Being new to the charity sector, Giving Tuesday initially meant nothing to me, but the more I’ve found out about it, the greater I rate its chances of surviving.
As a freelance for Third Sector I was despatched to CAF’s Giving Tuesday presentation with the suggestion I might want to cast a sceptical eye over proceedings.
It is possible to look down on Giving Tuesday. It’s newish, the term is slightly confusing ("What, every Tuesday?") and it’s an import from the US, from which its significance being placed after Thanksgiving (always the last Thursday in November) and the ensuing shopping splurge days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday could be lost in translation.
Third Sector columnist Stephen Pidgeon spoke in this vein just before the UK’s first Giving Tuesday in 2014.
I get the unfair advantage of being wise after not just one event but two, with CAF able to demonstrate that the second Giving Tuesday has conclusively built on the first in terms of donation activity and Twitter mentions.
What’s interesting to me is drawing a comparison with another initiative that aimed "to raise the tide for all ships" in the charity sector.
Give More, on which the Pears Foundation spent £1m, attracted almost 50,000 pledges from people to give money, time and energy to good causes. Pretty much the same ultimate aim as Giving Tuesday, but it was widely seen as a failure after attracting just 15,000 pledges in the 12 months it was originally intended to run.
The Directory of Social Change’s assessment of why it fell short included the observations that some charities viewed Give More as competition for their brand and there was a lack of support from the private sector.
Giving Tuesday, which is not intended to collect pledges but to inspire giving, has increased its support in the UK, with 1,430 partners this year to 811 last year.
Having talked to CAF’s head of policy and campaigns Hannah Terrey and media relations officer Emer Martin, one of the key advantages is that any partner can put their own stamp on the Giving Tuesday concept, including putting their own logo over the Giving Tuesday logo.
Untypically, there are few branding and messaging guidelines laid down to partners, which is also true for the relationship between the US organisation and the 13 other countries that have adopted Giving Tuesday. Brazil was able to call it the Day of Giving, Israel was allowed to hold it on a different day, and the UK team opted for less sentimental messaging than the US.
This loose control from the centre means partner charities have the incentive to adapt Giving Tuesday to boost their own activity and do much of the marketing and PR themselves. Using a budget of rather less than £1m, CAF has only had to pay towards putting together a website and tea and coffees for meetings for partners, according to Terrey.
It’s worth noting the variety of ways in which Giving Tuesday appears to be taking root: civic engagement in the form of support from Manchester and Milton Keynes local government and business bodies; the first supermarket to sign up in the form of Morrisons, in support of its charity partner Sue Ryder; and not just media coverage but support from ITV, Glamour and the Financial Times.
There is further room for growth in the international dimension to Giving Tuesday, which took place this year on the same day in Canada, Australia, Singapore, Mexico, Latin America and Israel. The more people it reaches, the more attractive it will become to household name multinational brands in addition to existing partners such as international investments firm State Street.
Finally, the most effective way in which Giving Tuesday can raise the tide for all ships will be in how much it allows charities collectively to engage those people who never or seldom give their time or money.
According to a CAF survey, 54 per cent of last year’s UK partners reported that Giving Tuesday helped them reach new audiences they might not have reached otherwise and 24 per cent said it attracted new donors.
It’s a tall order to establish a national day of giving from scratch, but the signs look good.