This article was written by Dov Seidman and appeared in Forbes.
You’ve heard of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding? Welcome to crowdgiving. And it has arrived just in time.
The holiday season is upon us. Once the season of giving, it has become for many the season of consuming. The usual barrage of holiday advertising is raining (or maybe sleeting) down upon us. Fake snow appeared in shop windows before the Halloween pumpkins were off the stoops. #BlackFriday and #CyberMonday have been trending on Twitter.
Yet while many are engaged in conspicuous consumption, today we will all have the opportunity to engage in something else: conspicuous compassion.
Catalyzed by the 92nd Street Y in New York—in partnership with the United Nations Foundation and an array of powerful organizations—many of us will use the next 24 hours to participate in #GivingTuesday.
Like many others, I think this is a glorious expression of the American spirit of sharing. It reminds us that we are so much more than the sum of our discounts.
In all 50 States, and from small communities to big business, people are working together to bring #GivingTuesday to life. From participating in coat and blood drives, to volunteering, to making a donations, people of all ages, religions, and opinions are uniting in the spirit of giving. More than 8,000 organizations are now confirmed to take part.
This “wave” is capturing the imagination of Americans everywhere. It is a cascade that promises to aid some of our most socially desiccated regions. What I find so exciting about #GivingTuesday —both online and offline—is how it is bringing people together to develop a collective advance in our goodwill. You can feel the pulse of human energy flowing out of our workspaces—online, on the street. And not just American streets. It is part of a new, 21st century global community that is reinventing the way we give before our very eyes. Just as we are mortified by the human behaviors that lead to holiday fighting in superstores, we could all take a little pride in HOW we come together and give.
This day is inherently virtuous because of at least three factors: the consensual approach of many organizations’ charitable choices; the elevation of employee engagement that the flattened decision-making of a social media wave promotes; and a durability of cause effectiveness that derives from the alignment of individual gifts with organizational missions.
So what exactly is #GivingTuesday?
According to the organization’s website, it began a year ago as a campaign to create a national day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season. It is timed to contrast with the consumer frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In its inaugural year, more than 2,500 organizations recognized #GivingTuesday from all 50 states. The collective efforts of partners, donors, and advocates have helped fuel a marked increase in charitable giving.
For example, last year Blackbaud processed more than $10 million in online donations on #GivingTuesday —a 53 percent increase when compared to the Tuesday after Thanksgiving the previous year. DonorPerfect recorded a 46 percent increase in online donations, and the average gift increased 25 percent.
But it’s not only about the money. Just as we hear so much about the sharing economy, this is about shared charity. Crowdgiving. Last year, more than 50 million people worldwide spread the word about #GivingTuesday—resulting in milestone trending on Twitter. In essence, we are elevating one another.
The bigger point is that through innovation in HOW, we realize a good. These elevated behaviors represent what’s possible when you scale a set of values.
Shared giving helps create a virtuous cycle—which is part of the reason online donations doubled on #GivingTuesday last year. This new model doesn’t follow the old, top-down approach. Just the opposite. Its flatness and transparency promote healthy competition among givers. The designers are creating strategies and programs that increase their own investment in the effort.
Programs orchestrated by the givers and administered openly have been shown to increase organizational pride, and that offers an additional benefit. Dale Carnegie and MSW recently published a study showing a direct correlation between organizational pride and employee engagement. Moreover, as the corporate responsibility literature reveals, giving that aligns with an organization’s mission is more enduring than checkbook philanthropy. After the recent typhoon hit the Philippines, UPS volunteered its logistics. When the 2010 earthquake rocked Haiti, Western Union sent phones with apps for fee-free money transfers. Analysts of philanthropy say these types of mission-aligned activities prove to be more sustainable than just sending money.
The effects of #GivingTuesday are also increased by extensive use of social media. (For one delightfully subversive example, see how to post and personalize your giving with the #UNselfie Toolkit.) This broadens and deepens the national conversation.
At my company, LRN, we have aligned our pre-existing “Act Locally” philanthropic efforts with the #GivingTuesday movement in order to contribute maximum impact on this day.
Our offices from around the world have organized efforts in the United States, Europe, and India. I am participating in #GivingTuesday from Mumbai, where my colleagues and I are doing everything from distributing food to house-keeping staff, government bus staff, and street sweepers; sponsoring and serving lunch at a nearby orphanage; and distributing books for children at Tata Memorial Hospital, a cancer research hospital. In New York we are contributing to an interior build out with Friends of the Rockaway and building adaptive equipment with Team Red White and Blue. With GrowNYC, we are expanding a community garden that LRN staffers first planted in June to help feed members of the host Bedford-Stuyvesant food pantry.
In Los Angeles, our colleagues are sorting donations with the Downtown Women’s Center, preparing sack lunches with the Ocean Park Community Center. and serving lunch to more than 1000 people with Union Rescue Mission, among other things. In London, colleagues will host a bake sale to fundraise for the National Deaf Children Society. And colleagues in our remote locations are working with a sailing organization that helps at-risk youth and staging a “home treasure hunt” to collect gently used goods for donation to a women’s shelter.
The American tradition of giving and philanthropy is longstanding and profound. #GivingTuesday renews and expands that tradition. By encouraging a multiplicity of initiatives under a unified spirit concentrated on a single day, it helps reform the HOW of our giving. The new power of the individual is unleashed. Healthier interdependencies are forged by the shared decision-making. And organizations advance their own missions by designing efforts that harmonize social need with what they do day in and day out.
That promises to extend the spirit and impact beyond the single day. The wave can be greatly amplified—and by a source of power that is abundant and renewable: the human spirit. If your company is not yet involved with #GivingTuesday, now is a perfiect time to get started. There are countless opportunities for individuals and companies to make a difference. What better way to enter the true holiday season than to give back in the most genuine and meaningful way possible—by donating your time, effort, and money to those who truly need it?
It is my belief that #GivingTuesday will become an enduring American tradition. It is my heartfelt hope that the behaviors will transcend the day itself.
It was Abraham Lincoln who declared the first Thanksgiving holiday, and it is #GivingTuesday that manifests precisely the kind of elevated mindsets and ethics that can help America realize his most inspiring vision: Charity for all.