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Can #GivingTuesday succeed at becoming universally celebrated?
Since 2012, nonprofits have sought to make Giving Tuesday a day of philanthropy in response to the consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.. - photo by Daniel Bendtsen
Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Tis the season of rabid consumerism.

While some wait in long lines for the best deal on a new television, others groan at commercialization of late November, which has creeped into Thanksgiving Day itself.

In response, nonprofits are trying to refocus America's collective consciousness with an event of their own: Giving Tuesday, when nonprofits ask the public to take part in a charitable cause either through donation or direct action on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving.

Founded in 2012 by the U.N. Foundation and 92nd Street Y, a New York City cultural center, Giving Tuesday now has over 30,000 business and other organizational partners in its fourth year. It grew quickly. After raising at least $10 million in its first year, total donations jumped to more than $28 million in 2013 and topped $45 million last year.

U.N. Foundation chief communications officer Aaron Sherinian told the Deseret News last year that the biggest success of Giving Tuesday is not the boost in donations, but in how it has inspired new innovations in the ways people can give back. This year, for example, the Gates Foundation created a grant-funded storytelling competition to promote the event.

Still, only 18 percent of Americans have heard of Giving Tuesday, while nearly all are familiar with Black Friday, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and the $45 million raised by participating organizaitons in 2014 was a tiny sliver of the $358 billion total that Americans donated that year, as reported by Giving USA.

Can Giving Tuesday become the household tradition its organizers hope for? That lofty expectation is not likely to be met soon, according to Indiana University's Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, which estimates the day is about to reach a plateau, growing at just 5 percent this year and next. Giving Tuesday's organizers have largely focused on increasing participation among businesses this year.

The event boomed quickly, and Lucy Bernholz of Stanford University said that "part of the success no doubt redounds to the simplicity of the idea making giving a cool and social thing to do." She was referring to the organizers' push for participants to publicize their efforts on social media using the hashtag #GivingTuesday.

It's a full embrace brand of "hashtag activism" that critics have previously accused of being narcissistic but viral campaigns have proven to be a powerful tool to make philanthropy self-propelling. In 2014, the "Ice Bucket Challenge" raised more than $100 million in one month for treatment of Lou Gehrig's disease, five times the amount of money that had been raised in all of 2013.

A survey by the American Red Cross last year found that 70 percent of social media users said they would take action in response to seeing their friends and family post about charitable donations online.

Even if creating a new tradition of charity appears to be a tall order, Giving Tuesday's organizers at least have good timing as sentiment moves against this week's commercialization. Participation in Black Friday is expected to decline this year, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, as the shift to online shopping disperses Christmas sales. And though most Americans say they still shop on Thanksgiving Day itself, 72 percent say they think stores should be closed on the holiday.

Those interested in participating in Giving Tuesday can visit the campaign's website, which includes ideas for nonprofits, businesses, individuals, cities and schools.
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