With the holiday season on the horizon most of us are probably starting to make lists of gifts to buy our friends and family. But before we start shopping for people who—let’s face it—probably aren’t in real need of whatever it is we plan to give them, perhaps we should take a moment to refocus our generosity on the people and causes that need our attention the most.
(Survivors in the typhoon-ravaged Philippines spring to mind.)
Thankfully, a global campaign is working to drum up support for charitable giving ahead of the holidays by deeming the first tuesday in December a national day of giving. After launching in the U.S. last year, the #GivingTuesday movement (yes, it even comes with its very own hashtag) will debut in Australia on December 3rd. A follow up to Black Friday, a shopping day that could be considered an exercise in dangerous consumerism, GivingTuesday calls on all of us to rethink why and how we give.
“GivingTuesday is definitely a global movement,” asserts Ben Teoh, the content and community coordinator at the nonprofit Connecting Up, an organisation that helps strengthen other not-for-profits by improving access to technology. The idea sprouted when New York City’s 92nd Street Y “saw an opportunity to raise awareness of giving back to communities and supporting not-for-profit organisations on the back of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales,” explains Teoh.
From there it spread across the globe, with roughly 5,000 organisations participating worldwide this year.
The GivingTuesday initiative brings together charities, businesses, families and individuals to celebrate the often underrated joys of giving back. Some not-for-profits are using the day to simply thank their supporters or to give a boost to their end of year campaigns. Others are running dedicated GiveTuesday events. Special Olympics Australia will be using the day to encourage people to send a special, supportive message or “#champogram” to athletes via social media, who will be competing in the Asia Pacific Games that week.
“It’s pretty exciting to see how different organisations are doing it,” says Teoh. Many of the 2,500 organisations that participated in the U.S. last year saw donations almost double on the day, notes Teoh. And according to the website, “More than 50 million people worldwide spread the word about GivingTuesday – resulting in milestone trending on Twitter.”
“It’s a great chance to showcase what the [not-for-profit] sector is doing, which is something that is really needed in Australia,” Teoh points out. “There’s a good volunteering backbone in Australia, but we need to shed a light on all the great work that the sector does.”
Businesses are joining the initiative too, with some partnering with organisations to help carry the torch for the charitable giving. Restaurants around the country have signed up for DineSmart, for example, a month and a half long event that asks diners to add $2 or more dollars to their bill, which will then be donated to StreetSmart, a not-for-profit that helps the homeless.
Teoh stresses that there is no one way to get involved. “It’s fantastic to see people using the day in their own different way, but still with that same message of giving back and supporting communities,” he says.
As for individuals, there are a variety of ways to take part. Some people plan to hold clothes drives, dinner party or morning tea fundraisers, and yard sales with all proceeds going to charity. But for those of us with little time to spare, a simple online donation will do the trick. “So we’re seeing very practical examples of individual people getting involved in their own ways, too,” says Teoh.
On a philosophical level, supporters of GivingTuesday hope the day will inspire us to be more mindful when it comes to how we give, perhaps reassessing what the word ‘giving’ itself means. “There are other ways to give to each other, whether that’s just spending time together, putting the mobile phone away, and just getting back to that reason of why we have these times for celebration each year,” says Teoh.
And when we do reach for our credit cards to snap up a gift for our loved ones, the GivingTuesday initiative reminds us that we always have the choice to opt for an ethical one. People could use the day to do their charitable gift shopping for the season, buying recycled, fair trade products or charity gift cards, for example. And when you do, “take a photo and chuck it on Instagram to share how you’re doing good stuff with your Christmas presents,” urges Teoh.
Don’t have a second to spare? Make a pledge instead. “Even if on the day there isn’t something that you actually do maybe just pledge that you’re going to donate blood or volunteer in the new year,” advises Teoh. “It doesn’t all have to happen on that day.”
Head over to the #GivingTuesday website for more ideas on how to get involved. The US site has a lot of information, too. And don’t forget to spread the word on social media using #GivingTuesday!
(For those of you who want to show your support by giving to Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts, InterAction has a very helpful list of vetted organisations in need of donations. The women behind Bundles of Joy could also use your help with their amazing work.)