Giving Tuesday is a day that encourages people to do good. Founded in the US in 2012, it was created as a direct counterpoint to days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday which foster consumerism. Over the last 10 years, Giving Tuesday has grown into a global movement that inspires millions of people in more than 80 countries to give back, collaborate and celebrate generosity. 2022 is expected to be a record-breaking year for Giving Tuesday, with estimated $3.2 billion due to be donated globally this year.
The US is a world-leader when it comes to Giving Tuesday, with the country predicted to contribute the lion’s share of that $3.2 total. More than 35 million people in the US participated in Giving Tuesday in some form last year and its domestic success grows year on year.
But there are signs that Giving Tuesday is also becoming increasingly popular in the UK. Having become an official partner in 2014, the British public donated over £20.2 million (£14,000 a minute) to charitable causes on Giving Tuesday in 2021. Although this is nowhere near the same level of contributions in the US, it would be too simplistic to draw a direct comparison between the two countries.
There are clear differences in the cultures of giving between the US and UK. Philanthropy in the US is more entrenched in the tapestry of society; there is a great sense of expectation that wealthy individuals should give back to their local community or the country, often with appropriate personal recognition in return. The reserved attitude of the British towards wealth, and antiquated associations with noblesse oblige, are perhaps reasons why the mega philanthropists and acts of significant charitable largesse do not exist on the same scale in the UK as they do in the US.
With that in mind, UK-based philanthropy can all too easily be compared unfavourably to the US. However, this comparison fails to account for the growing indications that the UK is developing into a global hub for philanthropy. UK private giving is currently estimated at £22.3 billion. Within this figure, social investment has grown nearly eight-fold from £833 million in 2011 to £6.4 billion in 2020 and is expected to double by 2025. The UK also has some of the most respected and favourable legal and regulatory frameworks in the world which have contributed to a growth in international donors setting up in London. The UK’s status as a world-leading financial centre also provides a strong setting from which international philanthropy can continue to thrive.
The UK currently ranks 4th in terms of private giving as a percentage of GDP, falling behind the US, New Zealand and Canada respectively. A recent report by the APPG on Philanthropy and Social Investment has found that if the UK were to achieve the same level of generosity as Canada or New Zealand, it would generate an additional £5 billion for civil society organisations. This demonstrates that although the British philanthropic sector, worth more than £100 billion, is undoubtedly significant, there is still room for it to grow.
Initiatives like Giving Tuesday can help with that growth. Here are three reasons why I think why the UK should do more to embrace it.
Firstly, given the turbulence of the last few years caused by Covid, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the sky-rocketing cost of living, charities in the UK and the people they support need all the help they can get. There are several indications that philanthropists have reacted well to recent challenges. For example, at National Philanthropic Trust UK, grants from our donors have doubled in financial value since 2020 and there is every indication that trend will continue. The last few weeks of the year is also an extremely important time for charities to meet their fundraising targets. Statistics suggest people feel most charitable at the end of year, during what many call “Giving Season”. Approximately 31 per cent of all annual giving in the UK occurs in December alone.
Secondly, as an independent campaign with no agenda other than to celebrate generosity, Giving Tuesday is perfectly placed to encourage collaboration among funders and between sectors. We can only address the largest societal issues when the private and public sectors pull in the same direction. Of course, this can happen at other times of the year, but Giving Tuesday reminds us of the fundamental values of charitable giving; nobody owns the act of “doing good” and we will have the greatest impact if we collectively support one another.
Thirdly, philanthropy is not just about donating money. Giving Tuesday celebrates and encourages giving in all its forms and that includes sharing your time, skills and resources. It is a day where everyone, everywhere can do something to support the good causes and communities they are part of or that matter to them.
While charitable giving in the UK may not reach the same level as its US counterpart, I am confident it will continue to grow. There is much to learn and share between the two nations and as we approach Giving Tuesday this year, I hope we can commit to encouraging generosity in the UK and ensure that there is cause for celebration on both sides of the Atlantic.
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