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Why #GivingTuesday matters to the country, and to your hometown

Many of us are drawn to the possibility of being part of something bigger than ourselves. Congress earlier this week passed a bipartisan resolution endorsing the benefits of charitable giving and expressing support for #GivingTuesday, a social movement that encourages giving in all its forms by people and communities across the country.  #GivingTuesday, celebrated annually on the Tuesday after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, provides an annual opportunity to create a moment of national unity around giving and a more engaged citizenship.

In its resolution, Congress pointed largely toward the economic rewards of philanthropic giving—citing impressive figures like the fact that over 60 percent of Americans (including 84 percent of millennials) make financial contributions to support the work of nonprofit organizations; that charitable organizations employ 13.7 million workers (10 percent) of the U.S. workforce, and engage an additional 63 million volunteers; and that the charitable sector plays a vital economic role, contributing $887 billion to the United States economy, including nearly $588 million in annual wages and benefits.

{mosads}The resolution went on to recognize #GivingTuesday for its power to “enact positive change and promote causes that further progress and prosperity for a better world,” while also highlighting local benefits, like the fact that #GivingTuesday enables communities to meet specific needs. The grassroots #GivingTuesday civic campaigns – cities, states and counties coming together to create local campaigns – have been among the most inspiring, from a multi-million-dollar statewide campaign in Maryland to a local initiative on the Boothbay peninsula in Maine that supports local nonprofits. #GivingTuesday itself was born four years ago at New York’s 92nd Street Y, a cultural center that has been bringing communities together since 1874.

The millions of dollars that have been raised through #GivingTuesday thus far are indicative of far more than the generosity of our country’s citizens. This movement is much bigger and deeper than fundraising and volunteerism. It’s a social movement owned by the many individuals, communities and organizations that have driven it forward.  Mayors around the nation have declared it #GivingTuesday in their cities.  Major corporations have offered to match charitable donations or rallied their employees to volunteer in the community. Individuals can celebrate giving in whatever way is meaningful for them – volunteering their time or their skills, donating to a favorite cause, talking with their kids about philanthropy, or using their voices on social media spread the word about the causes they believe in.

Philanthropy is an important barometer of civic engagement. The more people give back, the more they are – by definition – engaged in making our country a better place.  A movement like #GivingTuesday can represent some of the best of what we hope for from the political process.

We are almost certainly headed into a year that will highlight political divisions rather than reinforce what we all have in common. #GivingTuesday is a day when we can come together across political, geographic and demographic boundaries to honor the long American history of giving back and working together. The drive toward giving and sharing is strong, and it brings out the best in us all.

It is my hope that members of Congress embrace #GivingTuesday as a unifying American day and call on their home communities to take this opportunity to rally together and give back on December 1. I hope, too, that members use this day to be vocal on the Hill and on social media and that they consider engaging in a public act of giving or service themselves, spotlighting a cause that is close to their hearts. Finally, as Congress will be in session on #GivingTuesday, I ask that it find a way to recognize the day formally for the record, a day on which the country celebrates fundamental American values – like kindness, goodwill, and the strength of community – that ultimately make our nation stronger. 

Curran is the director of the Center for Innovation & Social Impact at 92nd Street Y. She recently participated in a panel on the importance of GT and the charitable sector. Twitter: @radiofreeasha  


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