NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Nonprofits for years have been faced with pressure from a too-slow rise in private donations, declining subscriptions and a long-term erosion of government support. Understanding that it's a national problem, they're now organizing to do something about it.
#GivingTuesday, a national day dedicated to doing good deeds and encouraging others to do the same, was created in 2012 in part to counteract the pressures nonprofits are facing. The idea was for a day of giving coming on the heels of the big retail events of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. #GivingTuesday falls on Dec. 3 this year.
Founder Henry Timms, the interim executive director of New York City's 92nd Street Y, said in an interview Thursday that the goal was to bring the country together around a theme of helping one another.
"We're a community center -- that's what we do," said Timms, referring the 92nd Street Y. "And reimagining what a community center could be" led to the #GivingTuesday concept, he said.
The 92nd Street Y, a New York Jewish community center open to the public and unaffiliated with the YMCA, is itself a large nonprofit and an important cultural presence internationally as well as locally within New York City. While the Recession and its aftermath have hit nonprofits hard, seeing those problems only as a matter of money is missing the point, Timms says.
"All nonprofits are facing the same problems now," he said. "How do we handle innovation? We have to think about how we can renew traditions and new ways of serving our mission... I think the driving force is how we serve our mission in the 21st century. When the nature of community is changing so much, how do you scale your values as an organization?"
To that end, he sees #GivingTuesday as a catalyst. The inclusion of a hashtag in its name indicates not just the push to reach audiences through new channels, but also that giving -- doing good for the community -- is a topic of common concern.
"Everyone from [multibillionaire] Bill Gates, who endorsed the #GivingTuesday campaign, to the average American -- we were always hoping to create something that would be relevant to everybody. Something that can unite people," Timms says.
"There's so much that can divide people. We really hope #GivingTuesday can be a unifying force."
The idea for #GivingTuesday received critical input and support in its initial stages from the UN Foundation, which signed on early as a partner, and representatives at Mashable and Facebook (FB), who helped to refine the parameters for the project. During the planning, Timms said, the project came to be thought of not just as a single-day fund drive, but as a kickoff for holiday contributions that would ultimately help boost momentum for giving for the entire year.
While many nonprofits will set aside the day for fundraising under the #GivingTuesday logo, the group encourages each organization to incorporate the concept into its mission in its own way. The Family Dinner Project, for example, promotes the day as a time to encourage families to talk about the importance of giving. Some employers have offered to let workers have Tuesdays free to do volunteer work for the final weeks of the year.
Bank of America (BAC) will use the day to highlight its partnership with Feeding America, offering a 2-to-1 matching gift up to $1.5 million toward Feeding America's Give a Meal campaign. The 2-to-1 match will apply to money raised between Nov. 18 and Jan. 10.
This year, #GivingTuesday has also branched out beyond U.S. borders, with organizations involved from Israel, Latin America and Singapore.