Fundraising IdeasThanksgiving

Thanksgiving 2020: Helping Your Local NGO Raise Funds for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 2020

The start of 2020 isn’t pleasant for all of us. Lots of strange things have happened from the last few months alone. Most of all, the whole world is still battling the Covid-19 pandemic that has crippled economies worldwide. Few weeks to go and Thanksgiving 2020 will be here! The question is, should thanksgiving be celebrated this year or should we just cancel it?

In the United States of America, thanksgiving is celebrated every 4th Thursday of November. Traditionally, thanksgiving celebrates the giving of thanks for the autumn harvest. This tradition of giving thanks for the annual harvest can be traced back to the dawn of civilization and is one of the world’s oldest celebration. However, in the US, the success of this holiday has been due to it being seen as an occasion to give thanks for the foundation of the nation and not just a celebration of the harvest. Thanksgiving 2020 is on Thursday, the 26th of November.

Thanksgiving 2020: A Brief History

The American tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving dates back to 1621 when the pilgrims gave thanks for their first bountiful harvest in Plymouth Rock. The settlers had arrived in November 1620, founding the first permanent English settlement in the New England region. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated for three days. The settlers feasting with the natives on venison, boiled pumpkin, turkey, dried fruits, and much more.

Thanksgiving was proclaimed to be a national holiday in 1789 by George Washington on Thursday, 26th of November that year. This proclamation sets the precedent of the last Thursday in November. Despite this, the holiday was celebrated on different days from state to state.

This special occasion didn’t become a nationwide holiday until President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November a national day of Thanksgiving in 1863. In 1939, President Roosevelt switched Thanksgiving from the final Thursday in November to the next-to-last Thursday in November. This is because he wanted to create a longer Christmas shopping period to stimulate the economy which was still recovering after the Great Depression.

The switch has caused widespread confusion with many states ignoring the change until Congress sanctioned the 4th Thursday in November as a legal holiday in 1941. The Thanksgiving celebration we now know today has now evolved into an American tradition as a day to gather with loved ones, celebrate, and give thanks for the bountiful blessings, and of course, eat. The traditional American Thanksgiving meal includes mashed potatoes, yams, cranberry sauce, stuffing, turkey, and pumpkin pie. The meal stems from that eaten by the pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving.

Helping Your Local NGO Raise Funds for Thanksgiving

Since the dissipation of Covid-19 is still uncertain, Thanksgiving 2020 may never be the same again due to government restrictions. This may mean that the celebration may or may not be canceled but hopefully, things will slow down by then.

If you are a part of an NGO or are running an NGO, it’s equally important for your organization to stay afloat. Around 25% or more of the annual giving in the U.S. occurs during the last 3 months of the year. It is estimated that 43% of higher-income donors donate more during the holidays. However, running the same events every year can get old for you and your donors.

How are you going to change the game?

1. Connect with Existing Donors – Thanksgiving if the perfect time to connect with your existing donors. Mobilize volunteers to write ‘thank you’ emails or handwritten ‘thank you’ cards if your organization is smaller. If you’re running a bigger organization, consider organizing a Thanksgiving dinner. Don’t ask for more donations immediately.

This does not only encourages your donors to keep supporting your cause, but it shows you care about your supporters. Appreciate your donors throughout the year and not only for Thanksgiving.

Other interesting ways to thank your donors:

  • Send them photos from the field
  • Invite them for a tour of your organization
  • Ask major donors if they’d like to get involved or serve on a board
  • Send them a “thank you” letter written by someone the donation helped
  • Include an interactive infographic in your ‘thank you’ letter

2. Work With the Sentiment of Gratitude – Gratitude is a positive emotion that affects generosity and willingness to help. The key this Thanksgiving is to work with the sentiment of gratitude to increase giving but without inducing guilt or manipulation. A good way to do this is to be thankful to your donors and to remind them of what they helped you achieve the previous year.

Instead of emails or social media posts, make it more personal by writing letters showcasing impact for your organization. With a focus on community, warmth, and cheer, ask your supporters to give tastefully instead of guilt-tripping them because of all they have.

3. Showcase Stories – We donate when we feel sympathy and giving is essentially an emotional decision. Instead of just throwing statistics around, one powerful way to help your organization is to showcase individual stories of the affected individuals your organization is helping. Individuals connect with individuals, so make sure to present a single identified story this Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Fundraising Ideas

  • Thanksgiving giveaway on social media
  • Thanksgiving gift catalog
  • Thanksgiving virtual bake sale
  • Gift baskets
  • Fall foliage tour
  • Pumpkin sale
  • Pumpkin carving or decorating contest
  • Yard cleanup


The single biggest fundraising opportunity of the year for Thanksgiving 2020 is just around the corner. Use your creativity and think outside the box and try some interesting ideas you haven’t tried before. Segment your donors based on their communication preferences and how they prefer to give. You can use an email marketing campaign to make this work for you.

Don’t forget to be grateful to your donors and supporters and set yourself off to a good end of the year.