The Unequivocal History of Why We Donate on #GivingTuesday

What is the history of Giving Tuesday? Following Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday encourages people to donate to nonprofits.

Jamie Lerner - Author

Nov. 29 2022, Published 1:53 p.m. ET

It’s the most wonderful time of year for many of us, but for many others, the holiday season can be a reminder of what they don’t have. This is one of the many reasons that Giving Tuesday became a “holiday” similar to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. On the heels of Thanksgiving and the toes of the holiday season, Giving Tuesday is an opportunity for us to give to those who need it the most.

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The holiday has become synonymous with the movement to donate funds to some of our favorite nonprofit organizations and charities. Many of us receive emails and text messages reminding us to donate. But what exactly is the history behind Giving Tuesday and how did it come to be what we know it as today?

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Giving Tuesday officially began in 2012 thanks to the 92nd Street Y in New York City.

Although many millennials and zoomers might remember Giving Tuesday as a longstanding tradition, it actually began just a decade ago in 2012. Defined by the now official GivingTuesday 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization as a “global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world,” it began as a way to encourage people to donate money during the holiday season.

While the holidays have always been a time for charity, Giving Tuesday was celebrated as a way to flout the consumerism of its sister holidays. Black Friday, which is known for its crazy sales and lines out the door, has grown dangerous over the years, and has forced workers to work double and triple shifts starting as early as 3 a.m. Cyber Monday capitalized on the popularity of online shopping, reaching a new height of money spent in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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So it was only fitting to find a way to encourage people who just spent hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on their own goods and gifts to spend at least a little something on the less fortunate. Not only that, but with its end-of-year date five days after Thanksgiving, Giving Tuesday gives nonprofits the perfect opportunity to remind patrons to give their final tax-deductible donations. Plus, with a specific day set aside for giving, some people even budget to donate on Giving Tuesday.

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The idea was first floated in 2011 by Mary-Arrchie Theater Company managing producer Carlo Lorenzo Garcia, who encouraged people to consider donating to charity after their Cyber Monday shopping via The Huffington Post. By 2012, Henry Timms at the 92nd Street Y picked up the idea, and worked with the United Nations Foundation and BLK SHP to make it a global movement.

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By 2019, GivingTuesday separated from the 92Y as its own nonprofit organization with Asha Curran as its CEO. The official nonprofit organization encourages donors around the world to spread the wealth, and works with many benefactors, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, PayPal, and many more to spread the word.

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In its first year, a documented $10.1 million was moved through Blackbaud, a social good community cloud computing provider. However, by 2021, over $2.7 billion of donations were documented between estimated online and offline donations. Over the years, many companies, such as Facebook and PayPal have matched donations, which makes it all that more appealing to donate.

But whether we can donate today, tomorrow, or any other day of the year, it’s always important to consider if we really need that shirt on sale… or if perhaps our money can be better spent in the spirit of the holidays.

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