Calendar.“Don’t forget that this coming Friday is X Day!” Just substitute the generic day where I have the X. Cancer Day. Humane Treatment of Animals Day. Etc.
That’s the email I received one morning last week. The author and/or strategist behind the email copy must have thought this would mean something to me. It didn’t. It’s likely that it didn’t mean anything to the other donors who received it, either.
These are the same donors who receive these kinds of messages:

  • Only 40 days left until Giving Tuesday.
  • It’s National (fill in the blank) Day.
  • It’s Our 100th Anniversary!

Yes, all of these days are “special” days because someone has chosen to label them that way. And these kinds of special days do contribute some value to increasing awareness, although I’m still perplexed at what Giving Tuesday actually means.
The creators of Giving Tuesday (all good, caring and smart individuals) have amassed a global following who have joined together to create a charitable version of the “special” commercial days Black Friday and Cyber Monday – the two days where customers are offered deep discounts on stuff.
The problem with these two days is that they don’t actually bond the customer to the retailer. All they do is move product. That has some value, in that some product is sold. But retailers are forced to participate because if they don’t, customers will buy the discounted product somewhere else. So what is the long-term value added, since increased customer loyalty isn’t secured? Not much, really. But I love that TV I bought on Black Friday.
Giving Tuesday aims to kick off the charitable season of giving. They’ve done a great job at bringing attention to the need to give.
Shouldn’t we be persuading donors to give year-round? Isn’t the need and opportunity all year? Doesn’t a bonded-to-the-cause donor respond more fully and generously to the cause that matches her passions and interests? And isn’t that bond timeless? Yes, to all of those questions.
So Giving Tuesday falls into the “special” days category, which you should be careful to manage along with all the other special days. Special days are sort of like the annual fund. They bring attention to a made-up financial label or day, like National (fill in the blank) Day, that has very little to do with the actual cause except that it has the same label.
Jeff and I doubt that celebrating any of those days, including your organization’s anniversary, will do much to bond your caseload donor closer to your cause which, by the way, is one of your primary objectives. Because bonded donors are happy donors who give more and stay with you.
To be clear, I’m not advocating that you abandon any of your special days. Nope. All I’m saying is that you need to manage the special days in your calendar of events so that you’re very sure that you don’t let them become a substitute for further connecting your donor to the societal problems they are solving through you.
And by “connecting” we mean making sure there’s alignment between the donor’s passions and interests and the donor’s connection to your organization. That connection, if done correctly, drives the cadence of communication, asking and giving. And that happens irregularly, because it’s about what is being accomplished through the donor’s giving – not a special day.
Be sure you know the difference here, and you’re managing the wonderful thing that is happening between you and the donor.
(Tweet it!) — “Special days from #nonprofits like Giving Tuesday can call people to action and are good for marketing, but do they really bond #donors closer to your cause?”