It's 'Giving Tuesday': a day to buy gifts for charities and nonprofits

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Just when consumers expected to take a breath following a frenzied weekend of shopping that started with Thanksgiving Day sales and ended with Cyber Monday promotions, another day devoted to spending debuts today: Giving Tuesday.

Unlike the shopping days that preceded it, today's event focuses on contributing to charities and nonprofits, and in most cases, there won't be gifts to be wrapped later.

Organizers of the event -- which is being promoted largely through email and social media including Facebook and Twitter, and at givingtuesday.org -- acknowledge they chose the Tuesday after Thanksgiving to capitalize on the buzz that surrounds Black Friday and its offshoots, Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday. But they're hoping the urge to "give back" will last through the holiday season and not be limited to a single 24-hour time slot.

"It's more of a movement than a day of giving," said Melanie Mathos, spokeswoman for Blackbaud Inc., a Charleston, S.C., company that provides fundraising software systems and consulting to nonprofits. "We think over the years that Giving Tuesday will kick-start the giving season."

The event was spearheaded by the 92nd Street Y in New York City, a nonprofit that calls Giving Tuesday "good for the soul" and which expects more than 2,000 organizations to participate by asking donors to give money or time or to buy goods that benefit nonprofit programs.

Founding partners include the United Way, the Salvation Army and the United Nations Foundation as well as for-profit corporations Blackbaud, Groupon, J.C. Penney, Sony, Microsoft, Skype Technologies and Simon Malls.

Locally, the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh is among the nonprofits promoting Giving Tuesday to members and donors through an email blast.

"The effort is kind of like the alter ego of Cyber Monday and Black Friday ... in a good way," said Betsy Momich, museums spokeswoman. "We're acknowledging this is really a giving season ... not just a season of shopping."

While nonprofits are typically soliciting donations to benefit their own programs, for-profits involved in Giving Tuesday can designate recipients for the money they raise.

Blackbaud, for instance, will donate $10,000 to the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Central Texas in Austin, which matches businesses with charitable funds and worthy causes.

Groupon, an online vendor of daily retail "deals," will use its Groupon Grassroots campaigns to promote "buys" that benefit nonprofits such as Feeding America.

Many organizations, such as Seattle-based World Vision, are targeting Giving Tuesday as a way to raise contributions for victims of Hurricane Sandy.

By designating Tuesday to coincide with the start of the holiday season, the nonprofit sector may get a bump in contributions at a time when many consumers add year-end charitable gifts to their holiday to-do lists.

"About 30 percent to 40 percent of all giving happens in the last three months of the year and December is a huge chunk of that," said Ms. Mathos.

According to a report from GuideStar, which provides tax returns and other data on nonprofits, nearly two-thirds of charitable organizations said donations in the first nine months of 2012 were down or flat compared with 2011.

"Sluggish giving from individuals combined with a slow economic recovery means the nonprofit sector has a ways to go to return to levels of giving seen before the economic meltdown," Chuck McLean, vice president for research at GuideStar, said in a statement.

There is evidence that encouraging donors to rally around a specific time to contribute can produce generous results. The Pittsburgh Foundation's fourth annual Day of Giving, an online event held in October, generated $8.5 million for nonprofits in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, up 31 percent from 2011 and far more than foundation officials expected.

For donors who prefer to give tangible gifts rather than cash donations, the foundation compiled a "wish book" that lists requests from more than 60 nonprofits in the Pittsburgh area. Items on the list range from art supplies for the Boys and Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania to sheets, pillows and blankets for the Center for Victims' emergency shelter.

Another option is the holiday catalog developed by the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University. It includes listings of more than 50 local nonprofits that are offering cards, cookbooks, ornaments, jewelry and other items that benefit specific programs and charitable causes.

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Joyce Gannon: jgannon@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1580.


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