(PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOENIX -- Non-profit organizations will try to persuade holiday shoppers to give back today as part of Giving Tuesday - a response to the consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
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Leaders of New York City's 92nd Street Y launched the initiative this year to encourage giving to charity.
"It's about getting people and organizations to think about how they give back to the community in which they are involved," said Amy Freeland, spokeswoman for Giving Tuesday. "Giving to non-profits is not something that gets the attention that shopping does during the holiday season, and Giving Tuesday hopes to be a platform that changes that."
Giving Tuesday follows Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving known for online-shopping deals. The busy shopping weekend also includes Small Business Saturday and Black Friday, which now begins on Thanksgiving Day for some retailers.
Non-profits hope to capitalize on people's willingness to part ways with their cash, said Robert Ashcraft, executive director of the Lodestar Center.
"Since we're in the consciousness of spending money and buying things, we're hoping that people would also think about their community," he said.
Non-profits, businesses and schools from all 50 states hope to direct residents to charities in need of support.
People can go to givingtuesday.org to see a list of charities or they can give to an unlisted non-profit of their choice, Freeland said. She said organizers aimed for 100 partners but significantly surpassed that goal.
That's primarily because of grass-roots, word-of-mouth efforts; more than 2,000 non-profits, businesses and schools nationwide have signed on to be Giving Tuesday partner organizations.
Businesses weren't the only organizations negatively impacted by the economic downturn, non-profit executives said. Non-profits saw a 20 percent drop in giving in 2010 from 2007, the year before the Great Recession began, said Patrick McWhortor, president and CEO of Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits.
"The good news is that individual giving, of all the funding sources for all non-profits, has remained the most stable. It went down, but it remained the most stable," he said.
Giving increased in 2011 for the first time since the economic downturn, according to the alliance. Leaders hope 2012 wraps up with a continuation of the trend.
"Through it all, people have been enormously generous in many, many ways. It's not all gloom and doom despite how difficult it is for some (individual) non-profits," Lodestar's Ashcraft said.
About 20 to 30 percent of giving to non-profits already happens during the holiday season, McWhortor said. Many people are in a giving mood and trying to earn tax deductions before the end of the year, he said.
McWhortor said he hopes Giving Tuesday attracts even more first-time givers and challenges long-term donors to take their gifts to the next level, because significant need remains.
"What we're hearing from the non-profit sector is that, in general, things are still kind of tenuous," he said. "Health- and human-services organizations - their demand is still very high, but their resources are very constrained. And we've seen a downturn in giving in other parts of the sector, like the arts-and-culture community."
Giving Tuesday also encourages people to give their time. Most non-profits always need volunteers, said Nancy Dean, Valley of the Sun United Way's senior vice president of resource development.
"There is so much work to do that there isn't a way without having broad-based community support that you could start to make a difference," she said.