Digital strategy, Fundraising
Giving Tuesday 2023 Final Report: 11 Takeaways
The dust has settled on Giving Tuesday and many of us have already pored over our campaign results. But what did giving look like overall? What trends emerged or were repeated? With more than 40 mission-driven partners across the nonprofit sector, we’re here to help you make sense of what transpired on one of the biggest days in charitable giving.
The official Giving Tuesday total came to a whopping $3.1 billion across the country – a very slight increase over last year. For all the headwinds facing nonprofits when it comes to fundraising this year, we can still say this with certainty: Supporters are out there, and they care deeply about your missions.
And while global factors absolutely had an impact on where and how much donors gave this Giving Tuesday, there were some big commonalities in the strategies and channels that propelled many nonprofits to a successful Giving Tuesday 2023.
Central, as always, is strong and consistent messaging that stands out in very crowded and competitive inboxes (We’ll share examples of what that looked like below!). Among other takeaways from the most successful nonprofits included diversification across channels – especially paid media – and campaigns that spread across larger time periods.
Before we dive into the details, here’s one thing we know: You’re in the driver’s seat in moments like Giving Tuesday, the end of the year, and the myriad ones in between. Stay rooted in what you’re about, what matters to your donors, and find ways to tell your story that honor their limited time and attention.
Now let’s dive into the trends and takeaways!
1. World events and breaking news impacted results.
This held true both for organizations responding to present emergencies and for nonprofits whose missions were not affected by the news. Broadly among our nonprofit partners, we saw revenue grow for organizations responding to worldwide humanitarian crises (one international aid organization we work with exceeded their revenue goal for Giving Tuesday by 13%, and another saw a 111% increase in revenue year over year), while programs doing work in other sectors were more likely to see a softer response.
When looking at Giving Tuesday within the context of the very specific 2023 landscape, it’s critical to acknowledge that circumstances outside of your organization’s control will impact which issues are on the minds of your supporters. But that doesn’t mean you’re not in control – with the insights that follow, we’ll share how organizations across all sectors still managed to move the needle and drive their strongest possible fundraising.
2. End-of-day sends stole the show, once again.
Last year, emails deployed after 7:30 p.m. drove the highest response for some of our nonprofit partners, a reversal of a 2021 trend in which morning sends raised the highest revenue. This year, we saw this late-in-the-day trend hold true for a second year in a row. Emails sent as late as 11:00 p.m. ET were among Giving Tuesday’s top performers for more than one of our nonprofit partners.
This means that organizations that leaned into urgency-driving tactics, emphasizing midnight deadlines, saw a strong impact on their revenue in their end-of-day sends. We saw a great deal of evening emails drive clicks and donations by leveraging several engagement tactics at once – layering elements like countdown clocks, bold graphics and colors, supporter records, ask arrays, and match-driven language to drive response.
3. Previews and extensions are stretching Giving Tuesday into a weeklong affair.
Gone are the days of the Tuesday-only Giving Tuesday campaign. On Wednesday morning, our inboxes were full of match-extension emails – with nonprofits across the industry giving their donors extra time to make their gift. And we’re now seeing the trend stretch in the other direction – many organizations got ahead of the rush, leaning into preview messages and early access to matches, and seeing strong return in their overall campaign revenue. One partner who included the day before and the day after in their messaging increased their overall Giving Tuesday revenue by 28% year over year.
4. Year-over-year shifts in average gift amount varied from nonprofit to nonprofit.
Following a significant leap in average gift of up to $77 across our nonprofit partners in 2022, the number dipped in 2023 to be more in line with the general upward trend throughout 2017 through 2021.
So how can you leverage this long-range trend toward higher average gifts in your year-end strategy? A higher average gift is a sign that your core supporters are committed to your work – and opportunities to engage and cultivate those donors, to show them how much their support impacts your mission, can be a powerful way to continue to build that long-term connection with this important audience. In a recent insights release from our Nonprofit Advisory Board, MissionWired Vice President Trista Murphy shared how an increase in donor value is temporarily making up the difference for a decrease in new donors for some nonprofits.
5. Paid Search and paid advertising are driving increasingly strong returns – but teams will have to continue to keep a close eye on which platforms return and which do not.
When it comes to channel performance on Giving Tuesday, what was a trend we saw stand out across our nonprofit partners? Broadly, digital ads played an increased role in overall fundraising revenue this year.
