GivingTuesday, created as a response to the commercialism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, has been around long enough to be solidified in the minds of Canadians as a day of giving back. It has quickly evolved over the years since it was kicked off in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y in the United States and then one year later in Canada. GivingTuesday now serves as the official kick-off to the holiday giving season that takes us to the end of the calendar year.

GivingTuesday is more than fundraising

In June, CanadaHelps and GIV3 hosted a GivingTuesday Summit in Toronto inviting community leaders and influencers from across Canada to share best practices and ideas for making the most of GivingTuesday 2019. Discussions ranged from goal-setting, nonprofit recruitment, campaign ideas to communications. The communications discussion included thinking about GivingTuesday beyond a fundraising tool.

During the morning’s welcoming comments to the group of about 50 people, GivingTuesday founder Henry Timms shared, “GivingTuesday is about connection, not fundraising.” Jamie McDonald, CEO of Generosity Inc. and the Strategy and Communications Lead for further added later in the day, “We did not set out to be ‘Fundraising Tuesday’ when we started GivingTuesday.”

While fundraising is a very important outcome of many GivingTuesday campaigns, generosity in its many forms is what makes it a movement. And that’s where a marketing communications approach can help.

'While fundraising is a very important outcome of many #GivingTuesday campaigns, generosity in its many forms is what makes it a movement.' #NPMC Click To Tweet

Make GivingTuesday your own

One of the beautiful things about GivingTuesday is it’s an ‘open source’ brand. If you look at the 50 plus countries that have adopted GivingTuesday, you will see localized expressions of the GivingTuesday brand identity. This was intended by the GivingTuesday founders. Each iteration adds to the movement making it better.

Additionally, sub-sectors and causes can adapt it to further focus their supporters on specific types of action as in the case of:

  • #GivingShoesDay – International nonprofit Dress for Success encourages women to donate their professional shoes and attire to help other women secure employment to gain economic independence. They redubbed #GivingTuesday as #GivingShoesDay and since 2012 have had more than 17,000 pairs of shoes donated through the organization’s 145 affiliates around the world which also brings attention to the other work they do.
  • #GivingTREESDay – The Save the Redwoods League in California used the #GivingTuesday hashtag and added their own #GivingTREESDay as a simple way to connect and bring their community of supporters together in addition to raising funds.
  • #GivingBlueDay – The University of Michigan is an impressive example of how to make GivingTuesday your own. With #GivingBlueDay, they focus their efforts on key priority areas that need the most funding across campus. They have several supporting initiatives including M-bassadors who share their Michigan pride through a gamification process where participants can earn points for prizes based on different engagement actions. Do check them out for inspiration.

For a marketing communications professional, the GivingTuesday brand is like a gift wrapped in a pretty bow that you can use to celebrate your cause and community. It’s a well-established brand with a good amount of recognition with resources and tools that you can use for your purposes AND be part of a bigger movement – rising tides lift all boats as it were. Do make GivingTuesday your own. No one will come after you for any copyright, trademark or other intellectual property infringements. GivingTuesday belongs to everyone. Quite different from the command and control brand management most of us are familiar with.

For a marketing communications professional, the #GivingTuesday brand is like a gift wrapped in a pretty bow that you can use to celebrate your cause and community. #NPMC Click To Tweet

Using marketing communications to create connections

What I love about using marketing communications for charities and nonprofits is how the planning process, tactics, tools and channels can create and facilitate connections between people and causes. By approaching GivingTuesday from a marcom perspective, you can streamline and make your efforts more effective.

While fundraising may be one of your goals, it’s important to remember that marketing is not fundraising or vice versa. That said, the two areas should work closely together and complement each other’s strengths. It might be a good time to have GivingTuesday campaign co-leads (one marcom and one fundraising person), set up cross-departmental check-ins, share goals and priorities to find the overlaps, and most importantly, find ways to keep communicating with each other.

Start your GivingTuesday campaign now

GivingTuesday is much more than one day. And while you certainly can quickly pull off a social media presence the day of, you are not going to reap the same benefits of a well thought out campaign that integrates with and reflects your ongoing work. If you’re considering your first GivingTuesday campaign or building upon previous efforts, here are a couple of tools to get you started.

How to launch a GivingTuesday campaign (download PDF): this document is based on a presentation I gave as part of a communications panel at the GivingTuesday Leaders’ Summit. It breaks down a GivingTuesday campaign into three main components:

    1. Planning and preparation
    2. Execution and the day
    3. After and evaluation

Each section has considerations for developing a GivingTuesday campaign from beginning to end. Think of your top priorities and adapt, shift timing, add to, take or leave marcom components as they make sense for your organization and available resources.

GivingTuesday marketing communications brief (downloadable google doc). A brief is your starting point before developing specific strategies, tactics, creating messages, producing content assets and spending your budget. It’s a place to collect initial thoughts, to get everyone on the same page and serves as the go-to reference document as you and others begin to implement and fine-tune components of the campaign. It is also a handy tool to share with any external creative freelancers or agencies. It covers 12 main areas:

    1. Campaign description and background
    2. Campaign objectives
    3. Audience(s)
    4. Message(s)
    5. Mandatory elements
    6. Desired attributes
    7. Tactics or campaign components
    8. Timing and coordination details
    9. Budget and investments
    10. Other things to consider
    11. RACI (campaign roles and responsibilities)
    12. Evaluation and key measures

The Brief document further describes each area and provides examples. It can be as simple or detailed as you need it to be – but since it’s a brief, try to keep each section brief. You can adapt and alter the brief to suit your unique needs.

Team Tip: if you’re looking to get your campaign team excited and involved early, the Brief questions work great as a framework for brainstorming sessions. Get your whiteboards, flipcharts and post-it notes ready and let the marcom creativity loose!

Referencing and using the above tools as your starting point will give you a solid foundation to work from. And, don’t forget the plethora of campaign tools and resources available to you on and

In 2018, millions of Canadians did good stuff for GivingTuesday. You can’t argue with the numbers and the resulting community impact. It’s up to your organization on how you want to leverage and participate in GivingTuesday whether it’s a simple day of celebration or an integrated aspect in your broader activities. I do encourage you to think beyond GivingTuesday as one day of Fundraising and leverage marketing communications to strengthen your campaigns and to nurture longer-term connections with your communities. Most importantly, have fun!

How communicators can leverage #GivingTuesday | #NPMC Click To Tweet
Marnie Grona
Marnie Grona is a marketing communications professional with a broad range of expertise in business-to-business and consumer-facing initiatives. She recently founded Social Good Marcom to help charities, nonprofits and other social good entities to shine a light on their cause. Her career has been in support of the broader charitable sector, having worked at Imagine Canada, and the business of the arts with her work for institutions such as the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre.
Marnie Grona
Marnie Grona