Every year, the holiday season starts with one day to give thanks followed by two days – Black Friday and Cyber Monday – for bargain hunting. But the holiday season is and always has been about more than giving gifts – it’s also about giving back.
Generosity is a defining characteristic of the American people, but we don’t have a designated day to celebrate and fuel that generosity. As many Americans recover from superstorm Sandy and a crippling recession, encouraging a collective spirit of giving is especially needed.
We need to be inspired by those like the New York and New Jersey families who opened their homes to those in need in the wake of Sandy; the 9-year-old girl who swam from Alcatraz to San Francisco to raise money to send anti-malaria bed nets to Africa; the service members in Afghanistan who lined up to donate blood to a wounded soldier; and all of our fellow citizens who have found a way to carve out monetary donations to help support causes they believe in.
That is why nonprofits, businesses, and individuals from across the country are coming together today to launch #GivingTuesday – a national day to celebrate the great American tradition of giving.
For years, retailers have benefited from coordinating national shopping days (like Black Friday and Cyber Monday) around the holidays. #GivingTuesday takes a page from their playbook and creates a day at the beginning of the season dedicated to giving. Of course, organizations and causes need monetary support throughout the year, but #Giving Tuesday provides a rallying point for organizations, retailers, corporations, and individuals. Today will serve as a kick-off day to inspire everyone to continue giving in numerous ways throughout the holiday season and year round.
The idea for #GivingTuesday was launched in September with about 40 partners, large and small, who pledged to help build the movement, spread the word, and come up with creative new ideas around giving. #GivingTuesday has grown into a movement of more than 2,000 partners, including large corporations and small businesses, nonprofits and community centers.
Central to #GivingTuesday is the fact that it is an open platform – anyone can participate. All we ask is that you find a way to give back that works for you, whether it’s donating to a favorite charity, volunteering in the community, or raising awareness for a cause you care about by writing a blog post or a tweet.
One #GivingTuesday partner, Simon Property Group (known for its malls around the country), will collect donations at its properties to benefit the American Red Cross and a youth foundation. Discover Card will offer a 2 percent match to donations to the national chapters of its charitable partners, among other actions. And World Food Program USA will launch an online and mobile campaign called #ABetterGift to encourage Americans to give a gift that lasts this holiday season.
There are also small businesses planning to donate a portion of their proceeds to local causes, organizations whose employees will spend the day volunteering, and nonprofits that will launch special fundraising campaigns for their programs. We’ve also partnered with charity rating organizations to provide advice and to help participants find organizations and causes to support.
The variety and scope of activities that have been planned around #GivingTuesday give the movement its power. #GivingTuesday is engaging people around the country, largely through social media. Today, individual acts of giving have the potential to add up to big collective change and a renewed, shared sense of charitable purpose this holiday season and beyond.
President John F. Kennedy once said, “I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.” This holiday season, the most meaningful gift we can give our children, loved ones, friends, and neighbors is the commitment to work together to build a better world. That’s a giving worth celebrating.
Kathy Calvin is the chief executive officer of the United Nations Foundation. Sol Adler is the executive director of 92nd Street Y.