Today is Giving Tuesday, a day that caps off the Thanksgiving Week and Cyber Monday shopping bonanza with donations to local and national causes.

Americans are generous every day, but especially today. Created in 2012 as a day to do good, Giving Tuesday has become one of the biggest single days of charitable giving throughout the year. 

Last year, Americans gave a record-breaking $2.47 billion to charities on Giving Tuesday. That was during a pandemic when the economy took a tumble and over 20 million people lost their jobs. We give even in hard times to ensure that our neighbors and strangers are cared for.

Did you know

Check out these seven statistics about charitable giving in 2020:

  1. Americans gave away more than $1.29 billion per day ($471.44 billion in total) to charity in 2020.
  2. Total charitable giving in 2020 grew 3.8 percent (adjusted for inflation) even as U.S. GDP fell by 2.3 percent from 2019.
  3. Individuals contributed the largest share of total giving (just under 70%), not corporations or even foundations.
  4. Individuals gave their highest total dollar amount to date ($324 billion) adjusted for inflation.
  5. Giving by foundations rose an inflation-adjusted 15.6 percent while corporate giving fell by 7.3 percent.
  6. Religious organizations are the top destination for gifts. They received an estimated $131.08 billion in contributions.
  7. America is the world’s most generous nation

3 Things to do on Giving Tuesday

You don’t have to be Melinda Gates or MacKenzie Scott (Jeff Bezos’s ex-wife) to make an impact today. 

Here are three easy things you can do to give like a billionaire today:

  1. Choose a cause to give to. You’ll probably be bombarded with text, email, phone, and social media solicitations. Pick one (or two or three) and decide how much you want to give to each. Selecting issues that you are passionate about or that directly impact your community, family, and life can be the best places to start.
  2. Do some research on the charity. There are free online charity-rating websites such as Charity Navigator and Guidestar that provide information on nonprofit groups. You can learn about their history, their finances, and how much of every dollar they receive goes to programs or is consumed by overhead costs. High overhead costs is not a scarlet letter, but could indicate waste or mismanagement.
  3. Give. No gift is too small. The collective impact of your dollar paired with someone else’s may be transformational for the person served. Also, think about whether you plan to continue giving on a regular basis through partnerships and memberships to magnify the impact of your gift. And save your receipts for tax-filing purposes.

For those who want to give more strategically, The Philanthropy Roundtable has some good advice as well.

American generosity

Americans are generous because we have a can-do spirit that doesn’t wait for the government to solve problems but motivates us to act. That is probably why we are far more charitable than our global counterparts. 

The generosity of Americans also powers charities. Just as Americans are diverse, they give to various causes from education to health to arts to environmentalism to journalism. Causes may be national, international, or local. We give to support immediate challenges and long-term problems. 

The power of philanthropy is that it supports innovative, inventive, groundbreaking, and even experimental ideas that government shies away from. Private giving also supports the causes that may be controversial and unpopular from women’s suffrage to gay rights.  

Private giving is essentially an expression of free speech as well as freedom of association and religion. It’s critical that we protect private giving against threats to reduce how much we have to give, what causes we can support, and the vehicles we use to give.

However you choose to give today or during this holiday season, know that every dollar counts.