Giving during the holiday season is about getting beyond the circle of family and friends. This year it’s about turning toward those who enter the festive season in need. And in 2020, due to the unfortunate reality of the COVID-19 pandemic and the wave of joblessness it has carried along in its wake, that need is likely going to be more acute for some than ever. Giving to meet the needs of the needy is a general theme of the holiday season, one that comes together tomorrow when Giving Tuesday — a socially-minded extension of the Thanksgiving Shopping Weekend — officially gets up and going.
The first Giving Tuesday officially kicked off in 2012, the product of a collaboration between the 92nd Street Y in New York and the United Nations Foundation in the hope that several days of purchasing for themselves and their loved ones would inspire consumers to give back more broadly. And, as it turned out, they were right, it did, #GivingTuesday went viral almost immediately after it was first introduced. In its first year, it’s estimated that about $10 million was donated to charity through online Giving Tuesday fundraisers, which more than doubled a year later to $28 million, and by last year the one-day giving festival netted $511 million in online giving.
Will that number go up again this year? Experts are unsure. On the one hand, the more need out there may mean consumers simply have less in their personal savings to comfortably donate. On the other, the effects of the pandemic recession have been more firmly felt in some segments than others, meaning many consumers’ finances have not been as hard hit, and the greater need out there might propel more generosity (as was the case with Thanksgiving donations in 2020).
And, as has increasingly been the case in recent years, incentives to give are springing up. Facebook once again will be matching user donations — up to a $7 million cap as it did last year. This year, however, it is slightly tweaking the formula as to how funds are awarded. Last year it hit its cap before a half a minute had expired due to the rapid inrush of donations. Facebook will also be airing Peace Through Music: A Global Event for Positive Change on Facebook live in honor of the U.N’s 75th anniversaries featuring performances by Billie Eilish, Carlos Santana, Killer Mike, Ringo Starr and more.
And Facebook isn’t alone in looking to drum up the spirit of holiday giving among the masses. Tupperware is having its own charitable party this year, announcing that it will donate 50 percent of the retail sales from Eco Water Bottle to the National Park Foundation.
“When we think about the future, we envision a world where waste doesn’t exist,” said Pieter Swanepoel, president of Tupperware United States & Canada noted in a statement. “Through partnering with the National Park Foundation to highlight our reusable solutions for waste-free adventures, we are making impactful strides towards that goal. By stopping waste before it begins, we can create an impact in the parks and beyond.”
Petsmart, like Facebook, is looking to spur donations by matching them, the firm has anointed it will match customer donations to PetSmart Charities, up to $250,000.
“By choosing to donate to PetSmart Charities, you’re helping to fund grants for local change-making animal welfare organizations, and support programs like adoption events, affordable pet care initiatives and more,” said Aimee Gilbreath, president of PetSmart Charities noted in a statement on the promotion.
Moreover, there are a number of organizations like GiveWell and Charity Navigator which offer consumers more education along their Giving Tuesday donation paths by helping consumers find the charities where their donations will carry the furthest effect align with them in terms of people served. GiveWell also offers what it calls its Maximum Impact Fund as an option, which is paid out to top charities based on GiveWell’s assessment of where the money can be most usefully dispersed.
“Basically, it’s the best way for a donor to take advantage of our up-to-date research, as we’re continually assessing and reprioritizing our top charities’ needs,” GiveWell research analyst Catherine Hollander told me. “We also think it’s a great fit for recurring donors since it allows each future gift to be used to support the highest-value projects we can find at that time.”
Will all the help and promotions help push GivingTuesday over the top in 2020, and past 2019’s record raising year? It is hard to say in a year where accurate predictions are hard to make. But, as Rachel Hutchinson, the vice president of corporate citizenship and philanthropy at Blackbaud, told Vox, getting overly focused on the dollar amounts raised in some ways missed the bigger picture goodness of what Giving Tuesday contributes to the world.
“What really matters here,” she said, “is people engaging with causes and causes they care about.”
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