Giving Tuesday: Charity’s Version of Retail Therapy

(The following editorial was published in The New Britain Herald on Tuesday, December 2, 2014. To view the piece as it appeared in the newspaper, click here.)

Giving Tuesday: Charity’s Version of Retail Therapy

By Jim Williamson

Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Giving Tuesday.

Giving Tuesday?

If that term throws you off, don’t fret. Corporate America has made certain that the retail phenomena Black Friday and Cyber Monday are so ingrained in our consciousness we almost feel guilty not spending a little post-Thanksgiving cash.

Unfortunately, America’s charities and community interests don’t have such deep pockets to promote the nation’s charitable version of retail therapy.

Yet here it is upon us, Giving Tuesday, the quintessential antidote to what seems to be – at least in some quarters – the uniquely American notion that the holidays are more about spending than giving. Of course we know better, and if catch phrases and slogans can work to sell x-boxes and tablets, then they can work to sell charity.

Consider this opinion piece your official Sunday flyer promoting not sales, but generosity.

Giving Tuesday, as gimmicky as it may sound, appeals to what research has shown is America’s inherent charitable nature. The idea that it is better to give than to receive has been around since time began, but that doesn’t make this fundamental truism any less true: Giving makes us feel good.

We here in Central Connecticut have even more incentive to donate to charity than ever before. A recent Chronicle of Philanthropy report found that Greater Hartford is the least generous region in terms of charitable giving among the 50 largest metro areas in America.

Ouch, that hurts, especially for someone like me whose job it is to solicit charity. But importantly it should hurt you, too, if you possess the kind of compassion I know our communities have and that I’ve personally seen – every day – since I came to Greater New Britain more than 10 years ago.

Look all around you, it is not difficult to find a cause or organization that cannot use your support, be it a monetary donation or the gift of your time. You may not know it, but many of your very own neighbors, people just like you, are making donations right now or volunteering their time to help a local shelter, food pantry, arts or civic organization.

And if, by chance, you are among those who believe charity is a luxury only for the wealthy, think again: The same study reported that the less people earn, the higher the proportion of their income goes to charity. Generosity knows no tax brackets.

If you are uncertain about how to give back, the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain can help. For example, our Civic Leadership Fund – our year-end appeal – is an important community fund that benefits a wide variety of programs, services and initiatives that make our communities better. It is one of many options at many local organizations worthy of your support.

So on this Giving Tuesday, take pause and consider giving back. You may not get a new I-Pad in return – but you’ll certainly sleep a whole lot better.

(Jim Williamson is President of the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain, www.cfgnb.,org.)