Decoding Generosity with GivingTuesday's Chief Data Officer, Woodrow Rosenbaum

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 “If we think about our engagement with our supporters as a dialogue, as an opportunity to have agency, that’s where we’ll see that we get a good return.”  
– Woodrow Rosenbaum

Episode #179


In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…

Revolutionize your approach to donor engagement and inspire new strategies for fostering lasting connections with supporters!

Today, we are joined by Woodrow Rosenbaum, GivingTuesday’s Chief Data Officer. He is a transformative figure in global generosity and consumer marketing. As the Chief Data Officer for GivingTuesday, Woodrow’s contributions are monumental, spearheading pioneering research into individual giving behaviors. He orchestrates the GivingTuesday Data Commons, a coalition of over 300 collaborators across 50 countries, fostering insights into the drivers and impacts of generosity.

Woodrow is also the founder and CEO of With Intent, an international consumer marketing agency. With a knack for market dynamics, he has propelled numerous brands to prominence, crafting strategies for growth and market expansion. In addition to his professional endeavors, Woodrow holds influential positions within the philanthropic community, including membership in the Generosity Commission Research Task Force and chairing the Board of Directors for Global Impact Canada. Furthermore, he is affiliated with the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School, where he contributes as a Fellow, focusing on the intersection of technology and public purpose.

Throughout the conversation, Woodrow shares invaluable insights from his extensive experience and research, shedding light on the evolving landscape of giving behaviors. He discusses how traditional notions of donor engagement are being redefined, emphasizing the importance of understanding the diverse ways people express generosity.

Drawing from his work with the Giving Pulse initiative, Woodrow highlights the dynamic nature of giving patterns and the need for organizations to adapt their strategies accordingly. He explores the role of guilt, motivation, and belonging in donor decision-making, challenging common assumptions about what drives giving. Moreover, Woodrow unpacks the phenomenon of Giving Tuesday, debunking myths around its transactional nature and highlighting its potential as a catalyst for sustained engagement. He offers practical advice for nonprofits leveraging this global movement to deepen donor relationships and foster long-term support.



Woodrow Rosenbaum


  • This week’s episode is sponsored by NeonOneNeonOne is revolutionizing the way nonprofits connect with their communities. Their platform isn’t just about technology; it’s about crafting unforgettable generosity experiences. Learn more about how they’re empowering nonprofits like yours at neonone.com/mallory

  • If you haven’t already, please visit our new What the Fundraising community forum. Check it out and join the conversation at this link.
  • If you’re looking to raise more from the right funders, then you’ll want to check out my Power Partners Formula, a step-by-step approach to identifying the optimal partners for your organization. This free masterclass offers a great starting point

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Get to know Woodrow Rosenbaum:

As Chief Data Officer for GivingTuesday, Woodrow has been instrumental in shaping the global generosity movement and has led ground-breaking research and analysis of individual giving behaviors. He leads the GivingTuesday Data Commons, bringing together a coalition of more than 100 collaborators coordinated through eight working groups as well as data teams in 50 countries to understand the drivers and impacts of generosity to inspire more giving of all types. Woodrow brings expertise in moving markets and transforming audiences from passive participants to active and vocal ambassadors. Woodrow is also the Founder of With Intent Strategies, an international agency specializing in brand reimagination. Woodrow is a member of the Generosity Commission Research Task Force, serves as a Co-Chair for Global Impact Canada’s Board of Directors, and was recently named a Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School with the Technology and Public Purpose project.


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Episode Transcript

Woodrow Rosenbaum: [00:00:00] If you’re a nonprofit and you’re looking to solve a problem, recognizing that the person you’re engaging with is probably already giving and generous in lots of ways. So what does that mean for how you’re going to talk to them? Right? So rather than thinking about this as I’ve got to change their behavior or make this person generous when maybe they’re not instead, it’s what opportunity do I have for them to be part of this mission?

Woodrow Rosenbaum: How do I get them feeling like. This is a reflection of who they want to be as a person.

Mallory Erickson: Hey, my name is Mallory and I’m obsessed with helping leaders in the nonprofit space raise money and run their organizations differently. What the fundraising is, a space for real and raw conversations to both challenge and inspire you. Not too long ago, I was in your shoes. Uncomfortable with fundraising and unsure of my place in this sector.

Mallory Erickson: It wasn’t until I started to listen to other experts outside of the fundraising space that I was able to [00:01:00] shift my mindset and ultimately shift the way I show up as a leader. This podcast is my way of blending professional and personal development. So we as a collective inside the nonprofit sector can feel good about the work we are doing.

Mallory Erickson: Join me every week as I interview some of the brightest minds in the personal and professional development space to help you fundamentally change the way you lead and fundraise. I hope you enjoy this episode. So let’s dive in.

Mallory Erickson: Welcome everyone. I’m so excited to be here again with my friend Woodrow Rosenbaum. Woodrow, welcome to what the fundraising. 

Woodrow Rosenbaum: Thanks for having me, Mallory. It’s always fun. 

Mallory Erickson: I know. I’m excited to dig into everything that we have planned to talk about today. But will you start by just giving a little intro to you and your work and what brings you to our conversation?

