About 15 months ago, I had lunch with Henry Timms, interim executive director for the 92nd Street Y in New York City. He had a wonderful notion: that America was looking for a new way to give back. His notion, “Giving Tuesday,” would be the opening salvo of the giving season, as many Americans open their wallets in the last few weeks of the year. Our firm helped with pro bono PR and with connections to our clients.
Timms’ idea took off like wildfire. According to one source, Blackbaud, Giving Tuesday counted over $10 million in online donations; 2,500 organizations took part in all 50 states. The largest aggregate collection was by the Associated Federation of Baltimore, which took in $1 million. On the day, giving went up around 50 percent from the prior year.
I spoke today with Timms, who said, “The 92nd St. Y sees itself as moving from not only being a “content-creator” but a “context creator”, providing a shared framework within which many organizations and individuals can rally around their own causes and values. We are learning how to use networks to get an idea to scale,” he said. “The response has been so inspiring; communities everywhere have such important stories to tell about their giving.”
The big idea for this year is the “unselfie.” Take a picture of yourself and you have a “selfie.” Take a picture of yourself with the cause you are going to support and you have an “unselfie.” Write on a piece of paper what cause you will be supporting this Giving Tuesday, with the URL. It can be money or volunteering your time. Hold the piece of paper in front of your face, showing your personal pledge. Add the hashtags #givingtuesday and #unselfie.
According to The White House blog, “#GivingTuesday has gained significant momentum. More than 7,000 partners across all 50 states are taking part. This includes large corporations and small businesses, faith-based organizations and secular nonprofits. This year, cities are stepping forward to galvanize the movement.”
Thus far, advocates include Bill and Melinda Gates, Charlize Theron, Arianna Huffington, Hugh Jackman and Kenneth Cole. Corporate partners include Unilever, AT&T, Microsoft, eBay and Avon. Nonprofit partners include RED, DonorsChoose.org, Kiva and Heifer International.
In a broader sense, this is the spirit of “philanthrocapitalism” that was discussed in the 2008 book by Matthew Bishop of The Economist. Bishop wrote today in his blog, “For many people, #givingtuesday helped them think through better their personal giving strategies. It also helped many nonprofits learn how to make better use of social media in fundraising and have deeper conversations with supporters… new partnerships flourished as people and organizations got connected.”
I just spent Thanksgiving at my late parents’ apartment in Chicago, going through old letters, packing up their clothes, which we will be donating to local charities. I am dedicating my “unselfie” to my friends at the University of Chicago Medical Center, specifically Dr. Wendy Stock, Dr. John Kress and Dr. Jesse Hall, whose dedication to their profession and kindness to my parents will never be forgotten. I will match any donations made today or tomorrow to this charity. Thanks to my entire community of readers for what you do to help your charitable causes.
Richard Edelman is president and CEO.