DoSomething in New York City sent an email to its mostly youthful members and supporters asking that they get their parents or anyone older than age 25 to take a five-question test. The penalty for each wrong answer is a $10 donation to DoSomething or a nonprofit of the test-takers choice.
Today is “Giving Tuesday,” the charitable sector’s answer to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Approximately 2,200 organizations – both nonprofits and their for-profit supporters – are pushing Americans to kick-off the holiday season with a donation of cash or time. Much like store having promotions tied to their brands on Black Friday, it is up to each participating organization to determine how they’ll promote the event.
The event’s Twitter hashtag, #GivingTuesday, was already trending before the close of the business day on Monday. “We know this is going to be the first day of the giving season, and we’re excited to see what happens,” said Sol Adler, executive director of the 92nd Street Y (92Y) in New York City, where the idea for the day was hatched. “There are two days for spending (Black Friday and Cyber Monday), so the whole idea is, why not have a day of giving,” said Melanie Mathos of Charleston, S.C., software firm Blackbaud, one of the founding partners. “It’s a way to kick off the giving season, and the timing is great to raise awareness. It embodies the spirit of the holiday season and will bring greater awareness to nonprofits.”
Blackbaud will begin tracking giving on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving year-over-year, starting with this year compared to last year. Mathos said Blackbaud’s results should be ready tomorrow.
Though no one organization controls Giving Tuesday, a mass message of support from about 800,000 people will go out on Twitter via the Thunderclap platform at 2:30 p.m. (EST). Thunderclap allows for a large number of social media users to write a message and share it at the same time.
“One of the interesting things about Giving Tuesday is it’s an opportunity for experimenting,” said Henry Timms, 92Y’s deputy executive director of innovation, content and strategy. “Thunderclap is a chance for people to come together to share one message.” The 92Y experimented with Google Hangouts, and enlisted about 800 social media ambassadors to help spread the word between September and Giving Tuesday.
The 92Y is also driving donations and volunteering opportunities to itself, according to Adler. “We secured $150,000 worth of matching grants (for Giving Tuesday donations) from our board of directors and the general community,” he said. “We’re also doing a lot of opportunities for volunteering. We’ll have young kids doing greeting cards for soldiers and homebound elderly, and if you come down to the 92nd Street Y, a lot of it will be happening in front of you.”
No one is quite sure how Giving Tuesday will shake out, since this is the first event and there are a large number of variables. “This is the first year that a group of retailers and nonprofits and other folks in social media have pulled together to encourage the public to give,” said Anne Marie Borrego, director of media relations for the American Red Cross (ARC), another founding partner of Giving Tuesday. “We have Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and now Giving Tuesday. It will shine a light on the importance of giving in the holiday season.”
One of those variables is giving around super storm Sandy, which ravaged the East Coast at the end of October. The Washington, D.C.-based ARC collected about $145 million in donations in the three weeks following Sandy. But, a survey of about 1,000 Americans, released yesterday by ARC, showed that more than three-quarters of those who have already dipped into their wallets in response to Sandy said the storm will not impact their holiday giving. To draw donations, ARC will build on its holiday campaign. “We’re using all of the same tactics (to promote the campaign) but turning them up a notch and using the #GivingTuesday hashtag,” said Wendy Harman, ARC’s director of social strategy, adding that the organization will probably tweet more often than usual on Giving Tuesday. “We’ve got a lot of chapters around the country, and they’re probably going to be participating in Giving Tuesday.”
The organization will also use Giving Tuesday to thank its constituents, both individuals and corporate donors, said Harman. “We have a lot to be grateful for,” she said. “It’s not a scientific thing. We’re just trying to be real.”
Giving Tuesday is “one of those ideas that was so obvious that we missed it for a while,” said Liz Eddy, a special projects associate for DoSomething.org, a founding partner of Giving Tuesday. “It just made a lot of sense. We don’t ask for money (from individuals), it’s one of our major values, but we did see this opportunity as a bigger movement than just DoSomething.org. It’s something that should be supported.” DoSomething.org, a teen-centered charity, will promote a brief quiz they developed for the “old people” in their constituents’ lives. Old people being those older than the age of 25 in DoSomething.org parlance. It’s a five-question quiz to see how well the old person knows teens, and for every question they get wrong, they’ll pledge $10. “It’s a great chance for teens to talk about what they’re doing and how they’re volunteering,” said Eddy.
Local commerce website Groupon will feature a collection of pro-bono fundraising campaigns on its website with a custom groupon.com/givingtuesday URL. Mashable has committed to volunteering to support digital literacy among youth. “Americans as a whole are the most generous people in the world when it comes to giving,” said Thomas J. Tierney, chairman and co-founder of The Bridgespan Group in Boston, Mass. “This effort taps that spirit, unleashing its power by pulling together the creative ideas of myriad people committed to having real and lasting impact.”