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Giving Tuesday 2020: A brief history and ways to give back

TODAY logo TODAY 12/1/2020 Nicole Saunders, Shop TODAY

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If you’re itching to take advantage of steep Cyber Monday deals and also looking to give back to communities in need, you may want to consider shopping this Giving Tuesday, Dec. 1. Kristen Gall, the President of shopping network Rakuten, called Giving Tuesday the “Black Friday of charity.” But what is Giving Tuesday, exactly?

“It’s a way to give back with every dollar you spend as many retailers donate profits from the day to various charities and nonprofit organizations,” she explained. Gall noted it’s a “wonderful opportunity” to support both local businesses and various nonprofits otherwise, many of which may have experienced hardships due to the coronavirus.

SKIP AHEAD Where to shop and give back

Not all retailers will have charitable ties to their Giving Tuesday deals.

Giving Tuesday history

Giving Tuesday launched in 2012 as a partnership between the United Nations Foundation and 92nd Street Y in New York — last year, Giving Tuesday took off on its own, separating from its founding organizations. There are currently more than 225 Giving Tuesday communities across the country. So when is Giving Tuesday observed? The day of giving back is observed across 70 counties on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

Giving Tuesday was created to promote charitable acts of giving after consumers spent billions of dollars on goods during Black Friday weekend and on Cyber Monday. “All of that money [being spent after Thanksgiving] is coming from the same wallet,” said Asha Curran, the CEO of Giving Tuesday, in an interview with the American Bar Association. “We wanted to appropriate a little bit of that money for the nonprofit world.” Adobe Analytics found online shoppers spent a record $5.1 billion this Black Fridayand are expected to spend approximately $12.7 billion during Cyber Monday.

Related: To simplify shopping for presents this year, we break down everything you need to know about Sephora’s holiday gifting hub.

Last year, corporations like Nike,Microsoft, Facebook and Patagonia all participated in the Giving Tuesday initiative, their support ranging from matching employee donations to nonprofits to directly providing meals to those in need. You can also review your employee package or chat with your HR team to find out if your place of work offers employee charity matching, whether applicable on Giving Tuesday or beyond (it’ll be appreciated by the recipients on Wednesday, too). This year, the list of participating brands is robust, including brands like Banana Republic, West Elm, Penguin Random House, Tupperware and many more.

While it may feel enticing to shop while saving and giving back, Gall noted shoppers should also be vigilant and make smart shopping decisions when participating in Giving Tuesday.

“Not all retailers will have charitable ties to their Giving Tuesday deals: Be on alert for fake charities and scams. Know that where you shop is reputable, and what you purchase will have an impact,” she advised. You can also research an organization via Charity Navigator, an independent nonprofit evaluator that has rated more than 160,000 organizations for their actual delivery on charitable missions, among other things.

Related: Looking to shop for eco-friendly products? Climate Neutral certifies brands to help you navigate the best ones — and help reduce environmental impact.

How to get involved with Giving Tuesday?

If you want to connect with any of Giving Tuesday’s local chapters or align with their initiatives, the best place to start is directly on their site, where you’ll find plenty of resources. Sara Skirboll, the shopping and trends expert at RetailMeNot, said there are two main ways to participate in Giving Tuesday:

  1. Donate money
  2. Donate time

You can directly donate to your favorite charity or give back through your purchases. “Though in-person charitable options will not be as popular this Giving Tuesday, brands are offering virtual ways to give back through online donations and volunteering,” she said. Three of Skirboll’s favorite Giving Tuesday opportunities are from Fossil, Stella & Dot and Glow Recipe, which are donating, respectively, to Team Rubicon, Project Glimmer and various women’s empowerment groups.

You can also take advantage of cashback offers when online shopping on Giving Tuesday. For example, Rakuten has partnered with more than 500 brands — from Tatcha and Alex & Ani to BarkBox, Aveda and The Body Shop — to offer up to 10 percent cash back this year.

