By MICAH BRANAMAN SHARMA
GROWING up in the US, the day after Thanksgiving is commonly known as Black Friday, the kick off of Christmas shopping as part of the extended Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Over the years, however, Black Friday has become more and more insane with reports of deaths as people stampede stores or intimidate other shoppers and staff in order to get to the best sales. If that were not enough, as online shopping grew Cyber Monday was created so online retailers could harness the shopping craze.
To balance the excesses of these two days and the “culture of consumerism” overtaking what should be a season of celebration and faith, #GivingTuesday was established to bring people back to the values of service, giving back, and advocacy that should be the true focus of our Christmases, Hanukkahs, and other celebrations of faith.
Making A Difference
I have spent my career working with non-profits of every size promoting and seeking to ensure human rights. In my various roles I have seen how year-end fundraising campaigns are crucial so they can continue providing the outstanding programming and services throughout the upcoming year. What is just a few dollars to you or me, may mean someone else is able to survive.
And those few dollars that you and I will likely not even miss add up. In 2016, #GivingTuesday produced US$177M worth of donations from people in 98 countries. NGOs benefitted not only from donations, but thousands of hours of volunteer hours as well.
Dollars At Work
Because of the US$550,000 Salvation Army DFW raised during their last #GivingTuesday, they were able to provide Willie Foster, his daughter, and two grandchildren shelter alongside other hurricane victims after they were forced from their homes. Foster was grateful not only for such friendly staff and volunteers serving food, but also that “they opened up their hearts to us, and we don’t appear as outcasts” in a strange new place.
Without these donations the Salvation Army wouldn’t have been able to serve the evacuees nearly 636,000 meals. Neither would they have been able to send emotional spiritual care officers to counsel more than 35,000 first responders and survivors throughout Texas after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.
In 2016, World Vision US was able to double the value and impact of the donations they received on #GivingTuesday.
They did this through a partnership with Thirty-One Gifts which provided up to US$2M worth of utility tote bags and warm clothes for families throughout Africa, eastern Europe, and Central America.
In Burundi, Renathe Kabageni, a World Vision health volunteer, used her bag to carry teaching materials as it was difficult for her to carry the supplies needed to educate communities about malnutrition, especially during the rainy season. Renathe says: “A local saying states that ‘he who shares with you wise words gives you wealth’”, and these documents that she carries contain wise words that have helped save the lives of many children in her community.
India Expands Its Reach
Now that I split my time between the US and India, I am happy to learn that the NGO sector here is also beginning to coordinate efforts to harness this phenomenon of giving and increase their global reach alongside the #DaanUtsav giving festival.
Today, more than ever, there is a dramatic need worldwide for us to support organisations working to make a difference. I believe we are strongest when we stand together.
This #GivingTuesdayIndia, October 3, I plan on supporting a home for mentally and physically disabled and destitute children and young people not far from where I live in Pune because I feel very strongly that all members of our society deserve to live happy and full lives.
If you too want to join India in celebrating their very first #GivingTuesday, but aren’t sure where to find organisations that speak to you, you can discover NGOs focused on a number of causes on Small Change’s NGO platform.
Micah Branaman-Sharma is a freelance consultant for US-based nonprofits and international development agencies with more than 15 years’ experience working with organisations of every size, from grassroots to multi-national. She is passionate about empowering people to help themselves, working to ensure human rights for all, and raising awareness of the plight of those outside the bubbles of our immediate communities.