Woodrow Rosenbaum: Sure. So I’m chief data officer for GivingTuesday. I manage our data and insights work around the world, our data science and engineering team that bring knowledge to this sector [00:02:00] about how people make change in their communities. Thanks Both to motivate more generosity, but also to uplift the givers who are doing good in their communities every day.

Mallory Erickson: I’ve loved learning more about the work that you all are doing in the data commons and a number of different projects because I think While I do not consider myself, you know, super well versed in the intricacies of the data, I think this monitoring of what is driving giving up and down and not just financial giving, but generosity and multiple contexts and how does that help us learn about sort of the appetite?

Mallory Erickson: For relationships with nonprofits, what is going? Well, what’s not? It just gives an incredibly important real time lens into what’s happening in our sector that we’ve never had before. So you all have recently come out with some materials, the giving pulse, and you’re constantly producing work around the overall state of giving.

Mallory Erickson: In the nonprofit [00:03:00] sector. So can we just start like high level? What are we seeing? What’s surprising? Where should we be nervous? Like, what are some of your top takeaways? 

Woodrow Rosenbaum: Well, I mean, some of it people will not be surprised to hear that there’s there’s a real concern in the nonprofit sector. People are less inclined to donate to nonprofits, or at least participation in nonprofit donations has been waning.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: And recently, this has meant not just fewer people, but also less money into the nonprofit sector. However, when we look at generosity more broadly, there’s, there’s clearly a lot more nuance. And partly that’s about, How people are otherwise taking care of their communities, the many other ways people give a mechanisms that they use that are important to understand if we’re really going to be engage people the way they is going to be motivating to them.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: If we’re going to. Reverse some of [00:04:00] those negative trends in the nonprofit sector. We have to have a full understanding of what are these behaviors and values and why do people, what do people want? How, what kind of change do they want to see? How are we going to become partners with people and making that change?

Woodrow Rosenbaum: But also these, these behaviors are prolific and diverse and predate the nonprofit sector and charities by quite a long, long time, right? The, this is the way that communities have always taken care of themselves. And we shouldn’t really be thinking about these things as really disconnected. This is part of civil society.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: And if a community is taking care of itself, it needs a food bank less. So we want to understand this both so that we can help the nonprofit sector to be more relevant and reverse some of these trends and recognize that there is abundance available. And also to give more agency and voice to those people who are already very generous and giving in their communities all the time.

Mallory Erickson: Okay. So [00:05:00] one of the things that you said in all of that was what you are seeing in terms of what people want or the behaviors that they have been leaning into. What are some of those top behaviors that you all are seeing folks gravitate towards that people in the nonprofit sector might be surprised to hear?

Woodrow Rosenbaum: What we see around the world and consistently and the U. S. Is no different is that the giving behaviors are very, very diverse. So people aren’t only giving money, they’re giving lots of other ways and people are not particularly giving to and through nonprofits either. So most giving doesn’t involve a nonprofit.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: People give to nonprofits to be sure, but they also just give directly to people in need and and to individuals through just sort of ad hoc behavior. But also, there’s lots of sometimes very sophisticated structures that just don’t happen to be [00:06:00] incorporated. So mutual aid network sort of quintessential example.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: There’s been a lot of new development, in particular, leveraging some technologies to bring people together, either in response to an immediate need or, or just for the long term resilience of communities, but those mutual aid benefits societies, these things have existed for a long, long time, and they continue to be a really Both a deep and sophisticated way that people are managing to deploy their resources to, to support their communities and the world.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: So we kind of look at this as a continuum of what some might call formality with. Charities and incorporated nonprofits on one end of that spectrum. And on the other end of that spectrum, just sort of responsive, direct to individual support. But in the middle, there’s a really, uh, quite a large variety of ways that people organize in [00:07:00] order to do good either.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: Short term or on an ongoing basis. I’ll also point out that most people are doing more than one of those things. Like it’s very rare that someone’s only giving through one of these mechanisms or only giving one way or one, one type of thing. Most people, everywhere we look, you know, in some communities and some places around the world.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: Or from time to time, we might see it skew one way or the other. So in some places, you know, people’s volunteering tends to be not through nonprofits, but their money tends to go to nonprofits and other places. Their money tends to go directly to individuals, but the other ways that they, uh, that they give tends to be more through kind of mutual aid networks, that kind of thing.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: But in every case. The vast majority of people are doing most of these behaviors. And so if we’re only taking one slice of this, we’re really missing most of the picture. 

Mallory Erickson: Okay. So with all of that being true and sort of thinking about the [00:08:00] ways that people are expressing generosity in a variety of different ways, some of which is tracked in the giving to nonprofits and some of which is not, but the fact that we are seeing.

Mallory Erickson: A sector wide decline in giving both in terms of number of people and amount of money towards the nonprofit sector. What can we infer about that in terms of what is causing this change in behavior towards nonprofits specifically? 

