The social sector has faced the same basic challenges for a long time now: the endless chase for funding, the struggle to attract talent and maintain basic operations, and the constant need to lobby for itself in the public sphere.
For all their good intentions and sense of purpose, sector leaders still complain of low levels of collaboration and innovation in confronting these stubborn problems. A 2017 survey by The Bridgespan Group and the Rockefeller Foundation found that although 80 percent of nonprofit leaders agree that innovation is an “urgent imperative,” just 40 percent of those leaders think their organizations are actually set up to innovate. All of these issues pose a significant danger to progress and sustainability.
For the last seven years, I’ve been one of the leaders of the giving movement #GivingTuesday (GT). Created as a day of popular giving following two days of post-Thanksgiving consuming – Black Friday and Cyber Monday – GT is now a global, year-round movement that drives hundreds of millions of dollars in giving annually in the United States and continues to spread to dozens of other countries on every continent in the world. Through this work, I have seen how social sector leaders from across the globe are responding to our shared challenges. The examples they set help us all to understand the changes we need to make.
GT offers such potential as a learning experiment because it is an adaptable idea that serves different needs at different times within different communities. It’s more than simply a day of fundraising, though it is raising significant funds for nonprofits. It’s an online and offline movement, within which ideas and resources are built and shared, and cultures of generosity, the bedrock of a healthy civil society, are flourishing.