Sarah Ford | December 3, 2013

Why Giving Tuesday is Not the Organic Movement Toward Greater Philanthropy It’s Hyped Up To Be

An excerpt from Forbes Contributor, Tom Watson’s article, “Five Days For Programmed Consumers: Eat, Shop, Shop Small, Shop Online … Oh Yeah, Then Give“:

Forgive my continued skepticism.

While I certainly wish all the wonderful causes in the vastly underfunded social sector great fortune in raking in more desperately needed donations from the American public, I still don’t see a real organic movement toward greater philanthropy, greater shared responsibility, greater leadership, greater caritas.

The urge to give doesn’t necessarily come from an opportunity in the check out line. So while I wish the nonprofit sector huge success on Tuesday – and will be making a few contributions of my own, and advising several clients and colleagues – I’m not sure being the caboose to a four-day shop-a-thon is the best way to expand philanthropy and inspire more people to get deeply involved in the causes that can change the way millions of people live.

I’m not trying to be Scrooge-like. There is much to admire about Giving Tuesday including the coalition that supports it, from the United Nations Foundation and 92nd Street Y, to the White House and Gates Foundation. Last year, giving on the first Tuesday in December increased by more than 50% according to Blackbaud, and I’d expect that number to grow this year. And perhaps the billionaires and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge do speak to power of organizing peers to give back in important ways.

But I’d urge organizations to view Giving Tuesday as another potential on-ramp for engagement – one of many throughout the year. It should be seen as a window of opportunity to appeal to more potential donors, and build support over time – rather than as a destination for most year-end giving. Perhaps the focus on philanthropy can encourage more involvement, even tied to the big holiday shopping push. But it should not evolve into the main giving day of the year. Given what’s at stake in the U.S. nonprofit sector, engagement is year-round  goal.

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