How 'Giving Tuesday' ushers in the holidays' charitable spirit

Volunteers prepare Thanksgiving dinner for more than 5,000 needy people during the Salvation Army's annual "Feast of Sharing" on November 22 of this year in Washington, D.C.

Story highlights

  • "Giving Tuesday" began in 2012 as a way to counter the consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday
  • The campaign encourages people to donate to worthy charities

(CNN)For decades now, millions of Americans have been embracing the day-after-Thanksgiving shopping bonanza known as "Black Friday." Then came "Cyber Monday," online retailers' chance to cash in on the holiday buying frenzy.

Now consumers are being urged to open their wallets for "Giving Tuesday" (sometimes written #GivingTuesday), a day to raise funds for charitable causes.
The day was started in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation.
    "It was also an experiment in how powerful social media could be as a force to encourage charitable giving and sharing of acts of kindness," explained Asha Curran, Chief Innovation Officer at 92nd Street Y.
    "When this started out a couple years ago we were pretty skeptical about it," admitted Colleen Finn Ridenhour, Senior Vice President of Development for Habitat for Humanity.
    But by 2015, Giving Tuesday had spread to 98 countries and raised approximately $177 million, according to the campaign's official website.
    "There's been, in a short amount of time, a great deal of awareness around this campaign," Finn Ridenhour told CNN. "As the public has become more familiar over the last couple of years we've seen folks raising their hands and joining in more significantly."
    "Giving Tuesday enables us to have a formal anchor on the calendar that ushers in and starts the season of giving," said Ettore Rossetti, Director of Social Business Strategy and Innovation at Save the Children.
    "Our annual giving is growing [as a result of the campaign] but it's also becoming globalized. It's becoming not only a national day but an international giving holiday," Rossetti said.
    To take part in Giving Tuesday, all you need to do is pick a charity you trust and visit their website to donate. Many organizations are including the hashtag #GivingTuesday in their recent social media posts as a reminder.
    Or, you can always head to cnn.com/impact and give to any of the charities featured there.
    "The beauty of #GivingTuesday is that everyone has something to give -- whether it's donating money, volunteering time or giving essential resources like food and clothing," said Curran.