#GivingTuesday Raises Nearly $117 Million for U.S. Groups

Lifestyle and Budget Reuters

#GivingTuesday, a charitable initiative which uses social media as its catalyst, raised nearly $117 million in online donations, a jump of 155% over last year, according to preliminary calculations exclusively provided to Reuters by the event's organizers.

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In the 24 hours starting at midnight Eastern Time on Dec. 1, U.S. charities reported receiving 1.08 million donations.

"We are just so thrilled. The movement caught on last year, and it's here to stay," said Sheila Herrling, senior vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based Case Foundation, which financed the data analysis. "We had a lot of confidence that this would keep on rolling."

#GivingTuesday was launched in 2012 as a counterpunch to the holiday-fueled spending orgies of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. #GivingTuesday co-founder Henry Timms, executive director of New York City's 92nd Street Y community and culture center, said he had hoped the day would become something for individuals and groups to rally around (http://reut.rs/1XrIvJ2).

It appears that in its fourth year, #GivingTuesday considerably expanded its reach. The preliminary numbers show 1.3 million mentions of #GivingTuesday on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, compared with about 750,000 last year.

The day has become a focal point for fundraisers from a wide variety of groups from universities to small charities to national organizations. One of the biggest philanthropic acts ever was announced on #GivingTuesday with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's pledge of some $45 billion in Facebook shares in a note on his Facebook page about his daughter's birth.

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Katherina Rosqueta, executive director of the Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania, said #GivingTuesday appears to be a boon to philanthropy in general. An analysis of data has shown that the event brings in new money and isn't "cannibalizing" money that otherwise would have been donated.

The biggest plus, Rosqueta said, is the opportunity the day has given to allow people and groups to adopt it as their own.

"It's much more of a grassroots effort taking advantage of the way social media can spread ideas and connections from small donors," Rosqueta said. "The increased focus has led to an increase in at least online donations.

Even so, the money raised on #GivingTuesday represents only a very small fraction of total annual charitable giving in the United States. According to Giving USA, which issues an annual report on philanthropy, charitable donations in 2014 totaled $358.38 billion.

Sandra Miniutti, vice president of the nonprofit watchdog Charity Navigator, agreed that #GivingTuesday has been a plus for charity awareness.

"As for its overall impact, I don't know that it has significantly moved the needle on total annual donations to charities," Miniutti said. "But I do think as a campaign, it has done a great job of bringing greater awareness to all the different causes that need support and helped donors remember to give at year-end." (Editing by Leslie Adler)

By Mitch Lipka