Do We Really Need “Giving Tuesday” to Promote Philanthropy?

Today is Giving Tuesday, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.  It is a day dedicated to giving back to your community, and many non-profits are promoting Giving Tuesday as a kind of “counter-programming” to the consumer culture of the holiday season, particularly right after Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Image courtesy of GivingTuesday.org

Image courtesy of GivingTuesday.org

Giving Tuesday was started in 2012 as a grassroots movement led by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation, among others.  Now in its third year, Giving Tuesday has its own Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages, IndieGogo campaigns, and more.  (Just Google “Giving Tuesday” for over 333 million results.)

So what’s wrong with Giving Tuesday?  Nothing – but here are three reasons why Giving Tuesday may not have the impact its promoters intend:

  1. The objective is vague and broad. The movement’s home page describes the day thusly:

It’s a simple idea. Just find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to come together to give something more. Then tell everyone you can about how you are giving.

What exactly does “just a find a way…to come together to give something more” mean?  Am I supposed to make a monetary gift?  Volunteer?  Be kind to others?  All of the above?  Non-profits who have set up Giving Tuesday pages like this one are hoping for dollars, but there is a lack of clarity around what someone is supposed to do to take part.  Unlike the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – which had very clear instructions – Giving Tuesday’s mandate is less obvious and more open to interpretation, thereby making its ultimate message unclear.

  1. The holiday season is already about giving. Yes, we are all embarrassed or sickened at the sight of people barging into a store and trampling one another in the wee hours of Black Friday in order to grab a discounted HDTV.  Between print ads, TV commercials, and news stories about shoppers, it’s easy to feel like the spirit of the holidays has been usurped by consumerism.  But the reason for all the shopping is in order to give gifts to others!  Between Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, office co-workers, Secret Santas, and so on, it seems like the entire month of December – not just one day – is all about giving already.
  1. The year-end giving activity extends to philanthropy. Those of us who have worked at charities know well the onslaught of the year-end giving season.  Thanks to the combination of the holiday spirit and the year-end deadline to make a charitable gift for purposes of a tax deduction for the year, charities receive an inordinate number of donations in the last two months of the year.  It is not uncommon for an organization to receive 40-50% of its annual revenue in the fourth quarter.  Singling out one day makes little sense when every day (right up until December 31) is a demonstration of giving.

I’m not the only Giving Tuesday skeptic.  Actually, I can appreciate the “marketing” angle of a “Giving Tuesday” coming on the heels of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  I also applaud all those who take part, whether promoting Giving Tuesday or actually participating as a donor/giver.

Some things should be limited to one day (like Black Friday, thankfully).  For my part, I would rather see giving promoted 365 days a year, not just one.

For that reason and those mentioned earlier, I suggest that we don’t need a Giving Tuesday – we need a #GivingEveryDay.

Comments or feedback?  Contact me on Twitter @juanros.

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