Related: A dermatologist and makeup artists weigh in on how to effectively sanitize your beauty tools. Shop their expert recommendations — and a few editor picks, too.

Giving Tuesday 2020 versus past years

“More people will be participating in Giving Tuesday than in previous years since so many are shopping online right now due to Covid-19, and this creates a potentially bigger impact as Giving Tuesday has become a primarily online event,” said Gall.

Shopping expert Trae Bodge, who recently shared Black Friday shopping tips with our friends on TODAY, anticipates Giving Tuesday will be “robust” this year, as it has grown in popularity since its inception eight years ago. Bodge also noted millennials and Gen Z shoppers are “more socially conscious so as they age and have more disposable income, the popularity of GivingTuesday will grow.” She added because people are currently facing financial hardships due to Covid-related job loss, she anticipates “pay what you can” initiatives to grow in popularity, both on Giving Tuesday and beyond. Bodge noted Rafi Nova, a maker of face masks and bags, recently launched its Pay What You Can campaign with face masks with six price-tier increments — starting as low as $1 and up to $10 per mask. This price model was made popular by Everlane, a sustainable clothing line that rarely hosts sales (like its first-ever Black Friday sale, which wraps tonight).

Gall also suggested supporting “values-driven” brands that support various causes such as Warby Parker, The Company Store, TOMS, Draper James, Ivory Ella, Cotopaxi and ASOS. “All of these brands support different charities so you can find confidence in knowing that your purchase went further and helped make a bigger and meaningful impact to the communities around you,” she said.

Related: From thermometers and Dyson to weighted blankets and exercise bikes, here are the most purchased Black Friday deals we've covered.

Giving Tuesday initiatives

Brands also hold their own Giving Tuesday initiatives separately from the official Giving Tuesday movement. Here are some popular examples.

1. DoorDash Supports Feeding America

Bodge called this the “new food gifting option” and noted DoorDash (and Caviar) both allow you to change your destination address to your recipient’s, and they will receive a gift message alert to know the delivery is on its way. For every food gift ordered, DoorDash will donate one meal to hunger-relief nonprofit Feeding America, capping out at 100,000 meals. The platform is available wherever Doordash is delivered, from New York to LA.

Door Dash Gift Card

graphical user interface, diagram, application: Door Dash Gift Card ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home) © 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home Door Dash Gift Card ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
  • Door Dash Gift Card $50.00 at DoorDash
  • Door Dash Gift Card $50.00 at Target
  • Door Dash Gift Card $25.00 at BJ's

2. Impossible Foods helps fight food insecurity in California

Impossible Foods, maker of the trendy Impossible Burger, is also donating to Feeding America. They will donate veggie burgers to Feeding America food banks across the San Francisco Bay Area when shoppers purchase Impossible bundles directly through the brand during the month of December.

Impossible Convenience Pack

Impossible Convenience Pack ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home) © 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home Impossible Convenience Pack ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)

Related: Newly launched highlights include Canon’s wireless printer, a height-adjustable desk and a new Star Wars book series available for pre-order right now.

3. Colleen Rothchild Beauty Age Renewal Serum

  • Rating: 4.8-star average, more than 80 reviews

The Texas-based skin care line is donating 10 percent of proceeds of all products purchased directly through its site on Dec. 1 to GivingDirectly’s Project 100+ initiative, which is donating cash directly to 100,000 low-income US households. Rothschild’s highly-rated serum is chock full of good-for-you skincare ingredients like peptides and collagen for an anti-aging effect. It’s also plant-based if you or a beauty-conscious loved one values that in skincare products, too.

Colleen Rothschild Age Renewal Super Serum

Colleen Rothschild Age Renewal Super Serum ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home) © 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home Colleen Rothschild Age Renewal Super Serum ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)

4. Gorjana California Dreaming Layering Set

Gorjana, a jewelry line based in Orange County, CA. is donating $5 for every purchase on its site to Families Forward, a nonprofit supporting local families experiencing homelessness or those at-risk of doing so. The two-piece California Dreaming necklace set includes the Sunset Necklace and Shorebreak Necklace, both made from 18-karat gold-plated brass. I own the layering set along with Gorjana's Gold Tanner hoop earrings, and they all look more expensive than they really are, making them a great gift idea for a fashionable friend or loved one.

