Giving Tuesday: Time to take this once fundraising afterthought to the forefront of your organizational communications

By Mary Ellen Beatty 

Giving Tuesday started just a few years ago as a scrappy non-profit attempt to draw on the consumer exuberance for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  For some charities, it is now a major fundraising event.  

In 2017, it is estimated that Giving Tuesday raised $274 million for nonprofit organizations- a 50 percent increase from 2016. Two million individuals opened their wallets on that single day- or more likely, clicked a donate button with average gift of $120.40.  

Non-profit fundraisers have been quick to incorporate Giving Tuesday into their annual campaign strategy. But it’s time to make it a priority of your organizational communications.  

Communication professionals:  here are a few ways your digital marketing team can maximize the success of your organization’s Giving Tuesday campaign.  

Collaborate internally: A successful Giving Tuesday strategy uses all digital and social channels in a collaborative effort which involves more than just a link to your existing donation page. Development teams have traditionally taken the lead on messaging and planning. But the ideas, insights, and implementation methods of a supportive marketing and communication team will strengthen the overall strategy. If you work in a support department, ask the Development Director to outline his or her expectations for the Communication team’s involvement. And then do some active listening. The goal is to support, not take over the initiative. If the Director is unsure, be prepared to offer suggestions of what your team can offer. But let Development take the lead. Next, schedule a combined brainstorm session. Recruit the creative types to join and ask them to come ready with ideas. This is one of the few development efforts where you can break away from traditional fundraising formulas and have fun.  

Think visually: Giving Tuesday is a chance to add pictures to your non-profit storybook that too often come in the form of a ten-page page direct mail letter. The best Giving Tuesday campaigns have a strong visual component- cue the communication team! Part of this means creating a customized Giving Tuesday logo, graphic, or landing page to emphasize that this is not a typical “ask.” You can disrupt the normal branding and color scheme of your organization to show that this ask is special and requires your donors’ extra special attention. Be creative and let the mission come alive through powerful and inspiring images.  

Lead with your heart:  Analytics and quantitative successes have a time and place in fundraising (the Annual Report, for example). But compelling Giving Tuesday campaigns pull at the donors’ emotions. On Giving Tuesday, focus on the why, not the how. You are inviting your supporters to sit at the digital dinner table with you and talk about what matters most. Utilize the Thanksgiving holiday to communicate to your donors how thankful you are for their support. Make your donors feel like they are part of your non-profit’s family and remind them you couldn’t do your important work without them. 

Collaboration may seem excessive when you initially start the planning process. But once you establish an interdepartmental strategy, Giving Tuesday will take on the prominent and successful role it deserves to play in your nonprofit organization.  

Mary Ellen Beatty is the Senior Communications Consultant at Cc: External Affairs. She can be reached at


Cc: External Affairs adds Communications and Non-Profit Expert Mary Ellen Beatty

September 13, 2018

Alexandria, VA. — Cc External Affairs today welcomes Mary Ellen Beatty as Senior Communications Consultant, bringing more than a decade of experience in issue advocacy and non-profit management to our growing public affairs firm.   Mary Ellen most recently worked as Chief of Staff at Non-Profit Journalism Outlet Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, publishers of   She is the firm's second talent addition this year.

Mary Ellen brings to Cc: External Affairs a wealth of experience managing communications and media strategy at various national non-profits and was a Senior Account Executive for D.C. area Public Relations firm O'Keefe & Company and Director of Communications for Americans for Prosperity.  She will continue to be based in Orlando, Florida.    

Founded by Chaz Cirame in 2012, Cc: External Affairs provides Public Affairs consulting with an emphasis on third-party advocacy and coalition building to some of the nation’s best-known corporations, trade associations, and non-profits. 



Chaz Cirame


Cc:External Affairs, Inc.

433 N Fayette Street

Alexandria, VA 22314



Lessons Bill Belichick Can Teach Us About Public Affairs

Love them or hate them, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots know how to win!  

#1 Do Your Job

“Do Your Job,” the Patriots motto. They even have a “Do Your Job” team store. The Patriots are famous for their ability to turn a player whose performance has suffered from on- or off-field distractions into a key contributor by coaching him to focus on what’s important. 

 It’s easy in Public Affairs to let distractions steer you off course. The temptation to get caught up in electoral or even office politics is always there. Doing your job means focusing on the end result and not allowing distractions to divert you from that goal. Teams and public affairs shops who allow what other people, internally or externally, are doing (or not doing) influence their actions risk losing the end game. 

 If everyone in your team sticks to their designated task, does their job and keeps the end goal in mind, the pieces will come together for the win.   

