#GivingTuesday: Does Why We Give Matter?

#GivingTuesday: Does Why We Give Matter? December 4, 2013

You’ve heard of the  infamous Black Friday and the somewhat tamer Cyber Monday – but a new one for me this year was #GivingTuesday. All involve money changing hands to kick off the holiday season. But while the first two are about using money to get stuff,  #Giving Tuesday is all about giving to others.

As the official mission statement for the event explains, “#GivingTuesday™ is a campaign to create a national day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season. It celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support nonprofit organizations.”

#GivingTuesday started in 2012 as the brainchild of 92nd Street Y, a nonprofit cultural and community center in New York, with strategic and communications help from the United Nations Foundation.  Over 2500 organizations partnered by committing to #GivingTuesday initiatives in 2012.  Online donor sites saw 50% increases in online donations from the same day in 2011, and the hashtag #GivingTuesday received 50 million shares on social media.

This year, even more partners joined #GivingTuesday, maxing out the website’s capacity and launching the effort globally.  You can see their animated video here.

The aim of #GivingTuesday is to harness the same energy poured into materialism on Black Friday and channel it into charitable causes.  Not a bad thing. #GivingTuesday hopes to make giving a communal event and launch the year-end holiday giving season with a bang.  According to NPR, “That’s the idea: to get people excited about giving in the same way they might get excited about buying a big-screen TV at a bargain price.” (NPR)

#GivingTuesday is encouraging young donors to get involved with its emphasis on sharing charitable actions through social media.  Emphasizing the giving of time or expertise as well as money appeals to younger age groups who “generally want to be more actively involved in the causes they support.” (NPR)

Cause for Concern?

Although I’m pleased to see an effort to encourage generosity, I do have a few concerns. Many organizations joined #GivingTuesday and created special projects for their supporters to participate in or offering special deals for contributions given on this one day. But aren’t giveaways and gimmicks just a way of applying Black Friday tactics to manipulate givers?

True generosity naturally oveflows from a heart filled with love for the One who first loved us. Rhemedia’s Living Generously film series – and now the new Loving Generously film series — captures that message through vivid cinematic story-telling designed to open the heart first.

My other concern is that #Giving Tuesday may tilt the giving field even more toward those organizations and causes that function on a national or global platform. Christianity Today has already reported that evangelical Christians are increasingly giving to big nonprofits instead of small ones. Such a trend may signal a centralization of charitable giving that could leave smaller, more local charities like churches in the lurch. Also from Christianity Today:

 [R]esearch from Empty Tomb, Inc. suggests giving trends among Christian denominations are not as optimistic. For the fourth year in a row, member giving is on the decline. Religion News Service reports:

“Giving has declined for four consecutive years, according to the report. The only other period of prolonged decline in giving per member was from 1928 through 1934, almost entirely during the Great Depression.”

Generosity can happen on a large scale, of course, but the age old adage “charity begins at home” is consistent with Biblical thinking of living generously one to another. [ Explore how to reawaken your church to a generous heart with a click here. ]

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying #GivingTuesday is a bad thing. But in our rush to get on the #Giving bandwagon, may we do so for the right reasons and not forget the local causes that can’t afford slicker advertising or more robust social media efforts.

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