#GivingTuesday fights the follies of the holiday season

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Thanksgiving is a holiday for food, family and giving thanks, but it is often overshadowed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Organizations working together on a new movement called #GivingTuesday hope to use social media to add yet another element to the Thanksgiving season: shifting the focus from personal consumption to charitable giving.

UT’s Continuing and Innovative Education office has partnered with more than 2,000 organizations as part of a national push to rebrand the Tuesday after Thanksgiving as #GivingTuesday, a symbolic start to “the season of giving.” Major partners include the United Nations Foundation, JPMorgan Chase and The Huffington Post.

The campaign will operate mainly through social media, as most partners have agreed to post information about the event on their websites.

Wayne Wenske, spokesperson for the office, said his organization and the #GivingTuesday movement have very similar goals. The Continuing and Innovative Education office runs programs including University Extension, the UT Online High School and a Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement program.

“We serve a great number of underserved populations in the community, and because we reach out to people who are often not thought of, we’re glad to be involved in a movement that takes a moment to remember the charities that help,” Wenske said.

In partnering with the #GivingTuesday movement, the department also hopes to draw attention to itself, said Stacy McCracken, the office’s deputy director for external relations.

“A lot of the time, people don’t even realize that a program like ours exists at UT,” McCracken said. “The more people who know about what we do, the bigger a difference we can make.”

Mechanical engineering junior Reena Anthraper said persuading consumers to donate money immediately after two major shopping holidays will be difficult.

“People are going to be like, ‘No, I just spent all this money on Black Friday getting Christmas gifts for my family. I’m not in a position to give back right now,’” Anthraper said.

She said the initiative would be more effective if the focus were on charitable giving by companies, not individuals.

“I feel like the only way #GivingTuesday would work would be if the companies themselves were giving something away,” Anthraper said.

Printed on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 as: #GivingTuesday counteracts holiday follies