December 03, 2013 by MPA@UNC Staff

The holiday shopping season kicks off with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but last year nonprofits banded together in a grassroots movement to kick off the season with a new observance called Giving Tuesday.

The idea took off last year thanks in large part to social media. Leading up to Giving Tuesday, nonprofits encouraged donors to tweet their pledge with the hashtag #GivingTuesday or change their social media avatar to showcase the causes they care about. Last year, Sharon Feder, COO of the popular tech website Mashable, posted a video: Get Out the Give, asking people to write down the cause they support and post a photo on social media.

According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, the first Giving Tuesday generated donations to about 2,600 nonprofits. The Huffington Post reports that data collected last year on Giving Tuesday showed a 50 percent increase in online giving compared with the same day the previous year. The American Diabetes Association, for instance, raised about $21,000 despite having only three weeks to prepare for the event.

This year, Giving Tuesday falls on December 3, and nonprofits are planning to publicize the campaign and communicate with donors further in advance to encourage more participation through online and mobile giving.

Already, more than 5,000 partners in six countries have joined Giving Tuesday, and the movement’s website offers a robust online toolkit of ideas and resources for nonprofits, businesses, families, and students who want to get involved. The Giving Tuesday YouTube channel is filled with video case studies and Google Hangouts where nonprofit leaders share ideas about using online technology to boost philanthropy.

The video case study: World Concern, for instance, explores how the relief organization raised almost $50,000 on and leading up to Giving Tuesday last year through matching grants. Animal conservation organization Panthera also used a matching grant to build buzz around its Giving Tuesday campaign and help donors double their impact. With the match, the nonprofit raised almost $1 million.

Global nonprofit Heifer International publishes a gift catalog where shoppers can buy livestock for a family in emerging communities to help combat hunger. Playing off this concept, the organization engaged with constituents by creating an infographic that contrasted Black Friday statistics with the impact shoppers could make on Giving Tuesday. They also created a tool where shoppers could add up their savings from Black Friday and put those savings toward a Giving Tuesday donation.

Of course, the impact of Giving Tuesday on nonprofits extends beyond dollars and cents. Phoenix House, a nonprofit drug and alcohol rehabilitation organization, asked supporters to write letters of encouragement to people in treatment as this video case study: Phoenix House explains.

Encouraging board members, volunteers, and donors to post about the organization and its mission on social media networking sites also helps draw attention to the nonprofit’s work. Whether they’re raising funds or awareness, nonprofits will be front and center on social media for Giving Tuesday on December 3.