The 92nd Street Y, which is celebrating its 140th anniversary this year, is blessed with a proud tradition of exceptional programs, compassionate outreach and a deep commitment to celebrating and sharing our Jewish values. And like so many other organizations, one of the questions we ask ourselves regularly is this: How do we make these traditional values relevant and meaningful not only for our current community, but for future generations as well? In today’s fast-changing world, with half of the global population 30 or younger, this is perhaps one of the most important challenges for all of us.
#GivingTuesday essentially reimagines one of 92Y’s bedrock values: the responsibility we have to do our part to make the world a better place. Our initial idea was simple: After Black Friday and Cyber Monday — two days that are all about consumption — we would try to add “Giving Tuesday,” a day dedicated to compassion; we hoped to spark a national conversation and help people to focus on giving back. We began this project in 2012 with fairly modest goals — we thought if we could get even get 100 organizations working together on this project, that would be a great start. But as it turned out, the reaction was more powerful than we expected. All around the country, people rallied behind the idea of beginning the holiday season with a day dedicated to giving and acts of kindness.
On Nov. 27, 2012, the first #GivingTuesday, 2,500 partner organizations took part. The Associated in Baltimore raised more than $1 million; they were joined by Jewish National Fund, American Jewish World Service and Jewish organizations in, Boston, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Indiana, Kansas City, Philadelphia and San Francisco. Mayors in Chicago, Philadelphia and New York offered their support, as did major leaders like Bill Gates and the White House. On a local level, communities around the country focused on how they could help each other — through volunteer drives, raising money for individual families in need, stocking food pantries and sharing their own talents for the benefit of others.
In #GivingTuesday Year Two (2013), we saw some further progress. Ten thousand partners around the world joined the movement, and data from a variety of sources indicated a marked increase in online giving that day, compared with #GivingTuesday the previous year. We were honored to see Israel’s #GivingTuesday last year reportedly become Israel’s biggest giving day ever. And we continued to see a huge variety of ways in which people were giving back, from a group in Burundi that organized a blood drive to replenish supplies in the country’s hospitals to residents of a Chico, Calif., homeless shelter who partnered with local businesses to do clean-up projects in downtown Chico. We also saw broad engagement on social media, with people taking to Twitter and Facebook to champion the causes they believed in.
As we approach the third annual #GivingTuesday on Dec. 2, the movement counts 13,000 partners in the U.S., and 3,000 more in eight countries and two regions around the world, from Australia to Canada to the U.K.
But #GivingTuesday is about so much more than the numbers. For all the tweets and technology driving #GivingTuesday, we think its progress is a testament to the power of community, which has always lived at the very core of 92Y. It was a community of people here at 92Y who breathed life into #GivingTuesday, and grew quickly to include our friends at the UN Foundation, who added their voices and expertise. Members of the tech community in New York helped to build the website and create a social media strategy; advisers in the philanthropy community helped to shape the idea of an open-sourced, accessible movement; professional communicators helped us tell the story of #GivingTuesday to new partners and in the media. People everywhere came together to work in common cause. #GivingTuesday has certainly been enabled by technology, but it is driven by community.
We were thrilled and honored this year to have received UJA- Federation of New York’s Riklis Prize for Agency Entrepreneurship, in recognition of our work on this project. And we are so grateful that the UJA-Federation leadership has gotten behind this idea in a big way, helping unite 21 agencies in the UJA-Federation network as #GivingTuesday partners. Further across the country, we are especially pleased that 28 federations will be participating on Dec. 2 this year. To further encourage and support participation at JCCs this year, our friends at JCCA offered a free webinar this fall featuring two of our #Giving Tuesday partners in the Jewish communal world — the JCC in San Francisco and the Associated in Baltimore — who shared their insights and experience to enable others to create successful campaigns.
Here at 92Y, we’re planning a variety of giving-back programs for #GivingTuesday, including a blood drive and a toy and clothing drive with MommyNearest for people living in homeless shelters around the city.
Last year, the always-inspirational members of our Himan Brown Seniors Program completed their goal of knitting 1,000 hats for children with cancer on #GivingTuesday. This year, we are inviting people of all ages and skill levels to stop by Warburg Lounge at 92Y and help to make scarves and hats to benefit pediatric cancer patients and other people in need.
The 92Y Shababa community has been bringing families together for joyful, intergenerational Jewish experiences, and through the Shababa Network, we are helping to bring that spirit to Jewish communities around the country. On #GivingTuesday, our own “Shababa Mamas” singing group will be visiting local Jewish seniors, and five Shababa Network partners will be bringing joy to nursing homes, shelters, and hospitals in Long Island, Florida and California.
Every year, 92Y’s Educational Outreach programs bring the arts to 10,000 children in NYC’s public schools. On #GivingTuesday, we’ll be hosting a free live webcast at 11 a.m. EST so that schools around the city and across the country can join us for the New York premiere of “Maximus Musicus,” a concert designed to communicate the magic of music through the adventures of a little mouse who leaps, scurries and climbs among the instruments. In addition to the concert, we are making the accompanying curriculum available for free. It’s all at 92y.org/givingtuesday. Please join us on Dec. 2 for #GivingTuesday. Make a plan to celebrate giving that day — pledge to volunteer your time; talk with your children about the importance of giving; make an extra donation to a cause you believe in or an organization that recently inspired you; and take the opportunity to encourage others to do the same.
Former Israeli President Shimon Peres, in conversation recently with UJA-Federation’s CEO Eric Goldstein, explained why he is optimistic about America’s future — because we did not acquire our power by taking, he said, but rather by giving. We hope — in some small way — that #GivingTuesday can help renew the great tradition of giving that has been a core commitment of 92Y for over 140 years. n
Henry Timms is executive director of the 92nd Street Y and founder of #GivingTuesday.