Giving Tuesday sees surge of donations, volunteers

New levels of success for the philanthropic event

Donations to nonprofits on "Giving Tuesday" nearly doubled this year compared to last year, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports.

Giving Tuesday was designed as a philanthropic response to holiday consumerism—such as Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday—and was first created in 2012 by the 92nd Street Young Men's and Young Women's Hebrew Association in New York City and the United Nations Foundation.

Approximately 18,000 not-for-profit organizations signed up as partners for 2014—surpassing last year's 10,000 participants and the 2,500 participants in 2012, the holiday's inaugural year.

The United Kingdom also participated this year for the first time, joining 67 other countries.

"We've moved from an idea to a campaign to a traditional day," says Sheila Herrling, senior vice president for social innovation at the Case Foundation.

Celebrity endorsements and social media posts helped spur participation, says Kathy Calvin, co-founder of the event and chief executive of the United National Foundation. "Unselfies," she said, showed what the celebrities cared about and "were key drivers in getting the social media going."

Successful fundraising

Funds raised for nonprofits on Giving Tuesday jumped 64% from 2013 to $46 million according to early estimates from Indiana University's Lilly Family School of Philanthropy in partnership with Case. Last year, according to Lilly, the event raised about $28 million.

This year's total from Lilly, however, does not account for the $7.5 million that crowdsourcing company Indiegogo reported raising for the event.

University of Michigan (UM) participated for the first time with the "Giving Blueday" campaign, seeking to raise $1 million for 70 university-related nonprofits and groups.

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"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," says Judith Malcolm, senior director of UM's executive communications, adding that the campaign also introduced more students to philanthropy.

Beyond money

Although fundraising is a major part of the philanthropic holiday, Calvin said they noticed a significant uptick in donations of time as well. Community projects such as tutoring sessions and clothing and mitten drives also increased.

In California, an animal center worked with elementary school students to create hand-made cards for homebound seniors and deliver holiday treats for their respective pets.

A need for more data

Qualifying the effects and successes of Giving Tuesday is difficult given the range of ways people may participate. Better statistics—similar to ones about Cyber Monday and Black Friday—are needed, says the Case Foundation's Jean Case, because the day is becoming a part of the nation's pattern of donations.

Specifically, she says a number estimating the total funds donated will give "an indicator of the health of our giving economy."

Is your school ready for the year-end donation rush?

The Giving USA Foundation and Lilly will publish a full report, "Giving USA Spotlight," on the 2014 results on Dec. 17. Una Osili, Lilly's director of research, says the event's timing is important because it falls during the time of year when a majority of nonprofits raise a significant amount of money.

"For many donors, this is the time that they start to think about their charitable giving for many different reasons, certainly tax reasons but also religious reasons," she says.

The nation's overall giving is up just 1% over last year, says Steve MacLaughlin, director of research at Blackbaud, which supplied nonprofits with giving platforms, "so this will certainly help" (Held, Chronicle of Philanthropy, 12/4; Zongker, ABC News, 12/3; Goldberg, Huffington Post, 12/04).

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