The holidays are the season of giving — supposedly. But when we’re neck-deep in a sea of people violently elbowing each other for the last video game console on a set of formerly overstocked shelves, it can start to feel like ‘tis the season to “get mine” at the expense of all others.

Enter Giving Tuesday, which flanks the consumer-fests of Black Friday and Cyber Monday with a gentler emphasis on gifting. More than a hashtag, #GivingTuesday (launched in 2012) is uniting thousands of partners and participants under an overarching idea: giving back.

Why It Matters

The premise of Giving Tuesday is pretty simple: Just do anything that helps someone else. It’s not a ground breaking idea, but it is a refreshing bit of kindness amidst the shop-apalooza of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The options are open, and there’s no “Giving Tuesday” governing body: On the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving (hey, that’s today!), people might deliver homemade cookies to local firefighters, donate clothes to a nearby shelter, or help teach skills to people in need. Organizations have also gotten in on the fun with companies such as the United Nations Foundation,, and Mashable launching their own social outreach and philanthropic campaigns last year.

What sets Giving Tuesday apart from similar promotions (such as GreenTuesday, a day of environmentally-friendly consumerism also happening the Tuesday after Thanksgiving) is its use of social media to drive momentum. Through social platforms like Causes, the campaign aims to generate fervor for giving that matches — and perhaps one day surpasses — the popularity of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. “It’s about inspiring people through technology to get involved in social good… taking new modalities and using them to solve world problems” says Zoe Fox, reporter at Mashable. Who knows? Maybe next year, families will wait in line just to be first to volunteer at the soup kitchen.

Originally published November 2012. Updated December 2013.

Want to get involved? Join the movement on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest, or Tumblr. And let us know how you’re participating in comments below, or get in touch with the author on Twitter at @LauraNewc.