Woodrow Rosenbaum: Some people are see these trends and they assume that people are less generous or becoming less generous when we look.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: First of all, at the just the financial data. When we look at the capital flows to nonprofit organizations, one of the trends that we see really clearly is that this. This erosion of the grassroots base of support. And so that’s sort of the bottom end foundation [00:09:00] of the nonprofit sector. And this is really a critical component because we’ve seen that organizations with a broad base of support, including from grassroots givers are much more resilient to economic shocks.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: So this is where we’re losing the donors. On the other end, when we look at the dollars that the more recent decline in dollars donated, that’s more coming from the high end. So we have this situation where the nonprofit sector is more and more reliant on fewer and fewer larger donors. And then those larger donors started to pull back the end of 2021 last quarter of 2021 is when we saw that decline begin and because we had this over reliance on them.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: We didn’t have a diversity of support. Those large donors are more responsive to economic indicators. We, that’s where we end up in this situation where we’re, we have not just fewer donors, but also less money. Now, [00:10:00] we don’t think this is inevitable. And part of your question there, you know, how should we think about this in the context of people’s prolific generosity?

Woodrow Rosenbaum: And it’s not to say that we don’t see generosity overall. Sort of ebb and flow. It certainly does. And the flip side of generosity being generative is that the fewer opportunities people are given to give the less giving there is. I think what’s really important to recognize is that what we see is that people are not being engaged equally and by nonprofits in particular.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: So one really interesting finding in our giving pulse data is that Because we’re able to cluster givers by their behaviors, we have a couple of really interesting groups to understand there. One is, there’s a group of givers who are very diverse in their giving. They’re fairly spontaneous, and they give often even when they’re not [00:11:00] asked.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: The, the largest givers are most likely to report being asked to give. Then we have these people who are, if we look at the people who are giving less or less often, what we find is they’re very, they’re much, much less likely to be asked to give. And this corresponds to other research that folks have done to look at kind of what is the spectrum of who’s being engaged by nonprofits.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: And there really hasn’t been a very strong, a hyper focus on large donor stewardship. And by its nature, that means we’re asking fewer quote, more important people. And I think to a degree, what we’ve seen is a kind of. Vicious cycle, right? Of diminishing returns, which adds urgency, which pushes organizations toward that focus on large donor stewardship [00:12:00] at the expense of other types of engagement.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: So at the expense of non monetary engagement, at the expense of broad based communication, at the expense of grassroots donor engagement. And so what we see really is that if people are asked, if they’re engaged, if they’re given opportunity, they step up now, how you do that does vary. Like it matters how you do that.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: And it’s not a, it should not be considered a one size fits all approach. People are giving and giving Tuesday as an intervention is a perfect example of that, where everybody shows up and gives because they’re being asked. They’re being engaged. And because there isn’t an expectation that there’s. A minimum buy in or a certain way that you have to do it.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: It makes it a very open environment. That’s a best practice. This is how we should be bringing ourselves to engaging support all the time, but we’re not the nonprofit sector is not engaging people across the board. And so what we [00:13:00] see is that. The people who are not giving to nonprofits are actually probably pretty inclined to do so.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: If they’re made to feel like they matter. 

Mallory Erickson: Okay, can I double click on something that you’re saying and maybe an inference I’m making from other conversations that I want to make sure is clear here if you agree, which is that not engaging. It actually means two things. It means both like not communicating with, but it can also mean over asking without real connection and engagement, 

Woodrow Rosenbaum: right?

Woodrow Rosenbaum: Yeah. A hundred percent. I think that there’s, we hear words, we hear terms like generosity crisis. I don’t think we have a generosity crisis at all. I think we have a crisis of engagement, particularly in the nonprofit sector. And partly this is because we have a system that is designed for that outcome.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: And if we want to change it, we have to change that system. And partly it’s environmental to, to be sure. I mean, [00:14:00] there’s disconnection is a challenge in our society. Lack of trust in institutions is a challenge in our society right now, but the nonprofit sector, I think really would benefit from switching our thinking from we are victims of this, the societal ills and rather think of ourselves as.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: The antidote we have the prescription for this problem and it’s belonging and so if we think about our engagement with our supporters as a dialogue as an opportunity to have agency, that’s where we’ll see that we get a good return. And it’s not to say that we should ignore large donor stewardship.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: It’s just it can’t be at the expense. Of opportunities for broad participation. 

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. Okay. So, you know, I’m particularly interested in the intersection of fundraising behaviors and [00:15:00] giving and, and the decline in giving. I agree. I do not think there’s a crisis of generosity, but I think we are seeing a decline in giving to the nonprofit sector in particular.

Mallory Erickson: And we are also seeing a crisis in the sector around like the burnout of fundraisers, and I don’t actually think those are separate problems. I think like the psychological burnout of fundraisers actually inhibits their ability to create connection, like biologically, like how can they have themselves think about or be able to connect deeply with donors or launch a grassroots campaign in a creative way.

