Move over #GivingTuesday, it’s now #WTFWednesday!

Patricia in all her greying blonde glory is sitting at a colorful seat in a coffee shop, drinking a LARGE mug of get-shit-done coffee. She has round glasses on in hopes that they make her look smarter. She is smiling wryly, she is celebrating caffeine and also that Giving Tuesday is OVER!

When I think about this time of year, one of things that activates my clients in fundraising is Giving Tuesday. What should I be doing for Giving Tuesday? And oh my gosh, the end of the year people are gonna wanna give at the end of the year, I should have a campaign!  My answer is YES, all of those things are true and it is nice to have a presence in Giving Tuesday but we all need to recognize that Giving Tuesday is no longer what it started out as. Giving Tuesday started out as a way for small nonprofits to be able to engage in a collective ask that turned the gaze of potential donors toward small, nimble organizations. Giving Tuesday has been co-opted by the larger non-profits and multi-billion dollar organizations (aka the “fundraising machines”) as a really good marketing tool. Giving Tuesday has become noisy and it’s easy for small nonprofits to get lost in all that “fundraising machine” noise.  What I counsel my non-profit clients for this appeal is to ride the wave, but don’t bank on the wave. Don’t expect Giving Tuesday to be the backbone of your fundraising practice because it is simply too noisy and exhausting for donors. Use it as a solid marketing campaign with a clear financial ask, but don’t invest a ton of time and money in it. Truthfully, you’ll be much better off and have much better results by using your time to make one-on-one or intentional group asks of your donors at year end, or even in the new year. 

Here’s my alternative to the #GivingTuesday energy.  Instead of getting deeply invested in last minute “emergency” asking, this time of year is a perfect time to dig into reflection and gratitude (both internal to your organization, as well as with donors).  Reflection and gratitude at this time of year is in tune with the seasons as the garden begins to gather the harvest of the year, and return what was not used to invest in the soil for next year.  To be in harmony with that universal energy, organizations and individuals who have been receiving the harvest all year from donors and partners, can think about what that influx of wealth brought forth in your organization, and what is still left to be accomplished.  The best way to thank your donors for being a part of your mission is a heartfelt review of what donor dollars have allowed your organization to make possible over the past year. This doesn’t have to be anything flashy. It can be as simple as an email communication that talks from the heart or a video from your executive director that lets people know that your gift has meaning and our work is made possible through gifts like yours. 

If you’re operating in an ecosystem way as you do this fundraising that ebbs and flows with both the calendar and the season, this is also a wonderful time to begin that internal review of what went well this year.  What do we want to amplify and become more of? What did not align this year with our goals and values? And can we tamp that down a little bit, put a little less energy towards an aspect of our work that hasn’t yielded the expected or meaningful results? 

This is all preparation for creating your new year intentions. As I’ve written about before, I’m not a big fan of goal setting. I’m more interested in organizations and individuals creating targets that align with what they want to become more of.  Goal and Grind (aka Campaign Culture) is what is adding to the dysfunction in philanthropy. On the other side of a goal is just another goal – and that’s grind culture. If you want to create a values driven, sustainable, ecosystem approach to nonprofit, think about how you garden. Your garden doesn’t have a “goal”.  Your garden adds plants each year that allows it to evolve, and you as a gardener remove elements that stymied growth over the last season.  My question to you is, what if your organization did that too? What if your organization, rather than setting goals, developed “becomings” each year?  What if you thought as an organization, as an individual, about what we want to become more of? What do we want to put more energy into? Where do we want to align our work? Certainly, you can add a target of “we would like to raise X amount of dollars within a certain amount of time” because we have got bills to pay and a budget to balance and lights to keep on and good work to be doing in the world. But is that goal in service of a larger becoming that is aligned with your values? What are you planting more of in your ecosystem? Is it more donors that are aligned with your work? Is it more mission driven projects and initiatives? Is it investing in your infrastructure? Because what’s a garden without ground? What’s a garden without supports that allow the flowering vines to grow? Think about Becoming in the new year and right now and think about gratitude and certainly do the work of fundraising, which is continuing to ask, continuing to build relationships. Ride on that wave of Giving Tuesday, but keep it within perspective. Fundraising in relationship, with ecosystem stability and growth in mind means that you are doing it all year long, week after week. Something to think about if you want to create a sustainable, thriving ecosystem of an organization, not an organization that is based on one constant emergency after another in the form of fundraising campaigns and initiatives. 

Peace friends, it’s hard work that we do every day to make our missions possible.  Make sure that this season of your practice also includes rest, gratitude, and celebration.  That is our work, too.