Anyone popping down to their local supermarket for some milk last Friday morning was in for a bit of a shock.

This wasn’t any old shopping day, it was Black Friday: a day with its own hashtag, marketed to within an inch of its life; a day when prices were slashed on consumable goods, shoppers clambered over one another for bargains, and some people declared Asda ‘a war zone’.

For most media commentators, it was all a bit grotesque. For others, the images told us something striking about UK inequality. But an antidote lurked just around the corner.

Today is Giving Tuesday (another day with its own hashtag), established by campaigner Henry Timms in the United States in 2012 to:

 celebrate generosity and to give. It’s a simple idea. Just find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to come together to give something more.

It commanded limited attention over here during the first few years, but has now taken off, with a far bigger build up in the UK media this year than previously. Its proximity to Black Friday prompts an astonishing thought: for if Giving Tuesday raises even 10% of the cash spent last week, UK charities would enjoy a windfall of more than £55m. That’s before we factor in the added value of hours given in volunteering or donations made in kind rather than cash.

The potential is substantial. So what might Giving Tuesday look like at its best?

  • Give well—and give wisely
    Last week our chief executive Dan Corry argued that people have a moral duty to do ‘a bit of homework’ about the good causes to which they are donating. A scan of the website might be enough—how is the money spent, how does this charity differ from similar organisations working in the same field, and how effective is it at achieving the things you care about?
  • Don’t get hung up on the wrong things
    We know that people worry about charity Chief Execs salaries, and how much is spent on ‘overheads’. But, ultimately, they’re a red herring. The quality of a charity is better judged on its performance than what it costs to rent a building. As my colleague Cecilie Hestbaek recently put it in the Guardian, parents choose a school based on exam results, not teacher pay. Charities needn’t be any different.
  • Make demands on your new relationship
    If Giving Tuesday is the first time you’ve given money to a particular charity, make it a lasting relationship. Keep in touch. Check up on how it’s developing the work that drew you there in the first place. Read the glossy annual report—and if it doesn’t contain all the information you want, ask for more. Like all good relationships, both parties need to stay interested.

NPC has made a lot of noise recently about people giving ‘more and better money’ to UK charities, and being not just more generous but also smart about where their cash is used to the greatest advantage for beneficiaries. Hopefully, as the dust clears after Giving Tuesday, we’ll have seen a bit of both.

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