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What Is Giving Tuesday?

The global movement encourages charitable work as well as donations

volunteer at a food bank holds a sign encouraging others to participate

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After feasting at Thanksgiving and capitalizing on the string of sales in the days following, Giving Tuesday (GT) presents itself as the “global generosity movement” that focuses on philanthropy instead of consumption.

"Giving Tuesday began as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good,” says Asha Curran, who led the team that launched GT at the 92nd Street Y, a cultural and community center in New York City. “But it has taken a life of its own and is so endlessly creative and generative that it constantly evolves and changes."

The name first circulated on the internet in 2012 with its hashtag, #GivingTuesday. It is intentionally not connected to a particular charitable cause and designed to be accessible to diverse communities, Curran says.

The day now has more than 240 local GT movements in the U.S., official campaigns in 75 countries, and other activities that have been tracked in nearly every country.

"At the end of the day, generosity connects us all in an ever more divided world,” says Curran, who is now also CEO of the GT organization. In 2020, at least $2.47 billion were donated in twenty-four hours in the U.S. alone with an estimated 13% of adults participating by donating their time, skills, goods, money and other acts of kindness, says the organization. 

The movement doesn't aim to take away from other opportunities to give during the year. It creates a “giving spike but with no corresponding dip,” Curran writes in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

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Donating money isn't the only way to demonstrate generosity. Others include:

  • Speaking up for causes that matter and encouraging others to get involved
  • Organizing the collection of food, clothing or other resources needed for charity
  • Volunteering time and expertise to provide good in the community

"People age 50 and older can help lead by example and demonstrate what generosity can accomplish every day,” Curran says.

She encourages older adults to lead by taking children or grandchildren to volunteer and discuss the importance of giving back.

"Generosity is a year-round commitment and opportunity,” she says. “Be it on Hanukkah or Christmas, you can substitute a traditional gift to children or grandchildren with a charitable gift to an important cause on their behalf."

For those who are not familiar with social media, Curran says, “One of the best things about Giving Tuesday is that you can make it your own. Social media is a useful tool for showing your involvement … but the most important thing is giving what you can, be it your time, voice, money or other resources, to causes or people you care about."

This article, originally published Dec. 3, 2019, has been updated with the latest information. 

Aaron Kassraie writes about issues important to military veterans and their families for AARP. He also serves as a general assignment reporter. Kassraie previously covered U.S. foreign policy as a correspondent for the Kuwait News Agency’s Washington bureau and worked in newsgathering for USA Today and Al Jazeera English.