THE BLOG
12/24/2013 12:38 pm ET Updated Feb 23, 2014

#GivingTuesday 2013: Reaching for Lessons Learned

As Christmas approaches, so does the final week of #GivingTuesday 2013. What started last year as a one-day counterpoint to "Black Friday" has exploded into a month-long global celebration of good works and activism. To #GivingTuesday organizers and participants along with members of the traditional philanthropic community, #GivingTuesday 2013 has been such an overwhelming experience that many have not to waited until the month is over to begin offering lessons learned.

In the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Henry Timms, interim executive director of 92Y and #GivingTuesday co-founder, doesn't go straight for the takeaway. Instead, he sets the stage nicely by offering the event's official statistics, including Blackbaud's 90 percent increase in donations over #GivingTuesday 2012, Network for Good's 74 percent increase and PayPal's 123 percent increase.

These are staggering statistics, which Timms underlines by citing a few notable campaigns and then turning to the panel of philanthropic notables who participated in SSIR's "Giving That Gets Results" series of blogs, webinars, and videos.

As examples of organizations that have broken out of the traditional mold, Timms' experts hold up a fine list of representatives from the Omidyar Network, Google Giving, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and ARZU Studio Hope, whose goal is to put as many Afghan women to work as possible in a fair labor setting.

Timms cites these organizations for "adaptive philanthropy," a virtue he explains as

"an approach to strategy that relies less on a linear, cookie-cutter analysis and rigid multi-year plans, and more on flexible decision trees and scenario planning."

This is a worthy goal. But it doesn't clarify #GivingTuesday's impact like the quote Timms includes from Bill Gates: "effective philanthropy is no longer the sole province of big foundations that employ teams of experts. With the technology we have today, and with the innovations that are still to come, anyone with an Internet connection, a few dollars to give, and the time to do a little digging can become a more-informed donor."

The man who brought us the Windows operating system has put his finger on the pulse of the situation: #GivingTuesday is not just a feel-good sideshow; #GivingTuesday represents nothing less than technology's complete disruption of the traditional charity landscape.

What has been happening slowly with the growth of the Internet is now surging. Whether we are a large organization or someone running a local food pantry, we need to get with the program. If there is a single lesson to be drawn from #GivingTuesday 2013, this is it.

Striking a more practical note, Rachel Hutchisson, director of corporate citizenship and philanthropy at Blackbaud, and Andrew Watt, CEO of AFP International, offer the following takeaways in npENGAGE:

· #GivingTuesday was such a great success because it was for everyone - nonprofits, companies, small businesses, cities, individuals...you name it.

· Nonprofits that were the most successful used the movement to amplify their own messages, weaving #GivingTuesday as an opportunity into their own efforts and stories.

· #GivingTuesday isn't just about fundraising. Although looking at online dollars raised is a great proxy for success, the real power of the movement becomes clear when you look at how people advocated, served, convened and built communities.

These are also great points. The 10-minute video exchange between Hutchisson and Watt is also mandatory viewing for anyone who wants to take a longer view on #GivingTuesday as both an evolving concept and a tangible reality.

At the same time, however, the best lessons for #GivingTuesday 2013 come not from a renowned philanthropist or a person with a fancy Manhattan address. They come from Becca Wilson, Communications Director, Hands on Nashville (HON), an organization that "connects volunteers to critical issues facing the Middle Tennessee community, and serves as one of the largest volunteer resource centers in the world."

Commenting on HON's ReCYCLE for Kids bike program for #GivingTuesday 2013, which jumped them 20 percent above goal within two hours, Wilson breaks it down from start to finish:

1. Get Strategic Partners Involved

2. Incorporate a Multi-Channel Communication Strategy

3. Stand Out From the Crowd

4. Encourage Social Sharing

5. Use #GivingTuesday as a Bike Ramp

What makes these lessons the best is that they are the most relevant to #GivingTuesday participants. As a ground-up, Internet and Social Media powered movement, we have to be creative and move fast.

If you want to call this strategy "adaptive philanthropy," be my guest. The important thing is to remember that the genie is not going back in the bottle. #GivingTuesday 2013 has shown that #GivingTuesday 2012 was not a fluke. #GivingTuesday is here to stay, which is why, in true disruptive fashion, we can't be bound by the old categories.

If we are a global organization, we need to take a lesson in gumption from the Becca Wilson's of this new world. By the same token, if we are a social good startup or a community organization, being well-organized and process-oriented will assure us a winning spot in the many #GivingTuesdays to come.