Digital strategy, Fundraising

Final Report: Giving Tuesday 2021

As we begin to wrap up 2021, here’s one trend we’re happy to see carry over from 2020: the increased generosity of donors on Giving Tuesday. Once again, after another difficult year, we’ve seen donors showing up in support of nonprofits working toward world-changing missions. 

In a single day, donors in the U.S. gave $2.7 billion to nonprofit organizations. This is a 9% increase from 2020, a year that saw unprecedented growth in giving in response to unprecedented challenges. Among our clients at MissionWired, this trend held true: Overall, our nonprofit partners raised 19% more on digital channels on Giving Tuesday than in 2020.

Here’s a look at our Giving Tuesday 2021 by the numbers – and keep scrolling for more insights on this year’s Giving Tuesday landscape:

As we dive into this report, we’ll take a look at the wealth of data that powers our analysis to put our finger on the pulse of the best practices, new tactics, and year-over-year growth of this year’s Giving Tuesday. And to illustrate what makes this year’s giving unique, we’ll take the most eye-catching trends in fundraising and bring them to life in a series of visualizations.
But these numbers are also telling us something broader, with wider-reaching implications: After another difficult year, the increased generosity and support from Giving Tuesday donors continues to grow. Nonprofit organizations working to make the world more equitable, safer, and kinder are reaching audiences that are ready to listen, and their messages are resonating with supporters who are eager to give.

For a look at our top takeaways from Giving Tuesday 2021, and the data that powers our insights, read on:

1. New Donors Made a Difference

New donors accounted for a far higher share of overall donations this year, up 46% when compared to 2020. This uptick in first-time gifts, covering 33% of total donations for Giving Tuesday 2021, made a huge difference for many of our nonprofit partners.

2. Expansion into SMS = Big Revenue Growth

SMS has once again proven to be a big driver of increased revenue among our partners who have launched programs complementing their email programs. We saw one organization who started an SMS program a month before Giving Tuesday raise more than $20,000 on that channel on the day. Another nonprofit with a more established program saw SMS account for 29% of their overall Giving Tuesday revenue. 

(Psst: Interested in growing or launching your own SMS program? Reach out to us here:

3. Average Gift Returns to Pre-Pandemic Levels

2020 was an outlier in many ways – including, it turns out, when it comes to Giving Tuesday average gift. After a ~12% lift in 2020 up to $66, average gift amount across our nonprofit partners returned to $58, a number that’s far more in line with what we’ve seen in previous years.

4. [Unsurprisingly] Email Volume Continues to Rise

Giving Tuesday email volume increased to an average of 5.7 emails per campaign across our partners, with some organizations sending more than 10 unique messages to their core audiences. Over the course of the past five years, we’ve seen Giving Tuesday email volume climbing steadily, increasing a total of 27% since 2017. And this year, more than ever, we saw e-commerce organizations continue their Black Friday and Cyber Monday emails straight through Giving Tuesday. With increased competition for attention in inboxes, some of our nonprofit partners found new success by diversifying their messaging with SMS campaigns.

5. Paid Media Ups and Downs

Paid media was a mixed bag. For some organizations, tried-and-true Facebook campaigns continued to work. Others saw YouTube breakthroughs, a trend we first saw last year with Democratic campaigns and committees. So often, aggressive political campaigns function as a kind of pace car, eager to adopt new things that we can then bring to our nonprofit partners. YouTube remains on the “continue to test and experiment” list. SEM continued to show off; it’s run of year-over-year growth has been among the more reliable aspects of paid social in recent years. But the only true constant is change.

There’s yet more we’re still working to understand, namely the tradeoff between lower ad conversions when we add SMS sign-ups to forms and the additional lifetime value generated by being able to communicate with supporters over another medium.

And finally, we’re not fortune-tellers – not by any means! But we did foresee the necessity to help nonprofits differentiate their audience growth, and it was that forward gaze that led us to develop, launch, and determinedly continue to improve AdvantageAI.

6. Up to 50% of Email Revenue Came From Newly Acquired Names From AdvantageAI Co-op

Throughout 2021, organizations grew their list through our AdvantageAI co-op, and the supporters they added really stepped up to donate ahead of and on Giving Tuesday. AdAI members saw supporters contribute 18% of overall digital revenue, with one organization seeing these names account for nearly half of their Giving Tuesday digital revenue. (Learn more about the first-ever digital co-op here!)

7. Apple Mail Privacy Protection’s Impact

The rollout of Apple’s MPP changes have impacted much of what we do as digital marketers – including the ways in which we drive urgency. Much like open rates, countdown clocks can no longer be relied upon to function accurately – and so creative strategy has shifted. This year, we’ve reworked creative new clocks that aren’t based in real-time, and leaned heavily on personalization to communicate that same level of urgency and need.

8. Extensions Were Everywhere!

It seems no one “hit their Giving Tuesday goal” – with many nonprofits extending their Giving Tuesday campaigns to offer supporters the chance to help make up the difference. From save-the-dates to supporter giveback cards, we also saw some creative ways that organizations tried to entice donors to give ahead of Giving Tuesday. Many organizations circumvented the challenges of crowded inboxes the day of by starting early and keeping their campaigns going well into Wednesday. 

Giving Tuesday is behind us, but these learnings are coming right along with us as we look ahead to the remaining end-of-year fundraising days. We’ll be keeping an eye out for how trends evolve as this tumultuous year comes to a close. You can expect to hear more from us as new data points emerge!

Stay tuned for an early January report with all the need-to-know trends and takeaways from Giving Tuesday and EOY.

Have an insight or result from Giving Tuesday you’d like to share – or just looking to chat about the tactics outlined here? Get in touch by sending us a note at [email protected]

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