Foundations Get Ready: There’s a #GivingTuesday Coming

Foundations should start planning for #GivingTuesday, which falls on December 3 this year.

#GivingTuesday, launched last year, is intended to create “a national day of giving to kick off the giving season … on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday.” Maybe you don’t think it has much relevance for foundations, but I’d like to suggest that it could—and that it should.

Before I get to that, let me say I like the idea of #GivingTuesday: of countering the consumerism of the shopping days following Thanksgiving—and perhaps altering the conversations as families get together for the holiday. I hope it will contribute to an increase in overall giving, greater participation in giving, and at least some small change for the better in our collective spirit.

I‘ve been impressed also by the way #GivingTuesday has become something communities and groups take and make their own. That’s a credit to the 92nd Street Y, which has been the incubator for this idea, and to its dynamic interim executive director, Henry Timms.

I had the good fortune of having breakfast with Timms last month, and he told me that one group that he and his colleagues have struggled to engage in #GivingTuesday is foundations. On the one hand, that makes sense, since #GivingTuesday has really been focused on generating giving among individuals. Foundations, of course, make grants all the time—that’s a big part of what they do.

But I think that, in fact, foundations could play a vital role in #GivingTuesday. Perhaps presumptuously, I would like to offer an idea for how. I suggest that foundations name, on #GivingTuesday, one or perhaps several recipients of special #GivingTuesday Impact Grants. (GIGs, if we must use an acronym.)

The criteria would be simple: Foundations would choose the organization or organizations among their current grantees that had the strongest demonstrated record(s) of effectiveness in pursuit of their goals. Then, they’d provide to the winning organizations the type of grants that we have seen in our research are most helpful in terms of impact on organizations: six figures, multi-year, and unrestricted. Perhaps at least two years and $200,000 (ideally more)—accompanying the grant with a significant public announcement.

Importantly, these grants would come on top of whatever the organization was already getting.

What would this accomplish?

  • First, it would reward effective organizations with the kind of flexible funding that can be hard to obtain—allowing them to strengthen their infrastructure. Too often, effective organizations struggle to get the resources they need to invest in their growth and development, as we pointed out in this recent report.
  • Second, if accompanied by smart marketing and publicity, it would send a powerful signal to individual donors—and other funders—about organizations that are making a difference, potentially catalyzing more support. It would also reinforce the importance of choosing organizations based on their effectiveness in pursuing their goals: foundations, after all, have staff whose job it is to do just that. Why not allow other donors to reap benefits of their work and expertise?
  • Third, the publicity associated with foundations’ participation in this effort would help educate the public about the role foundations play. In addition to individual announcements tailored to fields or communities in which participating foundations are working, some organization or organizations—like CEP, GEO , Foundation Center, or COF (or perhaps all of us together) —could track all the GIG grants and seek to draw attention to all the participating funders and organizations. Perhaps Guidestar, Charity Navigator, and BBB Wise Giving Alliance could find a way to note which nonprofits had received one of these special awards, and from which foundation.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to see which organizations foundations chose and why? And whether some received multiple grants from multiple funders? Perhaps the organizations could come together with their funders in some forum to discuss their work—and inspire others to achieve their levels of effectiveness.

That’s the idea, for what it’s worth. I am interested to hear what funders think.

Will you participate in #GivingTuesday?


Phil Buchanan is President of CEP and a regular columnist for The Chronicle of Philanthropy. You can find him on Twitter @philCEP.

#GivingTuesday, foundation strategy, giving strategy, nonprofit sector, role of philanthropy
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