Mallory Erickson: If they are dealing with what’s happening inside of their brain and body that’s holding them back how you think about this intersection of like both You know, giving fundraisers the agency and the empowerment and the enablement to take ownership of these relationships while recognizing the, like, [00:16:00] toxic environment that is around so many of them.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: I think some of the answer to that for the sector is not on the shoulders of fundraisers. We have structures that are going to need to be dismantled if we’re actually going to solve this. We have to, our funding environment is, does not incentivize any substantial change in this. Organizations don’t have a bunch of risk capital to invest in de seasonalizing giving or building a base of support over the next five years that will pay dividends into the future.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: These are, these are real issues. Boards are not necessarily aligned with the right metrics. Fundraisers are moving around too much. The best fundraisers are promoted to major gift officer by there’s fundraising and communications and marketing are too siloed. So a lot of that is a, is structural issues that the other thing that has to happen if we’re going to be successful is we [00:17:00] have to abandon our, some limiting beliefs, fundraisers worry far too much about being in competition.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: And that’s mostly not a thing. Now, if what you’re doing is only large donor stewardship, sure, right? Like that’s going to lend itself to this competitive mindset, zero sum analysis of our environment is incorrect. We are not in a scarcity environment. There may be, in fact, there are negative suppressing factors in, in our marketplace, but we’re still leaving money on the table.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: There’s a lot more abundance. Then there is scarcity and we’re not going to be able to tap into that abundance until we believe in it. And so part of what I say to folks when I’m asked about this is what would you do differently? Like, you don’t have to be [00:18:00] convinced yet, but if you believe that we were in an abundance environment, what would that change about how you would bring yourself to the work?

Woodrow Rosenbaum: And I think that what’s interesting about that is the answer to that addresses some of the concerns that you pointed out, because it means I would partner more with other organizations, right? May I would work with folks on the ground who are not necessarily nonprofits, right? That are, I would find a mutual aid group that does a thing.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: I would devolve some of the agency and power to others. I would have more people. On my mission who aren’t necessarily on my payroll, I would tell stories more than worry about whether I’m protecting my donor database. So, I think in a lot of ways, what that opens up is freedom to have less. Of less stress in the day to day work.

Mallory Erickson: Yeah, it’s [00:19:00] so interesting. It’s like we run into this sector so much this fear of change and you know, you were talking about some of the things that um, That keep us stuck there right and structurally in terms of not having you know buffers around taking risks and stuff like that, but also It’s not as though things are working.

Mallory Erickson: Like, to me, what is sort of like outrageous about the whole situation is like, we are holding so tight to something that is not working on so many levels. And I think, well, of course, I’m disappointed to see Like, you know, numbers start to, you know, continue to, and then start to decline in bigger ways. I hope it creates more of a wake up call around like, this isn’t working on any level.

Mallory Erickson: Like it’s not working with major, with the over focus on major donors. It’s not working with your grassroots supporters. It’s not working in terms of what’s happening to your staff on a day to day basis to really like cause more of this. Reckoning 

Woodrow Rosenbaum: system is [00:20:00] getting the outcome it’s designed for in the long term, fewer people giving more money in the short term, but not equally across the sector, we’re creating this winners and losers environment, and it doesn’t have to be that we need some accountability for this, right?

Woodrow Rosenbaum: Like we’re going to have to take ownership over this and, and that takes some bravery. Because it means saying I am not the victim of circumstance. I have agency over the situation. And if you have agency, then you’re accountable for outcomes. And that’s just, we’re going to need to embrace that if we’re going to turn this around.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: But what we cannot do is to continue to say, this isn’t working well, I better do twice as much of it. 

Mallory Erickson: Yeah, that’s probably some of the most important advice out there. Just like that sentence alone, because that is where we tend to like lean to when we’re in this sort of like hypervigilant perfectionist state, right, is we’re like, okay, just more more more of the same thing.

Mallory Erickson: And that’s [00:21:00] actually further creating these transactional relationships rooted in scarcity that continue to lead to the results that we’re seeing. So, okay. So one of the things I’m wondering is, you know, in terms of the relationship between, you know, fundraiser or organizational behavior and donor behavior, I think in addition to what you’re saying around sort of taking agency around what’s next.

Mallory Erickson: I also feel like we have to take some sort of ownership and accountability around how we train our donors. Like I think we talk about things like the overhead myth, and of course this is something that impacts fundraisers in a really significant way, but it doesn’t just happen sort of out there and to fundraisers.

Mallory Erickson: There’s many ways, ways in which. In fundraising as fundraisers, we are perpetuating this myth, and we’re training our donors to be averse to overhead. And so I’m curious, like, what are some of the primary things in the data that you guys have seen positively, perhaps, like how [00:22:00] a shift in organizational behavior or fundraiser behavior has changed over time?

Mallory Erickson: has created a reengagement of donors or an increase of giving any bright spots there? 

