By Matthew Kochen,
Money and Investing Writer
Thanksgiving, the holidays (Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa) , and New Years have dominated this time of the season in the United States for many years.
For most it is the most wonderful time of the year and this continues to be true as the season and its traditions evolve to fit the culture of our country.
The increase in consumerism and commercialization in preparation of these holidays is now celebrated in its own right in the forms of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, when shopping erupts across the country.
Back in 2012, in an effort to push back against this growing trend, Giving Tuesday was created.
Giving Tuesday was conceived by 92nd Street Y, a multifaceted cultural center in New York City, and the United Nations Foundation as a way to create an international day of charitable giving to balance out all the more self-centered spending of the holiday season.
In that first year, Giving Tuesday caught fire as over 5,000 (30,000 now) organizations worldwide engaged in it.
Huge companies such as Skype, Sony, and Microsoft took up the cause and Giving Tuesday was picked up and broadcast across the world by major publications like the Huffington Post, Forbes, Washington Post, and ABC News.
Occurring traditionally on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Giving Tuesday raised $10.1 million in its first year.
In 2013, Giving Tuesday raised $47.2 million, $79.3 in 2014, and most recently, $117 million this year in a preliminary count of online donations.
To reach this number, 1.08 million donations were made by 698,961 donors with an average gift amount of $107.47.
Adding onto the movement was the announcement of Mark Zuckerberg, in one of the highest grossing philanthropic acts ever, to donate 99 percent of his Facebook stock, currently valued at $45 billion, over the course of his life.
The driving factor of this year’s increase was the impact of social media in getting the word out about giving Tuesday and encouraging donations.
This led to the trending topic of #GivingTuesday.
Across the various social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., #GivingTuesday was mentioned 1.3 million times, versus 750,000 last year, reaching 917,313 users on Facebook and creating 114 billion impressions on Twitter.
The effort was truly international with participation from different 71 countries across the globe.
All the donations made on Giving Tuesday are more valuable as they are not cannibalizing money that that would have been donated at another time this year according to Katherina Rosqueta, executive director of the Center for Higher Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania.
Even with the sizable total of $117 million, it represents only a very small fraction of total annual charitable giving in the United States.
Donations in 2014 totaled $358.38 billion.
The sway on total giving might not be that substantial but the biggest impact comes in giving more awareness to the worthy causes that need support.
The movement highlights the importance of charity and volunteerism at a time of year when it is all too easy to get caught up in the mass of commercialism and consumerism.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, December 8th print edition.
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