Giving Tuesday
Giving Tuesday. Photo via Pixabay

Giving Tuesday, an annual day of generosity kicking off the holiday giving season, takes place this year on Nov, 30. It’s hard to believe this worldwide effort was started just nine years ago in 2012 by a single organization. New York City’s 92nd Street Y partnered with the United Nations Foundation to designate a single day to encourage people to do good in the world.

Fueled by the universally recognized hashtag #GivingTuesday across all social media platforms, it’s a viral phenomenon inspiring people to give and celebrate the joy of generosity. In 2020, Giving Tuesday raised a record $2.47 billion in the United States alone. This figure reflects a 29% increase from 2019.

It couldn’t have come at a better time for nonprofit organizations like San Diego’s Serving Seniors. Many have had to deliver even more desperately needed services with limited resources — especially during the pandemic.

According to a new nationwide report, more than half (53%) of all American nonprofits have had greater demand for their services during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, one-third are experiencing higher operating costs. Meanwhile, healthcare precautions often prevent critical hands-on volunteer participation.

When the pandemic forced the closure of our service delivery sites, Serving Seniors had to create a meal delivery service overnight. Meanwhile, in 2020 the need for our services tripled. Without the support we receive, older adults struggling with low-incomes and homelessness might have gone hungry and cold through the holidays.

But people stepped up to help. Approximately one in ten Americans including San Diegans participated in Giving Tuesday last year. The average donation was $147. Another seven million people donated their time to Giving Tuesday campaigns.

What I found especially encouraging: 82% of all participants in Giving Tuesday activities are Millennials aged 18 to 34. It’s a big stereotype buster about a generation unfairly portrayed as selfish and self-centered. Far from it. We see this every day among the many donors and volunteers who have a special affinity for helping our older adult clients.

Employers and foundations are also doing their part by offering to match donations to qualifying nonprofits. Serving Seniors will receive matching funds from a generous donor for donations given to our organization on November 30 via our website.

Nearly one third of all charitable giving takes place in December; 12% takes place the last three days of the year. One in four nonprofit organizations raise half of their total donations for the year during the holidays.

Whatever cause is special to you, whether it’s the environment, the arts, healthcare, children, or older adults, the holiday season can determine an organization’s ability to provide services and support.

You might be surprised how efficiently your favorite nonprofit puts your donations to work. Serving Seniors can provide two weeks of lunches to an older adult for $50; two months of breakfasts for $250; or 250 meals for $1,000. We call it a “Miracle In a Meal.”

For many people, a meal is just a meal. But for seniors living in poverty a meal is so much more. It’s an entry point to all Serving Seniors’ life-changing services

During my 26 years as CEO of Serving Seniors, I’ve talked directly with the people who benefit from our services. Thanks to donors on Giving Tuesday and throughout the year, Serving Seniors can change someone’s life for the better in a real and meaningful way. I’ve learned through their example that generosity is the real joy of the holiday season.

Paul Downey is CEO of Serving Seniors, a San Diego-based nonprofit that helps seniors in poverty live healthy and fulfilling lives.