By Bradley Depew
After the shop-’til-you-drop excess of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday provides a welcome reminder that the holiday season is not just about bargain hunting and other forms of self-interest. It is also about being appreciative of what you have and giving back to help out those less fortunate. Altruism is an important part of what makes the holiday season special.
It is vital that we encourage the spirit of altruism at this time of year, not just because we should make sure that those less fortunate than us are provided for during the holidays, but also because many nonprofits rely on the increased donations they receive in December to continue doing their important work. According to one study, nearly twice as much is donated in December as in any other month of the year. With unemployment rates still higher than they were pre-recession, and with Typhoon Haiyan and other (sadly, in some cases, man-made) humanitarian crises plaguing communities world wide, it is crucial that we support the nonprofits who often lead relief efforts, as well as those working on longer-term solutions to issues like poverty and environmental conservation.
Of course, there are other reasons why giving is important to so many people at this time of year. The close of the year marks our last chance to make charitable contributions and earn a tax break come April. We’ve got to get those charitable checks in the mail by December 31st if we hope to ease our tax burden for the year.
Whether they are inspired by the spirit of the holiday season or by the end of the tax year, now is a time when many employees are actively seeking opportunities to give. Giving Tuesday can also provide us with a welcome reminder that we need to make sure that our employees are finding the giving opportunities that are right for them.
This means providing our employees with a range of options when it comes to giving: every cause from improving U.S. schools improving health in developing countries should be made available. It also means providing our employees with the knowledge and information they need to feel empowered to become effective philanthropists, so that they can give with confidence that their donations are going to the most effective nonprofits doing the best work in their field.
With around 1,000,000 IRS-registered charities in the U.S. alone, the nonprofit world is complex year-round. But at this time of year, employees are often dealing with the added confusion that comes from being bombarded with phone calls, direct mailings, and other forms of solicitation. Everyone is asking for money around the holidays, but not everyone is necessarily deserving. The for-profit fundraising companies that stirred up so much controversy in the wake of the Tampa Bay Times/Center for Investigative Reporting’s collaborative report on America’s Worst Charities are sometimes the very people making the calls to ask for donations.
We owe it to our employees to meet their demand for trustworthy, effective giving outlets that will put their money to good use, and the holiday season is the perfect time to examine whether your company is properly meeting this demand. The Bright Funds workplace giving platform is an employee giving solution that puts high-impact giving at employees’ fingertips. Bright Funds leverages foundation-level research to build "mutual funds" of the best nonprofits working in six issue areas: education, poverty, the environment, water, health, and human rights. And because Bright Funds’ platform is cloud-based, it is scalable and does not require lengthy IT integration. Companies of all sizes can partner with Bright Funds, and their employees will be able sign up and start doing good within 24 hours.
The holiday season brings out the best in people, and Giving Tuesday is a wonderful catalyst for getting people thinking about the ways that they can give back. But Giving Tuesday shouldn’t just be about asking individuals to give—it should also prompt companies of all shapes and sizes to ask whether they are doing enough to provide an effective outlet for employees’ philanthropic energy. In the spirit of Giving Tuesday, now is the perfect time to analyze your company’s employee giving programs and to ask whether you could enhance both your business’s and your employees’ social impact.