October 20, 2020
Discipline: Membership

More than any year in recent memory, GivingTuesday 2020 is taking place amidst historic and unsettling events: the pandemic, the U.S. elections, a racial justice reckoning, a recession, extreme weather, and more. Even as the world seems upside down, remember that generosity unites us, especially in tough times. In 2020, generosity has been one of the key ways that people have expressed their power, providing an antidote to isolation, fear, and division.

On GivingTuesday, generous people look for causes that matter to them, and you want to help them understand why your station is central to their lives, particularly this year. Never has relevant, factual information from trusted sources been more vital. Public media stations are information first responders, on the front lines of facts, and critical local resources.

As you think about ways to connect with your community, there are a few core truths that are at the heart of successful GivingTuesday campaigns, as well as to the long-term resilience of stations.

Generous People Are Generous

This year, giving is actually up as people are looking for ways to help others and make a difference in their communities. We see no evidence of donor fatigue. To the contrary, the same person who advocates on behalf of a cause, volunteers, or responds to a GoFundMe for a friend’s cat who needs surgery is the same person who will likely give to your station.

Small-Dollar Donors Can Make a Huge Difference

These are the people who are giving right now. During this year’s surge of generosity, the average gift is under $250. Embracing your small-dollar donors gives you a big pool of supporters to nurture, inspire, and educate about the power of your mission.

Here’s a classic example of why these donors matter so much. In 1965, Michael Bloomberg was solicited for a gift by his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University. He gave $5, the equivalent of about $27 today. In 2018, Bloomberg gave Johns Hopkins $1.8 billion.

For many organizations, a $27 donor probably just gets an email or a letter with a tax receipt. But you never know who your future Michael Bloomberg might be, and it costs you nothing to treat every donor with care. So, think about how you can embrace and thank your small-dollar donors and make them a priority. Acts of gratitude and appreciation – in times of stress more than ever – resonate strongly.

What to Say When Everything Seems Terrible

When it comes to your message, consider how you can adapt your tone to meet the moment and acknowledge the effects of this unprecedented year. Here are four key approaches, all of which we discuss in more detail in this recent Greater Public webinar.

Be Relevant: Explain why your work matters now, in the midst of everything that’s going on.

Be Authentic: It’s okay to admit the challenges your station has confronted this year and the ways you have responded and reimagined how you do your work. Why is their support essential at this moment? Help people really understand what you’re up against.

Express Urgency: For most of us, the current situation is more crucial than the old “We can’t do it without you.” It’s more like, “We can’t do it without you today.”

Get Creative: Show people that despite these tough times, there is a way forward together. Break through by thinking beyond a traditional fundraising drive. Stations that do more than ask for money will likely see the best results, so add another dimension to your GivingTuesday campaign, like one of these ideas:

    • A special virtual performance
    • A special author talk and call-in
    • A thank-a-thon for supporters
    • A virtual wellness challenge that features a session with local fitness, nutrition, and wellness experts which kicks off on GivingTuesday and runs through year end. Winners of the challenge are interviewed in early 2021 or receive some kind of prize.
    • A partnership with local restaurants who will provide meals for unhoused individuals for every $XX raised or XX donors who support the station on GivingTuesday

There are many other creative ideas you can find in GivingTuesday’s tools and resources: Visit the GivingTuesday blog and website for toolkits, campaign workbooks, templates and tutorials, graphic assets, and more.