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Social Impact | November 27, 2012

Encouraging giving


With #GivingTuesday nonprofits hope to start an annual tradition of giving

Associated Press/Photo by Toby Talbot

After "eat-'til-you-drop" Thursday (also known as Thanksgiving), "shop-'til-you-drop" Friday, and "shop-'til-you-get-carpal-tunnel-syndrome" Monday, charities are trying to make today "Giving" Tuesday, where more than 2,000 nonprofit organizations, religious groups, and corporations are encouraging people to give to their causes.

The organizations-which include such diverse groups as the Huffington Post, Heifer International, The Salvation Army, the Gates Foundation, and Gap Inc.-have created their own way to promote giving, whether by asking for donations, providing matching donations, or setting up volunteer opportunities.

Henry Timms of the 92nd Street Y in New York came up with the idea of #GivingTuesday (a name trademarked by the Jewish community center that doubles as a Twitter hashtag) last spring in response to the commercialization of the Thanksgiving holiday with sales and long lines at department stores.

"Everyone talks about the giving season. Shouldn't the giving season have an opening day?" Timms told The Baltimore Sun. "We have Black Friday and Cyber Monday, two days that are good for the economy. Wouldn't it be good to have a day that's good for the soul?"

Timms collaborated with United Nation Foundation to work on the event and soon corporations and non-profit groups joined in spreading the word and creating their own initiatives. Hollywood and sports celebrities have also jumped on board, with Susan Sarandon, Penelope Cruz, and Steve Nash promoting different charities.

Christian groups have joined in as well, with groups like World Vision and Lutheran World Relief involved in large giving drives today.

World Vision media relations director Mindy Mizell said people can participate in #GivingTuesday by donating to the organization or by volunteering virtually.

"So many people want to volunteer, but can't because they have work or kids,'" Mizell said. "They can virtually volunteer by giving kits online to Hurricane Sandy victims, which will give them resources like emergency food packs."

Donors can purchase flood cleanup kits, hygiene kits, blankets, and food kits online and the supplies will be sent to World Vision relief teams helping families hardest hit by the storm. They can also buy gifts to help people around the world, which include clean water, business loans, and farm animals.

Lutheran World Relief (LWR) generally uses social media to build relationships with its donors, today it is using it to attract new donors, promote its matching donation program, and spread the word about how donors can purchase gifts for people overseas.

But most of all, LWR's vice president of external relations Daniel Lee said #GivingTuesday is a way to refocus the season: "The reason we're doing this is that we're trying to change the narrative [of the Christmas season] to refocus us on sharing love with our neighbor and having an attitude of gratitude and care, rather than just focusing on ourselves."