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March 25, 2013; Source: Harvard Business Review

Remember Giving Tuesday, or, as it was known in social media circles, #GivingTuesday? Sprung from the people at the 92nd Street YMCA in New York City, it was the day after Cyber Monday and three days after Black Friday. It created quite a buzz in the nonprofit social media sphere, but what lessons were learned that might apply to organizations seeking to create social change via social media?

On the Harvard Business Review blog, Henry Timms, the deputy director of the 92nd Street Y and a co-founder of Giving Tuesday, shared several lessons learned from last fall’s campaign. The idea began in September 2012 and, just 75 days later, there was a 50-state response with over 2,600 partners. Timms’ take on the results: donation platforms saw increased giving and partners reported increases in everything from food drives to volunteering. December 3, 2013 will mark the second Giving Tuesday and partners are already being sought. What worked, and what ideas might apply to other initiatives to build momentum around a nonprofit movement? Here are four key lessons, according to Timms:

  1. Think movement, not initiative.” After creating the idea, partners were brought in and each “support grew in concentric circles, each ring of activity bringing more communities into the cause.”
  2. Think upload, not download.” This involved shunning the idea of “telling groups what they should be doing and how they should be doing it” but, rather, concentrating on enabling people to “make #GivingTuesday their own.”
  3. Think current, not currency.” The organizers felt that the project had a flow to it that they couldn’t “own.” They learned that “to connect with the broad power of social media communities, you have to give up your desire for top-down control.”
  4. Think tools, not rules.” Giving Tuesday participants were given talking points (tools), but what they did with them and whether they chose to use them was up to those on the local level (i.e., no “rules”).

The Giving Tuesday website states, “We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals. Now we have #GivingTuesday™, the giving season’s opening day.” On December 3, how will your nonprofit bring Giving Tuesday into your virtual and real communities? –Jeanne Allen