#GivingTuesday began with a simple question: On the heels of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, could we trigger a new day of giving after two days of getting?
People all over the country came together to answer that question with a resounding "yes," and social media certainly helped us get there. But what really fueled #GivingTuesday was not technology tactics or whiz-bang applications; it was a mindset built around four principles, ones that can apply to many organizations seeking to use social media to create change.
A bit of background: We launched #GivingTuesday in September 2012 and just 75 days later — four days after Thanksgiving — Americans in all 50 states came together to inaugurate a new "opening day" for the giving season.
The community that got behind #GivingTuesday grew beyond our highest expectations. Over 2,600 partners took part — from multinational companies to local nonprofits. The campaign was endorsed by The White House and Bill Gates, generated more than 800 media features and mentions in outlets like CNN, Washington Post, and CBS News, and our hash tag trended No. 1 on Twitter. The results? A range of donation platforms reported online giving increases of around 50% and partners reported excellent results in everything from volunteering initiatives to matching campaigns to food drives.
Our vision is to grow these efforts so that one day #GivingTuesday becomes as well-known as Black Friday or Cyber Monday. For 2013 — mark your diary for December 3rd — we've set a goal of 5,000 partners including some of the nation's top corporate names and leading funders. And we're already hearing about incredible campaigns in the works across the country.
So what has led to #GivingTuesday's progress? And how can other social purpose organizations use social media to transform their work? What's worked for #GivingTuesday is having the right mindset:
- Think movement, not initiative
Rather than setting out to execute an initiative, we focused on growing a movement. #GivingTuesday came to life here at the 92nd Street Y in NYC. We worked closely with the United Nations Foundation and then brought together a "posse" of leaders from Stanford University, Mashable, The Bridgespan Group, and more. Support grew in concentric circles, each ring of activity bringing more communities into the cause and into conversation with each other until we had created a network across the country.
- Think upload, not download
#GivingTuesday always wanted to avoid the "download" mindset, telling groups what they should be doing and how they should be doing it. We focused much more on people's increasing desire to "upload". From the start, our web and social media strategy was based on how people could make #GivingTuesday their own, from becoming a "Social Media Ambassador" to helping spread the word to getting their own organizations involved as partners.
The big opportunity — which was critical for #GivingTuesday — is to craft the right unifying theme that motivates people to tell their stories. A great example of this is Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's "lean-in" movement, encouraging people everywhere to start and join lean-in circles and share their experiences online. The most powerful social organizations aren't just content-creators, but also context-creators.
- Think current, not currency
We thought of #GivingTuesday not as something one could "own" but as something with a flow of its own. The movement bubbled up, flowed, ebbed and — thankfully, just at the right moment — surged. That isn't to say that we couldn't try to influence its direction a little, or alter its current, but it was never something we could fully control.
This is perhaps the most challenging (and exciting) element of a project like #GivingTuesday. To connect with the broad power of social media communities, you have to give up your desire for top-down control.
- Think tools, not rules
We believe that the more people who have an authentic stake in the campaign, the more successful it can be. The core function of the #GivingTuesday team is to empower: To provide the right resources to support the community and champion its efforts.
One of the most powerful moments of the campaign was seeing #GivingTuesday spokespeople, none of whom we had ever met, appear on morning shows across the country. All of them were members of the community who had taken a central set of talking points we provided and made them their own.
For some, it has been a little surprising that the catalyst and incubator for #GivingTuesday is the 92nd Street Y — a 139-year-old Jewish cultural and community center that reaches out to serve people of all backgrounds (founded in 1874 as a Young Men's Hebrew Association). However, the movement is a natural extension of what we've been doing for over a century: creating and growing communities.
The challenge ahead, for any organization trying to create movements at scale, is not simply to master social media, but to learn to shape and support social communities. This will require not just new toolkits, but new mindsets.
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Scaling Social Impact
Insights from HBR and The Bridgespan Group