Guest Column

Giving Tuesday: for whatever reason, say yes

November 27, 2015
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You know the sequence: Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and then Giving Tuesday. We have Henry Timms, executive director of 92nd Street Y in New York, to thank for creating and launching this day in 2012.

Perhaps for too long, nonprofits have leaned toward the side of being low key — quiet and in the background of good things happening in communities. There’s something about being an organization with a hand extended that calls for modesty. But that modesty can get in the way of being more vocal about the great work we do.

Giving Tuesday, Dec. 1, is an opportunity for nonprofits to share their stories, celebrate giving and toot their own horns. It is a time to connect with donors and to help build a new and unselfish social habit of giving. It’s good for people and good for nonprofits.

While Grand Rapids is known as a giving community and that is certainly something we should be grateful for and proud of, there is still lots of room for growth in our giving.

People in Kent County give about 4.24 percent of their income each year, which is about $3,600. That’s generous by any measure, but we have a way to go to catch up with places like Utah County, Utah, where residents donate 8.9 percent of their income to nonprofits for a total of $7,679.

We even could use a little catch-up with our counterparts in Ottawa County, who give $4,276 a year to nonprofits and other charitable organizations.

Perhaps Giving Tuesday, with all of the hype and hoopla, will encourage local residents and business owners to dig a little deeper and act.

People have been compelled to camp out for a bargain and surf the web for an amazing deal — so why not jump into Giving Tuesday and say, “Yes, I’m a philanthropist.”

People give for many reasons, and throughout my career in philanthropy, I’ve talked to hundreds of people who have shared their stories of giving back. Have you ever thought about why you give to the causes you care about?

The question isn’t as easy to answer as you might think.

Following are the reasons I hear most often, and I’m sure one or more of these are likely to strike a chord with you:

  • I was raised to give to charity — it’s a tradition in my family.
  • I want to feel I’m changing someone’s life.
  • I feel fortunate and want to give something back to others.
  • The community has helped me build my business, and I want to give back.
  • I give for religious reasons — God wants me to share my affluence.
  • It makes me feel connected to other people and builds my social network.
  • I want to leave a legacy that carries out my ideals or my favorite cause.

One thing we know is that people most often give for one reason: because they’re asked.

This Giving Tuesday, look for the opportunities that present themselves and say yes to the person who asks you to give. I promise, it will make you feel great, and you’ll make an impact on many lives in our community with your donation.

Diana Sieger is president of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.


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