What is Giving Tuesday? What you need to know and how to participate

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Rachel MillsWhite arrow icon

What is Giving Tuesday? What you need to know and how to participate

As the old song goes, the holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year. It's a time when you gather with friends and family and let your loved ones know how much they mean to you. At the same time, you can't deny that the holidays have become commercialized to the max. 

We feel the pressure to buy the perfect gift for others as advertisements from every corner of the internet, television, radio, and store aisles bombard us with messages to buy, buy, buy. It's no coincidence that Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday have become as much a part of the American holiday season as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year's. 

But while these designated days are all about retailers making money and encouraging people to spend, there's one special day that has rapidly made its mark during the holidays — it's called Giving Tuesday. Even though there's a good chance you've heard of it, you might still be wondering, "What is Giving Tuesday, exactly?"

To answer that question (along with a few others we thought might be swirling around in your head), we've created a handy primer on this meaningful day and how it can help you embrace the spirit of giving. (Hint: It's not just on a Tuesday.)

What is Giving Tuesday?

What is Giving Tuesday? Children laughing and holding hands

A self-described "global generosity movement," Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving that was created in 2012. Founded by New York's 92nd Street Y (specifically, its Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact) in collaboration with the United Nations Foundation, Giving Tuesday was designated as the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. The day was designed as a response to holiday consumerism. The timing was intentional — and, as it turned out, impeccable. 

With major media coverage and the #GivingTuesday hashtag going viral on social media, the movement gained momentum. And it wasn't just in the United States — since its inception, Giving Tuesday became an international day of generosity and philanthropy. 

In the first year, various Giving Tuesday fundraisers generated more than $10 million in donations. In 2019, that figure soared to nearly $2 billion (with some 20 billion social media impressions of the hashtag)! 

Clearly, people around the world want to help and use their money for good, and it seems there are no signs of slowing. To learn more about how you can get involved, check out the official Giving Tuesday website, givingtuesday.org.

Is Giving Tuesday only about donating money?

Volunteers high-fiving each other

Giving Tuesday isn't just about donating money. While you can certainly make an online donation on the organization's official site or other fundraisers that resonate with you, Giving Tuesday is really about encouraging people to do good in any form. Maybe it's giving your time, energy, or expertise. For example, you can donate your time to volunteer with a community clean-up or tree planting project. Maybe you can donate clothing to a local women's shelter, or lend your skills to tutor high school students. 

Whatever and however you give, the idea behind the movement is to keep the spirit of generosity alive not only for one giving day, but throughout the year. We saw that in action on May 5, 2020, when a new giving initiative and hashtag, #GivingTuesdayNow, was launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Since then, millions of people around the world have donated time, goods, and money to help those in need. From delivering meals and bouquets of fresh flowers to local healthcare heroes to sending art kits to kids in foster care and helping women of color affected by the coronavirus, the seeds of altruism have been planted and the acts of kindness continue to spread and grow.

What are a few ways to create a Giving Tuesday campaign?

Money raining gif

At this point, I’m willing to bet that you're thinking about some fundraiser ideas to kick off your own campaign. Good news: I’ve got 'em! Here are just a few useful tips that'll help you launch your own campaign and give you some inspiration. 

Use a free, all-in-one fundraising platform like Givebutter for Giving Tuesday.

Create and customize your own fundraising page on Givebutter with more than 60 features for fundraising, donations, and events. It’s easier than ever to collect donations with convenient features like free text-to-donate functionality and integrations with PayPal, Venmo, Stripe, Zapier, and more. 

Include streaming video such as Livestream

Whether you're hosting a public or private virtual event on Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, Twitch, or Zoom, sharing your event makes it come to life. Along with broadcasting live, you can add pre-recorded videos from anywhere, share updates with supporters, answer questions in real-time, and collect donations — and you can do it all in one place. 

No matter where you or your supporters are located, Livestream personalizes the entire experience and helps create a greater sense of connection. Check out how one #GivingTuesdayNow team raised $100,000 using Livestream.

Broaden your reach with team fundraising

Use the power of your peers to promote your fundraising efforts and watch those donations roll in. Once you create and customize a page dedicated to your cause, your supporters can make a donation as well as share the link and spread the word. 

Think of your fundraising page as an Instagram-style feed or Facebook page where people can make donations and leave GIFs, photos, messages, likes, and comments. You can also make use of built-in features like one-click social media posts and automated email invites. 

For more ideas and details on how you can create a successful fundraiser, don't miss our useful guide on how to get the most out of your #GivingTuesdayNow campaign

Harness the power of social.

Don't forget to use the #GivingTuesday hashtag (as well as #GivingTuesdayNow, if it makes sense) on your social networks to be part of the larger conversation. You can also come up with a few hashtags of your own — and find some that are local and relevant to your cause — so you can get noticed and amp up your efforts.

What is Giving Tuesday? It's your chance to make a difference

What is Giving Tuesday? Child holds wrapped gift toward camera

In a world where we're so often bombarded with news about the heartache and challenges in the world and our own local communities, Giving Tuesday reminds us that humanity's innate desire to help one another is still very much alive and extends beyond any man-made borders. 

Giving Tuesday is not only a day that rolls around once a year during the holiday season when everyone is busy buying gifts and making their own wishlists. Rather, it's an inspired and inspiring global movement that continues to encourage and empower each of us to make a difference. 

The beauty of Giving Tuesday is that it proves a single idea is powerful. It also reinforces the reality that you can be a positive influence whether you're part of a nonprofit organization, student group, sports team, small company, large corporation, or simply rocking it solo.

I think Giving Tuesday CEO Asha Curran said it best: "We each have the power to make an impact with acts of generosity, no matter how small.” (And Givebutter is a preferred platform partner!) To make your mark, sign up for Givebutter ⁠— it's free, easy, and can help you make a big difference no matter who and where you are.

Written By

Written by
Rachel Mills
Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.