Woodrow Rosenbaum: Well, I will say this, that, you know, being our own enemy is the whole overhead myth is a really good example of where we do ourselves a disservice. There are certainly, there are some donors that actually care about, but the vast majority of givers, they don’t care about overhead unless they’re asked.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: And so when we get out there and we start messaging about how ours is great, all we’re doing is reinforcing that idea that this is an important thing to care about, right? Instead of mission and outcome and belonging. And so that certainly is problematic. What we see on Giving Tuesday in particular, which is such a, like, a different day for how organizations engage.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: Is that not being transactional and giving people a feeling like [00:23:00] they’re part of the mission is kind of the, is the recipe for getting good results. I think it’s why giving Tuesday, it not only is giving Tuesday, the single biggest day of the year for donor acquisition, but also the donors acquired on giving Tuesday retain better and have a better lifetime value.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: And I think it’s partly about who’s being engaged. It’s a recipe for, in particular for how to engage, well, I won’t necessarily say younger donors, but younger than boomer donors, and that leads to really good retention as well as just high acquisition rates. So what do we learn from that? I think what we learned from that is that the donor pool is increasingly interested in being part of your mission, not supporting your mission.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: And that I think is, you know, if you think about, you’re there to provide them with an opportunity to have agency. And you’re bringing them [00:24:00] into your mission. That’s going to lend itself to approaches that we know work, not being transactional, being in dialogue, not talking less, but talking more to your donors, just not always with the same solicitation, giving people lots of different information.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: On ramps support the outcomes that you’re getting collectively and helping to foster an idea, the feeling that they are doing so with a group of people who care about this thing along with them for most. And I think a growing portion of donors. That’s kind of the recipe that we see work. Now, it’s not to say that, like, again, it’s not a one size fits all thing, you know, I’ve been thinking a lot about how belonging and what that delivers for folks and belonging, I think, is a big umbrella, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how this is showing up in our data and and other people’s data when they, when you look at what, [00:25:00] what is the benefit to donors when they do give to a cause, A feeling that they are, it’s a reinforcement of their personal identity, right?

Woodrow Rosenbaum: It helps them feel like, and partly that’s about collectivism helps to deliver that. And so my first thinking around that was that that’s the grassroots giver. And then I, you know, when you start thinking about, well, how is it different for, for, for altruist, and I don’t actually think it is. I think effective altruists are doing it for the feeling of belonging as well.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: For them, it’s about belonging to. The group of people that’s smarter than everybody else and this, right, there’s this, this, this view of self as being effective and being able to make empirical decisions and being the sort of the. The smart one in the room, but I think how is that different from somebody who gives to a miniature horse rescue?

Woodrow Rosenbaum: Because it makes [00:26:00] them feel like they’ve made a difference in a life along with the other 40 people in their county who are doing that. I don’t think it’s actually very different in terms of how it feels to the supporter. 

Mallory Erickson: So when you think about, maybe not mutual aid, but I’m thinking about sort of one to one giving patterns or like what we give to a GoFundMe of someone that we’ve never met before, but we read a news article about this very, you know, unfair thing that happened to them.

Mallory Erickson: And so now we want to, you know, be a part of supporting that person. What, how is that giving us a sense of belonging? 

Woodrow Rosenbaum: Yeah, well, I mean, GoFundMe is interesting because on the one hand, it’s, it’s a highly impersonal because you probably, there’s a good chance that you only know one person in that community.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: It’s like you’re doing it online. On the other hand, it is often your friend who’s asking and the problem you’re solving has a very recognizable human scale. I think there’s a couple of things that are interesting there. And in fact, we’ve been talking a lot with [00:27:00] Classy GoFundMe about. What the opportunities are there for to help people solve, like help a friend or help a friend’s uncle and then also support the underlying cause the issue at that address the symptom, how could we have then help them address the illness, that kind of thing.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: And I think that there’s enormous opportunity there. It’s also really important to recognize that we’re again, these things are not competitive. They’re generative. So people who give to those personal crowdfunding campaigns are more likely to, than their peers, to give to nonprofits, and they’re more likely to say they enjoy giving, and they’re more likely to say that it’s important to give back.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: It’s just that they’re, they’re generous people, and generous people give, and by and large, people are generous. So I think that those moments give us this sense that we were able to do something, right? We saw something on the news, we didn’t like it, and we [00:28:00] take immediate frictionless action for good.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: What we need is more opportunities for people to, to do that and in ways that help them to do that on an ongoing basis. And number one, I think if you’re a non profit and you’re looking to solve a problem, recognizing that the person you’re engaging with Is probably already giving and generous in lots of ways.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: So what does that mean for how you’re going to talk to them? Right? So rather than thinking about this as I’ve got to change their behavior or make this person generous when maybe they’re not instead, it’s. What opportunity do I have for them to be part of this mission? How do I get them feeling like this is a reflection of who they want to be as a person and then continue that engagement and conversation, which sounds very overwhelming if you think about it as a person by person on a person by person basis.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: But the nice thing about broad and grassroots engagement is The tools and the mechanisms [00:29:00] that we have to do that are allow us to do that better at scale, and it has to be done at scale. 

Mallory Erickson: Okay, so when I was looking at the Giving Pulse data, and actually, will you tell everyone really quickly what Giving Pulse specifically is and why you all have that initiative?

Mallory Erickson: And then I have some questions related to some of the data there, particularly. 

