#GivingTuesday creator Henry Timms on how a simple idea became a global social media campaign that raises millions for charities.
#GivingTuesday is Dec.3rd 2019. Discover the story behind the global day of giving in this original 2015 interview with the founder of #GivingTuesday.
Everyone knows about the blockbuster deals available on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But what if, instead of crossing off items on shopping lists and getting deals on high definition TVs, we used the holidays to give to those in need?
That’s the simple idea #GivingTuesday creator Henry Timms had while chatting with his wife at their breakfast table just three years ago. The executive director of the 92nd Street Y (92Y), one of New York’s most respected cultural institutions, established the Tuesday after Thanksgiving as a global day of giving to charities and non-profits.
Now #GivingTuesday has grown into a worldwide social media event, with over 30,000 partners in 68 countries, and 40 civic campaigns in communities across the U.S. It's generated 32.7 million Twitter impressions and a 470 percent increase in online donations to charities on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving since Timms first launched the campaign.
“Philanthropy isn’t just for billionaires,” Timms says. “Everyone is capable of giving to others. I think, as we’ve seen #GivingTuesday grow around the world, it really reinforces that message. For all of the many things that divide people all around the world, the one thing we all share is our capacity to care for one another. If you wanted an ultimate goal of #GivingTuesday, it would be, in some way, to emphasize that capacity.”
Teachers in schools around the country are crafting curriculum around #GivingTuesday as a way to educate their students on philanthropy and why it matters. Many charities have also launched their own events to coordinate with the global phenomenon, like Dress for Success, which started #GivingShoesday, asking people to donate shoes that will go to women re-entering the workforce.
“You’ll hear stories on the day about how much has been donated, increases in giving, but the driving idea behind #GivingTuesday is about values,” Timms tells Guideposts.org. “We wanted to start a conversation about how you can have public conversations about values in very positive ways.”
The movement hasn’t just impacted donations to charities or volunteer work on the ground, it’s also illustrated the power of social media activism. #GivingTuesday relies in large part on social media – the reach it can have and its ability to inspire people to a cause. It’s something Timms thinks more NGO’s should take advantage of.
“The easy and lazy criticism of social media is this idea of slactivism, that things that are digital are insubstantial and inhuman,” Timms admits. “Neither of those things is true. In fact, they’re increasingly untrue. What we’re beginning to see is people finding ways to use social media to make profound differences in people’s lives. #GivingTuesday has been a catalyst in a small way for that kind of thinking and behavior.”
Timms has seen the result of the power of social media first hand. Of all the #GivingTuesday stories he’s heard over the years, one has stayed with him. A contracting firm outside Philadelphia started a #GivingTuesday campaign where crews spent an entire day cleaning a local homeless shelter that desperately needed it. At the end of the day, one of the crew members approached his boss and shared what it meant to him to be able to give back.
“He said ‘It’s the first time I’ve been invited to be part of a giving chain,’” Timms explains. “I thought that was such a lovely frame for what #GivingTuesday is trying to do, which is create a chain. This isn’t just a movement that moves bottom up. It’s also a movement that moves sideways. It’s connecting people to the people next to them.”