California Dreaming Layering Set

California Dreaming Layering Set ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home) © 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home California Dreaming Layering Set ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)

California Dreaming Layering Set $98.00 at Gorjana

Related: If your loved ones are on the nice list this year, consider gifting them cozy loungewear fluffy slippers, silk face masks, high-tech gadgets and more.

5. Outerknown Women's Puffer Jacket

Eco-friendly clothing brand Outerknown is offering 30 percent off sitewide for Giving Tuesday and is donating up to $50,000 to the LA Students Most in Need Fund, which helps provide meals, school supplies, books and resources to support testing and tracing for Los Angeles Unified School District Covid-19. To participate in Outerknown's Giving Tuesday initiative, shoppers have to buy something from 11 women's and men's clothing items. Five Giving Tuesday-eligible women's pieces include the Blanket Shirt, SEA Suit, Iconoclast High Rise Skinny, Nova Cashmere Sweater and Women's Puffer. The six eligible men's clothing items are Blanket Shirt, Local SEA Jeans, Reimagine Cashmere Sweater, Apex Trunks and Reversible Puffer. With the first official day of winter (Dec. 21) less than three weeks away, consider investing in clothing warmer garments that don't skimp on style, such as the Women's Puffer, a wind- and water-proof cropped coat made with 700 fill power down to help you stay warm this holiday season (and beyond).

Women's Outerknown Puffer

a close up of a person: Women's Outerknown Puffer ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home) © 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home Women's Outerknown Puffer ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)

Women's Outerknown Puffer $138.60 at Outerknown

6. Birdy Grey Spence Convertible Dress

For its first-ever foray into Giving Tuesday, online bridesmaid dress retailer Birdy Grey teamed up with the Dressember Foundation to help fight human trafficking. Birdy Grey will match customer donations, dollar for dollar and capping out at $5,000. You can wear the floor-length Spence Convertible Dress three ways — off-the-shoulder, cold-shoulder and cap sleeve. It features a fully-lined boning and bra cups for added support and hidden side pockets for convenience, and is available in 13 colors, ranging from Marigold to Sage and Emerald.

Birdy Grey Spence Convertible Dress

a woman wearing a dress: Birdy Grey Spence Convertible Dress ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home) © 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home Birdy Grey Spence Convertible Dress ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)

Birdy Grey Spence Convertible Dress $99.00 at Birdy Grey

Related: With thousands of options, there’s a gift at REI for virtually anyone. From climbing gifts to hiking gifts and running gifts, here are some of the best.

7. Tory Burch Fair Isle Pullover Sweater

Fashion designer Tory Burch is donating 20 percent of sales from select products to the Tory Burch Foundation to support female empowerment and entrepreneurs on Giving Tuesday. Throughout the year, 100 percent of proceeds from products from her Tory Burch Foundation collection are donated to various women's causes. This slightly oversized wool sweater is hand-knit by female artisans in Lima, Peru and pairs nicely with the three other Giving Tuesday-eligible pieces: Roxanne Wrapped Door-Knocker earrings, Equestrian Link Mule Pump and the Lee Radziwill Double Bag.

Tory Burch Fair Isle Pullover

a close up of a sweater

More Giving Tuesday initiatives

Of course, the seven products and organizations we shared above aren't the sole ways to give back. Here are a few more standout Giving Tuesday initiatives worth considering right now.

Related: From diffusers and weighted blankets to projectors and other home goods, here’s how to enjoy winter from the comfort and safety of your home.

Catch up on the latest from NBC News Shopping guides and recommendations and download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Looking for the perfect gift? Check out the Shop TODAY Holiday Plaza.

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