One top 100 nonprofit we work with increased their advertising scale by 141%, and another doubled their ads revenue year over year.
6. Broadcast SMS is seeing an increase in competition for attention.
On our own phone screens, we saw SMS volume skyrocket this year, not just with more nonprofits who’ve taken to texting, but also with e-commerce businesses extending their Black Friday and Cyber Monday into Tuesday, further crowding our text “inboxes.”
7. And through it all, email is still a critical channel.
The digital landscape may be ever-changing, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that email, as a nonprofit fundraising channel, is fading to the background. Overall, we saw email revenue account for 55% of the total Giving Tuesday revenue across partners.
We always recommend that major moments like Giving Tuesday and end of year are a critical time for maximizing the strategies you’ve tested throughout the year – in the top-performing email below, Save the Children leaned into the proven strategies that drive response with their audience: compelling graphics, deadline-driven language, and ask array buttons with match callouts.
8. Email acquisition investments ahead of Giving Tuesday paid off on the day.
In today’s fundraising climate, reliable email list growth has become all the more critical to driving donations in big moments. Members of The Digital Co-Op saw their investments ahead of Giving Tuesday pay back fast – and, in spite of the challenging fundraising landscape, their new-to-list supporters converted to donors at incredible rates, helping them reach their goals. A few nonprofit co-op members even saw co-op-delivered names account for over 25% of their email revenue raised on Giving Tuesday. Across the board, The Digital Co-Op helped our partners raise $1.3 million on Giving Tuesday alone.
On the direct mail side of the equation, prioritizing acquisition efforts in October has helped one of our nonprofit partners drive strong returns two years in a row. (Psst – we’ll have a bigger report on direct mail trends and tactics at end of year coming out in February 2024. Keep an eye out for it!)
9. Mid-level giving efforts are driving lifetime donor value.
For some of our nonprofit partners, gifts from mid-level audiences were essential to meeting and surpassing goals at Giving Tuesday this year. Emails and mail packages segmented and tailored directly to this audience emphasized the essential role that these unique donors play in supporting their work. With compelling graphics, match math, and detailed impact equivalencies, these messages conveyed the increased impact that a mid-level gift can have on a program’s ability to meet the needs of their mission.
For one of our nonprofit partners, a dedicated campaign appealing to mid-level donors drove a 28% increase in mid-level gifts and an increase in average mid-level gift of 75% year over year on Giving Tuesday.
10. Bold creative, from graphics to headlines to GIFs, catches eyes – and clicks.
We’re strong believers that compelling creative is at the heart of a successful fundraising campaign across any channel, especially in major moments like Giving Tuesday. This year, we saw top-performing campaigns drive urgency with bold GIFs and express the impact of a donation in clear and highly motivating ways.
In the example below from one of our nonprofit partners, match math buttons share donation equivalencies, motivating donors to take immediate action:
11. And three subject line tactics in particular helped emails stand out in crowded inboxes.
With email volume only continuing to grow year over year (the average emails sent per organization this year was a little over five messages on Giving Tuesday), subject lines that compel supporters to open are a critical part of a successful fundraising strategy. This year’s top subject lines shared a few key strategies:
- FWD: This is serious, MissionWired
- MissionWired, this is important.
- MissionWired, is your record right?
- ⏰⏰⏰ MissionWired, time is running out to claim your 5X match!
- Don’t forget: Giving Tuesday match expires soon, MissionWired
- Last call for Giving Tuesday
Match + Impact Call-Out
- Multiply your gift 8X
- MissionWired, this is your LAST CHANCE to make a 5x-matched gift
- Don’t miss this rare chance to DOUBLE your impact
If these results have got us excited about one thing going into year-end, it’s the impact that thoughtful strategy, investment, and compelling creative can have on your ability to reach your goals.
We can’t wait to talk more about how you can put these takeaways into action to optimize your campaigns and your results at year-end – you’ll be hearing more from us on the subject soon. In the meantime, be sure to take a look at our insights for end-of-year strategy: Your All-in-One End-of-Year Digital Fundraising Checklist and Leveraging Data to Drive Results at End of Year: Insights from our Nonprofit Advisory Board.
And – stay tuned for an early January report with all the need-to-know trends and takeaways from both digital and direct mail, over 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].