A National Day for Giving Back

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If the first #GivingTuesday caught you off guard last year, you’re not alone – but forces are already in play to make sure that this year’s event, which takes place on December 3, won’t take you by surprise again.

In the frantic rush to spend money that immediately follows Thanksgiving, first came “Black Friday,” when retail outlets ramp up their sales staff and measure their upcoming holiday success by the first-shopping-day-of-the-season’s receipts. Then, with the explosion of online shopping, came “Cyber Monday” accompanied by its own tote board of retail results.

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In response, a group of thought leaders from organizations as diverse as MashableGroupon Grassroots, and the Association of Fundraising Professionals got together at the historic 92nd Street Yin New York City, or 92Y as it is called, and came up with the idea of designating a day during the holiday frenzy dedicated, instead, to giving money to charitable causes. If Henry Timms, Deputy Executive Director of 92Y, was the event’s catalyst, 92Y was its petri dish. That’s where it all began, and continues to be #GivingTuesday’s home today.

The United Nations Foundation soon added its clout to the partnership and the first National Giving Tuesday became official – but the word got out slowly. When NPR aired a story on Monday November 26, the day beforehand, revealing that an anonymous donor had pledged to match all donations up to $50,000, nonprofits began falling all over themselves to sign up, thinking they would reap huge benefits just by being on the website. What they learned, however, was that there are no short cuts. To be successful, the Giving Tuesday philosophy needs to be incorporated into a larger campaign – which takes time, planning and, yes, work.

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Last year, a total of 2,600 nonprofits signed up, and this year the event’s organizers hope to double that number. The Giving Tuesday website has recently been revamped and offers a variety of resources to help nonprofits in planning their campaigns, including case studies and a Partner Toolkitfor maximizing the day’s impact. The best advice? Start planning – now. In her June 23 article for the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Nicole Lewis makes the following suggestions:

  • Start months ahead of time.

  • Establish aggressive but reasonable goals for how much to raise and the number of donors to reach.

  • Send messages to supporters months ahead of Giving Tuesday and follow up with them regularly to ask them to raise money on behalf of your group.

  • Urge donors to post messages about their gifts on social networks to encourage their friends to give.

  • Hold in-person events to complement appeals, such as parties or concerts.

There are days for everything: for mothers, for teachers, for presidents, for shopping, and for giving thanks… It’s time we had a day for giving back.

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Richard Beeman