Each year, Black Friday takes over our Facebook news feeds, television advertisements and news programming.  We've recently seen online retailers take the following Monday as "Cyber Monday" to do the same.  Credit card merchant American Express did its part in then promoting Small Business Saturday to encourage consumers to shop local.  So many opportunities to spend your money over the course of one week!

But then in 2012, there was a small concerted effort to start a "Giving Tuesday" effort.  If you're on any social network, I'd be willing to bet you probably know what it is.  If not, here's the short story...

Giving Tuesday (this year is December 1, 2015) is the day when we give of ourselves to something greater.  It is the day to support the organizations whose sole purposes are to implement a positive change in our society.  It is meant to encourage philanthropy among those that already donate either their time or treasure, or to those that haven't done so in a while.

Here's a brief video on what Giving Tuesday is all about...

I'll admit:  I was hesitant.

Giving Tuesday, when I first heard about it, sounded like a great idea.  However, I was concerned about one thing:  Would people use this as their sole day to donate?  I truly believe that giving (whether to a nonprofit organization or not) is one of the most powerful things that we can do.  I didn't want to advocate any effort that would unintentionally encourage others to only give on one day as opposed to any others.  To be fair, Giving Tuesday donors contributed $45.7 million in 2014 when the day raised $13.5 million when it was first launched.  That's almost a 240% increase for the good!

Even so, I realized that Giving Tuesday might be a movement that encourages some to donate, when they might not have done so otherwise.  Their giving not only benefits themselves, but I think it enriches their own personal lives.  And this leads me to my next point:  the spirit of philanthropy (which literally translates to "love of man") indelibly lives within each of us.  I believe that the spirit of giving is embedded in each of our DNA.  Giving is a human activity.  There's no escaping it, even if someone never donates a cent to a nonprofit organization.  We give gifts to our loved ones more often that we think.  At this point, I was sold.

So, who do you give to?

First, give to anybody you run into on the street.  Give them a smile.  Give them a hand if they need help with something small.  Give them a compliment.  A little gift like this goes a long way.  If you don't believe me, try it for 29 days like Cami Walker did and watch your life change.

But I also bet that there's a nonprofit organization that has made an impact in your life.  Perhaps you already donate to them - Giving Tuesday would be the time to send them one more gift.  Perhaps you don't donate to any nonprofits - Giving Tuesday would be the time to thank them for what they've done in your life.  There are literally millions of nonprofits that you could support to implement positive change in society.  Use this upcoming Giving Tuesday, December 1, to make an impact in this world.

Well who do I give to?

I love this part.  Right now, I get the chance to compliment my favorite charities to support this year.  I can list about 100 more, believe me.  But these are some of the ones that I have real confidence in, and I want to share them with you:


1. 16th Street Theater

I've given the past five years of my life to this theater company, and with good reason.  16th Street Theater, located in Berwyn, Illinois, has a mission to share the voices of ALL in our community.  That means the voices that are often marginalized and oppressed.  The theater company uses art to promote dialogue within the community.  I've said it once before, and I'll say it once again:  if every neighborhood in the United States had a theatre company like 16th Street, the world would be a much happier, peaceful, and tolerant society.  This is why I was a stage manager at the theatre for 2 years, and have served the past 3 years on the board of directors.  


2. Children International

This nonprofit is the biggest organization on the list:  they have the most supporters, the largest reach, and the biggest budget.  Personally, I often shy away from these mega-charities.  Sometimes, we might think that with charities so big, our smaller donations don't mean much of anything.  How wrong I was!  I remember the exact moment last year when I received a picture in the mail.  Its the standard picture you hear about that adorns some refrigerators in the United States:  the picture of the child you're sponsoring.  I thought it to be cliched until my heart warmed when I saw this sweet 4-year-old girl I am supporting in Mexico.  As big as the organization is, I know that I am making a direct impact on this girl's life, and I encourage all to consider sponsoring a child through Children International.


3. George M. Pullman Educational Foundation

Without the Pullman Foundation, I don't know how I would have afforded college.  Pullman granted me a four-year scholarship to help me become the man I am today.  These past few years, I've been donating to support their efforts to provide more merit-based and needs-based scholarships to extremely deserving students.  I've had the privilege to volunteer at their gatherings and on their scholarship selection committees.  They are truly "keeping the American dream on track!"


4. Midwest Augustinians

I've worked the past five years for the Midwest Augustinians, a Catholic religious order tracing their roots for the past 750 years to the teachings of St. Augustine.  St. Augustine is one of the most quoted and influential figures in all of Christianity.  I first fell in love with the great work that the Augustinians do in their impoverished missions in Northern Peru:  providing educational programming, food for the hungry, disease prevention and treatment, and above all, spiritual fulfillment.  What I love most about the Midwest Augustinians is that they are a group of relatable, loving, and caring group of priests that focus their lifestyle on living in community.  This Giving Tuesday, we are actually asking how people hope to literally change the world.


5. Pangea Educational Development

I became enamored with PED's mission when a friend of mine introduced me to the nonprofit's young, extremely driven co-founder.  In its briefest nutshell, PED builds sustainable projects that help empower local communities and schools in Uganda.  They operate on a very modest budget, but have huge impacts.  Moreoever, they understand that the key to empowering people is not to give them fish, but rather to teach them how to fish.  Please take a look at their new Willing campaign and get involved.  I promise you your gift will go a long, long way with this organization.


6. PAWS Chicago

I never really pegged myself as the type of person that would list PAWS Chicago in my favorite organizations to support.  But I learned about the vast amount of animals that needlessly die annually.  Literally thousands in Chicago alone.  And mind you, these animals are not any different than the dogs I grew up loving:  Lucky, Tarzan, Sammy Davis, Roxie Hart...  And moreoever, these animals have so much love to give back.  And yet thousands in Chicago are homeless.  They have so much love to give - it is a tragedy that so many die every year when they are such beautiful creatures.  Consider a gift to support PAWS Chicago and save a life today!


7. USA for UNHCR

We have a refugee crisis right now unlike any other crisis the world has seen since World War II.  I won't use this blog post to promote one political opinion over another, but at the end of the day, I hope we can all acknowledge that refugees - especially Syrian refugees at the moment - are in dire need of help.  The United States has this non-governmental organization at the United Nations to provide assistance to refugee families across the world.  Someone becomes a refugee every 8 seconds in the world.  This organizations is well equipped to assist many of these refugees, as well as steward your donations effectively.  Every gift counts!

From those who donate all the time to those who never considered themselves philanthropists, on Giving Tuesday, everyone can be generous, and why not? There are so many ways you can make a difference.
— givingtuesday.org

These are my favorite seven nonprofits from the past year, and I am honored and humbled to consider myself a part of their missions each time I give to them.  I am happy to promote them here on my personal blog - even if someone would just contribute a small gift to one of them this Giving Tuesday.  Please make a gift to your favorite nonprofits this year - or any of these seven - and share them in the comments below for others to see. Because at the end of the day, Giving Tuesday is just one more day that we can promote what is the best about each of us:  a spirit of care, of love, and of giving.  It is one day - of many - that we can reflect about what is best about humanity:  the ability to help our fellow man and make sustainable imacts in the lives of others!


Happy Giving Tuesday!