I’m back with part two of my annual Giving Tuesday (GT) email review. (Read part one part three and part four for more fundraising and marketing takeaways.)

Plenty of topics to cover in this post and throughout I’ll be sharing fundraising and marketing takeaways to help your organization grow.

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Let’s get to the emails.

I Understand But I Don’t

Hashtags are a must on social media. They can be used to join an ongoing conversation, brand your organization, highlight an upcoming event/campaign and more. I’m a big fan.

On Twitter for example, #GivingTuesday is a hashtag that is used by almost everyone, whether before, during or after GT. Makes sense: You can search that hashtag and see who’s using it.

But this year I saw something new: 11 of the 68 organizations who emailed me used #GivingTuesday in their email subject line.

It made me curious why. Do people identify the day via the hashtag? Would that lead to more opens?

I honestly don’t know. But clearly it’s a thing if I saw 11 organizations using it. I’m sure plenty of others did so as well.

I’d love to test which would perform better: Using the hashtag vs. not using the hashtag in a GT email subject line.


Giving Tuesday is a well-known brand. You have to have a very good reason for tinkering with something like that. You risk confusing people and they end up not donating.

Houston Food Bank changed the name of Giving Tuesday to Giving Food Day

This year Houston Food Bank called GT “Giving Food Day.” I can’t tell you if it was successful or not.

At the outset, when I first saw it, I didn’t necessarily like the idea. Giving Tuesday is a known entity. Why change the name? That could cause fewer people to open your emails as they search for Giving Tuesday emails and not Giving Food Day.

However, I quickly came around to like the idea. It puts their mission in the name of the day and the idea of giving food- even if through monetary donations- is a good one.

Marine Toys for Tots did something similar and branded GT as Giving TOYSday. Again, I’m ok with it because the name contains their mission. Easy for people to identify what you want them to do right from the get go.

Would I advise everyone to do this? No. It’s not for everyone. Stick with Giving Tuesday.


As a nonprofit email expert and strategist, I preach to my clients the need to send a variety of content. If every email is an ask, those get real old real quick. Subscribers will simply stop opening your emails.

Second, not every email has to have a donate component. There are some that absolutely should not.

It’s ok- in fact, it’s a MUST- to show heartfelt, genuine, warm appreciation and love to donors without turning it into “now that we told you how great you are, we’re gonna hold out our hand and ask for a donation.”

For example, an email thanking subscribers and supporters. Let the gratitude be standalone. No ask.

Which brings me to the “thask”- a thank you communication that includes an ask. I hate, detest, abhor, loathe, dislike, despise the thask.

You get the idea.

I got way too many thasks this year. Thanksgiving emails full of gratitude and blessings, with an ask. Post GT emails full of thanks, included an ask.

The subject line for Ocean Conservancy’s post GT email: “Our deepest thanks”

The email is from the CEO and opens with “I am speechless. Thanks to generous ocean lovers like YOU, we reached our goal and raised an additional $100K for our ocean.(bold in original)

The email ends with: “Our gratitude is as big and deep as the ocean itself. Thank you to everyone who supported us on Giving Tuesday. We simply couldn’t do our work without you. Thank you again for your generous support.”

Putting aside that the opening talks about reaching their internal fundraising goal, the email is full of thanks for their supporters. That should be enough.

But they add a P.S.: “P.S. If you did not get the opportunity to give to our Giving Tuesday match but still want to help, will you consider making a gift today? Your donation will help us to continue our work to safeguard our ocean.”

We know that people read the P.S. in direct mail letters and email. It is a good practice to add a P.S. to your emails. For a campaign email, use the P.S. to summarize the ask and include a link to the donation form.

In the above case, they used the P.S. to make an ask. No.

Take a look at this thask from Student Conservation Association:

Student Conservation Association sent out a thask after Giving Tuesday

It quickly goes from “thank you” to “will you donate.”

Here’s an opening paragraph from National Parks Conservancy: “I wanted to personally thank you for being a part of our #GivingTuesday campaign to help our internship programs in the Golden Gate national parks. If you haven’t donated yet, there is still time- we’ve decided to extend our 3X match one more day!” 😡

The Alzheimer’s Association wrote a very nice email before Thanksgiving thanking everyone for partnering with them. Their P.S.? “I don’t want to let the day go by without letting you know about one more thing to be thankful for: a special #GivingTuesday Match Challenge…” 🙄

Watch this video till the end. Everything was AWESOME right till the end.

Please stop sending thasks. Let gratitude stand alone.

When people feel the love, you’ll retain them longer as donors.

Excellent Verbiage

I wrote about this last year but this year I saw more organizations use it, so I want to shine a spotlight on it, especially since many of you could use this with your year-end campaigns. (Or any other campaign throughout the year.)

GT, year-end, giving days and the like are potentially heavy volume days for your donor team. Lots of gifts coming in.

As the same time, if I gave online, I should not receive any more ask emails from your organization. If I do, it makes me wonder, “I already gave. Did the donation go through? Is everything ok with my credit card? Are they organized at this nonprofit or not? And if not, maybe I shouldn’t trust them with my money.”

