By Alex Amouyel, CEO & President of Newman’s Own Foundation
I never thought Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Hatter would inspire me as it relates to philanthropy, but here goes. Like the Mad Hatter, I wish to celebrate the 364 days of a year that are not Giving Tuesday.
Don’t get me wrong, Giving Tuesday has its purpose—it started in 2012 as a way to promote giving and generosity and as a counterpoint to Black Friday and Cyber Monday’s consumerist craziness. Last year, Giving Tuesday Data Commons estimated that nonprofits raised over $3.1 billion on Giving Tuesday, and it’s a great opportunity to start year-end giving, which is a high point in fundraising for many nonprofits.
However, we are now getting inundated by calls to donate on Giving Tuesday, and not just by nonprofits themselves. Brands are jumping on the bandwagon, and extending their Black Friday promotions, some offering a small charitable commitment if we make a purchase. Buy this pair of shoes for 40% off and we’ll donate 1% to a good cause!
Let me state the obvious. You do not need to buy a pair of shoes to give to great impact organizations. And you do not need Giving Tuesday to be the only day for your giving.
Celebrating the everyday philanthropists
Thus, like the Mad Hatter, let’s celebrate the everyday philanthropists—those who give the 364 days of the year that are not Giving Tuesday. While it might not seem intuitive, most donations in the US come from individuals, with the average American donating 2.1% of their disposable income. According to Charity Navigator, individual donors make up 70% of all contributions in the US, while corporations give 5% and foundations contribute 16%. When we think of philanthropists, we almost exclusively think of those whose names adorn buildings and now rockets, or those recently featured in Town and Country’s Philanthropy Issue. But in fact, it’s the collective power of the smaller donations of the many that drives the majority of the giving in the US. Lower income Americans are in fact the most generous among us on a percentage basis, at 8.4% for those making under $50,000, and the figure is often higher for Black Americans—hovering between 8 to 11% over the past 10 years, according to the Urban Institute.
The everyday philanthropist is…YOU! And everyone who gives, even if it’s small, i.e., $10 a month or $100 once in a while.
Everyone has the opportunity to be a philanthropist, to give away some of their time, expertise, and/or money.
How do we move from Giving Tuesday to a personal practice of more proactive giving throughout the year? As I wrote in my book, The Answer is You: A Guidebook to Creating a Life Full of Impact, I suggest starting with working towards 10% if you can—of your time, money, or both—a goal reflected across many faiths. When choosing organizations, find causes you care about that are proximate to your community. When giving time, prioritize the expertise you can bring to the table, and take your commitment seriously. When giving money, recurring, unrestricted funds are best, especially larger investments to fewer organizations versus smaller sums split across many.
The power of the collective
I think the reason we fail to celebrate the everyday philanthropists is that individually, we might only give a few hundred or a few thousand dollars a year. But there are ways of pooling our funds and our power into collective giving, for example, through Giving Circles, something Sara Lomelin and her organization, Philanthropy Together, are seeking to promote. Collective giving practices are not new. In fact, they show up in many cultures throughout the ages, for example, centuries-old West African and Caribbean Susus—informal lending clubs—where community contributions support a fellow member when they’re in need.
Newman’s Own Foundation is also a great example of collective giving. You might associate us with the legendary actor, racecar driver, and philanthropist Paul Newman. But Paul did something incredible when he first started selling salad dressing: he decided to give all the profits away. Newman’s Own Foundation now owns the food company, and the money the Foundation gives away comes from 100% of the profits and royalties from the sale of Newman’s Own products. Our donors are in fact the millions of consumers who have purchased salad dressing, popcorn, pizza, dog treats, and more over the last 40+ years—thank you!
There are many ways to get started when it comes to collective giving. You can check out Giving Circles that are aligned to your interests, geographies, and more through Philanthropy Together, Grapevine, or your local community foundation. You can even start your own Giving Circle if you do not find one you like.
You can also join the Newman’s Own Community Fund for free—we started it as a way to engage anyone who is interested in our mission, to nourish and transform the lives of children who face adversity. Joining the Community Fund is an opportunity to learn more about our grantee partners, participate in discussions, events, and virtual site visits, and even be part of our grantmaking process.
And we’re starting off with the Newman’s Own $100k Community Giveaway, which aims to turn #GivingTuesday on its head. Instead of asking you to give more, we’re asking you to give away OUR funds through community voting. (Vote through our Community Fund; Learn more about the Community Giveaway.)
Paul Newman was decades ahead of his time when he said: “Let’s give it all away to those who need it.” Children facing food insecurity cannot wait, and the latest USDA figures are going in the wrong direction fast. Let’s all claim our seat at the table as everyday philanthropists and do what we can with our collective power.