An online, charitable giving revolution with roots in a Jewish cultural group is being embraced by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and more than 5,400 other non-profit and religious groups in the United States and several foreign countries.

Giving Tuesday (Twitter hash tag #GivingTuesday) on Dec. 3 marks its second year as a social media counter to three post-Thanksgiving days intended to goad potential shoppers into spending money during this retail shopping season.

“Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday have all become part of our vocabulary. Hopefully, Giving Tuesday, which encourages charitable giving through social media, will gain that same familiarity with people,” said Rob Bohlmann, director of the archdiocesan Catholic Stewardship Appeal.

Giving Tuesday encourages donations of money and volunteer time by using social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

Developed in 2012, Giving Tuesday is an initiative of the New York City-based 92nd Street Y, also known as 92Y. Founded 140 years ago as the Young Men’s Hebrew Association (YMHA), 92Y is a Jewish cultural institution established to meet the cultural, social, physical and educational needs of the local Jewish community and now serves all people, regardless of religion.

Henry Timms, 92Y executive director, originated Giving Tuesday as a way to take advantage of people’s giving mood after Thanksgiving, said 92Y public relations director Beverly Greenfield.

“Giving Tuesday has to do with the importance of giving back,” Greenfield said. “92Y has a long history of looking where society is going and helping those in need.”

“Our mission is to reach out and help others. We want to get more people involved in philanthropy,” Greenfield said.

Program doubles in size

In its first observance, Nov. 27, 2012, Giving Tuesday attracted 2,500 nonprofits and big-name partners, including the United Nations Foundation, Microsoft, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda and ATT.

Greenfield said Blackbaud, a software company for nonprofits, reported $10 million in online donations on Giving Tuesday in 2012, 53 percent more than the same day in 2011 before the start of Giving Tuesday. PayPal saw a 487 percent jump in mobile giving over the previous year for the same day.

Since its debut in 2012, Giving Tuesday has spread to Canada, Australia, Latin America, Mexico and Singapore.
“We are thrilled and surprised by the success of Giving Tuesday,” Greenfield said.

Bohlmann said Giving Tuesday involves “a change in focus in what is on our minds and in our hearts.”

“While it may be important to think of spending on gifts for the holidays, Giving Tuesday says, ‘Now, let’s look at making charitable contributions.’ Giving Tuesday is a unifying call to action that is uplifting and spiritual,” Bohlmann said.

Giving Tuesday occurs each year on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving as Christians prepare to celebrate Advent and Christmas; the Jewish community observes Hanukkah and African-Americans prepare for Kwanzaa.

In 2013, Giving Tuesday comes a year to the day after the Vatican announced then-Pope Benedict would become the first pope to join Twitter with the home page of @pontifex. Questions to the pope were allowed with the hash tag #AskPontifex.

Bohlmann anticipates Giving Tuesday and social media will occupy an ever growing presence on the archdiocesan Web site.

“Giving Tuesday is a movement toward social media that is not going to go away, but just get bigger,” Bohlmann said. “Social media is taking the message where people are and where they get their information.”

This is the time of year many people start considering yearend charitable giving, Bohlmann said.

“This is really an important time of year for us. The Giving Tuesday initiative provides a great opportunity to ask the faithful of the archdiocese to consider what part they can play in a way they prefer to communicate to keep the church ministries strong and vital through the Stewardship Appeal,” Bohlmann said.

1 of 5 participating dioceses

As of Nov. 18, the Milwaukee archdiocese was only one of the five dioceses in the country participating in Giving Tuesday.
This is the second year of participation in Giving Tuesday for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Wichita, Kan., said diocese spokesperson Heather Welch.

“We believe Giving Tuesday should become just as big in America as Black Friday and Cyber Monday,” Welch said.

Welch said Giving Tuesday saw limited success for the Wichita Diocese, generating a handful of new donation sources for Catholic Charities.

“The hash tag approach to giving is relatively new, but one that we have embraced with our own hash tag ‘#stableandstrong,’” Welch said. “So right now Giving Tuesday is not a huge focus, but something that will grow in importance in the future.”

This is the first year of involvement in Giving Tuesday for the Catholic Diocese of El Paso, Texas, said Melissa Santos, development coordinator of the Foundation for the Diocese of El Paso.

“I don’t know what to expect,” Santos said. “We are focusing on funding for our retired priests and for education funding for our seminarians,” Santos said.

She said the diocese plans to notify potential donors through its e-newsletter and other traditional methods of communication regarding Giving Tuesday.

“We want to give back to those who are giving their lives to the church,” Santos said.

Employees lead by example

Lynn Gully, associate director of development and stewardship for the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., participated in Giving Tuesday as an individual in 2012 and is leading the archdiocese Giving Tuesday efforts in 2013.

“We are having a ball with it. Our employees are leading by example. We’re having fun and helping so many people,” Gully said. “We are encouraging people to pray, volunteer, evangelize and donate.”

The archdiocese has scheduled four Giving Tuesday-related collections leading up to Dec. 3.

“One week we collected toiletries for the homeless shelters. Another week it was baby items. The third week we collected non-perishable items for our food pantries, some of which are empty,” Gully said.

Distribution of food began early when Gully discovered the shelves in one pantry were empty.

“A couple of our priests drove a van loaded with peanut butter and other items there to replenish their shelves,” she said.

The archdiocese has also collected more than 200 used Bibles for local high schools for students to distribute, along with food and water, to homeless people.

Opportunity to spread good news

“I love the concept of Giving Tuesday. It’s an opportunity to spread good news about what we do every day and to get more people, especially young people, involved in the importance of philanthropy and giving back,” Gully said. “It’s an opportunity to evangelize, too.”

Noting Cyber Monday in 2012 generated $10 billion in sales, Gully said Giving Tuesday “will catch on and be significant.”

“It will become a label like Black Friday and Cyber Tuesday,” Gully said.

The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia is also a first-time participant.

Bohlmann said this year’s involvement with Giving Tuesday is planting the seeds for future giving through social media.

“Social media is becoming a significant factor in nonprofit fundraising,” Bohlmann said. “I hope this really takes off and prospers. We are trying to reach people in the ways they communicate. Social media is a part of many people’s lives. If they don’t open a piece of direct mail, they might look at text messages on their phone or respond to social media.”

“We need to be part of that,” Bohlmann said.  Steve Wideman