Business

Dear nonprofits: Giving Tuesday is a sign you could be better at the Internet

Above: This puppy wants you to give more than 2% of your disposable income to charity.

Image Credit: Humane Society SV/Twitter

If you are going to engage in any “manufactured shopping orgy” this holiday season, let it be on Giving Tuesday.

The five days around Thanksgiving are traditionally filled with holiday indulgence. We gorge ourselves on turkey on Thursday, battle crowds on Black Friday to buy a big screen at a $100 discount, and click furiously on Cyber Monday get a Kindle Fire for $119.

I was even pitched on “sofa Sunday” this year, when massive amounts of tablet shopping is apparently taking place.

Amidst the madness of this national spending spree, a New York City based Jewish cultural center called 92Y thought it might be nice if some of these tens of billions of dollars went towards charitable causes.

92Y teamed up with United Nations Foundation last year and now has more than 10,000 non-profit partners worldwide for Giving Tuesday. The initiative encourages people to make donations to causes they believe in and encourages businesses to donate a portion of their earnings as well.

Tech companies are actively hopping on board.

Google presented a “Hangout-a-thon” today where celebrities will talk about causes they support and urge people to donate. Indiegogo will contribute $1 for every $20 raised on participating campaigns today. Amazon is donating $20 to customer’s favorite charitable organizations for every Kindle Fire HDX that gets purchased on AmazonSmile. You can even donate Bitcoins if you want, because the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Monica accepts them.

The Giving Tuesday campaign was extremely successful in its first year — Blackbaud, a company that makes funding and accounting software for non-profits, found that online giving was up by more than 50% on Giving Tuesday last year over regular old Tuesday-after-Thanskgiving the year before.

Americans (or perhaps all humans) clearly respond well to designated days for doing things.

Social media has also played a major role in driving Giving Tuesday. It is one of the top trending hashtags on Twitter, and Facebook feeds are flooded with friends and family championing their causes and encouraging others to do the same.

The reality is that part of the pleasure of giving comes from being able to proudly proclaim for all to see that you are a good, generous person who cares about stuff. Any nonprofit or cause that doesn’t capitalize on that misses a major opportunity.

Americans gave $316.2 billion to charity last year, which represents 2 percent of the U.S.’s gross domestic product. Individuals give an average of 2% of their disposable income, and according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, this number has remained consistent over the past four decades despite the huge growth in number of charities and fundraisers.

John List, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, said the U.S. is “stuck” and needs to “build a better mousetrap” to encourage people to give more. The “mousetrap” exists, it just isn’t being used as well as it could be.

The nonprofit world has a reputation for being operationally inefficient and opaque about where money goes. Online donation forms are often arduous to fill out and the sector has been relatively slow to adopt new technology that could make it more efficient and expand its reach.

The phenomenal success of crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo demonstrate that people like to support and share projects they are excited about.

If you make donating a simple and transparent process, the money will flow.

Just as Giving Tuesday is a reminder of the importance of giving back, it’s also a reminder to charitable organizations that the Internet has powerful tools and platforms for rallying support and raising money, and that it should be leveraged more than once a year.


Mobile developer or publisher? VentureBeat is studying mobile app analytics. Fill out our 5-minute survey, and we'll share the data with you.