Giving Tuesday Haul Is an Estimated $168 Million
December 01 2016

By Tim Sandoval and Eden Stiffman, The Chronicle of Philanthropy

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 Credit: The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Thousands of nonprofits across the nation that participated in Giving Tuesday raised an estimated $168 million online, with 1.6 million people giving and thousands volunteering during the event, which is now seen by many as the start of the holiday giving season.

That donation level exceeds the estimated $116.7 million given online last year and is more than 16 times the $10 million raised in 2012, the first year of the event.

Some individual organizations reported seeing record levels of giving. For instance, Donors­Choose, a nonprofit that connects donors with teachers seeking funds for their classrooms, raised $1.8 million, the largest amount its ever raised on the hashtag holiday.

The University of Michigan broke its own record for its Giving Blueday campaign, raising more than $5.5 million, well ahead of the more than $4.36 million raised in 2015.

“Each year we see the involvement continue to grow in terms of the number of areas of the university that participate,” said Linda Douglas, senior director of marketing for the university’s development office and leader of its Giving Tuesday campaign. More than 117 student organizations raised money for various university causes and departments, she said.

There is no central donation hub for Giving Tuesday, so gift totals are estimates based on data from 28 online platforms gathered by the New York City’s 92nd Street Y, which founded the global day of giving.

The official number should be viewed as a ballpark estimate, said Asha Curran, chief innovation officer at 92Y. Offline donations are not included, and many giving platforms have not yet shared their data.

“It’s hard to get a roundup of philanthropic data in general,” Ms. Curran said. “There are so many different processors, funnels, and portals for money both online and offline.”

Well ahead of Giving Tuesday, charities began promoting matching gifts, contests, and their causes, encouraging supporters to participate. Some charities tried out new technology features, and many made appeals riding the wave of post-election emotions.”

Facebook Hits Goal

Some charities used the day to test new tech tools, like Facebook Live. Earlier this month, Facebook launched a new video fundraising tool, allowing people to add a donate button to live video feeds and posts on the social networking site.

The Movember Foundation, a global men’s health charity, raised more than $68,000 using the new tool on Tuesday, contributing to its total haul for the day of more than $942,000.

The Gates Foundation offered $500,000 in matching funds for donations up to $1,000 per individual fundraising page and hit that fundraising goal even before people on the West Coast woke up Wednesday morning, a Facebook spokeswoman said.

Some nonprofits saw success using contests and games to encourage people to give.

The Chicago Foundation for Women, for example, announced Wednesday that it will grant the Muslim Women’s Alliance $10,000 after it received the most votes from Giving Tuesday donors in an online contest hosted by the foundation.

The foundation promoted three nonprofits that work on women’s issues Tuesday, and allowed people to vote for the group they wanted to see win the $10,000 grant. Traffick Free and Brave Initiatives — the two other groups that participated — will receive $2,500 grants, said Emily Dreke, director of development and communications.

The foundation raised $12,533 in total from donors, about $1,200 more than last year, and saw 168 new donors contribute. The foundation’s staff and board members also gave $12,000 in matching gifts, bringing the total haul to about $24,000. The foundation will keep $9,000 that will go toward its next grant season, Ms. Dreke said.

Political Appeals

Groups that advocate for civil and human rights, minority populations, women, and the environment have reported a spike in giving since Donald Trump’s election victory, and some experts wondered whether those groups would carry that momentum through Giving Tuesday.

Some appeals on Tuesday explicitly referred to Mr. Trump or tried to tap into post-election angst.

The American Civil Liberties Union, for instance, posted on Twitter an appeal it had on its website since the election that’s gotten much attention: a photo of Mr. Trump along with the words “See you in court.”

Wednesday morning, the ACLU and its dozens of affiliates reported that they had exceeded last year’s Giving Tuesday revenue by 965 percent, raising $1.72 million from more than 20,500 donors.

“People rallied to support the ACLU throughout the day,” said Jennifer Panicali, associate director for online fundraising in an email. “Looking at comments that we received, it seems that the majority of donors chose to give because they are concerned about the future of civil liberties under the new administration.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which offered donors the incentive of having their gift tripled by up to $250,000, sent a donor-acknowledgment letter with an explicit jab at the president-elect: “Today, we’re facing a new reality — a president-elect who has denigrated people because of their race, their religion, their ethnicity, their gender, and more,” it read. “Our mission is to hold Donald Trump to what he is saying now — that he will be a president for all Americans and that he will work to bind the wounds of division, wounds that his own words have caused. ”

Celebrity Boost

Nonprofits were also aided Tuesday by celebrities who promoted charities. Actor Ben Affleck pushed for people on Twitter to give to Feeding America, noting that “$1 = 11 meals to people in need,” while comedian Bill Maher recommended Project Chimps, which he said is “providing a sanctuary for up to #300Chimps coming out of biomedical research.”

Comedian and TV personality Nick Cannon plugged the Salvation Army Tuesday morning on NBC’s Today show, saying he “was a kid who benefited” from the organization growing up. He encouraged people to give to the Salvation Army and to use #RedKettleReason, the social-media hashtag for the nonprofit’s signature campaign. Mr. Cannon alsopromoted the Salvation Army in an interview with the celebrity-gossip show Access Hollywood, and popular YouTubers the Holderness family posted a song on Tuesday urging people to contribute.

The Salvation Army reported that its thousands of affiliates that use Blackbaud giving platforms raised more than $837,500 online Tuesday, although the donation total is likely higher, as not every affiliate uses the fundraising company for digital donations, said Lt. Col. Ron Busroe, the nonprofit’s national spokesman.

Mr. Busroe said the organization is not disappointed by what seems to be only a small bump during this year’s event. The Salvation Army has seen a 41 percent increase in donations from digital appeals since October, and after Thanksgiving most local branches put kettles in front of stores for their year-end campaigns.

“Last year was the biggest year we’ve ever had for Christmas kettles,” Mr. Busroe said. “We certainly anticipate that this year will be good.”

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