Saturday, November 30, 2013

Black Friday's over, now it's time for Giving Tuesday

In the U.S., Black Friday is a holiday of sorts dedicated to the rampant consumerism that pretty much defines our nation. While there have been efforts to re-label this as a day dedicated to anti-consumerist sentiment, or to use it to draw attention to unfair labor practices, it is still overwhelmingly known as a day for shopping. And because the American appetite for post-Thanksgiving shopping insanity could not be sated with merely one day, Black Friday is now followed by a host of other Days With Names, such as Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Adding a new twist to this potentially tiresome tradition is a growing campaign to brand a new day: Giving Tuesday.

The #unselfie is another piece of the #GivingTuesday effort
This is how Giving Tuesday is described by those promoting it: "In the same way that retail stores take part in Black Friday, we want the giving community to come together for #GivingTuesday. We ask that partners create and commit to a project for/on #GivingTuesday and then help spread the word to their networks."

Giving Tuesday was launched in December 2012, and early evaluation comparing donations made in the U.S. on the first "Giving Tuesday" with those made the same day the previous year indicate it may be having a substantial impact on charitable giving. This year, part of the promotion includes trying to encourage people to post #unselfies, variations on the  self-centered photos that typically saturate social media, with a more altruistic bent.

Along with "Giving Tuesday," there is a similar effort to re-brand the Tuesday following Cyber Monday as "Fair Tuesday," dedicated to encourage fair trade / ethical gift giving. Those who want to combine ethical gift giving with charitable giving may be able to do so through various methods, including a relatively new site called ProBueno. Pro Bueno is all about giving people a forum to share pro bono services and goods. The twist is that these are also “por bueno,” in that people promise to share their skills in exchange for a donation to their favorite charity. So you can buy guitar lessons or order homemade pumpkin cookies while supporting nonprofit organizations.

Though you’re not really getting these services pro bono, they tend to cost less than similar services would otherwise (not quite as cheap as places like fiverr, but a good value nonetheless). Additionally, the fact that it is all being done for non-profits lends a sort of instant trustworthiness to the transaction. Those receiving services know that the donors have no selfish motives, while those donating services know that they’re able to contribute to their favorite charity by doing something that comes easily to them. The instant trust means that there’s not only a trade of human capital for economic capital, but also the production of social capital.

This site, and these various efforts, are not meant to foster large-scale change or  undo the damage wrought by a culture that puts money above humanity. However, to the extent that they enable an alternative vision of the "season of giving" than the countless media images of people lined up in front of big box stores to buy discount TVs, then I can only see it as a positive development. So, happy holidays, and happy #GivingTuesday to all. 

Gina Cardazone
University of Hawaii at Manoa 

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