 Winning public affairs pros know the key to winning is to always keep focus on the all-important final result. Amateurs who skip steps, get diverted by unimportant minutiae or focus on winning little battles inevitably lose the most important battle on election day.  

#2 We’re on to Cincinnati  

Belichick famously repeated the line “We’re on to Cincinnati” five times at a news conference following the 41-14 blow-out loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at the start of the 2014 season. The Patriots were a disappointing 2-2 at the time. Reporters, and some fans were publicly questioning whether the era of Belichick/Brady success in New England was over. 

The coach knew nothing positive would come from answering the reporter’s negative questions. He, maybe a little inelegantly, used a technique that my friend and acclaimed media trainer Beverly Hallberg of the District Media Group teaches, called “Block and Bridge.” 

 “Block and Bridge” is a highly-effective tool you can use to acknowledge a media question about a negative then transition away from that negative to the positive message you wish to talk about. 

 When faced with a difficult question from the media, phrases such as “that’s a good question,” “that’s interesting, however,” “the more important issue is,” or “We’re on to Cincinnati,” help you shift the focus of the interview from the past to the future and allow you to regain control of the conversation.   

#3 Special Teams

Bill Belichick began his NFL coaching career as special teams coach for the New York Giants. That legacy now carries over to the Patriots who are noted for their investment in special teams both in terms of dollars (Patriots Kicker Stephen Gostkowski is one the best-paid kickers in football) and in the amount of time and effort put into their development and practice.   

 Belichick’s emphasis on building unbeatable special teams is critical to the Patriots success. How can this lesson apply to your public affairs shop? 

Just as a champion football team would never expect a quarterback to excel at passing and at punting… a champion public affairs team will never imagine they can excel at all of the many pieces of a winning public affairs strategy.   

To consistently win, take time to recognize your strengths and weaknesses then identify and partner with the special teams who compliment you – Third-Party Advocacy Groups, Coalition Builders, Grassroots organizers, Digital and Social Media pros, PAC or fundraising experts all have skills that can help elevate you and your team from the playoffs to the championship of public opinion. 

#4 Respect Your Competition

 Coach Belichick always respects his competition. He evaluates the strengths of next week’s opponent and coaches to those strengths – never assuming an ‘easy’ win. He emphasizes to his staff and his team the importance of never underestimating your opposition, no matter where they stand in the rankings.  

 An upset win in sports or in politics is almost always due to the overwhelming favorite underestimating their opponent. You need to look no further than the highly-qualified Hilary Clinton campaign advisors who underestimated their opponents in both 2008 Primary and the 2016 General Election.   

In 2008, the Clinton campaign assumed the nomination was in the bag and didn’t start campaigning until it was too late. In 2016 the campaign’s decision not to campaign in the states of Michigan and Wisconsin most likely lost those states and the Electoral College. The campaign assumed these states were safe and scoffed at the thought they could lose there. In both cases, the underdog won. 

Respect your competition. Never assume you have won your election or issues campaign until the last vote is counted and never stop campaigning until that last vote is cast.  



#5 Play the Long Game


Bill Belichick is acclaimed for his 17 years coaching the New England Patriots to unprecedented success. This success was built around a coaching team. These coaching partners, many of whom were recruited and nurtured by Belichick, have worked for him for most of his tenure at the Patriots. When a lieutenant does leave, Belichick almost universally promotes from within. On the rare occasion, the team recruits a coach from outside the Patriots organization, it is likely someone Belichick has worked with in the past. The coach is playing the long game. He knows that his coaching partners share the same ethos of hard work and integrity. 

The best public affairs pro’s I know play a similar long game. They know the key to building a winning team is to recruit and nurture talent. They know that creating a team of partners who share their long-term goals will set them up for future success. A hard-working, focused team will deliver the results their clients desire.  

Doing your job and completing the task at hand is important in the short term. Your long game - your experience, integrity, and work ethic is just as important. That’s what stays with you from job to job or client to client.   

Whether you are the leader of a public affairs team, an established member of a team or a new-comer, play the long game.  

Chaz Cirame is the Founder of Cc: External Affairs Inc. 

Cc: External Affairs, Inc. – helps corporations, trade associations, public affairs firms and non-profits develop long-term partnerships to reach and exceed their goals - be they shaping public opinion, achieving legislative outcomes, or building lasting strategic alliances.  

