Giving Tuesday

We already have a Thursday dedicated to giving thanks every year. How about a Tuesday devoted to just giving. (The thanks will be coming back at you all on its own.) That was the notion behind #GivingTuesday, a movement devoted to creating a national holiday to encourage voluntarism and charity. From the movement's website: "It's a simple idea. Just find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to come together to give something more. Then tell everyone you can about how you are giving. Be a part of a national celebration of our great tradition of generosity." The mission: "To create a national holiday at the start of the holiday season to promote giving." Organizationally, two of my favorite organizations are playing a big role: the New York's 92nd St. Y, and the United Nations Foundation.

The second annual dedicated day of giving this year fell on Dec. 3 last year, and more than 10,000 groups, both for-profit and nonprofit, joined in. That's a pretty amazing groundswell of support in only the second year of the program's advocacy. Celebrities participated, of course, and the White House issued a statement, but more importantly, thousands of volunteers hopped aboard and provided elbow grease to fundraisers, food and clothing drives and other initiatives. Here are some indications how much the campaign is catching on, as reported here.

• The hashtag #GivingTuesday was trending for most of the day and found its way into more than 269,000 tweets.

• The United Methodist Church raised $6.5 million in donations from donors in 24 countries.

• The city of Baltimore held a campaign called "BMore Gives More" to feed the hungry, shelter veterans, find homes for animals, plant trees, and put music and computers in school. This campaign raised $5.4 million for almost 500 nonprofits in the Baltimore area.

• The foundation started by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife called Good Ventures announced a $5 million matching grant to GiveDirectly, a nonprofit that provides cash payments to poor people around the world.

• Over 7,000 "unselfie" images were posted on Instagram and Twitter, including many celebrities, like Katie Couric, Heidi Klum, Josh Duhamel, and Carmen Electra. These celebs and others taking the photos held up signs that served as a shout-out for #givingtuesday.

• PayPal saw a 99.9 percent increase in U.S. donations and an 858 percent increase in mobile donations made through PayPal from 2012.

• QVC is running a campaign which started on December for its four Give Joy beneficiaries and matching up to $150,000 donations made to the American Heart Association, the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, Dress for Success, and Cancer and Careers.

Forbes reported that Blackbaud, the nonprofit technology provider and #GivingTuesday partner, processed more than $19.2 million in online donations (compared to $10.1 million in 2012). The average online gift on Dec. 3 was $142.05, which was significantly up from $101.60 in 2012 Blackbaud maintains this builds on a solid end-of-year giving season last year, when online giving (19.1 percent) outpaced retail e-commerce (15.5 percent) growth. Speaking with Tom Watson, at Forbes. com, the director of Blackbaud's idea lab, Seven MacLaughlin, said,

I believe that #GivingTuesday is at the beginning of the beginning of a movement. The 90 percent increase in online giving that Blackbaud saw compared to last year certainly suggests this wasn't a one-time fad. There is a fear of scarcity in the nonprofit sector that's largely a falsehood. The fear that if someone is giving on a particular day or to a particular event, then they somehow aren't giving the rest of the year. The data suggests that doesn't actually happen.

This year you had Grey Thursday, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday all focused on buying things. One would hope that at least one day could be focused on giving back. The data tells us that donors are giving to fewer charities. But if #GivingTuesday can be part of building relationships with donors, then that's going to be a positive thing for many organizations. The status quo has us stuck at giving (that represents only) 2 percent of GDP. The baby boomer windfall is not going to happen as so many predicted years ago. The nonprofit sector needs to embrace bigger and broader ways to engage with existing and potential donors.

Here's hoping that Giving Tuesday becomes the equivalent of a national holiday, or at least equal to one of the buying days that cluster around Thanksgiving, like pilot fish. Most people tip well, hold the door for the next guy, drop a dollar into the Salvation Army bucket: we're almost all predisposed to be generous when we have a chance to help someone else. Giving Tuesday is starting to magnify that impulse and make it count for more. Can you see ways to join the movement in your own life? For more information, go to #givingtuesday.

Peter Georgescu is the author of The Constant Choice.