I think we can all agree on one thing: giving feels good. On #GivingTuesday we celebrate giving back.
Last year, I decided to enlist my kindergartener in a skit to illustrate the meaning of #GivingTuesday for his class. To start, we cut up a string of paper hearts and stood in front of the class.
"What happens when you get something?" I asked the kids.
"You're happy!" they all shouted. Obviously.
Then, my son and I stepped away from each other, the single heart unfolding to create a line of 20 connected pink paper hearts.
"What happens when you give something to someone else?" I asked them all.
I then exclaimed, "Your heart grows!"
Frankly, they looked a little doubtful. After all, for a little kid, it probably does feel better to get a present than to give something away.
But later that day at school pickup, I heard one of the kids telling her mom, "We learned about a day when you feel really happy because you're giving people things."
That was good enough for me.
Last year, #GivingTuesday raised over $116,000,000! That's amazing. But what's equally amazing is that since its launch in 2012, I would bet that thousands of adults like me have done silly skits to try to inspire a lifetime habit of giving in the kids they care about and to foster a new generation of philanthropists. I think we can all agree: that feels good too.
I love the stories that power #GivingTuesday. In 2013 I worked with a cohort of 14 metro New York nonprofits brought together by the Poses Family Foundation. All the organizations were diving in to try their first #GivingTuesday campaign. Many assumed that a successful effort was all about implementing fancy technology, AB testing of email subject lines, and making sure they had a robust social media strategy.
There's some of that, we told them, but really it's about story. The organizations dug deep, teasing out the moments and people that really defined their work. For Project Renewal, it was seizing upon the real life "miracle" tale of Lee Stringer, a former addict who'd been given tough love by Project Renewal and made it to write three books and keynote at the United Nations. When Lee wrote an email in his own voice and asked for a $20 donation, people listened.
What story will you tell on #GivingTuesday?
Meaningful stories can deal in big themes of trauma and redemption, but sometimes they're created from small moments. When my beloved nursery school created its first #GivingTuesday email campaign in 2013 not only did we launch a successful dollar for dollar match, the crafty annual fund team made a special Thanks-Giving Tree in the front hall. Parents and kids could draw and hang little notes sharing something they were thankful for. What better way to define the work of a school community than families taking a moment to give thanks?
Perhaps the opportunity to take a moment to help kids learn about gratitude is one of #GivingTuesday's greatest gifts. Perhaps it's the chance the day offers organizations large and small to take a breath and to look deep to remember what they stand for. #GivingTuesday means something different to everyone, but we all have a role to play in it. Whether you're the nation's largest nonprofit or a local food pantry, whether you're a 60-year-old billionaire or a six-year-old, #GivingTuesday is yours to celebrate as you wish.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the #GivingTuesday Team at 92nd Street Y, to celebrate #GivingTuesday. #GivingTuesday is a global giving movement, and the series (which will feature content throughout November) aims to celebrate how people are giving back around the world. For more information about #GivingTuesday, visit here. And to join the conversation on social media, use the hashtag #GivingTuesday.