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SoHE Insights: Giving Tuesday advice from the Center for Community & Nonprofit Studies

Image: Mary Beth Collins, executive director of the Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies in the School of Human Ecology.

SoHE Insights is a series featuring guest posts from students and faculty. Below, Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies Executive Director Mary Beth Collins shares her research- and experience-based recommendations for charitable giving.

Today, millions of people will donate to charity as part of “Giving Tuesday,” an event created in 2012 that now annually follows on the heels of America’s biggest shopping days, “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday.” Giving Tuesday can serve to assuage some guilt over one’s more materialist holiday engagements, but it can also be a meaningful opportunity to reflect on one’s values, learn more about one’s community, and develop lasting relationships with nonprofits.

Mary Beth Collins, executive director of SoHE’s Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies (known as “the CommNS”), has decades of experience in the nonprofit and philanthropic communities. She notes, “We live in an era when opportunities to conduct charitable giving have never been more visible and varied, and when important conversations are happening about the impact and role of philanthropy in society. During the holiday season, individuals and families may be considering how to ‘give back’ or make others’ holiday season a bit brighter, but finding it difficult where to direct their donations, gifts, or time.”

Collins offers a number of guidelines as families and individuals select their Giving Tuesday beneficiaries:

  • Engaging youth in giving activities can be valuable, but be sure to provide appropriate options and context. Consider discussing the question, “Why are some families having a harder time than others in our communities?”
  • Always keep an asset-based lens, recognizing the dignity and talents of all neighbors and community members.
  • Consider focusing on organizations that are particularly well connected to the community members they serve. In other words, is the organization authentically connected to and led by those most impacted?
  • Money matters, and those who do the work know how best to use it. If you have the ability to provide even small monetary donations to organizations doing good, this may have more impact than in-kind donations. (Of course, if organizations list needed supplies or opportunities to participate in giving trees, those are certainly also positive ways to contribute.)
  • Try setting an intention for your coming year as opposed to a “one-and-done” activity. That could mean finding an ongoing volunteer activity, serving on an organization’s Board or committee, or helping to fundraise or provide recurring contributions.
  • Explore and learn more about the role of philanthropy in our communities. Join the ongoing, important conversation about which roles and supports nonprofits should conduct, and which needs and problems nonprofits are working to address—and why.