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Giving can start with the littlest act
WHILE millions celebrated Thanksgiving last weekend, many of us here probably indulged in Black Friday and Cyber Weekend Deals, both online and offline.
All these happened in the last weeks of November, a festive time when we start shopping and buying gifts for loved ones.
Several articles have rightly questioned this rampant consumerism - asking if consumers truly need all this stuff.
We then came up with a challenge: instead of a season of gifting, can we turn this into a season for giving?
Global giving movement - Giving Tuesday - tries to answer just that.
Occurring right after Cyber Monday, it is active in close to 50 places though we are still severely under-represented here in Asia - only India, Taiwan, Kazakhstan and Singapore celebrate it.
For many worldwide, Giving Tuesday is simply Fundraising Day. But in Singapore, our kiasu-ism prevails - we are the only ones who have extended it to a week, with the hope to earmark this week as the Season for Giving, akin to how love is to Valentine's Day.
Our vision is simple: a week where we constantly get opportunities to give. From the moment we start our day, during our commute, at work, at play, when having a meal, shopping; even during our daily conversations and activities, we have an element of care. Just as we think of our loved ones as we shop for gifts, Giving Week provides a way to think of the people who need it most, and to do something about it.
The celebration of giving is the gateway to invite more non-givers and lapsed givers to hop on the "giving bus" - and to ride it beyond the season. If the first step to giving is the hardest step, we should make it fun, easy and accessible to all.
The multiplier effect
Giving Tuesday began as an experiment in New York 92nd Street Y in 2012, to see if social media could be used to make giving go viral and to change cultural norms and behaviours around giving. We easily share our hidden gem lunch spots, or the amazing views from our beach front holiday villa, and others are quick to flock over to check it out themselves.
Why not share about our giving - issues we care for, or why we give - for the same effect?
Most of the efforts are hence centred around getting people to share their time, talent, treasure as well as their voice - our wish is for givers, the converted, to step out and speak up about their charitable acts. And we are sure there are many in our midst. According to our latest Individual Giving Survey, around four in five people give back in various forms from volunteerism, donations or informal acts of giving.
Based on recent findings from the Corporate Giving Survey 2017, it is encouraging to know that 52 per cent of companies in Singapore are giving, and a further 31 per cent of companies are keen to start. What's stopping these 31 per cent, especially when it seems like everyone is doing it?
Just as we cannot underestimate the power of a single voice reaching out to their friends to do more, we must not overlook corporates, big or small, as well.
Something as simple as sharing your giving activities, or speaking up about an issue you support, may spark off a ripple - both internally with employees, and externally with business partners and vendors.
For Giving Week this year, we've seen several first steps taken by corporates towards giving back for a lifetime. There are the corporates which have decided they would take that first step together with as many people as they can.
The Good Hubs are happening at three locations: Ng Teng Fong General Hospital with their Good Neighbour Day (Nov 30); Sports Hub with their Community Play Day: Season of Giving (Dec 1-2); and Club Street and Ann Siang Hill with their Giving Street (Dec 1). They have transformed their space into festivals with activities, workshops and performances - collectively housing over 80 non-profits and social enterprises for them to increase awareness of their causes, sign up volunteers and fundraise.
There are smaller hubs, with corporates doing what they can, with what they have, to show their support this Giving Week.
The smaller hubs include the Volvo showroom and an upcoming one at Social Innovation Park at Punggol which incubates social entrepreneurs. More than 50 F&B and lifestyle brands have invited their customers to shop, dine, and live better while doing good, and many more are giving back in the ways they know best.
For instance, on top of their regular collaboration with The Boys' Brigade Share-a-Gift (BBSG), home-grown supermarket FairPrice will also be sharing more about their Shop & Donate initiative on FairPrice Online. They have curated a wishlist from over 50 non-profits, which the public can fulfil while doing their online grocery shopping - and even if they don't give, they would know about Giving Week.
Others like Plentyfull focus on advocacy, collaborating with Foodbank to create lunch specials using "ugly produce".
In the digital realm, giving can be made seamless - but not all non-profits have the capacity to implement it. Tech companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Glee Tree and Noodle Factory are sharing their skills, knowledge and sponsoring software or holding workshops to empower non-profits to make full use of technology.
These are just some of the many organisations that are part of the movement where we believe that your giving as a business owner or employee can start with the littlest act of tapping your existing corporate strategy (talent), products (treasure), services (time) and network (voice).
The journey has just begun
Corporate giving is more than cheques and annual visits to the orphanage - it can be fun, exciting, and easy. You can give a cup of coffee to a colleague, give thank-you notes to each other or to your stakeholders and clients, organise a fundraising campaign for a cause with a bake sale, a workout activity, or use your skills to volunteer at a charity conveniently via Giving.sg, or make a pledge and share it on your corporate or personal social media pages.
All these seem like small acts, but the first step is always the hardest to take. Here's our challenge to you this Giving Week: within a span of a week, find one opportunity to give in small or big ways. You will find that there are plenty.
- In its fourth consecutive year, Giving Week 2018 is taking place from Nov 27 to Dec 5, starting on #GivingTuesday and ending on International Volunteers Day. Share this article on your social media account and hashtag #GivingWeekSG to inspire more to join this movement
- Cherisse Beh is the assistant director, marketing & communications, and Sarah Carlos is a marketing specialist at the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre. They are part of the team leading Giving Week.