News and analysis
December 01, 2014

Early Signs Point to Another Big Growth Year for Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday 2014 appears poised to repeat its sophomore year growth, when the day of philanthropy nearly doubled donations around the world.

Based on the goals of participants and promises of matching gifts, and a sample of this year’s campaigns, Giving Tuesday could raise $40-million or more. Estimates of online donations tied to Giving Tuesday in 2013 range from $21-million to $32-million.

On Tuesday, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages will be filled with donation requests, pledges of support and encouragement to counter the commercialism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday with caring, and giving.

Participants from central Kansas to Central Park can track the day of generosity with a virtual tower rising from an app on their smartphones, created by the online platform CrowdRise.

Nearly 18,000 corporate, civic, and charity partners have registered to participate in Giving Tuesday, launched in 2012 by the United Nations Foundation and the 92nd Street Y, in New York City. Even the Congressional Future Caucus has joined the movement by pushing a resolution to have Giving Tuesday declared a national day of giving and volunteerism.

The most ambitious efforts include the Donors Forum of Illinois and its #ILGiveBig campaign and the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations, through #MDGivesMore, which have set their goals at a combined $24.2-million in contributions to charities in those states. The United Methodist Church, which raised $6.5-million on Giving Tuesday 2013, has upped its target to $8-million this year.

And the University of Michigan will launch Giving Blueday, and attempt to generate $1-million for 70 nonprofits and groups tied to the institution. It will mark the first Giving Tuesday effort for the Big Ten college.

The fundraising team at the university was attracted by the Giving Tuesday social-media platform and the opportunity to engage donors at all levels of generosity, says Judith Malcolm, senior director of executive communications.

"We know that donors like to give to projects that are personally meaningful, and they like to be invited to participate by the people benefiting from the project," Ms. Malcolm says. "Our inclusion of 70-plus student organizations meets that donor preference while introducing more students to philanthropy.

"Because donors increasingly learn about giving opportunities online and prefer to give online, Giving Blueday is a perfect opportunity," she says.

Broad Effort

From burgers to shoes to pet adoptions, charities and businesses around the country will attempt to take advantage of the Giving Tuesday foundation and momentum in large and small ways.

The Golden Belt Community Foundation, based in a four-county region of Kansas, has raised $30,000 to use as a matching gift for donations to the endowments of 41 organizations under its umbrella. All of the donations will be collected in person at various locations, a grass-roots approach to a philanthropic phenomenon built on social media.

"Our population is a little older, and we’re an agricultural and rural community," says Christy Tustin, executive director of the Golden Belt Community Foundation. "We don’t get a lot of requests for online donations. We just felt like the best fit here, a successful event would be an in-person day."

Even without the reach of online campaigns, Tustin says the global effort of Giving Tuesday will benefit her foundation.

"It’s a great platform to join, and we were looking for that," Tustin says. "If you have 40 different groups sharing the word with their supporters, it’s going to raise awareness significantly."

In Great Falls, Mont., Lynn Formel views a similar local benefit to joining a worldwide effort.

Ms. Formel is the executive director of the Great Falls Animal Shelter, which will offer pet adoptions for $10 on Giving Tuesday and seek to raise money for its Guardian Angel Fund, which pays for emergency veterinarian services.

"Our thought process is to get people in here, get the pets adopted, and get the donations to help make our shelter better," Ms. Formel says. "It goes to more than giving money to a charity or writing a check to someone. Giving also means giving an animal a home."

More Than Money

The Helen Woodward Animal Center, in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., has also taken a hands-on approach to Giving Tuesday. It will work with students from the Solana Santa Fe Elementary School to create personalized cards for older people who are homebound and deliver special holiday-theme toys and treats for their pets.

Smaller volunteer efforts, like the one sponsored by the Helen Woodward Animal Center, fit perfectly in the vision that pushed Kathy Calvin, executive director of the United Nations Foundation, and Henry Timms, executive director of the 92nd Street Y, to launch Giving Tuesday in 2012.

"Giving Tuesday is about more than just the numbers," says Anastasia Dellaccio, director of special initiatives and outreach at the United Nations Foundation. "It’s about bringing new people into the philanthropic community and creating a conversation about giving that stretches far beyond whatever dollars are brought in this year.

"It’s about infusing into the cultural consciousness the notion that giving can be an everyday habit and that everyone has something to give."

That opportunity has appealed to some of the country’s most generous philanthropists, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which will match donations to the Shot@Life campaign to vaccinate children.

On a similarly large scale, Microsoft has pledged to match $1-million in contributions to YouthSpark on Global Giving; the Avon Foundation for Women has put up a $500,000 matching gift for donations to the National Domestic Violence Hotline; and the retailer H&M Hennes Mauritz will donate $7.5-million in goods to K.I.D.S./Fashion Deliveries.

BurgerFi, the Florida-based restaurant chain, has a smaller but possibly tastier offer. It will match each dollar in gift-card sales with a dollar donation to the American Red Cross.

"We fell in love with the idea that it happens after Black Friday and Cyber Monday and is a day dedicated to encouraging people to give a service, as opposed to going out and buying things," says Stacie Lange, director of public relations. "It means more to us as a company, to make customers in the habit of not just chasing sales but giving to a charity."

With the vast array of giving and volunteering opportunities, tracking the total impact of Giving Tuesday has been challenging and inexact. To gather a better measure, the Case Foundation has joined with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy to research and quantify the total amount of money donated on Giving Tuesday and its impact.

"We’ve been wowed by the momentum that Giving Tuesday has achieved in just two short years," says Jean Case, CEO of the foundation. "And we think Giving Tuesday is ready to push forward from being a movement to its rightful place as one of the key days of the holiday season.

"But to do that, we think more data is needed, including a figure that estimates the amount actually donated on Giving Tuesday – a number that, like Cyber Monday and Black Friday statistics, gives us an indicator of the health of our giving economy."

Its initial estimate will be presented later in the week, and a full report will be shared in the Giving USA Spotlight report to be issued on December 17.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct the location of the Helen Woodward Animal Center.