NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Give until it breaks. That seems to be the theme today as Americans embrace the second annual #GivingTuesday, an annual effort on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving involving thousands of organizations dedicating efforts to fundraising in a national campaign to raise awareness of charities and to foster a culture of giving.
#GivingTuesday was founded in 2012 by the New York community center 92nd Street Y in cooperation with the UN Foundation and other partners, including Mashable and Facebook (FB). The idea, as TheStreet reported two weeks ago, was to take advantage of the holiday season to turn attention to the needs of nonprofits and charity work in all aspects of society.
The 2012 effort was a huge success, raising the level of donations 53% over the same day a year earlier with over 2,500 partner organizations on board. This year, the number of partners has more than doubled and the founders are hoping for another large percentage increase over 2012's giving.
All signs indicate they will get their wish. When TheStreet interviewed founder Henry Timms, the interim executive director of New York City's 92nd Street Y, the group already had over 5,000 partners and that number was increasing in increments of "hundreds" every day.
Today, a note on the #GivingTuesday Web site reads, "Due to an incredible response, we are not able to register any more new partners on our site for 2013, but you can still get involved!"
Increasing the group's visibility, one important and highly visible sponsor to sign on this year is Google (GOOG). A link to #GivingTuesday's Google Hang-Out, that began at 9 a.m., is prominently featured on Google's search page. Billed as a Hang-Out-a-Thon, the online event features presentations from a large roster of prominent partners, including representatives of Mashable, Save the Children USA, Unicef and the Happy Hearts Fund and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees among many others.
The UN Foundation, is using #GivingTuesday to promote its Nothing But Nets program under which anyone may buy a gift in the name of their loved ones of an insecticide-treated bed net for families in sub-Saharan Africa, to protect against the spread of malaria.
#GivingTuesday provides an opportunity for anyone "to make philanthropy a part of their holiday traditions," said Chris Helfrich, director of Nothing But Nets, in a press release. "I can't think of anything more worthy than helping to save a childs life from a preventable disease like malaria."
The New York Foundling is one New York-based group that is partnering with Unicef for #GivingTuesday to help children in the Philippines affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan. The group is dedicating all funds raised today to the Unicef relief and aid effort.
"Unicef is doing great work to help the children of the Philippines," said Bill Baccaglini, CEO of The New York Foundling, in a press release. For the past 144 years, we have worked to help children across New York, so in the spirit of Thanksgiving and #GivingTuesday, we are proud to partner and help support the world's children."
In the Phillipines more than 5 million children are in need, Baccaglini said, adding "The magnitude of this tragedy unites us in a human bond that transcends all borders."
As the hashtag in its name indicates, #GivingTuesday is not just a platform for fundraising for charities. It is the product of the social media age, a sponsorship of community and conversation about basic human values of caring for one another. In our earlier interview, Timms pointed out that the organization had already attracted attention from billionaires (including Bill Gates) and major corporations driving donations to their targeted causes, small business, local arts groups and average American families in conversation around the dinner table.
"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 national day of giving also acts as a nice antacid against the nauseating commercialism and consumerism of Black Friday -- a day when average Americans seem intent on establishing a tradition of 2 a.m. salesfloor brawls over the latest $25 dollar hoodie from Victoria's Secret -- and Cyber Monday -- when we continue to shop from home while nursing our bruises.
But Timms himself isn't so cynical about the season's shopping urges. Christmas shopping itself is, after all, based on the notion of giving.
"We always thought about it in a very positive sense," he said. "One of the things that makes America great is generosity. It's one of the core themes of this country and I think #GivingTuesday can be a celebration of that too."
--Written by Carlton Wilkinson in New York