#GivingTuesday: Advancing a Global Movement for Giving Back

Giving Tuesday for postsBy Daphne Lazar-Price

#GivingTuesday is brilliant in its simplicity. Who doesn’t want to do good? And who doesn’t want to encourage others to do the same? Many of us already have the language, skills and tools to make #GivingTuesday a force for tzedakah in our communities. All you have to do is find a way for your family, community, company or organization to come together to give something back – but, sometimes, people don’t know where to start.

As development director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, I feel privileged to do my work. Whether I am connecting with a long-time funder or acquiring a new donor, helping people channel their finances and resources to reflect their moral values is as gratifying as it gets – both for the patron and the organization.

And yet, never have I had as much fun working on any single campaign as I am having with #GivingTuesday. #GivingTuesday falls on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. We spend all day on Thanksgiving reflecting on the bounty around us; we then shift our focus to spend! spend! spend! on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. MARK YOUR CALENDARS! This year #GivingTuesday falls on December 2, 2014.

#GivingTuesday came about as the recognition of the need to give back. Jewish tradition reflects these values as well: Our scripture is overflowing with texts reminding us to provide for the poor and to protect the weak. And as Deuteronomy teaches: “give to the needy readily and have no regrets when you do so.” Giving and encouraging others to give is a part of the very fabric of our tradition. Indeed, #GivingTuesday is a chance to help share the mission to pursue justice – l’taken olam (to repair the world) – and fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah in places we’d never imagine.

Why is #GivingTuesday inspiring me so much? For one, people feel the need to be part of positive change. And, #GivingTuesday creates an opportunity to participate in good deeds. All that is needed to make this day a success, is your generosity. It’s a chance to be a part of something bigger than each of us individuals – and all for the good of tikkun olam, repairing of the world. Today, #GivingTuesday has become a global day of giving back that reaps the reward of local engagement – as Jews we know how important our local communities are, but we also know the Jewish people are global-minded driven to combat injustice.

For the most part, #GivingTuesday is a web-based campaign, a “Digital Tzedakah,” as it were. We have developed a full #GivingTuesday toolkit on our website www.RAC.org/GivingTuesday. For now, here are some basic tips of the trade:

  • Start planning your campaign now. Reach out to office-mates to coordinate messaging
  • Decide what platform you are using that will be most effective. And, start drafting those tweets, Facebook statuses and blog postings ahead of time
  • If you are using photos, gather your troops and take those pictures now
  • Include a peer-to-peer giving plan
  • Find incentives to increase giving – either in the form of a token gift for the donor or a matching challenge grant
  • Make the media a partner in your #GivingTuesday campaign – pitch a story to your local news outlet (paper, magazine, TV station) to raise awareness about your organization and being a part of this larger feel-good campaign.
  • Make the ask on #GivingTuesday
  • Be sure to say thank you! And then thank them again and show them how their generosity makes them a partner in your good work!
  • Remember – #GivingTuesday is about tools, not rules!

This year, I have had the privilege of working with a broad range of faith-based and religious organizations and congregations to help them plan their own #GivingTuesday campaigns. In partnership with the good folks from the 92nd Street Y, we held an in-person meeting at the Religious Action Center for the interfaith community and hosted a webinar to expand our reach. (The webinar recording can be found on www.rac.org/GivingTuesday).

Our messaging to all of the participants was to make this a campaign for each organization AND to expand the effort beyond their own four walls, to spread the word by talking to friends, colleagues and coalition partners to engage in #GivingTuesday. So, find a way for you, your family or your organization to get involved. Then, invite them to encourage others the same. Tell everyone. Don’t be shy!

From within our traditions – both religious and secular – we have managed to connect holidays and milestone days to create rituals and practices that acknowledge and lift up the needy in our midst. Among so many others, we now attach extra mitzvah/giving components to Chanukah and Thanksgiving and birthdays and b’nai mitzvah celebrations alike.

How wondrous is it for us that we have been able to leverage digital tools and communications on #GivingTuesday to bridge local communities to create a global village. After all, in the words of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, “All of the world is a very narrow bridge.” Through #GivingTuesday organizations and communities like ours are building the narrow bridges between one another, helping be the change we want to see in the world in advancing a global movement for giving back.

Daphne Lazar-Price is the Development Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C.  She lives in Silver Spring, MD with her husband and two children. She can be reached by email at dprice@rac.org.