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Woodward: #GivingTuesday a fine day to give back

Jill Woodward

It’s easy to be cynical about programs that sound like they were invented for the purposes of sparking a hashtag trend.

That could be said about #GivingTuesday, a fairly new event in the philanthropic world, now observed annually on December 2.

The concept for this day of global giving, a call-to-action for generous spirits everywhere, was launched by New York’s 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation in 2012.

It’s also part backlash and antidote to the unbridled mad dash of consumerism bracketed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Who really needs all that stuff?

But let’s not go there. Make no mistake; Metropolitan Detroit is one generous community. Our city has been to bankruptcy and back, and yet there are citizens who continue to dig deep each and every year.

That’s what keeps our local nonprofit organizations going. It takes both the large anchor organizations and the small start-ups to support the people and operate the programs that make our city so rich in human capital and culture.

And while many people plan their personal giving in December, as the end of the fiscal year approaches, there is tremendous value to assigning a particular day to giving back. Past #GivingTuesdays have created ever-higher levels of support for worthy causes, resulting in many new donors joining the fold. Growing a donor base is a struggle for every nonprofit and this gives them a tool for highlighting the good work they do.

It’s not so much the size of the gift, although big ones are much appreciated.

If everyone pitches in a little on #GivingTuesday, the results will have a ripple effect across our community.

That said, be sure to give to organizations who will spend your money wisely. Check their websites and read up before committing your resources.

At the Michigan State University Community Music School-Detroit, we have an MSU CrowdPower campaign running until December 24 called “Music for Motown Kids.” Twenty dollars will pay for one month of music lessons (and important life lessons) for one of our kids in financial need. We have a big-hearted Michigan State University alum in California, Craig Murray, who will match your support up to $5,000.

If you’re not familiar with Crowdfunding, it’s yet another trend in giving that taps the power of social networks to encourage a cause to go viral. But beware, some Crowdfunding apps take a steep percentage off the top (MSU CrowdPower does not), and that can cut into revenue for small nonprofits, especially if the gifts are coming from existing donors.

Given our city’s incredible musical legacy, keeping the music alive for children should be a point of pride for Detroiters. There are many wonderful local music programs that help our youth reach their potential, thereby providing dividends over a lifetime.

The kids who enjoy music, art and culture as a regular part of their education will grow up to become tomorrow’s leaders and donors to causes across the board.

Programs at the MSU Community Music School-Detroit receive terrific support from MSU, as well as from many of the thought-leaders in the foundation community and a number of local corporations.

But we can’t expect funding to come from big institutions alone. As community members, we have to show how much we value those significant contributions — by corresponding gifts of our own.

Let’s hope this year’s #GivingTuesday is Detroit’s biggest yet.

Jill Woodward is director of the MSU Community Music School-Detroit.