LOS ANGELES — Maybe you were one of the shoppers who propelled Black Friday to $9 billion in online sales last week.

Perhaps you ventured out a day later on Small Business Saturday to support local shops before busting out your credit card yet again for Cyber Monday, which broke records this year as the biggest day for online shopping in U.S. history.

Well, now is the time to press the pause button on all that profligate spending and instead think charitably. 

What You Need To Know

  • GivingTuesday is an annual day of global generosity that encourages individuals to give back to their communities

  • In 2019, GivingTuesday raised $1.97 billion

  • Many charities are matching individual donations made on GivingTuesday

  • The charitable day takes place annually on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving

GivingTuesday is now upon us, kicking off a day of global generosity during which individuals are encouraged to give back to their communities through donations to a favorite cause, volunteer work, or a simple act of kindness.

"We’ve seen a great surge of giving this year," said Caryn Stein, chief communications officer for the nonprofit. "Especially during challenging times, people have a great urge to do something good. When people talk about generosity, typically we see them talking about donations and nonprofits and fundraising, and we certainly encourage that. But we believe everyone has something to give, and every act of generosity counts, big or small, whether it’s spending time with your neighbor or volunteering your time.”

Now in its ninth year, GivingTuesday began as an initiative of the 92nd Street Y and United Nations Foundation in New York City. It has since grown into a global event that raised $1.97 billion last year alone, prompting the nonprofit to become a freestanding organization supporting events in 70 countries. In the U.S. this year, Stein estimates 230 local campaigns are taking place.

Many organizations now leverage GivingTuesday for their own fundraising, oftentimes luring donations with matching contributions that double their impact. For donations made today, local groups, including the gang rehabilitation organization Homeboy Industries and the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, are both offering matching grants of $100,000. 

“These donors are hoping to inspire other donors to make gifts as they can afford to,” said Steve Delgado, chief development officer for Homeboy Industries.

The Boyle Heights nonprofit that provides mental health, legal, and educational services for former gang members expects to receive about 500 donations Tuesday, which will trigger the $100,000 match.

“As much as the dollars it generates, it’s really an important symbolic day for us, reminding our community that we’re still doing everything we’ve always done and more, particularly during these times,” said Delgado.

Whether it’s juvenile rehabilitation, racial justice, suicide prevention, or natural disaster response, the need for help this year is great.

“The demand for food and food assistance, we have not seen it decrease. We have seen it continue,” said Michael Flood, president and chief executive of the L.A. Regional Food Bank.

Due to COVID-19 and the economic downturn that has ensued, distributions from the group are up 145% compared with pre-pandemic levels.

“From our standpoint, that is staggering,” said Flood, adding that during the Great Recession, food distributions had increased 43%. 

Like so many other charitable organizations, the L.A. Regional Food Bank is leaning on GivingTuesday to help raise funds, including a matching grant from a private donor. A $1 donation made today enables eight meals instead of the usual four. 

“We’ve found GivingTuesday very helpful as a way to raise funding,” said Flood, noting that those funds have been increasing year after year, along with public awareness of the annual post-Thanksgiving event. 

Food security is one of the top causes individuals are supporting this year, according to Charity Navigator, along with nonprofits supporting job adaptation and the environment. 

“Even though individuals are hit hard, they are still digging deep and they are giving,” said Michael Thatcher, president of Charity Navigator.

In addition to helping people figure out what charities are legitimate and impactful, the nonprofit website has its own charitable arm called the Giving Basket that is leveraging GivingTuesday in the hopes of raising $2 million this year.

"It helps people facilitate their giving transaction once they found a nonprofit on our site that they want to support, and it lets them give to multiple charities at one time,” Thatcher said.

The kickoff to giving season, GivingTuesday is one of the highest traffic days of the year for Charity Navigator, which evaluates the financial health, accountability, and transparency of more than 9,000 charities. Already, traffic to the website is 25% greater this year compared with the same time in 2019, Thatcher said.

December, as a whole, is a big month for charities, as people rush to make donations in order to claim a tax deduction.

“That’s our busy season,” said Wendy Kirwen, director of communications for Kars 4 Kids, a nonprofit with the mission of funding educational, developmental, and recreational programs for low-income youth by taking individuals’ unwanted cars, RVs, and motorcycles. "We’ve been operating full speed ahead as far as accepting donations and people being willing to give an old car to charity, rather than make a few bucks out of it, which is good because the need on the other end is as strong as ever.”