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Nonprofit life

What is Giving Tuesday: A GivingTuesday history.

August 1, 2023

When did Giving Tuesday start? Well, GivingTuesday has been around since 2012 when it was created as a day to encourage people to do good. (Kind of like the good to Black Friday’s evil.)

GivingTuesday was thought up at the 92nd Street Y and the Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact in New York City, but it didn’t take long to catch on. GivingTuesday is now an independent nonprofit and a global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate radical generosity around the world.1

What is radical generosity?

Radical generosity is an idea—and that makes it tricky to define. It’s a belief, a value system, a choice, and a practice.2 It can mean one thing to you and something a little different to someone else. But, there are a few common threads that hold the concept of radical generosity together.

  1. The concept that the suffering of others should be as intolerable to us as our own suffering.1
  2. The practice of always being willing to meet the needs of others and help one another.3
  3. The idea of “paying it forward”—sharing what you have freely and asking for nothing in return. (Tools, skills, knowledge, time, energy, etc.)

Thanks to the success of GivingTuesday, radical generosity has become a powerful movement that is changing the way the world gives.

Giving Tuesday is about giving without wanting anything in return—AKA being a nonprofit for a day.

Although GivingTuesday is focused on a single day every year (the Tuesday after Thanksgiving in the United States), the idea is to make radical generosity a part of our everyday lives. Individuals, families, communities, businesses, the more we give, the more we inspire others to give.

Yes, Giving Tuesday breaks fundraising records in terms of dollars raised every year, but it also breaks records in terms of hours spent volunteering, number of participants, and generous acts.4 But, how?

Well, at the beginning, timing was everything.

In North America Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become two of the biggest shopping days of the year.5 Year after year these shopping holidays bring out the worst in us. And, they’re just a warm up to the upcoming holiday shopping spree that happens every year. As a response to all this self care the 92nd Street Y in New York and the United Nations Foundation introduced Giving Tuesday with the hope that after several days of big sales and rampant consumption, people would be interested in giving back.6

And their intuition was right.

Giving Tuesday: an idea that actually helps nonprofits.

Since its launch in 2012, Giving Tuesday has grown from helping nonprofits raise $10 million in a single day to raising over $2.7 billion. It’s now active in over 80 countries and, as a real measure of success, many of those countries don’t have Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

“Giving Tuesday exists in countries where Black Friday and Cyber Monday don’t exist, and that reminds us that there’s this value that unites us.”
- Giving Tuesday CEO Asha Curran

But, more importantly, Giving Tuesday gets people talking and thinking about giving back—better known as radically generosity. According to Giving Tuesday (which is now its own independent organization), donating money is the most common behaviour but only donating money is the least common behaviour. That means that most people participate in making the world a better place in more than one way. Yes, they may make a donation, but they will also volunteer, share information on nonprofits and causes that are important to them, and work for organizations that are making the world a better place.

Kelsey Piper, in her article for Vox put it best:

“For a sector of our economy where we spent over $400 billion last year, with tens of thousands of organizations working on different projects, the question of how to do good in the world is not discussed enough. It’s probably a good thing for us to talk a little more about how we make the decisions that improve our world.”

So, is Giving Tuesday a holiday?

Officially, no. Unofficially, it should be.

We have holidays that celebrate or commemorate a lot of different events or people, but none of them are dedicated to celebrating our generosity and reminding us of the importance of being selfless and generous in a world that is increasingly individualistic. So, here’s hoping that one day Giving Tuesday will be a new kind of holiday: one that encourages everyone to be radically generous (even if it’s just for one day).

Giving Tuesday ideas for nonprofits.

True to its roots, everything Giving Tuesday makes is free for nonprofits (and anyone really) to use. And, nonprofits should use it all.

Making everything available to everyone was a choice Giving Tuesday made on day one. Since then, every year, Giving Tuesday releases logos, animated GIFs, photos, art files so people can get creative, photo booth props, and more. They want nonprofit organizations to have everything they need to spread the word and encourage as many people as possible to be radically generous.

And, in Canada, Giving Tuesday has a library of resources including webinars, social media toolkits, and logos.

When is Giving Tuesday this year?

Giving Tuesday takes place on the Tuesday after American Thanksgiving every year.

What day is Giving Tuesday in 2023? Giving Tuesday will be on Tuesday, November 28.

What day is Giving Tuesday in 2024? Giving Tuesday will be on Tuesday, December 3.

What day is Giving Tuesday in 2025? Giving Tuesday will be on Tuesday, December 2.

Giving Tuesday campaign ideas for nonprofits.

This article was meant as more of an introduction to Giving Tuesday, but don’t worry, we’ve got other articles with lists of fundraising ideas for Giving Tuesday, email templates, and ways to help make Giving Tuesday last all year.

A quick guide to Giving Tuesday communications.

8 GivingTuesday tips for nonprofits.

10 Giving Tuesday campaign ideas for nonprofits.

GivingTuesday email templates for nonprofits.

And, here’s a simple social media post template to get you started!

Keep learning (our sources):

1. About GivingTuesday.
2. What is Radical Generosity?
3. Why Radical Generosity Is Good Business.
4. Giving Tuesday: Impact.
5. Sensormatic Solutions by Johnson Controls predicts the global top busiest shopping days for the 2022 holiday season.
6. Giving Tuesday, explained.