The "No Carcass Rule" and 4 Other Easy Steps to Boost Networking at Your Next Event

1/ Don’t call it a networking event. Self-labeled networking events are often, quite literally, the worst. Filled with desperate job seekers, seeking in all the wrong places, and bad salespeople simultaneously talking past each other, even the cocktails can’t save this three-hour tour. There’s also a bias against the term “networking”, undoubtedly earned by bad actors who only network for their own self-interest and are always searching for the more important person in the room. Instead of a networking event, choose a more inviting alternative that makes the event sound fun (which, it should be, but we’ll get there). Happy Hour, Get Together or Meet and Greet all work better because they hint at new friends and a good time. Making this the first goal of the evening lowers pressure and expectations. The rest is possible bonus-icing on the cake.

2/ The No Carcass Rule- When ordering appetizers, don’t order food that involves a leave-behind in guests’ hands. No spoons, bowls, plates, bones or skewers.  Lamb shank is delicious, but after a couple of bites, you look more like Fred Flinstone than someone’s next star hire. This great tip comes from my friend Daniel Erspamer, President of The Pelican Institute in New Orleans—leave it to someone from New Orleans to have great advice on how to throw a party.   

3/ Name Tags- Seems like a no-brainer, but I regularly go to events intended for networking and the host fails to provide name tags for their guests. My preferred name tag has first names in large type and last name and company slightly smaller. This tends to encourage attendees to drop formalities and introduce each other by first names, especially important when encouraging networking among high-ranking corporate officers or elected officials. And remember, bring along a few blanks and a black marker, just in case.

4/ Be a host. When you host a cocktail party in your home, you want people to feel welcome as they arrive. Bring this instinct along to your next event. If it is your organization hosting the event, make sure your staff is all tasked with making guests feel welcome, encouraging conversation, facilitating introductions etc.

5/ Use your resources wisely. As with so many things in life, simplicity is key. A staff of five shouldn’t be stretched out to cover every detail – they’re most valuable to the success of the event as hosts. They know the players and the connections that should be made in this crowd. Let that be their focus. Checking people in is a great job for volunteers or temporary paid help. Low on bodies? I have had great success with Task Rabbit-the link includes a $20 coupon when you sign up.  Taskers, as they are called, can also be hired to tend bar, make sure guest drinks are filled and tidy up during/after the event

You've Got Influence! Does having a address make you more likely to be an influencer?

Last week USA Today’s Paul Signer wrote about an odd outlier that was discovered when the digital marketing firm Fluent conducted online campaign fundraising research.  

“A January study by digital marketing firm Fluent concluded that only 4% of subscribers to political email lists had email addresses, while 48% of subscribers had Gmail accounts. But those AOL users accounted for 22% of total donations during the study period — November and December 2015 — with an average donation of $159. Gmail users accounted for only 13% of donations with an average gift of $31,” Signer said.  The Fluent study can be found here

In 2011, Politico’s Ben Smith wrote about the email address being a status symbol.  The article highlighted some of the nation’s most influential politicos and media types that use AOL.

Including at the time: “POLITICS: David Axelrod, Jim Messina, John Weaver, Joe Trippi, Mandy Grunwald, Dick Morris (a recent defector to gmail), Frank Luntz, Ed Rollins, Guy Cecil, Al Franken, Aaron Schock. 

MEDIA: Matt Drudge, Arianna Huffington (who was holding onto an AOL account long before AOL bought her company), David Brooks, David Corn, Robert Draper, Rick Perlstein, Ann Coulter, Tina Brown, Lawrence O'Donnell.”

From a personal review of my contacts, I can say that the 79 with email addresses outweigh the influence of any other randomly-selected segment of my contacts.  Included in the 79 are a former gubernatorial candidate, foundation executives, non-profit executives, several heads of government relations, a number of current and former state legislators, and a state cabinet head. 

There are some likely reasons for this.  For example, these individuals likely established this email address 20 years ago or more.  This already means that they are at least in their mid-to-late 30’s.  Usually they are even older because the fact that they are still using this account means that they were resistant to change when new and better email services emerged.  Often this was because they were already doing significant business on their account.  As a result, usually you will find that these individuals are mostly in their 40s-60s, which means that they are in the prime age bracket for professional influence.     

Also, they didn’t succumb to peer pressure to change their emails when AOL’s hipness ultimately succumbed to other email players like hotmail, yahoo, and than Gmail.  They were at a point in their career where they weren’t concerned when articles like Is Your Email Address Preventing You from Getting the Job You Want? started popping up. 

So next time you hear you’ve got mail and see an email from a -you might just want to read it, it could be from someone very important.  

Chaz Cirame is the Founder of Cc: External Affairs, Inc. 

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Cc: External Affairs, Inc. – helps corporations, trade associations, public affairs firms and non-profits develop long-term partnerships to reach and exceed their goals - be they shaping public opinion, achieving legislative outcomes, or building lasting strategic alliances.