‘Tis the Season: Giving and Giving Back

Patricia O’Connell

Traditionally, almost a third of charitable giving in the United States happens during the holiday season. “Giving Tuesday”-- a response to Black Friday and Cyber Monday -- highlights how the increasing popularity of online donations. But for some businesses, giving back is a year-round tradition.

The site rates thousands of charitable organizations on metrics around transparency, financial health, and accountability.

According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, one of the biggest boosts to fundraising in recent years has been the ease with which people can donate online. Look no further than the success of “Giving Tuesday,” an online charitable initiative begun in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y and the UN Foundation.

Now considered the unofficial start of the holiday giving season, since 2012, $1 billion has been raised worldwide through Giving Tuesday (which actually often falls in November). This year, $380 million was raised – a 27% increase over the amount raised in 2017. On Facebook alone, more than $125 million was raised, compared to $45 million last year. Facebook and PayPal’s $7 million Giving Tuesday match helped spur online donations, with donors hoping to give money before the match amount was exhausted.

With regard to donating, Charity Navigator notes that it doesn’t always spring from altruistic reasons, citing an increase in what it calls “Rage Giving.” It defines this mode of giving as what happens when someone is “so infuriated, insulted, affected… that it incites protection via philanthropy. The salve for that fury and frustration—which can so often feel aimless or empty—ends up revealing itself in the form of charitable donations to causes and organizations that will work to combat such threats.”

One of the most unlikely stories of Christmas giving has sparked a tradition that resonates around the world. In 1931, the first Christmas tree was put up at Rockefeller Center – a gift from construction workers grateful for employment during the Great Depression. Though modest in size and decorated by the workers with just paper and cranberries, its message was unmistakable. Now, eighty-seven years later, the tree—always a grand tree festooned with thousands of lights – draws some 800,000 people daily during the holiday season.

Though Giving Tuesday was started as a response to shopping-oriented Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s also possible to shop with purpose and impact. Here’s a look at three companies that make that possible with a combination of mission and donation.

Started by two friends who met through their rescue dogs, FOUND MY ANIMAL sells nautical-themed leashes, collars, harnesses, bowls and other accessories for dogs, cats, and horses, donating 10% of proceeds to animal adoption and rescue charities. Its signature product – a leash made out of marine rope – was first made in orange, as a nod to both the orange rescue buoys that fishermen rely on, and to its mission to promote animal rescue. Locally sourced materials are used to make the handcrafted accessories at a cooperative in Brooklyn, New York.

CUDDLE + KIND’s signature, handmade knit dolls are crafted in Peru with natural, non-toxic cotton. The company does good on both ends: by providing more than 750 female artisans in Peru with a sustainable, fair trade income, and by providing 10 meals to children in need for every doll that is sold. To date, the company has provided more than 5 million meals, with a goal of 1 million meals a year.

Founders Jen and Derek Woodgate see their business as a family affair, even though their children are school-age. “We believe in the power of business to help others and that it’s possible to build both a fulfilling and rewarding career by trying to make the world a better place,” the Woodgates say on the company’s website. “CUDDLE + KIND provides an opportunity for our children to see first-hand how they can help others and how each of us can make a difference.”

Started by former model Lauren Bush Lauren (granddaughter of the late President George H.W. Bush and niece of President George W. Bush) in 2007, FEED describes itself as an impact driven lifestyle company with the mission of helping to eradicate hunger in the U.S. and abroad through the sale of its FEED-branded bags and accessories. Each product bears a number that indicated the number of meals that will be donated thanks to the sale of the item.

The CEO is proud and unapologetic about her company’s for-profit status. “Our main mode is to be a business,” Bush Lauren told Fortune Magazine. “The more we can grow our business, the more we can do, the more we can donate.… If you want to give to a charity, I encourage you to give directly to our giving partners, as we’re doing.”