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Giving Tuesday movement seeks to rival Black Friday, Cyber Monday

Published: Friday, Nov. 22 2013 4:00 a.m. MST

It's being called a movement. Something big. For Aaron Sherinian, vice president for the United Nations Foundation, it's changing his view of a global world.

Giving Tuesday, an annual day of giving slated for the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, seeks to rival Black Friday and Cyber Monday by celebrating the philosophy of giving during the holidays, and by kicking off the giving season on a specific day: Tuesday, Dec. 3. In a sign of the day’s connection to social media campaigns, the group uses the Twitter hashtag symbol in front of its name – #GivingTuesday – as a way to spread the cause.

"There's a day for giving thanks, a day for getting deals, and a day for shopping online,” said Sherinian, who spearheads communications and public relations for the U.N. Foundation, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization supporting the U.N., and originally founded through a gift from media magnate Ted Turner.

"There's really no day to give back. We're putting giving back on the map," said Sherinian.

Giving Tuesday aims to be this national day of giving. It was unofficially added to the calendar last year, on Nov. 27, 2012. The initiative works through partners to innovate better and smarter ways to donate monetarily, primarily to nonprofit organizations.

Last year, there were more than 2,500 partners from every state that participated in the special day. Through more than 50 million participants, #GivingTuesday was a top trend on Twitter last year.

All told, more than $10 million in online donations were gifted last year, as calculated by Blackbaud, a software company that tabulates donations to nonprofit organizations. Blackbaud's records show a 53 percent increase from Tuesday after Thanksgiving in 2011.

A community’s brainchild

Giving Tuesday started with a question: “What if the giving season had an opening day?”

That inspirational question, posed by Henry Timms, interim executive director of the 92nd Street Y in New York City, took off in collaboration with Sherinian and Kathy Calvin, CEO of the United Nations Foundation.

"It was [the UN Foundation’s] strategic insight and communication savvy that turned Giving Tuesday from a nice idea into something that began to look like a movement," said Timms, whose 92nd Street Y has been a pivotal anchor of the Jewish community, and through interaction with people of all backgrounds.

"People in all 50 states, from local stores to national companies, are coming together to celebrate the great spirit of giving in this country," he said.

Giving Tuesday has some ambitious goals this year. The city of Baltimore is looking to raise $5 million online on that one day through the help of their local partners. The United Methodist Church has put up a $500,000 matching grant to challenge their global congregation to match funds made for the Methodist church.

Redefining philanthropy

One of the ways Giving Tuesday is revolutionizing the giving industry is through its efforts to make philanthropy more accessible.

Rachel Hutchisson, head of corporate citizenship at Blackbaud and a partner with Giving Tuesday since its inception last year, is focusing on three initiatives: one each aimed at customers, employees and small/mid-size businesses.

Blackbaud is producing free webinars about Giving Tuesday as a teaching tool for customers to learn how to leverage the event as part of their year-end fundraising, Hutchisson said.

Through a Flickr feed on its website, Blackbaud is documenting the ways that its 2,700 Blackbaud employees are giving back, including as writing to soldiers and volunteering at pet shelters.

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