The Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy

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Commentary by Claudia

If It’s Tuesday, Give!

By now the news of Giving Tuesday has spread far and wide—following Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday could not come too soon. If you haven’t parted with all of your discretionary money yet in service of building the economy—which is also important—it is time to reflect on what we spend to help others who are not retailers.

Giving Tuesday is a time to reflect on our own values—values of being generous, sharing with even those we do not know personally, helping create solutions to society’s most pressing problems. We know that people are suffering both here and abroad—a lengthy recession has made that salient and more commonly known—plus hunger, poverty and persistent unemployment have touched people we actually know so it isn’t just “out there” anymore. 

The mantra, “it’s the economy, stupid” was in the air throughout our prolonged presidential election season, as if we hadn’t noticed before. And we know that the people hurt the most in this economy were often the people who were hurt even when the economy was healthy by every bump and turn in the road—whether from unemployment, natural disasters, health problems, lack of insurance, living in neighborhoods plagued with crime and social problems, even longer commutes to work (see BostonGlobe, November 25, 2012), and the growing divide between the haves and have nots.  Now those same people, in addition to those who are no longer part of the middle class, are hit even harder by dwindling opportunity—and for those in the wake of hurricane Sandy, a rising tide that sunk many boats.

So in my opinion, Giving Tuesday could not come too soon, or stay too long. Kudos to those at the 92ndStreet Y in New York City who popularized the concept, and created this buzz.  Here at the Sillerman Center, democratizing philanthropy is one of the main things we care about—and our annual contest for college students, now called Generous U, focuses on how society can assist in the development of generous values in young adults. 

Generous U is a contest where students, whether graduate or undergraduate, compete for a $5K cash prize awarded for the best essay and YouTube presentation about how their club or group can expand philanthropy amongst students at their college or university.  The Sillerman Prize will be used to enhance their own ability for charitable giving; the $5,000 can help realize their charitable goals and expand the number of students involved.  The university or college benefits from having the school designated as Generous U 2013—perhaps not as sought after as a ranking on the U.S. News and World Report list, but still a valuable posting giving bragging rights about that school’s value proposition beyond academics.  We feel it will be a badge of what’s in the hearts of their students—sure to be a point of pride for administrators, parents and students alike.

At the Sillerman Center, we look forward to the results that the Blackbaud group, a nonprofit and fundraising advising company, comes up with as it analyzes the impact of Giving Tuesday. Frankly, we hope to see it become a weekly event that is an antidote to some of the slippage observed in recent giving trends and that it reaches into the younger age groups.  Blackbaud’s staff, quoted on NPR’s Morning Edition, indicates that the average age of donors is 65, so priming the pump at younger ages is one key to the success of giving going forward. Including the upcoming generations in the joy of giving is important to keeping the things we care about afloat, and continues a robust community of those dedicated, on our behalf, to helping those in need. For those of us who are donors we know that often a great portion of the pleasure of giving comes right back at us in feelings that we made a difference. And we did.

Claudia Jacobs, MSW, is the Associate Director of the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University.

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