A Record-Breaking GivingTuesday Even During the Pandemic

GivingTuesday 2020 shattered records as American donors gave a whopping $2.47 billion on December 1. Despite the pandemic-driven recession earlier this year that has left millions of workers still jobless, the American people responded with an unprecedented level of single-day generosity. As we kick off the end-of-year giving season, charities can take some confidence that when needed, Americans will still answer the call to help.

The Toplines 

According to the GivingTuesday organization, which coordinates GivingTuesday activities and created #GivingTuesday, 34.8 million people participated this year, with Americans giving $808 million online and $2.47 billion overall. This is a 29 percent increase over 2019’s total record-giving level of $1.97 billion, and more than double  2018’s online level of just $400 million. Participation included giving cash, volunteering, and doing “acts of kindness” in the U.S. and 70 other countries. 

This GivingTuesday’s tremendous outpouring adds to the $503 million given earlier this year during #GivingTuesdayNow in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to Facebook and Instagram, 1.9 million people raised more than $135 million on their social platforms, and counting.  In addition, Charity Navigator, the largest charity evaluator, reported a record-breaking day of giving through its website, as donations were up 34 percent.  Community foundations and donor-advised funds also undoubtedly raised or contributed significantly on GivingTuesday, which may not be captured in the official GivingTuesday totals.  

Why This Matters 

 The extraordinary level of charity on GivingTuesday and throughout 2020 indicates two things: Donor fatigue has not set in, and Americans recognize the importance of the charitable sector in alleviating the hardship of this pandemic and other crises.  First, the increase in both the number of donors and the amount raised signal that despite giving earlier this year, Americans are not tired yet. During the spring months, an avalanche of giving by celebrities, athletes, wealthy Americans, and corporations complemented or inspired donations from regular Americans to emergency funds, frontline organizations, and affected individuals. Donor-advised funds also reported increases in donations and distributions in response to COVID-19. 

As the summer wore on, charities worried that donors might have frontloaded their giving to address the pandemic, leaving less for end-of-year efforts. As I wrote last month, a recent survey indicated that donors still planned to give at least as much, if not more than last year, this December. The response to GivingTuesday is at least an initial confirmation that their intentions hold firm.   

Second, the crises our nation experienced this year motivated donors. The pandemic comes to mind, but communities in western states were devastated by wildfires while some communities in the South were damaged by deadly hurricanes and flash floods. Americans who have been affected in some way or know people who have stepped up to help their neighbors as a moral imperative, even as everyone waited for lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to send aid. 

GivingTuesday is more than just a holiday that punctuates a long weekend of consumerism and spending. It is a single-day reminder that we each can play a role in addressing pressing problems while strengthening our communities, and that we can do so without government direction.

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