#GivingTuesday: How to join in today's national celebration locally

There were more days than ever to kick off the holiday shopping season this year—Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Shop Local Saturday, and for the first time ever, Brown Thursday—still known to some of us as Thanksgiving.
While commercialization of the holidays is on the rise, there’s another movement at work, encouraging individuals to take that same fervor they have for camping out at retail chains, and apply it to giving to a cause they can get behind.
The campaign’s called #GivingTuesday, and you can celebrate it today by taking the time to reflect, share with others, give, or think about ways you can promote positive collective action through involvement with your social networks and the communities in which you live.
The initiative began last year and was founded by Henry Timms, interim executive director at 92nd Street Y—a New York City-based nonprofit community and cultural arts center. Timms and others at 92Y worked with the United Nations Foundation to launch this national day of giving. “We set ourselves a goal of 100 partners that would join with us to celebrate giving in our first year,” he says, “and more than 2,500 partners wound up signing on to the movement.”
After an inaugural year that got more than 50 million people worldwide tweeting about #GivingTuesday, a whopping 8,302 partners from all 50 states are now involved—an increase that Timms says he never imagined.
Here’s what some of those partners are doing locally:
Lighthouse Youth Services
For the past four years, Lighthouse Youth Services has hosted Share on the Square the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, so it was a natural fit for the nonprofit to join in the #GivingTuesday movement.
“We were on top of it last year when it was brand new since we had this event in place,” says Tamie Sullivan, LYS spokesperson. “It’s a way for us to really ramp up the message. We’re asking the community to buy gifts for our youth—there’s over 2,000 of them—and it’s the perfect day to have them think about giving.”
Cincinnati Bengals players will join LYS representatives from 11 a.m. to 1p.m. today at Fountain Square to collect gift cards and top-10 wish list items for the Happy Holidays drive, which helps bring joy to the lives of individuals like Deja Harris, 18, who came into her foster-to-adopt parents’ home at age 14.
Harris says her holiday experience has always been positive because the agency’s donors are able to provide requested items that would not otherwise be possible for her to receive, because her guardians have six siblings to provide for.
“It’s not solely on me—but when I want something, I know the agency will be able to receive it through the holiday donors, and everybody gets what they want,” Harris says. “[In past years] I asked for one thing—the [Amazon] Kindle—and I got it, and I still have it to this day and am still reading books on it.”
Items like these are what Sullivan says go a long way in making adolescents in foster care feel cared for and loved.
“We always encourage the community to think about teenagers and potentially homeless young adults who, in so many ways—they’ve had to grow up so quickly,” Sullivan says. “And yet, they’re still kids.”
Impact 100
Like LYS, Impact 100—a philanthropic group of females who fund $100,000-plus grants to local organizations each year—will join together for its second-annual celebration of #GivingTuesday.
The public is invited to gather to learn more about Impact 100 over wine and appetizers tonight from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the United Way of Greater Cincinnati, prior to a ceremony honoring the work of past recipients while introducing this year’s $108,000 grantees: Crayons to Computers and Easter Seals TriState/Building Value
Women of Impact 100 join the organization by contributing $1,000 dollars a year toward membership fees—all of which goes toward funding transformational projects for nonprofits.
“We are right around 250 members, but our goal for 2014 is to get enough members to fund three grants,” says Becki Meyer, Impact 100 board member. “We’ve never been able to do that before, so this is a real milestone for us if we can achieve it, and it appears we’re within striking distance.”
Over-the-Rhine Community Housing
For Over-the-Rhine Community Housing, an organization that develops and manages properties serving low-income residents, #GivingTuesday presents a first-of-its-kind opportunity for the organization to make such a focused request for donations.
The goal for today is $5,000 dollars, which, if received, will be enough to purchase housekeeping and personal care items for residents of the Jimmy Heath House, which houses 25 males who have been chronically homeless.
Roland Kreager, OTRCH director of development, says donor software employees put #GivingTuesday on his radar last year and suggested the nonprofit get involved.
In fact, Blackbaud, a fundraising software company, processed more than $10 million in online donations on #GivingTuesday last year—a 53 percent increase when compared to the Tuesday after Thanksgiving in 2011—and DonorPerfect saw a 46% increase, while the average gift increased in amount by 25 percent.
Individual Contributions to OTRCH will add to this year’s increases, as each of the organization’s donations received today will be tripled, thanks to a 2:1 match provided by PNC Bank.
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra has also secured a match for #GivingTuesday in its effort to raise funds for a collaborative project with the Freestore Foodbank.
The project—Feeding Kids’ Bellies and Souls—recently won enough public votes in the Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s Big Idea Challenge to receive a $5,000 grant to help get the idea off the ground.
But starting today, and lasting through December 9, any donation received will be matched by the GCF to help CSO musicians kick-start Kids Cafes, where children facing food insecurity can go to receive a meal while also enjoying musical performances from orchestra members.
“Kids need to be fed food, and then they also need to be fed music,” says Meghan Berneking, communications manager for the CSO. “There’s so many benefits from enjoying music at a young age—not just for music appreciation—but developing creativity and being more in touch with their human side.” 
COR Music Project
Like the CSO, COR Music Project also recognizes music’s importance in the lives of youth.
Through its partnership with the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music and ArtsWave, COR is able to provide instruments and music instruction to about 600 students through its in-school efforts at partner schools and its after-school efforts in Avondale with the Avondale Youth Orchestra and Avondale Sings.
COR is celebrating #GivingTuesday with its campaign called Hope for Avondale, which combines the spirit of giving with a community concert at South Avondale Elementary School. The concert begins at 4 p.m. and is followed by a lantern lighting, in which participants can dedicate a lantern to someone making a difference in the Avondale community, or to someone in their life who is in need of hope.
“We’re trying to mobilize the Avondale community to realize that the Avondale Youth Orchestra and Avondale Sings are there—it’s their orchestra, it’s their choir—and we want to do it in a big way,” says Deron Hall, COR Music Project co-founder. “So often we’re able to give our money away, but I think it’s a unique opportunity to give back to our community in a positive way.”  

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

Read more articles by Brittany York.

Brittany York is a freelance writer, adjunct English composition instructor and server at Orchids at Palm Court. She loves travel and photography. Keep up with Brittany on Instagram @brittbrittbrittbrittany.
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