Not in the Giving Vein Today?

Peter Wood

Today my inbox filled up with friendly reminders from charities that this is “Giving Tuesday.” The designation originated in 2012 in an effort by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation. The first announcement went out from Mashable, and several corporate partners joined in, including Skype, Cisco, and Microsoft. I have this on the good authority of Wikipedia.

I decided that NAS would sit out the “Giving Tuesday” dance, at least for this year. I wish the participants well, and I certainly don’t want to discourage people from contributing to NAS on this or any other day. But it strikes me that NAS isn’t a very good match with the psychology of Giving Tuesday. The idea behind the day is to organize altruism around an anti-consumerist theme. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have supposedly prompted orgies of consumer spending. Giving Tuesday is meant to guilt those consumers into doing something for others. These repentant consumers are edged further to charitable giving by the prospect of some matching grants.

Giving Tuesday is apparently a success for many charities. Last year more than 40,000 non-profits “celebrated” the occasion by making Giving Tuesday appeals. But I’m resisting the gravitational tug of the concept on the grounds that people who support NAS are mostly deliberators who take their time to assess whether a cause deserves their support. Our appeals for money are based on long-term considerations about the shape of our culture and the bearings of our civilization.

It isn’t impossible to match those concerns with a “Hurry up! Give now!” pitch. The Tuesday after Thanksgiving is as good a day as any other, and better for those who have been prompted to think about their annual charities. But on the whole, I’d rather appeal to people outside the rush. I’m also a little uncomfortable with the anti-consumerist rationale of Giving Tuesday. Holiday spending isn’t a blight on humanity that people should atone for. The whisper of anti-capitalism in Giving Tuesday gives me pause. What comes next? Wealth Redistribution Wednesday?

That said, I don’t want to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm for making contributions to favored charities today. I may make a few of my own. But I’ll wait a few days before asking NAS supporters to pitch in again for 2017.

Image Credit: Public Domain.

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