Woodrow Rosenbaum: I would love to. So, you know, when we were. Looking at what data were available. We, we were doing surveys on a kind of periodic basis, asking people about their giving behavior. And we started to build a taxonomy for looking at the different ways people can give and the different things people can give and kind of build a model of the environment that way.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: And we looked at it in the U S and, and in about seven countries around the world. And. What we felt like was, you know, there’s, there’s panels that track the same people over time, and then there’s these periodic surveys that we and others are doing. What we felt was missing was kind of real time data on [00:30:00] the full breadth of behavior across the population.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: So we launched Giving Pulse based on that taxonomy that we’d built. We are interviewing Americans every week about their previous week’s giving behavior. So we get a, an enormous amount of data about what people are giving, what causes they’re giving to what mechanisms they’re using, what motivated that when they were solicited, what their awareness and concerned about crisis in the world, their political, religious values.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: They’re like just an enormous amount of data about who people are with respect to the generosity that they exhibit. And because it’s every week, we are able to see how these behaviors intersect and interact and what drives these giving moments either up or down. So that’s giving pulse. And our, our first public report was our Q3.[00:31:00] 

Woodrow Rosenbaum: 2023 report, and we’re working on the Q4 2023 report now, which will look at the entire year and year over year. 

Mallory Erickson: Okay, so yeah, I love, I love this report because I think it gives us a look at what’s happening inside the donor’s brain, much more than just the giving metrics and sort of the way we’ve inferred what is driving them up and down.

Mallory Erickson: And things like that, when I looked at the report, there were, there was one thing in particular, there were a number of things that stood out to me, but one of the things in particular was this question about guilt. As a driver and how many people and sort of across which giving levels guilt influenced whether or not they gave and honestly, it was higher than I expected and it’s sort of like my stomach kind of sunk for a moment because When I think about some of the [00:32:00] transactional ways that we fundraise, I feel like one of the ways that we fundraise in really transactional ways is when we use guilt as a lever to get people to give, that that makes our fundraising increasingly transactional.

Mallory Erickson: But when I saw that data, part of me wondered what would happen if guilt Was removed like if people stopped feeling guilty about not giving to their friends thing or not participating in certain things. Would that have a massively negative downstream effect on how people express what we view as generosity and I’m curious, given everything that you said, sort of around.

Mallory Erickson: How communities have been historically set up, the ways we’ve always taken care of each other, the fact that we’re aligned on, you know, believing that generosity is alive and well, how does this piece about guilt kind of fit into that narrative? 

Woodrow Rosenbaum: Two things to think, keep in mind there. I think one is we don’t know yet.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: We don’t know yet the degree [00:33:00] to which guilt is an important driver and, or an effect. That right, that of people’s position with respect to the problems that they see in their own and their own situation. So I don’t think we know yet. Also, we do also see is that there is some volatility and how much that shows up in our data.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: Right? So it’s not stable. We saw that high generosity group reported a big drop in how much guilt was motivating their behavior. And that’s the high generosity group, right? So they’re remaining, they’re still highly generous and guilt was, in their view, less of a motivator. The other thing I would say is that I do, would not interpret this as organization should message, should use a guilt based message.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: Okay. I don’t think that that would work, whether or not feeling like I feel [00:34:00] bad about how much I have in the face of suffering, regardless of the degree to which that might be a personal motivator to me, I don’t think that’s the most effective way to engage donors. What we see, you know, sector 3 insights did some research on this, which is really informative about the emotional drivers of giving and overall a positive message does better than a negative message.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: And I think the other thing that I took from that research that I think was is really important to understand is that even when the message is negative. It was positive emotional feeling that was the highest driver of behavior. Now, I think it’s just easier to get a positive emotional outcome with a positive message, but it’s not impossible to get that with a negative message.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: The key thing was those feeling good about your, your self identity. Those [00:35:00] right, like, so feeling like you’re a good person, like having pride that you’re doing a smart thing that you’re doing a good thing that those things are what was working in nonprofit messaging and so I would rather than I would think about this as I got to make them feel guilty so that they give.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: I would instead come at this from, for some givers, they’re feeling guilty. I want to get them off the hook. And that’s the message I would be delivering. 

Mallory Erickson: Okay. I think that’s really interesting because I mean, I wasn’t sure how nonprofits would interpret that data. And I was hoping it would be sort of.

Mallory Erickson: What you’re saying that it wouldn’t be guidebook to how they should fundraise, but more about what’s happening inside the brains and thoughts of their donors that they should be aware of. But I think the other thing that’s really interesting about it then is this connection between what serves as a motivator in a given moment to give versus what serves as engagement long term, [00:36:00] right?

Mallory Erickson: So some of the things, I mean, I like that about, you know, thank you for sharing that research around the positive messaging and things like, and, and that too, because sometimes I’ve worried that what people might be able to demonstrate as a short term, quote unquote, win. Is actually damaging long term, particularly when they’re using drivers like guilt and things like that in their fundraising.

Mallory Erickson: Have you all seen anything like that in your research? 