To get around that, you can add a P.S. to your emails that explains the situation and alleviates any fears or worries a donor might have.

Here are some good examples:

Trust for Public Land: “P.S. We do our best not to ask members for gifts who just made a gift, but sometimes our records don’t update fast enough to keep recent donors from receiving an appeal like this. So if you did just give, thank you for your support and our apologies for the extra request!”

Americares: “P.S. If this message crossed paths with your contribution, we sincerely thank you for your generosity. We’re grateful for your patience as we welcome a high volume of gifts during this match opportunity.”

March of Dimes: “If this email crossed paths with your donation, please accept our sincere thanks. March of Dimes has counted on generous supporters like you since our founding and your gift will mean so much to the families who need our help.”

Show The Impact

Your fundraising emails have to tell readers what the impact of their donation will be and who will be impacted.

Demonstrating the impact with an image/picture/chart/infographic/GIF is a good idea.

Here are some examples that stood out among the emails I received.

Show what a matching campaign provides while also letting people know who they help (Covenant House):

Covenant House shares the impact of their 5x match campaign

Allow people to see how much farther their dollar will go when your organization has a matching gift campaign (March of Dimes):

Add a little touch to your CTA button and see if more people click on it (American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee):

I love this GIF from the American Kidney Fund. They had a 3x GT match:

The Good: Part One

It’s important to segment your subscriber list. Monthly donors shouldn’t get the same email ask as a major donor. Annual givers are not the same as volunteers.

You want your subscribers to not only feel special but feel like you know them. Show you know what their gift level is, what programs they like to donate to etc.

In a pre-GT email, Alzheimer’s Association did this and it stood out because I think they were the only ones who said this to me: “Can we count on your first gift today to support our mission to lead the way to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia?”

Alzheimer’s Association knows that they have not received any donations from my email address. So they sent me an email which shows that.

If they had sent the same email to a current donor, odds are that donor would not be retained much longer.

The Good: Part Two

Robin Cohen is one of my favorite people out there. (And Weej of course!)

Robin is the Director of Development at Fenway High School. I featured them last year and I need to do so again this year.

One week after GT I got an email with the following subject line: “You probably got a LOT of emails last Tuesday…”

And here’s the email:

Fenway High School with a fantastic post Giving Tuesday email

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this email! Fenway High School didn’t bother anyone on GT. They waited an entire week and then they sent an email of gratitude.

The video? Fantastic! It’s Fenway High students saying thank you.

THIS is how you send a genuine thank you and make supporters feel good about partnering with your organization! Robin rocks!

The Bad

I get asked, What is a good amount of emails to send and when is it overkill?

My answer: Same as what Supreme Court Justice Stewart Potter said about a certain taboo subject, “I know it when I see it.”

In general, I don’t think nonprofits email often enough. That’s right. (And if you have a boss or Board Chair who thinks that 2 emails per quarter is overkill, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.)

But I always look to see who spent GT in email bombard mode. Second year in a row that Friends of the Earth “won.” They sent me 14 emails in 15 hours and 29 minutes. Almost one per hour.

That’s a bit much.

You can email more than once on a campaign day. For example, during the last three days of the year, when 12% of all giving is donated, I would suggest emailing twice a day. People don’t open and read every email you send.

Increase your chances of an open by sending more than once.

And finally….

These things caught my attention.

➡️ Covenant House sent this in a pre GT email.

Covenant House offered a supporter badge to Giving Tuesday donors

They were the only organization that had something like this in their emails. I wasn’t sure if it increases donations or not.

➡️ The American Red Cross offered merch for those who donated to their pre-GT campaign:

Amrican Red Cross offered a tshirt to donors who gave the day before Giving Tuesday

Does merch work? I think it can.

Does it work in this case, to encourage people to give a day early? No clue. I’d love to get the data from the Red Cross and see if it brought in donors a day early.

➡️ Above I discussed good messages in the P.S. Here are two more which were different than all others.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research: “P.S. Forward this email to your friends so they can have their gifts matched too! Don’t miss out on the chance for you and your community to double your impact.”

I like this!

One thing nonprofits don’t do enough in their emails is ask subscribers to share the email with people in their network. But you should when relevant! Get more eyeballs on your organization, mission and content.

Good job by the MJFF team to encourage people to share this campaign with others.

This P.S. from Planned Parenthood also stood out:

“P.S. We need your generosity more than ever- the future of our reproductive freedom depends on it. But if you aren’t in a place to give this year or already made your year-end gift, we understand that. If you’d like to receive fewer messages from us for the rest of the year, you can submit a request here.”


Look how donor centric the messaging is. They know some of their donors have had a tough year financially and can’t give. So instead of bombarding them with emails asking for a donation, they’re offering people the chance to opt out from them.

That’s how you show understanding and empathy and connect with donors and build relationships with them!

P.S. Shoutout to Project HOPE who sent me the final email of GT 2023 on… December 8, 10 days after GT! It was a letter of gratitude thanking supporters for helping them reach their GT goal. Sadly, the P.S. was a thask.

I’ll be back next week with part three of my 2023 GT email roundup. In the meantime, sign up for Email 366 and get ready to give a major boost to your organization’s email efforts!