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GivingTuesday Goes Global

Matthew Bishop — Former Managing Director, Bellagio & Fellows Program

Girl wearing a shirt with #GivingTuesday printed on the back

December 3rd 2019 is the eighth GivingTuesday, the annual day of celebrating generosity of all sorts, from donating money to volunteering. In its first seven years, GivingTuesday has inspired millions of people to give more. In America, over $1 billion has been raised online on the day (and much more in the weeks after). 63% of those taking part donated money and 72% gave in other ways (including 35% who did both). Yet although it was born in America, the reason why this year’s will be the biggest, most impactful yet is that GivingTuesday is now a truly global celebration.

No one expected that in 2012, when a small group of us, led by Henry Timms (then of New York’s 92Y community center), launched Giving Tuesday. We should have had more faith in what combining the spirit of giving with ubiquitous social media might do. Our focus was entirely on America: our goal, to provide a positive alternative to the two days of binge-shopping that follow the Thanksgiving holiday. Just as Black Friday and Cyber Monday kick off the year’s biggest shopping season, so, we hoped, GivingTuesday would become “Opening Day of the Giving Season”. Now it has spread virally even to many places that do not celebrate Thanksgiving. This year 61 countries have organized GivingTuesday campaigns. (Estonia just signed up, two weeks ago).

In March, we hosted GivingTuesday leaders from 50 countries at The Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center (see video below). They were an inspiring group of mostly volunteers, some as old as 70, but the majority under 40. They were already chatting frequently via a WhatsApp group, sharing new ideas and best practices. Indeed, this peer-to-peer exchange has now reached the point where, says Asha Curran, CEO of the small non-profit that stewards the GivingTuesday movement, “if there is a success in one country that is not replicated elsewhere in the network, it feels like less of a success.” Yet seeing these leaders engaging productively in Bellagio reinforced for me how useful face-to-face contact can be for even the most effective virtual organization.

Unleashing Generosity Across the Globe from Giving Tuesday on Vimeo.

Their main focus was how to accelerate the spread around the world of a culture of effective giving. Expect to see the results this GivingTuesday. For instance, most of the 61 countries will be promoting #mygivingstory – sharing on social media an example of an act of generosity that has been a source of personal inspiration. Launched three years ago in America, with the most inspiring stories rewarded with a donation to the charity of the sharer’s choice, this year some countries have selected #mygivingstory themes targeting local priorities. Liberia, for example, wants to encourage sharing stories about how much mothers give. In Mexico, where the culture of giving money to charities is relatively weak, the focus will be on stories highlighting the positive impact of financial donations.

By strengthening and empowering a culture of generosity at the grassroots level, GivingTuesday can help change the DNA of society for the better.

This year there will also be a first global campaign for children, #givingtuesdaykids, thanks to Khloe Thompson, a 12-year-old from Oakland, California, who hopes to inspire 1 million acts of child-led philanthropy around the world. Watch this video for more details:

GivingTuesday has evolved far beyond being only a special day for celebrating generosity. In Bellagio, everyone talked about it as a significant day in year-round effort to increase the amount and effectiveness of all forms of generosity – in the belief that a more giving society will be a better, more just society.

Much of the meeting was devoted to preparing for the launch of the GivingTuesday Data Collaborative, bringing together around 40 countries (so far) to improve the quality of data and data analytics around giving. (Given The Rockefeller Foundation’s commitment to “data for good”, this was a particularly appropriate outcome from a Bellagio gathering.) Currently, even in America, data on giving is inadequate at best—late and incomplete, assuming it is even available. By putting on a single open platform the vast amounts of data generated around the world about online generosity, the Collaborative hopes to transform what we know about how to encourage more and better giving.

Underlying all this is a belief that by strengthening and empowering a culture of generosity at the grassroots level, GivingTuesday can help change the DNA of society for the better. As Nasra Ismail told me in Bellagio, as she prepared to launch GivingTuesday in civil-war-torn Somalia, “this is not just about supporting charities; I believe it can help bring peace to my country.” Here’s hoping.

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