First, there was the post-Thanksgiving sales spectacle Black Friday and then the online version, Cyber Monday. Now, charitable groups want to start a new holiday tradition — it's called Giving Tuesday and the first one is tomorrow.
It may seem a little surprising that no one came up with the idea before of designating a specific day to help launch the holiday charitable giving season.
"I mean this is just brilliant, to just give everyone time to pause and think about what's most important at the holiday season," says Jyl Johnson Pattee, the founder of Mom It Forward. The online community of mothers is one of more than 1,400 groups participating in this year's Giving Tuesday. Local Mom It Forward groups will do volunteer projects to mark the event, and they plan to host a Twitter party that anyone can attend online.
"We'll have an hour conversation about charity, holiday giving, volunteerism and how you can really make a difference over the holiday season," she says.
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, president of the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Africare, says his group plans to make a special push on Giving Tuesday to communicate online with donors and beneficiaries.
"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," Mans says. It's also a chance to showcase how individuals can have a big impact with not too much money, he says.
Other groups, including retailers such as JC Penney, are planning fundraisers and service projects.
Giving Tuesday is the brainchild of the 92nd Street Y, a nonprofit cultural and community center in New York. The group has an anonymous donor who will match 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.
"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," she says.
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.
"Our data and sort of trends show that the acquisition of new donors has been down by several percentage points over the past couple of years," says Steve MacLaughlin, who runs the Idea Lab at a company called Blackbaud, which advises nonprofits on fundraising. "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."
According to a new Blackbaud survey, almost half of existing donors asked about contributions said they plan to give less or to fewer charities this holiday season. Only 13 percent said they plan to give more. MacLaughlin notes that the average age of the average donor these days is 65. That's one reason Giving Tuesday events will rely a lot on social media, such as Twitter and Facebook.
"Part of what the nonprofit sector is trying to understand how to do is to engage younger donors," he says, adding that those donors generally want to be more actively involved in the causes they support.
For its part, Blackbaud will mark the day with a $10,000 donation to a foundation that encourages innovation in philanthropy. The company also will be analyzing the impact of Giving Tuesday to see if it actually works.