Woodrow Rosenbaum: Well, what I have seen a little bit more anecdotally is talking to organizations that are having enormous success at getting, at acquiring donors against some acute issue. Disaster relief being a key example, including mutual aid organizers and others who are not necessarily fundraisers.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: And what I’ve heard is [00:37:00] we can get people in, we don’t know how to keep them around for the recovery period after this acute reaction. And I think there’s a lot of assumptions in In the sector about why it’s hard and this, and as we tend to do, it’s always the assumption is that the issue is the giver.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: Oh, people respond when there’s a fire, but they’re not interested in sticking around and, and helping the rebuild effort. I don’t think that’s true. I think the challenge is that the, the, the tools and approaches that we use to get someone to put out a fire are different than the messaging and tools and engagement that we have to deploy to get someone to rebuild after a fire.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: And I think that what I’m seeing, and this is somewhat anecdotal, but a lot of conversations with folks about this is that they’re struggling to make that connection. And that’s the challenge. And so [00:38:00] I think whatever it is that you that whatever brought somebody in to your cause is important to know and understand.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: It’s a big mistake to. Acquire a donor one way and then completely ignore that with how you engage them after the fact. That said, we shouldn’t be giving someone the same message all of the time and we can’t always be in an emergency. So, but I think that if we think instead in terms of whatever got them to take that first action, my job now is to show them the good that they’ve done.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: They’ve become part of this mission. They’ve had an outcome. My first job has to be delivering on the value proposition, belonging and agency. I’m, I have to deliver on that. And then I think there’s a lot of opportunity to maintain the engagement because we’ve demonstrated that we’re in this together. So in the disaster relief example, this is where we got so far.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: [00:39:00] Together, this is the, what is happening now and not look how big the problem is. Like don’t, I think mostly we should not be selling intractable problems. Right. But we’ve come this far and now we have an opportunity to go the next distance. And that kind of approach, I think it will, will help organizations to, to retain those donors and, Sometimes, you know, sometimes, sometimes it’s disaster relief.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: Sometimes it’s politically motivated, rage giving. Sometimes it might be guilt, but in all of those cases, right? What we think about that we had a combination of drivers that got that action. So now let’s show our, those givers how good they did. 

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. You said this sentence earlier that was like, give. With or like not instead of giving to us, they’re sort of giving with us.

Mallory Erickson: I don’t think those were the exact words that you use, but that’s sort of like two versus with [00:40:00] like distinction really stood out to me. And I think so often when we are in that sort of scarcity transactional mindset, we’re just trying to like, get people to give to us. And we really disconnect that being in community with our donors element.

Mallory Erickson: Which is what it sounds like you’re saying to 

Woodrow Rosenbaum: yes, I want to make it sound simpler than it is. Like, it’s complicated for sure. But when we think about giving Tuesday as an intervention, we have this disproportionate opportunity. It looks different than the annualized situation. Where acquisition is high and the resulting retention is high and recurring giving is high and that’s not, you know, giving Tuesday is a really special opportunity to get those results, but it’s not a magic wand.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: We can do that all year round. 

Mallory Erickson: Yeah, right. But it sounds like the day and a lot of the ways in which [00:41:00] nonprofits sort of celebrate the day creates a higher level of belonging and connection and community than the ways in which they’re fundraising throughout the rest of the year. And that then you could infer is what’s creating Yeah.

Mallory Erickson: Those downstream effects in terms of who’s coming in and how they’re sticking around. 

Woodrow Rosenbaum: 100 percent and recurring as a higher percentage of the day or new recurring as a higher percentage of the day than usual. That’s it. Like it’s how we’re showing up works better across a broad spectrum of givers. 

Mallory Erickson: And probably that positivity.

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. And probably that positivity piece too, right? It’s like, there’s this time box moment that isn’t created by crisis. It’s created by something positive. So that sort of incentive to give in this very particular moment rooted in a global community element, but then also how you build community inside your organization and sort of all those things working together.

Mallory Erickson: And yes, definitely not to oversimplify, but I think to [00:42:00] reinforce This idea that if, if you haven’t tried to fundraise in that way and you continue to put on repeat and turn the volume up on the ways that you have been fundraising that haven’t been working both for your donors and likely for you as a fundraiser too, that it’s time to explore ways in which you can be building relationships with donors and with your community differently.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: A hundred percent. And this is, and the, when I think about the Giving Tuesday, what I want organizations to learn from Giving Tuesday, from our data and from the intervention, the day. Is not you should do giving Tuesday, like, yes, obviously, but rather most donors on giving Tuesday say that they gave in order to be part of a bigger group of people doing good, there’s a reason that, that we get that perfect balance of, I get to feel this belonging in this collective action, but also I get to, I get to celebrate the possibility of [00:43:00] generosity in a way that is really personal to me, which also is why.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: Okay. Small organizations punch way above their weight on giving Tuesday doing three to five times better on the day than they do on an annualized basis. Some would say despite all of the quote noise from the big players, but I think it’s not despite that it’s because of that, right? The volume is up on generosity and the payoff is disproportionately for those smaller organizations, right?

Woodrow Rosenbaum: So that’s the recipe, but it doesn’t have to only be. That one day we could be doing this differently, engaging more broadly, engaging more in a more celebratory way, being less transactional and more open to a broad spectrum of givers. We could be doing that all year round. 

Mallory Erickson: Yeah, it’s interesting. I don’t have this idea fully, like, for me.

