Every movement begins with one great idea.
In 2012, Henry Timms, now executive director of the 92nd Street Y, a cultural and community center in New York City, hatched #GivingTuesday, a rallying call to donate to your favorite cause on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.
“The idea around #GivingTuesday was that after all of the consumption of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, what if we could think about giving back?” Timms explains.
In short, the campaign went viral. Thanks in part to social media as well as perfect timing.
In addition to being a foil for the biggest shopping weekend of the year, Timms says the Thanksgiving weekend is also a natural time to “take a moment and reflect on what matters in life.” #GivingTuesday also fit nicely with the mission of the 92nd Street Y, “where we’re reimagining community for a new generation,” he adds. “In a world that’s increasingly so divided, that’s one thing we share, our capacity to give to one another.”
Now in its third year, #GivingTuesday has grown from 2,500 partners to 18,000. That’s corporations, mom-and-pop shops, nonprofits, churches, community centers and everything in between, all encouraging their patrons and members to join in, and to give.
Microsoft was one of the first to sign on, Timms says. “Microsoft got involved when we had no idea what this could be. It was experimental, and Microsoft’s commitment sent a message to the corporate world about what it could be.”
Ken Ryals, senior director for Microsoft Citizenship, says the idea, and the way it celebrates generosity, seemed a natural extension of the company’s ethos and Microsoft’s Employee Giving Campaign. Still, he admits he was skeptical at first.
“I heard about this crazy idea and this very interesting personality behind it, and we had some good discussion,” remembers Ryals. “It’s turned into a partnership that’s grown and grown. Together, we have made a real impact.”
Adding to the power of #GivingTuesday, Microsoft launched fundraising campaigns on YouthSpark on Global Giving, a Microsoft program allowing the broader public to help empower youth. This year, with the theme “Everyone Starts Somewhere,” Microsoft will match donations on the site, up to $350,000, to create opportunities for young people around the world across a full spectrum of technology education.
“We hope to raise over a million dollars for young people today,” Ryals says, adding that the site has raised $4.8 million and helped more than 131,000 youth since it launched in 2012, thanks in large part to donations made on previous #GivingTuesdays.
This year the movement is going global. Microsoft is expanding its promotion of the day to include 10 countries beyond the U.S. In the United Kingdom, for example, Microsoft is partnering with UK Youth, an organization that helps kids build skills and confidence using technology, to create a digital opportunity fund. The fund would allow Microsoft’s 65 Youth Hubs to “lead more digital literacy sessions, take part in community outreach to build new partnerships, or even help with the costs of childcare to enable a project to engage with teenage parents,” says UK Youth National Projects Officer Gary Brunskill.
“Everyone starts somewhere, it’s about enabling them to start,” adds Microsoft U.K.’s Eve Joseph, referencing this year’s theme. While Microsoft’s partnership with UK Youth runs deep — it’s the company’s largest corporate partnership in the U.K. — she says it will be interesting to see how #GivingTuesday translates in a country that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving.
“However, the fact that we’ve now readily adopted recent e-commerce innovations such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday suggests that this is something the U.K. will also get behind in its own, distinctive way,” says Joseph. “This year may be the first for us, but it’s a social movement that we will certainly get behind.”
“We’ve got high hopes,” agrees Brunskill. “And the opportunity to receive matched funds for donations should be as compelling to U.K. audiences as it was in the states — this project will undoubtedly make a massive difference to young people all across the U.K.”
Timms says one of the most exciting things about the movement he founded is watching it grow around the world.
His favorite #GivingTuesday story is a simple one, about a guy from a contracting firm who volunteered by working at a local homeless shelter. He told his supervisor it was the best day he’d ever had because it was the first time he’d been a part of giving back. (Something typically reserved for other people.)
“Prior to #GivingTuesday, he’d had no entry point into becoming a philanthropist,” Timms explains. “We are inspiring a new generation of philanthropy.”
Learn more and donate, here.