By now we’re all aware of #GivingTuesday. Just wrapping up its fourth successful year, this incredible phenomenon has tapped into the brushfire energy of social media to successfully unite nonprofits, individuals, families, businesses and other organizations into a global giving movement we’ve not experienced before. Since its inception in 2012, this annual day of giving back has generated more than $203,900,000 in gifts. (See the preliminary recap of #GivingTuesday 2015 results and more cumulative data here.)
This year’s #GivingTuesday was punctuated by a stunning announcement from Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, who made an extraordinary pledge to distribute 99 percent of their Facebook shareholdings to philanthropic causes over the course of their lifetimes. In an open letter to their newborn daughter Max, Chan and Zuckerberg outlined their purpose for giving—including specific areas of focus in personalized education, medical technology and global connectivity— and their dedication to changing the world in which their child will grow up. (You can view the full letter here.)
As I visited clients on Tuesday, December 1, I spotted several billboards showcasing #GivingTuesday — part of a partnership between JB+A and Lamar Advertising Company. For the fourth year in a row, Lamar generously donated 12 digital billboards over a two-week period throughout the Greater Kansas City area to promote #GivingTuesday, resulting in an estimated 3,156,782 viewing impressions. Lamar has donated 43 billboards over the last four years with a value of more than $129,000.
I am also Chair of the Board of Directors for The Giving Institute, a consortium of top consulting firms to nonprofits that is a #GivingTuesday founding partner. JB+A provides fundraising and financial development services to nonprofits, and that includes sharing resources, best practices and research to help nonprofits benefit from the power of #GivingTuesday.
And as I sat at my computer late #GivingTuesday night, with rapid-fire clicks of the mouse, I joined Chan and Zuckerberg and hundreds of thousands of other participants in supporting the causes that are important to us.
Last year, Americans gave an astonishing $358.38 billion to charity, surpassing levels not seen since before the Great Recession (according to the 60th Anniversary Edition of Giving USA), and 64.5 million adults volunteered 7.9 billion hours of service, worth an estimated value of $175 billion (according to the Independent Sector).
Donors today are gifting their time, talent and treasure with purpose and the way that people engage in philanthropy is evolving.
Many donors are choosing to give through mechanisms that allow for thoughtful, long-term giving, such as donor-advised funds. (We’ve seen significant growth in this trend.) Other donors simply want to give what they can, whenever they can—as illustrated this past #GivingTuesday, in which the mean gift size was $107.47, suggesting donors feel they can make a positive impact with any size gift. And over the past four years, the #GivingTuesday campaign has had double-digit, year-over-year growth in donations.
I have been in the nonprofit fundraising industry for more than 25 years. I am sincerely heartened by these new giving trends. They represent an increased understanding of the importance of giving. I am also continually humbled by the generosity of the donors who support nonprofits—even despite times of tumultuous economic climate, our country continues to prove itself one of the most generous in the world.
While I did not pen an open letter or create a sophisticated construct for my gift, I still gave. In comparison to the mega gifts given by the likes of Zuckerberg, Gates and Buffett, the contributions from me and my firm may seem inconsequential. But that’s not the point.
The point is, giving is good. No matter the size, no matter the mechanism and no matter what new methods we create to measure giving, the intangible, pure goodness of giving remains. I don’t know that we’ll ever be able to truly measure the impact of that.
What will 2016 hold? I am confident that the year ahead will be marked by significant giving. We will feed those who would otherwise go hungry. We will provide safety, shelter and counseling to victims of domestic violence. We will increase access to quality education and employment opportunities. We will advance medical research and technology to treat and prevent disease. We will preserve historically and culturally significant works for generations to come. We will give those living with cognitive or physical disabilities new purpose through recreation and competitive sports. We will allow seniors continued independence, wellness and fellowship.
I see incredible potential for the future of philanthropy.
But to bring this vision to reality and support this growing culture for giving, those of us who are volunteers, advocates, donors, philanthropists and nonprofit professionals must play our part.
We must maintain the conversation about charitable giving, keeping abreast of movements in local and federal government around this topic, and advocating for policy that supports giving.
We must continue to evolve the mechanisms for philanthropy by offering alternative and innovative vehicles for giving, facilitating the process with new ideas and technologies for maximum giving and impact.
We must share the stories of nonprofits and other charitable enterprises and all the good works they do.
And, most importantly, we must continue to give what we can, when we can, how we can. We must remember that each and every one of us possesses the ability to create positive impact in the world, and that each and every gift propels us towards the realization of our hopeful vision for a better tomorrow.
Here’s to 2016!