Supporting nonprofits on GivingTuesday this year could have a bigger impact than usual


Supporting nonprofits on GivingTuesday this year could have a bigger impact than usual. Why? Because nonprofits and industry groups say donations so far are down compared with previous years.

Many organizations will look to make up the difference on GivingTuesday, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, which started as a hashtag in 2012 and has grown into one of the biggest fundraising dates on the calendar. Many nonprofits will run matching campaigns, meaning a supporter has pledged to double or sometimes triple the donation of other, smaller donors.

Combine that boost with businesses that match employee donations and it can really add up, said Tim Pries, who runs a small production studio in the Bay Area matching employee gifts to nonprofits of up to $1,000.

“It’s just kind of exponential, which makes me happy in my heart that a little bit goes a much longer way, especially on that day,” Pries said.

A large amount of charitable giving happens at the end of the calendar year, coinciding with the holidays and the time when some donors will consider the tax benefits of giving.

Large organizations offering donor-advised funds, which are financial vehicles for charitable giving, host webinars and put out reports to encourage their account holders to consider where and how much they want to give while they are gathered with their families before Thanksgiving, said Amy Pirozzolo, head of donor engagement at Fidelity Charitable.

Her organization forecasts grants from their donors will increase compared to last year, saying $9 billion has been granted as of the end of October, before the end-of-year bump which can account for 30% of the total. Last year, some $11.2 billion was granted from its DAF accounts.

“We are super, super optimistic about what the year-end is going to look like,” Pirozzolo said.

The rosy forecast for end-of-year giving from organizations like Fidelity Charitable contrasts with warnings from organizations like the National Council of Nonprofits, which said in an August report that many organizations anticipate falling financial support this year. That would follow the trend of charitable giving in 2022, which dropped for only the fourth time in 40 years.

Perhaps more concerning for nonprofits, the Giving USA report found fewer people are donating at all, with less than half of Americans giving to charity in 2022 compared with more than two-thirds who gave in 2000.

The trend, though, is different for affluent Americans, whose charitable contributions have made up a larger and larger share of overall donations. The recent 2023 Bank of America Study of Philanthropy found households with a net worth of more than $1 million or annual income of more than $200,000 are still giving 19% more than before the pandemic.

The bifurcated trends mean many organizations will target their wealthiest supporters, though the harsh reality is that even they may pull back on donations because of larger economic forces, like high interest rates, a dragging stock market and persistent inflation.

Other nonprofits, though, aim to rally support from the communities they seek to serve, and GivingTuesday can help with that. Board member Natasha Andrews, of LIVE; Indiana, a nonprofit in Fort Wayne, which focuses on suicide prevention among young people, said they've been preparing for months for GivingTuesday and will launch social media campaigns and reach out to former donors by email.

“We like to really bring out a lot of the statistics at that time,” she said. “A lot of the information to really, truly educate people on why it’s important to give their money to our organizations.”

But they also run regular events throughout the year to raise their profile as a place where teenagers can seek help and to spread awareness of emergency resources, she said.

Ciara Coleman, who works for a large philanthropic foundation, approached the fundraising problem from the angle of a donor when she started a giving circle in New Orleans to support women and girls in her city. Her professional experience had taught her that too often, decision-makers in philanthropy overlooked her community.

“I gathered nine of my friends at the time and just had this conversation about reshaping philanthropy because I was frustrated with the roles being dominated by white men,” Coleman said. Since it was founded in 2021, the giving circle, Geaux Girl Giving, has donated $50,000 to 30 organizations in grants that range from $1,000 to $5,000.

She and the other members also volunteer, serve as mentors and open their networks to their grantees and the people those organizations serve, which she sees as embodying the original, Greek meaning of the word philanthropy. That is, “the love of humanity, which never was, I think, intended to mean solely those who write a large check,” Coleman said. “But those who really have a love for people and tap into all of their resources in order to exude that love for others.”

Ultimately, many donors are motivated to give by deep personal connections to causes or issues or because someone they know asks them.

When asked how he decides where to give, Jacob Qualls, a business consultant in Chicago, grabbed a manilla envelope on his desk and sifted through his giving receipts from the past year. Many of his donations have supported education in some way, though he's also supported disaster relief and medical research.

Qualls wasn't planning to donate specifically on GivingTuesday, though he said if an organization or person he knows reaches out to him, he may respond. There are other occasions that move him more, he said, like the 100th anniversary of his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, which he gave to this year, or his alma mater, Morehouse College, which fundraises at other times of the year.

“It can be anchored towards our founding date, it can be anchored towards, yes, GivingTuesday and or homecoming and or other things that are relevant to potential donors,” he said.


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