Column: Why We Need ‘Giving Tuesday’

December 2, 2019 | 0 Comments

Myra Virgil Bermuda Dec 1 2019[Column written by Dr Myra Virgil]

Tuesday, December 3 will be acknowledged in countries around the world as GivingTuesday. Its purpose is as simple and uncomplicated as it gets: to encourage people to do good.

GivingTuesday began in the US as a collaboration between the United Nations Foundation and the 92nd Street Y in New York City – and by 2018, 150 countries were involved. No coincidence that it is scheduled to follows those days of rampant spending – Black Friday and Cyber Monday – and precedes the excesses of Christmas. What a perfect moment for us all to take a moment to look around and check whether everyone is experiencing the joy of this special time of the year.

The reality of course is that not everyone is feeling the holiday glow. While I don’t believe there was ever the intention to make us feel bad about enjoying the season with family and friends, feasting and gifts, the timing of GivingTuesday sends a clear message: it’s also a lonely, frustrating, crushingly depressing time for many. When life is tough, you have no money, you’re exhausted, a family member is struggling with addiction, you’re out of work, have health issues, can’t even put enough food on the table let alone buy Christmas gifts for your children … and all around you is music, laughter, festivity, merry-making … that is bleak and isolating.

The inequities of the world will not be solved by one consciousness-raising day – but it does provide an opportunity to reflect and maybe start something that goes beyond this one Tuesday in the year. On its website, GivingTuesday describes itself as “a global generosity movement unleashing the power of the people and organisations to transform their communities and world on December 3, 2019 and every day”.

What can we do in Bermuda to join this movement? We certainly need it.

Our not-for-profit sector is under siege, suffering from a critical lack of resources in this challenging financial climate. And yet, they provide the community with essential services, many of them the social services needed more than ever. If we want to join the GivingTuesday movement, we could consider raising our support of Bermuda’s charities. They are no longer “nice-to-have” amenities, but in many cases the sole service providers for some essential services. We need to step in and help before it’s too late, and they are forced to close their doors leaving members of the community abandoned. Make no mistake, we will all bear the brunt if there are no organisations taking care of children, feeding people, supporting families in need and young people at risk, monitoring our environment, fostering the arts, conducting field research and training people on how to deliver this important work.

What kind of a community would we become? Arguably, one that is unsafe, unhealthy and soulless.

It’s easy to say “give – and give generously”, but it’s harder than it looks. You have worked hard to earn your money, and whether you’re making an investment in the stock market or your community, it needs to deliver on its promise.

The Register of Charities is a good place to start. In June 2019, 303 charities were registered. Take out the religious entities, professional societies and groups, fundraising and fund distributing agencies, and we are left with about 115 charities delivering direct services, 44 delivering sport-related programmes, and 26 public advocacy and management organisations.

That leaves just over 180 organisations offering programmes that drive physical and mental health outcomes, tackle unemployment and poverty, deliver educational programmes and contribute to community wellbeing in the form of environmental conservation, the arts, citizenry and diversity. That is still a significant number to research!

Over the past month the Bermuda Community Foundation [BCF] has provided free workshops to both donors [to assist them with effective giving] and not-for-profits [to help them prepare for the giving season by making themselves available and accessible to donors].

For both groups, we recommend GiveBermuda.org, a local platform set up by the BCF to enable people to search for not-for-profits by name, cause or keyword. Its purpose is to increase giving by making the process easier and accessible to more people. For anyone who wants to give to the community, but doesn’t know where to begin, try it. We’ve encouraged not-for-profits to review and update their own information on site in preparation for the giving season.

The BCF Vital Signs programme is another way of helping your giving: it identifies “community indicators” to show the greatest areas of need. Summary reports on the 12 key issues can be found on our website www.bcf.bm. More on these another time.

Today, I’d like to leave you with three messages:

  • - Your giving is important – now, while we still have so many great not-for-profits providing valuable services to the community – GiveBermuda will identify and provide information on organisations working in the area you’d like to support
  • - To quote the words of the late Allan Gray – a remarkable man, philanthropist and business leader – “consider what you can do – no matter how small – for someone in need”.
  • It’s GivingTuesday 2019; let’s make it count

- Myra Virgil

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