• January 31, 2015

SXSW Update: Extending the Power of Giving Tuesday

Organizers of Giving Tuesday, now in the planning phases for its third year in 2014, want to find ways to spark contributions long after the holidays are over. The effort last year helped charities raise at least $20-million on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

At a session here at South by Southwest Interactive, Henry Timms, interim executive director of the 92nd Street Y and founder of Giving Tuesday, says while the event has demonstrated its potential to jump-start year-end donations, that’s not enough to transform the giving landscape. His goal is to start a year-round push on Giving Tuesday, one strong enough to propel Americans to increase the share of income they channel to charity annually.

That’s why he and his colleagues are enlisting economists to help them figure out the potential impact of Giving Tuesday and devising other ways to work with charity coalitions to increase giving rates.

Mr. Timms and Libby Leffler, head of partnerships at Facebook, outlined the successes of Giving Tuesday:

  • Some 10,000 companies, charities, and other groups in all 50 states participated.
  • Ninety percent more was raised online last year than in 2012.
  • The size of the average gift donated online was 40 percent higher in 2013 than in 2012.
  • More than 1.2 million people “liked” Giving Tuesday on Facebook, and 500,000 tweets used the Giving Tuesday hashtag.

Mr. Timms and Ms. Leffler both discussed what they thought worked best about the day, saying they were impressed when local charities persuaded broadcasters in their cities and towns to cover Giving Tuesday events or asked their constituents to take pictures of themselves and share them on social media with the tag “unselfie.”

But Mr. Timms said organizations will need to be more creative about attracting attention through social media in the third year of the event, and he urged them not to “treat the Internet as a cash register.” Ms. Leffler suggested one way to do that is to collect and post testimonials from donors about why they give.

Ms. Leffler says it’s possible that as Giving Tuesday looks for ways to influence giving year-round, rather than solely at the holidays, its message might not get as much attention. But she said nonprofits could avoid that by getting their supporters to announce their personal year-long philanthropy goals to friends and relatives and urge them to join the action: “Stand up on Giving Tuesday, and say, ‘This is what I do for the year.’ Make it really ambitious. Make it wildly ambitious.”

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