#Giving Tuesday Triples Year-Over-Year

November 27, 2013       Patrick Sullivan      

#GivingTuesday started last year with a modest goal: Get 100 partners. Before the day was through, it had 2,500. “We were really overwhelmed at how this call to generosity resonated so intensely,” said Beverly Greenfield, director of public relations for the 92nd Street Y (92Y) in New York City, where the idea for #GivingTuesday originated in conjunction with the United Nations Foundation.

This year’s event, slated for Dec. 3, promises to be even bigger: a week out, participation has tripled, at 7,834 partners and counting. “We set a goal of 5,000 partners and already beat it,” said Greenfield, a week before the event. “We’re not quite as surprised this year but the response has been extraordinary.”

Americans have Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the Friday and Monday after Thanksgiving, which are all about dropping prices to entice consumers to spend money. Black Friday is also characterized by long lines and near-riots to be the first through the doors. “The idea behind (#GivingTuesday) was it brings us back to the spirit of Thanksgiving,” said Jean Case, CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Case Foundation. “Being able to give back in the consumption-focused window (after Thanksgiving) makes a lot of sense.”

The hashtag that precedes the name everywhere is intentional, said Greenfield. “We wanted to let people know that this is about community that can come together through social media,” she said. “It’s a symbol that this is a social media-driven movement. We left the hashtag in the name so that it’s always there wherever you see it.”

Henry Timms, interim executive director of 92Y, said one of the biggest changes operationally this year is more time. “Last year we had about 70 days between (the announcement of the) launch and Giving Tuesday,” he said. “We had more time this year, so that was important. People having time to plan and think about how Giving Tuesday fits into their comprehensive year-end campaign, that’s really important.” Timms admitted the response for the first Giving Tuesday, held on Nov. 27, 2012, was a pleasant surprise: “We never anticipated this kind of support and interest,” he said.

#GivingTuesday is not a program of 92Y or any other organization; it’s a movement, and one of its strengths is participants’ ability to make the day their own. “We knew the success of this kind of project would rely on the fact that it’s owned by everyone involved,” said Greenfield. “It was a conscious decision to create a movement that’s very open that each partner can make their own.”

Charleston, S.C. tech firm Blackbaud processed approximately $10 million in donations for its clients during last year’s inaugural #GivingTuesday. It was a 53 percent increase compared to the Tuesday after Thanksgiving in 2011, according to Steve MacLaughlin, director of Blackbaud’s Idea Lab. “We’re certainly expecting an increase,” this year, he said.

All indications point to a jump in participation for this year’s #GivingTuesday. Besides the threefold increase in partners, giving has been trending upward all year, according to MacLaughlin. “Through October, overall giving is up 4.4 percent on a year-to-date basis, and that’s pretty good considering last year was only up 1.3 percent (over the previous year),” he said. “We’re ahead of last year, and that’s a really positive sign. Online giving is up double digits, almost 12 percent on a year-to-date basis.”

United Way Worldwide (UWW), headquartered in Alexandria, Va., Tweeted just a few times last year, despite signing up as a founding partner. “It was basically another day of business for us,” said Felipe Benitez, director of media and public relations. “We didn’t see any significant changes or increases.” After seeing the huge reception Giving Tuesday got, UWW decided to do more this year.

“Last year we got into it because United Way should be involved in anything like this, but we really saw this as, we owe it to the nonprofit sector to lift this opportunity up,” said Amanda Ponzar, UWW’s director of key stakeholder communications. “We haven’t set fundraising goals. We don’t need people’s money right now; we want to engage with people and get them thinking about how they can give back. Black Friday’s what everyone’s talking about, so let’s change the conversation to how to make the community a better place.”

After setting up a match pool of $25,000 last year, the Case Foundation decided to dial it up to $100,000 for this year, divided into donation matching for nonprofits ($90,000) and prizes for donors ($10,000 worth of merchandise). “We’ve always seen the power of matching,” said Case. “We think there’s no exception here. While giving is a selfless act, people are sometimes motivated by prizes to act with urgency.”

Timms said that with the buzz around Giving Tuesday last year and this year, the general public might find it harder to underestimate the nonprofit sector. “There are so many people out there trying to find interesting and powerful ways to engage with their communities, and we’ve seen that come alive for Giving Tuesday,” he said. “We hear a lot about what’s not working in this country, but what we see around Giving Tuesday, people cooperating and partnering and sharing new ideas, it’s really a cause for celebration.”

Some of the #GivingTuesday events include:

  • The United Nations Foundation is encouraging Giving Tuesday participants to turn their cell phone cameras around and take an UNselfie, a photograph of others doing good works. Upload the photos to social media with the tags #unselfie and #givingtuesday.
  • Susan G. Komen for the Cure is attempting to raise $25,000 by Giving Tuesday.
  • The CVS Caremark Charitable Trust will award $25,000 to employee-nominated nonprofits around the country.
  • A coalition of Baltimore-based nonprofits and businesses are trying to ensure that Baltimore is the most generous city on Giving Tuesday with their BMore Give More Campaign.
  • Organic supplement company Limitless Good is running its Share A Smile and We’ll Share A Meal campaign on Giving Tuesday. For every photograph of a smile posted to the organization’s Facebook page, it will donate $1 to Feeding America.
  • ACHIEVEability in Philadelphia is inviting groups of volunteers to help paint and rehab one of its housing properties for poverty-stricken residents of the city.
  • The Knight Foundation is making its Giving Day Playbook available to help nonprofits leverage the day as best they can.
  • Quincy, Mass.-based nonprofit Good Sports is urging donations of gently used sporting equipment.
  • The United Methodist Church’s General Board of Global Ministries will match donations to its Advance fund.