Mallory Erickson: flushed out. But, you know, when I hear people’s resistance to giving Tuesday, I think what I hear sometimes in the resistance is this fear of it being a [00:44:00] transactional day. It’s like this day about raising money for all these organizations. And because a lot of times we’re afraid of talking about money in this sector, we feel like it feels like this transactional day when the reality is the exact opposite.

Mallory Erickson: Right. That it’s like, yes, it’s about this day of money movement towards the sector, towards expressions of generosity. But because it involves all these other components, it’s actually not transactional at all. 

Woodrow Rosenbaum: Yeah. I mean, I, you know, every year I see some folks are like, Oh, I, I don’t like giving Tuesday.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: I prefer when people are just able to give in any way that they want and that that’s, and I’m like that. You just described giving Tuesday. There is so much that happens that is, that is so creative and so different. And so not transactional. Are there many, many, many crappy campaigns? Sure. There’s lots of, lots of crappy campaigns.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: Lots of people send out an email that says give to me because it’s giving Tuesday. That’s not gonna work well. Absolutely. [00:45:00] But that’s not what that’s not actually what’s at the heart of why that day drives a big spike in donations and other action that then, you know, that doesn’t cannibalize the rest of the year.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: In fact, the opposite. What it’s done is extended the giving season, making it happen earlier and earlier. We’re getting a sustained result from it. Despite the fact that, yeah, some people are making it more transactional than it needs to be. 

Mallory Erickson: Okay. So I know we have, we’re almost out of time, but I want you to explain that piece.

Mallory Erickson: Cause I have a feeling that some people might saying, okay, if you’re not supposed to send an email saying give because it’s giving Tuesday, but people are giving because it’s giving Tuesday, then what’s that distinction? 

Woodrow Rosenbaum: So people are still only they’re going to give the organization because they feel affinity for the mission and the change that you’re going to help them to do.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: And that’s that is the value proposition. The urgency is because it’s giving Tuesday, the, uh, the [00:46:00] opportunity to feel like you’re doing good with a. Big group of people around the world that we’re delivering on that, but that’s not the reason people give. The reason they’re going to give to your organization is because they want to be part of that mission.

Mallory Erickson: Yeah, exactly. So like when we talk about, like when I talk about my work in habit design, The like motivation and ability access, right? It’s like their motivation, their motivation and then the prompt, right? So their motivation is around the impact they’re actually going to make in terms of your organization.

Mallory Erickson: The good that that is going to do the prompt and the time sensitivity of the prompt is giving Tuesday. And so it helps in that way, but it’s not the motivating driver of why somebody is going to be involved in your organization. 

Woodrow Rosenbaum: We know urgency is the number one driver of donation intent and. The nice thing about Giving Tuesday is it’s urgency without an emergency.

Mallory Erickson: Yes, and it’s not fake. Like, I think that’s the other thing. I feel like we see urgency in our [00:47:00] sector in, like, real crisis urgency, fake urgency, and then kind of fun urgency. And I think Giving Tuesday creates some of that, like, fun urgency energy. 

Woodrow Rosenbaum: Before 

Mallory Erickson: we jump off anything else, you want to make sure folks know or where you want like where you’d like for them to go and check out some of this research or any of the other incredible work you all are doing over giving Tuesday, 

Woodrow Rosenbaum: giving Tuesday dot org slash data as where to find all of our work.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: Giving pulse is our Q4 report will come out soon. Q3 is really interesting. We’re also going to be launching a dashboard so you can explore the data. Uh, researchers can get involved. They can get into the raw data. They can use the instrument in a variety of ways, and we’re encouraging and supporting that more and more.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: And we also just recently, uh, just the end of last year, we, in October, we launched our AI working group, which is at givingTuesday. ai. We’re 700 researchers, [00:48:00] technologists, developers, nonprofit practitioners are collaborating to build solutions by and for the nonprofit sector to ensure that we’re not left behind that technological revolution.

Woodrow Rosenbaum: There’s lots of other projects there. Givingtuesday. org slash data is where you will find it all. 

Mallory Erickson: Amazing. Thank you so much for all of your time and for all your wisdom and walking us through some of these pieces. I’m so grateful for the work that y’all are doing over there. 

Woodrow Rosenbaum: Likewise, Mallory. It’s always a pleasure.

Mallory Erickson: I hope today’s episode inspired or challenged you to think differently. For additional takeaways, Tips, show notes, and more about our amazing guests and sponsors. Head on over to MalloryErickson. com backslash podcast. And if you didn’t know hosting this podcast, isn’t the only thing I do every day I coach guide and help fundraisers and leaders just like you inside of my program, the power partners formula collective inside the program.

Mallory Erickson: I share my [00:49:00] methods, tools, and experiences that have helped me fundraise millions of dollars and feel good about myself in the process. To learn more about how I can help you visit MalloryErickson. com backslash power partners. Last but not least, if you enjoyed this episode, I’d love to encourage you to share it with a friend you know would benefit or leave a review.

Mallory Erickson: I’m so grateful for all of you and the good hard work you’re doing to make our world a better place. I can’t wait to see you in the next episode.

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