In 2017, the average Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopper spent just over $400 purchasing gifts online for the holiday season. Cyber Monday alone broke a record with $6.59 billion in online sales. At the same time, the average online gift to a nonprofit organization has remained steady at just over $100. In response to this difference, Giving Tuesday was established as an international day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities, and organizations to encourage philanthropy and to celebrate generosity worldwide.

Giving Tuesday is a valuable opportunity for individuals and nonprofits to come together under the banner of generosity and philanthropy. On November 27th, people will make decisions, both large and small, to impact their communities. It is a powerful reminder that small acts of generosity can add up to significant change. The numbers provided above often make us think that generosity and philanthropy are words retained for the Bill Gates and Warren Buffets of the world. However, generosity can, and likely will, begin in smaller increments.

Giving Tuesday provides donors with the ability to connect with causes and issues within their communities, according to Kyle Gammenthaler, Coordinator of Social Impact Initiatives and instructor of the Strategic Philanthropy course at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School. For donors inundated by requests for support during this time of giving, Gammenthaler encourages them to make the simple step of “starting small.”

Mays Business School at Texas A&M offers a class called Strategic Philanthropy in which students practice strategic giving as a group while also developing a personal approach to philanthropy to carry forward into their personal and professional lives. The hallmark of the class is the distribution of $50,000 to $100,000 in funding to local nonprofit organizations. As great as those large amounts are, the class begins by each student receiving a $10 bill. Students are then tasked with using the $10 for good over the following week by noticing the various issues and finding an opportunity to connect with their community. Through this activity, we find that you can experience generosity when you pay for the customer’s food behind you in the Chick-Fil-A line, or by having a meal with a man that is struggling to find that next meal, or in buying flowers to encourage a loved one. If you are struggling to find balance this holiday season, consider following the students’ lead and setting aside a small amount to benefit someone in your community.

Prompted by significant, and often steep, discounts on thousands of valued products, Americans come out in droves to purchase gifts during the start to the holiday season. This season, allow yourself to be prompted by the significant, and often dire, needs of your community as well. Whether you are giving a gift of $100, purchasing a meal for a friend, or making a significant investment of time with a local nonprofit organization, you are participating in the joy of generosity and philanthropy.

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  • Kyle Gammenthaler is Coordinator of Social Impact Initiatives and instructor of the Strategic Philanthropy course at Mays Business School.