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Microsoft amps up Giving Tuesday with a real-time look at the world’s generosity

The simple concept behind Giving Tuesday has remained the same even as it’s grown into a worldwide movement: To inspire people to find meaningful ways to give back amid a frenzied season of buying things.

But for the first time this year, those leading the massive effort on Dec. 1 will be able to see the incredible outpouring of support as it unfolds — the contributions rolling in, the response on social media and the ideas that are motivating the most people to participate.

Microsoft collaborated with 92nd Street Y (92Y), the nonprofit cultural and community center that created Giving Tuesday in 2012, and Blackbaud, which processes the majority of the day’s donations, providing the technology to turn vast amounts of data into a vivid, real-time picture of the day’s momentum and deliver it via a Giving Tuesday dashboard.

“It will provide a visual story so that we can really understand what’s happening on Giving Tuesday,” says Asha Curran, director of 92Y’s Center for Innovation and Social Impact. “Having Microsoft come in gives the day a richness and a depth that we wouldn’t otherwise have.

“And frankly,” she says, “it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Asha Curran, director of 92Y’s Center for Innovation and Social Impact, and Jack Owen, 92Y development associate, at a Giving Tuesday planning meeting.

Microsoft helped 92Y set up a command center at its facility in the heart of New York City, outfitting organizers with Surface Pro tablets running Windows 10 and large touch-screen monitors that will display a virtual dashboard of easy-to-read charts and graphics of key metrics created with Microsoft’s Power BI, a cloud-based business analytics service that allows people to visualize and interpret data quickly and easily.

The technology will give the effort’s organizers deeper insight than ever before — and much more quickly. Such valuable, timely information could shape strategies along the way and potentially make this the most successful Giving Tuesday yet.

“The rich visual dashboard will give the 92Y team a live 360-degree view of what’s going on by bringing together data from multiple sources, so if they observe an approach that’s working well in one area, they can determine whether they can apply it in different parts of the world,” says John Doyle, director of product marketing at Microsoft. “They’ll be able to build on that insight in real time, rather than waiting until the event is over to evaluate their efforts.”

The 92nd Street Y, a nonprofit cultural and community center in Manhattan, started Giving Tuesday in 2012.
The 92nd Street Y, a nonprofit cultural and community center in Manhattan, started Giving Tuesday in 2012.

92Y started Giving Tuesday as a way to harness the power of social media and the generosity of people to make a positive change in the world. It takes place on the Tuesday after many Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, offering people a way to refocus their attention on giving back after the consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Now in its fourth year, Giving Tuesday is celebrated around the world and has people sharing their giving efforts with the #GivingTuesday hashtag on social media. More than 30,000 partners — including nonprofits, small businesses, corporations and government agencies — from 68 countries are expected to join this year’s effort.

Yet even in its inaugural year, when Giving Tuesday was just an inspiring idea, Microsoft was one of the first to sign on. Its ambition paralleled Microsoft’s own Employee Giving Campaign, which began on a smaller scale more than 30 years ago and has evolved into a huge effort that raised more than $117 million for more than 20,000 nonprofits last year alone.

Since 1983, Microsoft and its employees have provided more than $8.5 billion in cash, services and software to nonprofits around the world.

“By supporting Giving Tuesday, we hope to really grow goodness on a massive global scale in such a way that people around the world are better served and causes are addressed more effectively,” says Ken Ryals, senior director of communications and engagement for Microsoft Citizenship. “It links back to our mission of empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”

Microsoft will promote giving all day in its stores, where shoppers will be able to connect their favorite charities to the company’s Tech for Good program, which helps nonprofits get the technology they need to support the important work they do in their communities.

Kait Sheridan, director of Partnerships and Programs for 92Y’s Center for Innovation and Social Impact, and Beverly Greenfield, director of 92Y Media and Public Relations, will be working in the Giving Tuesday command center.

In the Giving Tuesday command center, Microsoft and Blackbaud teams will give 92Y an unprecedented view of what’s happening using data from dozens of partner platforms. The idea is to help leaders bring the effort to the next level.

“We are supporting them with technology to help them run giving Tuesday more effectively and more efficiently so that the movement has a greater impact,” Ryals says.

Curran of 92Y says Microsoft’s support will help turn Giving Tuesday data into a clear picture of what’s happening throughout the day.
Curran of 92Y says Microsoft’s support will help turn Giving Tuesday data into a clear picture of what’s happening throughout the day.

Curran says it’s wonderful to see money going into the hands of nonprofits that serve many different causes, and the fact that Giving Tuesday resonates in so many countries that don’t have Black Friday or Cyber Monday “is really inspiring.”

She says Microsoft has been “a model Giving Tuesday partner” in many ways, from the company’s initial willingness to embrace the first Giving Tuesday in 2012 to its support ever since.

“We have a special place in our hearts for partners that said, ‘This is a great idea, and we want in’ even before it became such a big thing,” Curran says. “Microsoft was one of the first companies that took a chance on a brand-new movement, and on the possibilities of what we could accomplish collectively.”

She and other 92Y leaders are excited about this day and the potential the new technology brings to their efforts.

“We’ve had a lot of data associated with Giving Tuesday, but data can be hard to digest. It can be hard to understand the narrative behind the data,” she says. “I think that’s why Power BI will be so helpful. It’s really a game-changer.”

Photography by Dan Howell.