After feeding our economic gluttony with heaping helpings of commercialism on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, stuffed Americans could use a little sustenance for the soul today.
#GivingTuesday provides that opportunity.
The brainchild of the 92nd Street Y, a Jewish cultural center in New York, today's inaugural #GivingTuesday (GivingTuesday.org) is using social media to encourage Americans to set aside the Tuesday after Thanksgiving as an annual day of giving. The hashtag in the name emphasizes how Twitter and other social media markets are being used to spread the word.
In the Chicago area, 19 technology companies will celebrate #GivingTuesday by kicking off "Tech the Halls," a program organized by the crowdsourcing website GiveForward to pay medical bills for those with serious injuries or illnesses.
With more than 2,000 corporate partners and charities across the nation, #GivingTuesday aims to become an annual charitable part of the American landscape to counter news footage of Black Friday shoppers fighting over a slow cooker. We didn't see people camping outside of suburban charities last night so they could be first in line to volunteer, donate goods or write a check today, but lots of companies and nonprofits in the suburbs are embracing the good feelings of #GivingTuesday.
"We are very excited about giving back," says Greg Lernihan, co-founder, president and chief operating officer at Schaumburg-based Convergint Technologies, which integrates electronic security, fire, building and health care technology systems throughout North America. Lernihan says Convergint's 1,090 employees received an email Tuesday saying the company will donate up to $20,000 by matching donations from $50 to $500 that employees make to 501(C) 3 charities as part of #GivingTuesday.
Lernihan, 53, didn't know anything about #GivingTuesday until his wife, Marybeth, saw it in a newspaper article a couple of weeks ago.
"My wife brought it to me because we're into that sort of stuff," says Lernihan, whose company prides itself on employees living balanced lives that integrate "family, business and community." The company website notes the founders are both active in their churches. Lernihan and his wife are parishioners at St. Anne Catholic Community in Barrington, where they live. Convergint co-founder Dan Moceri and his wife, Sharon, belong to St. Gregory's Episcopal Church in Deerfield.
Friends and business associates at a division of Siemens, Moceri and Lernihan left in 2001 to start Convergint in a Barrington basement, building a business that emphasizes values and beliefs.
"It's everything for us. One of our cornerstones is to give back to the community," Lernihan says, calling #GivingTuesday "a tremendous thing."
Some charities and businesses in the suburbs, from Anderson Animal Shelter in South Elgin to the Hinsdale Junior Woman's Club, are using Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to promote the idea of donating time or money to charities today as part of #GivingTuesday.
At the American Society of Safety Engineers, headquartered in Des Plaines, #GivingTuesday provides another way to bring out the best in its suburban employees and more than 34,000 members around the world. The 101-year-old safety society uses #GivingTuesday to urge members to donate personal safety equipment, clothing, food and other items to the victims of Hurricane Sandy, says Diane Hurns, public relations manager for the agency. The 55 employees in Des Plaines also host drives to donate to local food banks and adopt local schools to make sure kids have the supplies they need, Hurns adds.
At Convergint, #GivingTuesday has lots of competition from the other days of the week. Every third Friday in June, the company closes down its offices for Convergint Social Responsibility Day but still pays its employees to join in a day of service working for a food bank, homeless shelter or other charity in the community.
Last April, 31 Convergint colleagues (the company prefers that instead of employees) partnered with a safe drinking water effort called Poured Out on a trip to Haiti. The volunteers, 11 of whom returned to the island earlier this month, built a church/school and installed 47 residential water filters and three industrial filters for orphanages.
While we spend a lot of time during the holiday season focusing on consumption, giving has plenty of rewards, Lernihan says. Giving helps the community, the world and makes the givers happy.
"It's a good thing to do, as well as a good business thing," Lernihan says. "Every company should give back something, right?"