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Odds and Ends: Multiplying Philanthropy
Odds and Ends: Multiplying Philanthropy

Stanford University’s Kim Meredith wants #GivingTuesday to be habit-forming

Rick Tulka

First there was Black Friday, the unofficial start of the U.S. holiday shopping season. Then came Cyber Monday with big-time online deals. In 2012, #GivingTuesday arrived to shift shoppers' attention back to the real meaning of the season with a global day of giving. The idea for the campaign, founded by New York's 92nd Street Y in partnership with the United Nations Foundation, emerged from a spring 2012 discussion with supporters of Stanford University's Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. "We like to say that Stanford is the alma mater of #GivingTuesday," says Kim Meredith, executive director of Stanford PACS. "This is about creating a social movement around giving—it's an opportunity to both grow the pie of philanthropy and help people have better giving." Last year, #GivingTuesday trended on Twitter for more than 10 hours; partners in 46 countries and all 50 U.S. states participated. See what's in store for this year's #GivingTuesday on Dec. 2.

Why #GivingTuesday?

What could be better than having people come together for a day of giving that celebrates and encourages philanthropy? One of the goals is to make giving part of your life. Putting a spotlight on it earlier in the holiday season gets people to think about how they give and puts the individual philanthropist in control. It's a shift from reacting to requests to being proactive and strategic. Making philanthropy part of people's overall planning could be an incredible opportunity to move giving past 2 percent of gross domestic product, where it typically stands in the U.S.

How can #GivingTuesday help change the way people give?

If you're going to create a social movement, every now and then you get lucky and it goes viral. But in reality you need to think about how you are going to create it. What are the incentives going to be? Whom do you want to engage? This is a campaign that any nonprofit organization can engage with. It creates individual opportunities for each organization, but it also creates a social movement within the broader philanthropic community.

How are you thinking about measurement?

If we're going to have more and better participation, we have to look beyond the transactional to the transformational. Reach is important. How many people have heard of it? What's the percentage increase in terms of giving? We saw a 90 percent increase in online giving [for #GivingTuesday] last year. On the first #GivingTuesday in 2012, the increase was 53 percent compared to the same day the previous year. We'd like to see that trajectory continue. We're also encouraging our partner organizations to measure so that we can have two-way communication and continuous learning to see if we're getting better results. It's about increasing the capacity of nonprofits and improving donors' impact.

What's the case for educational institutions to participate?

It's additive. #GivingTuesday offers an incredible point of leverage for organizing alumni, students, parents, and the community—whether it's around volunteerism or financial gifts—and helps create a message for bringing your audiences together around the holidays. Giving thanks for the opportunities and good fortune we have is a pivot moment for thinking about how to give back to the community.

What will it take to get U.S. giving above 2 percent of GDP?

If we can move people to be strategic about their giving—where they are researching and connecting with organizations and are knowledgeable about where their dollars are going and the impact they're having—then they're incentivized to make giving part of their lives. I have great hope in the millennials. They're engaged online, in social media, and in giving both their human and financial capital. They are thinking about making the world a better place and are focused on having impact. I'm optimistic that this generation might push us over 2 percent.

—Interview by Theresa Walker




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