And honestly, that lack of [digital] fluency comes across often.
That's what holds a lot of nonprofits back... they worry that if they go into a [digital] channel where they're not fluent, that it actually doesn't help them. It might even hurt them. I'm not sure that that's true. But that's the feeling. It's that same feeling about landing in a foreign country. And even if you grew up taking Spanish in school, like you, just all of a sudden you feel really awkward speaking that language. That's why I really try to emphasize to start where you are.

Break through with an iconic story

Nonprofit for profit, it really doesn't matter, iconic stories are the thing, not just stories. Nonprofits and for-profits need, each year, one or two stories that are the stories they tell all year long instead of trying to tell one hundred stories of one hundred different people
For anything... years ago when I was in graduate school it took seven touches before a marketing message broke through, you know, today, I would imagine it takes twenty-seven touches.
You need that story that you're so sick of talking about because you've told the story of Susie who ended up going to art school and becoming a world-famous artist because she went to your after-school art program in third grade. You need to tell that story all the time.
Now, you can tell Susie's story from lots of different angles. You can talk about it from her teacher in third grade. You can talk about it from her mom.

Bring it all together: scale, transformation, story

...when a nonprofit gets their head around that is an idea that they don't have to tell a hundred stories—because, again, it's about transformation. It's not about scale.
So one amazing story of transformation can make people feel like an investment in your nonprofit can result in this kind of transformation. And therefore, when that person is transformed, I am transformed because my community is different. That's the pivot.

To find your story, land your helicopter

Imagine you're in a disaster zone flying over a hurricane zone. And all you can see for miles in that helicopter is water as far as the eye can see. But, you know, you come down to 5,000ft now. You can start to see some patches of land. You can see some houses sprouting up. And when you're up that high, somebody is saying to you, go help... you're like geesh just keep flying because what could I possibly do to make a difference right now?
But the helicopter starts to descend. You get down to 1,000ft. Now, you can actually start to see some movement on the ground. You get to 500ft. Now you can see a family with their backpack on and they're dragging the dog along and they got their kid walking next to them. And you land on the ground and you get out of the helicopter and somebody says, I need. And you say I'm here to help.
So it's like nonprofits so often talk from the helicopter. Instead of coming down and down and down to the place where somebody can find their point of connection.

And this isn't it! There are more examples, analogies, and words of wisdom in the podcast episode. Give it another listen, and you'll find something new to appreciate for Giving Tuesday and beyond.

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