After a weekend in which millions of people descended on big box stores for discounted high-definition televisions and popular holiday gifts, Americans on Tuesday were again asked to open their wallets for a day-long initiative meant to inspire mass spending—but this time, for a cause.
The campaign, dubbed Giving Tuesday, which comes one day after Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day of the year, seeks to encourage people across the globe to consider giving their hard-earned money to people in need, instead of spending it on high-priced electronics and attractive high-tech gadgets.
The philanthropic celebration, founded in 2012 by New York’s 92nd Street Y in partnership with the United Nations Foundation, has become a global phenomenon in just three years. By early Tuesday morning, the hasthag #GivingTuesday was already trending nationwide.
Long Island was also reveling in the philanthropic spirit, with local groups turning to social media to reach out to potential donors. The organizations participating in the campaign ranged from hunger and relief organizations to colleges and education advocacy groups.
Seeking to capitalize on Tuesday’s day of giving was the Mineola-based Family and Children’s Association, which set a donation goal of $25,000, but had to temporarily cease accepting online donations at one point because its computer system crashed due to the high volume of contributions.
The non-profit, which serves disadvantaged individuals and families, also held an open house breakfast for homeless youth in Freeport that allowed donors to see firsthand how donations translate into food and shelter for those in need, said Joyce Mullen, Family and Children’s Association’s director of marketing and communications.
It’s #GivingTuesday and we need your help #Longisland http://t.co/7gZyte8pzQ
— Family & Children’s (@Care4LI) December 2, 2014
Setting a goal of $5,000 was the Long Island Crisis Center, which operates a 24/7 hotline for people suffering from suicidal thoughts or battling other crises. By 3 p.m., the group was halfway toward its fundraising target.
“The fact that a philanthropic giving day is receiving nationwide attention is fabulous because Americans are very charitable, but this really puts it front and center for them, that there is a day during the year and its kind of the beginning of the season of giving,” said Fran Karliner, director of development at the Long Island Crisis Center.
Last year, the crisis center fielded more than 10,000 hotline calls and reached 16,000-plus students and professionals through community education workshops. And when actor and comedian Robin Williams died of suicide in August, the number of calls to the hotline doubled.
“We’re wrapped up in buying presents for people and what we are going to do for our children, our parents,” she added. “But here’s a day to think about what am I going to do for my community.”
Happy #GivingTuesday! Find out how YOU can make a difference on Long Island by checking out: http://t.co/jaAX3zYS6g pic.twitter.com/J89GvKAqQA
— L.I.CrisisCenter (@LICrisisCenter) December 2, 2014
“We are constantly fundraising,” Merlo said. “But a day like this brings awareness and helps us.”
The non-profit advocates for victims of domestic violence, but also provides meals and shelter to families.
Merlo noted that $20 could feed a family of four, and $50 could provide counseling for a child.
“Every donation helps,” Merlo said.
Consider donating to #SCCADV today #GivingTuesday http://t.co/sGVvlgqHHe #thankful #community #NewYork #LongIsland pic.twitter.com/z2hUG029eU
— SCCADV (@SCCADV) December 2, 2014
The campaign was created in 2012 when the 92nd Street Y, a community center, noticed how retailers were using shopping holidays, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, to invigorate sales.
“We thought there was room for a day to celebrate giving, to stop and think about how we can make a difference in the causes we care about,” Asha Curran, director of 92nd street Y’s Center for Innovation & Social Impact, said in an email. “And we’ve been inspired by how much people want to have this conversation.
“The point of this movement is that everyone, everywhere, has something to give, whether it’s money, volunteer time, skills, or advocacy,” she added.
The campaign also included some good-spirited boasting from donors on social media. Using the hashtag #unselfie, one woman held up a sign that read, “I knit to bring joy to others.” Another woman used the forum to promote the Mala Fund, a global non-profit that seeks to empower school-aged girls. The fund is named after Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani born education advocate who survived a Taliban assassination attempt in October 2012. She was only 15 when she was shot. Two years later, Yousafzai became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize recipient.
The LI Crisis Center also got into the action:
Join the #UNselfie movement! Post YOUR UNselfie and let us know why you’re supporting LICC this #GivingTuesday! pic.twitter.com/qnfxZgCHRL
— L.I.CrisisCenter (@LICrisisCenter) December 2, 2014
“People are generous, and giving is something that unites us across boundaries and political divides,” she said.
Heather Buggée, founder and executive director of Huntington-based Splashes of Hope, a non-profit that paints murals for medical and social services facilities, said Giving Tuesday succeeds in changing the focus of the holidays back to helping the less fortunate.
“Giving Tuesday is all about giving back to the community,” she said. “A lot of times during the holiday season people are focused so much, children especially, are focused so much on what they’re going to receive…it makes them think more about what other children are going through.”