The social media footage and news reports of Black Friday this year made for uncomfortable viewing, as we saw shoppers kicking and screaming their way to cut-price TVs and appliances like it was a matter of life or death.
The reality of this ‘apocalyptic wallet safari’ was a stark reminder of how festive shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which began as economy measures, have morphed into days of materialist excess. According to one Black Friday report, some customers were buying products not because they needed them, but because they ‘just wanted something’. And considering prices were only cut by 50 per cent on average – similar deals to those we see at the usual end-of-season sales – our reaction as consumers to periods like these has been blown way out of proportion.
Giving Tuesday, however, has been the antidote to this consumer gold rush. Originating in the US and now a key date in the UK fundraising calendar, charity donations rose sharply on the day this year. According to Charities Aid Foundation, software provider Blackbaud reported donations in the UK rising by 270 per cent, while Just Giving reported a 46 per cent increase and Visa Europe said that more than £2,500 was donated per minute on UK Visa cards. In America it raised $45.7 million for causes and charities– up 63 per cent from last year according to estimates released by the Case Foundation. The fundraising event, started three years ago by the non-profit cultural and community centre 92nd Street Y in New York and the United Nations Foundation, was created in response to Black Friday and Cyber Monday and has grown exponentially each year.
Many of us would expect that after a weekend of frantic spending shoppers would be keen to keep hold of their money, so it is fascinating to see this clear inclination towards philanthropy, which counters the binge-buying activities retailers have wanted us to adopt in the UK. As charities use social media and careful customer relationship management to create personal relationships with their supporters and a sense of altruism continues to grow in our communities, Giving Tuesday unlocks this potential for commerce to do good.
Models now exist that combine these two zones, by incorporating giving into commerce. Merging these activities through online free-giving platforms, where retailers donate to charities on the shopper’s behalf to causes of the shopper’s choice, brings rationality and humanity to what at the moment is akin to feeding time at the zoo.
Three groups benefit from these giving models. Retailers create loyal relationships with their customers by saying ‘shop with us and we’ll support something you care about’. Customers can support causes they care about while they shop without having to cover the cost themselves. Lastly, charities receive regular, financial support that, when created from large numbers of supporters, can make a tangible difference to fundraising targets.
By ending the separation of commerce and giving and using consumer power to direct financial support to the charities we feel strongly about, we can turn the intense consumerism of days like Black Friday, Boxing Day and New Year sales on its head. It won’t make the madness any easier to deal with, but at least the charities we care about will benefit from it too.
Originally set up in 2006 as a social enterprise, TheGivingMachine helps shoppers generate free cash donations for schools and charities every time they shop online. Its members support thousands of schools and charities across the UK.
Richard Morris is chief executive of charity and social enterprise, TheGivingMachine and the author of Givenomics.