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First we had Black Friday, the big sales day after Thanksgiving. And then came the online version, Cyber Monday, today. And now charitable groups want to start a new holiday tradition, Giving Tuesday. The first one is tomorrow, as NPR's Pam Fessler reports.

PAM FESSLER, BYLINE: It's a little surprising that no one came up with this idea before - to have a specific day to help launch the holiday charitable giving season.

JYL JOHNSON PATTEE: I mean, this is just brilliant, to just give everyone time to pause and think about what's most important at the holiday season.

FESSLER: Jyl Johnson Pattee is founder of MomItForward, an online community of mothers and one of more than 1,400 organizations participating in this year's Giving Tuesday. Local MomItForward groups will do volunteer projects to mark the event. They'll also host a Twitter party, which anyone can attend online.

PATTEE: We'll have an hour conversation about charity, holiday giving, volunteerism, and how you can really make a difference over the holiday season.

FESSLER: And 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. Darius Mans is president of Africare, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. His group plans to make a special push on Giving Tuesday to communicate online with its donors and beneficiaries.

DARIUS MANS: It's an opportunity for us to highlight the work that we're doing on the ground, which is trying to break the cycle of poverty in rural Africa, especially.

FESSLER: And to give examples of how individuals can have a big impact with not too much money. Other groups, including retailers such as JCPenney, are planning fundraisers and service projects. The 92nd Street Y in New York, which came up with the idea, has an anonymous donor who will match Giving Tuesday contributions up to a total of $50,000.

Kathy Calvin runs the United Nations Foundation, a Giving Tuesday organizer. She says the goal is to get people to think about charitable giving in a different way.

KATHY CALVIN: Not sitting alone at their kitchen table at the end of the year, making those end-of-year contributions, but actually in a group experience where they're sharing that passion with others.

FESSLER: Organizers hope that passion will be contagious, at a time when charitable giving has been relatively flat and as nonprofits struggle to find new donors. Steve MacLaughlin runs the idea lab at a company called Blackbaud, which advises nonprofits on fundraising.

STEVE MACLAUGHLIN: Our data and sort of trends show that this acquisition of new donors has been down by several percentage points over the past couple of years. And so if you're not having new people coming in and starting to give to organizations, that becomes a challenge because you're relying on existing donors.

FESSLER: And, according to a new Blackbaud survey, almost half of existing donors say they plan to give less or to fewer charities this holiday season. Only 13 percent say they plan to give more. MacLaughlin notes that the average age of the average donor today is 65. That's one reason that Giving Tuesday events will rely a lot on social media, such as Twitter and Facebook.

MACLAUGHLIN: Part of what the nonprofit sector is trying to understand how to do is to engage younger donors.

FESSLER: Who, he says, generally want to be more actively involved in the causes they support. For its part, Blackbaud will mark Giving Tuesday with a $10,000 donation to a foundation that encourages innovation in philanthropy. The company will also be analyzing the impact of Giving Tuesday, to see if it actually works.

Pam Fessler, NPR News, Washington.

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