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Empathy every day, not just today

Since its inception in 2012, Giving Tuesday has become a remarkable cultural tent-pole for personal generosity and institutional donation. The movement, started by the 92nd Street Y, has grown massively in the past six years — inspiring online charitable donations that exceeded $300 million in 2017. The insight behind the movement is exceptional: create a day of giving right after two days of getting (Black Friday and Cyber Monday).

Foundations, non-profits, and corporations such as Microsoft, Cisco, and Google have flocked to Giving Tuesday. But beyond raising money, the effort has done something more: It has brilliantly named and articulated, and has activated a deep-seated desire in culture to give back to society and help others in need. The purpose-led movement will continue to shape the way people choose to buy. And this movement, espoused in the ethos of Giving Tuesday, will invariably grow into ways of giving beyond just a day.

Micro-donation apps are blossoming, letting people make big differences with small donations. Services such as Charity Miles, Tithe.ly, ShareTheMeal, and One Today use technology to pool, direct, and measure small donations for millions of people. Apps that round-up your change as a donation, such as Coin Up and RoundUp, let consumers give a little every time they buy something, making people rethink how they donate to good causes.

Companies and corporations are mobilizing their most important capital – their employees – to make a difference, as well. Instead of just cutting a check to a charity of choice, businesses are letting employees give to a wide array of local non-profits and highly specific causes that are personally germane, and matching those donations for maximum impact. Project Worldwide, Genworth Financial, and Biogen Foundation all partnered with Benevity last year to raise their company matching rates for Giving Tuesday. It seems that the best thing this holiday has instilled in people and businesses is the intention and opportunity to give more.

Of course, there is still much more giving we can all do that goes beyond the financial. Volunteering is one way. With the value of a volunteer hour at an all-time high of $24.14, giving time to help is something that can be done on any day of the week. Many companies have internally driven volunteer days – clean-ups, building projects, teaching, food service, etc. – that seemingly check the box on the good that they can do. Why not extend this, and institute a corporate program wherein companies match the value of the hours that employees give to charity?

Companies are already beginning to give away services to create more social impact. AB InBev has been donating canned water to disaster relief efforts for decades, using its canning and delivery expertise to distribute a survival necessity to hundreds of thousands in need. Airbnb works to give housing to refugees and people displaced by manmade and natural disasters. Toms Shoes gives a pair of shoes for every one sold – and, founder and CEO Blake Mycoskie just announced that his company is donating $5 million to fight gun violence, the single largest corporate gift to this cause in the US. His announcement on a recent episode of The Tonight Show was an emotional show of a CEO taking the act of giving very personally. He has what I call “fire in his eyes.” It’s a deep-seated visceral desire to give to a cause that can have long-lasting social impact. To have that kind of commitment requires the most important thing we can all give: empathy.

This is the daily act that goes beyond a day or a week or a month. Empathy is what we all need to flex. If we all give ourselves the opportunity to connect empathetically with others – to put ourselves in their shoes to realize how the world looks through their eyes and tap into the emotions that they feel in their hearts – then giving will become natural and ever-present.

Giving won’t require tent-pole campaigns like Giving Tuesday, nor will it require natural disasters and man-made tragedies to get us off our apathetic asses.

Empathy Every Day. That is the campaign I really want to see.

Max Lenderman is CEO of School, a purpose-led consultancy part of Project Worldwide, and a conflicted supporter of Arsenal FC.

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