Aussie fundraisers getting aboard the GivingTuesday train

This article was originally published in F&P Magazine.

Fundraisers are invited to take a closer look at a global giving campaign as it wins a fast-growing following in Australia.

Pam Ahearn (with farmyard friends) of Edgar’s Mission, a not-for-profit sanctuary for rescued farmed animals.

Giving Tuesday on December 1 is already a fixture in 60 countries, but as Australian groups seek online-friendly campaigns amid COVID-19, Australian organisers have set their sights on getting more than 1000 charities and other causes involved in 2020.

The day was first envisaged in the United States in 2012 as an antidote to the ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ online shopping frenzies. In 2020, it has taken on heightened significance as not-for-profits grapple with increased demand for services as well as restrictions on fundraising and volunteer involvement during the COVID-19 crisis.

At a time when some donors are nervous about finances, Giving Tuesday has evolved as a campaign that is not just about raising money, but also provides an opportunity for supporters to give in other ways, such as through volunteering and advocacy.

Fundraising remains a crucial part of the effort. Last year, the global campaign – largely driven by social media under the #GivingTuesday banner – raised more than $700 million, up more than a quarter on 2018. Significantly, global data reveals that Giving Tuesday adds to the pool of funds raised, rather than siphoning or cannibalising donations from elsewhere.

In 2019, nearly 300 Australian organisations conducted a huge range of Giving Tuesday campaigns, raising millions of dollars and thousands of hours of volunteer effort, alongside national TV, radio and print coverage and a social media blitz (using #GivingTuesdayAUS).

Among the success stories was regional Victorian animal welfare charity Edgar’s Mission, which used Giving Tuesday to activate social media ambassadors and blitz its $33,000 target by nearly $20,000. Founder Pam Ahern was “over the moon” with its first foray.

A loved-up baby lamb at Edgar’s Mission.

Donation matching was popular. Kidney Health Australia used the event as a launch pad for a campaign raising $100,000 with the help of benefactors who matched every donation on the day. Anglicare Victoria ran a similar donation matching effort with a Hyundai car outlet, while PayPal weighed in with a $50,000 donation-matching offer for people using its platform.

Elsewhere, the Ballet Theatre of Queensland campaigned for $10,000 for tutus; the Royal Melbourne Hospital Good Friday Appeal sought $100,000 for specialist equipment; Mecwacare sought funds to bankroll therapeutic baby seal robots for dementia patients; and volunteers from Knitted Knockers Australia got the needles clicking to make knitted prosthetic breasts for cancer survivors.

Social media support came from every quarter, including ambassadors from every kind of charity and community organisation, as well as mentions from the assistant minister for charities, Zed Seselja, and the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission chief, Gary Johns.

A post-event study by social impact specialists Think Impact found that:

  • 71% of participants found it easy to get involved

  • More than a third of participants counted a rise in giving, most of it from new supporters

  • 63% of campaigns were involved in fundraising, but 43% involved volunteering, 31% involved advocacy and 22% involved donated goods

This year, there’s no shortage of new campaigns on the horizon, with nearly 400 groups having signed up two months before the event, and many others expected to join informally.

There’s also more evidence of joint efforts, such as the coalition of groups that has formed in Ballarat, Victoria, for a campaign that will leverage existing partnerships among supporters, the media and community leaders.

The Ballarat Foundation’s involvement in that campaign has in turn prompted close interest from many other community foundations. Australian Community Philanthropy executive officer Gerlinde Scholz said some members were joining the campaign for the first time this year, and ACP expected interest to grow.

“There is really strong alignment between the purpose and values of Giving Tuesday and community philanthropy,” Scholz said. Ballarat Foundation CEO Andrew Eales called the match “a snug fit”.

Some of Australia’s most prominent fundraising and for-purpose organisations are already supporters, including Fundraising Institute Australia (FIA), the Community Council for Australia (CCA), Volunteering Australia, and many large and small charities.

Former World Vision chief Tim Costello, who chairs the CCA and acted as the day’s ambassador said Australians were increasingly getting involved in Giving Tuesday’s “wave of generosity and compassion”.

“No one owns this movement, and that allows people to respond by giving.”

FIA CEO Katherine Raskob said the campaign tapped into the Aussie instinct to help in the lead-up to the giving season, attracting many FIA members and smaller charities to the fold.

And she said the event was about far more than just raising money.

“It’s also about encouraging philanthropy, volunteering, lending one’s voice and getting people to think about what’s really important. It’s also a chance to make a statement that a modest gift can be transformative,” Raskob said.

Our Community is a driving force behind the Giving Tuesday effort in Australia.

Communications specialist Alex McMillan, Australia’s Giving Tuesday lead, said Our Community had witnessed some big gains in its first year of involvement, and she expected the trend to continue.

She said the social enterprise was approached by the event’s global coordinators in 2018 to promote the event here.

That invitation was on the back of Our Community’s credentials as the host of the low-cost donations platform GiveNow, and in line with its mission to help not-for-profits with training, resources, fundraising, grants funding, data science and campaigns.

“We’ve used our background in this kind of work to help more groups get on board the Giving Tuesday train,” Ms McMillan said.

That effort includes free webinars, campaign guidance, plug-and-play media releases and graphics, social media strategies, mainstream media promotion, and a “generosity registry” that matches would-be donors with organisations.

“Last year we started injecting some energy into Giving Tuesday, to see whether there was an appetite for the event, and the resounding answer has been, ‘Yes!’

“Giving Tuesday is already an online and social media campaign, so it translates well to the current environment. It has allowed smaller organisations to get involved in a readymade campaign for the first time, and for larger fundraisers to experiment with innovations.”

She said organisations that had already taken part in webinar sessions were planning a mix of campaigns, including pre-Christmas fundraisers, gift matching, and simple “thank you days” for supporters.

For more information visit

Matthew Schulz is a journalist with Our Community.