Melissa Stevens
Executive Director, Center for Strategic Philanthropy
Health and Medical Research and Philanthropy
Melissa Stevens is the executive director of the Milken Institute's Center for Strategic Philanthropy. The Center for Strategic Philanthropy works to maximize return on philanthropic investment by ensuring that innovation used to address one social issue is translated to another, best practices and metrics guide new and existing giving programs,...
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Giving Tuesday: A Welcome Holiday Tradition

By: Melissa Stevens
November 28, 2017

This is my favorite time of year. 

Hectic as they are (cooking for small armies and battling the crowds to find the best deals), the holidays always fill me with joy and gratitude for the gifts and blessings of the season.

At the Center for Strategic Philanthropy (CSP), we are pleased to wholeheartedly embrace the new and meaningful holiday tradition of Giving Tuesday—an annual global movement, and intentional counterpoint to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, that crowdsources generosity. Today marks the sixth Giving Tuesday, and the third since CSP was launched in 2015.


This year, I would like to tip my hat and express thanks to our friends at the United Nations Foundation (UNF)—Ted Turner’s pioneering foundation that advances the role of the United Nations and its causes. If it weren’t for UNF and a few other smart social innovators like Henry Timms at the 92nd Street Y, there would be no Giving Tuesday. And, while it may be newly-minted, the holiday season would feel incomplete without Giving Tuesday and the robust global platform it has generated. Almost every organization and family foundation with which we work has found Giving Tuesday a valuable way to engage with allies and to celebrate the power of generosity.

In difficult times, it is useful to remember how kind people can be. In the United States alone, more than $390 billion—or more than $1 billion a day—was donated to charity in 2016. While heartening, the world’s countervailing challenges still remain daunting:

Most recently, we have been working with UNF to explore how philanthropy can play a role in the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—dubbed the Global Goals. In September 2017, we organized a roundtable in New York City, titled Financing the Future: Unlocking Private Philanthropic Capital for the Global Goals, where we shared strategies and explored innovative financing mechanisms that leverage philanthropic funding sources.




The Sustainable Development Goals are very useful—especially for philanthropists. They offer a collective global framework for creating a more peaceful, equitable, and safer world. Established in 2015, the Global Goals provide workable targets and realistic indicators for how we can systematically tackle our toughest challenges, such as hunger, poverty, migration, climate change, quality education, workforce development, sustainable growth, and shared prosperity. With an estimated price tag of $172.5 trillion, there is little room for error when devising investment strategies to achieve the Global Goals by 2030 using all capital sources—government, commercial, and private, including philanthropic capital. Since philanthropic capital is relatively more nimble and better able to tolerate risk, it can be well-positioned to get pilot initiatives off the ground and create a proof of concept. In addition, it can be incorporated into blended financing models, which can pull together a range of partners including government, commerce, and foundations to collectively tackle social challenges.

In 2016, Giving Tuesday raised $168 million in charitable donations worldwide, topping 2015’s tally by 44 percent. It is imperative that this new philanthropic capital is used strategically, and the Global Goals can serve as a helpful framework as we plot our course forward. CSP looks forward to continuing this conversation one week from today, in partnership with the UN Foundation, at the seventh annual Milken Institute London Summit. And, we plan for these discussions to continue as part of the Milken Institute’s gatherings in Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Washington, and our Global Conference in Los Angeles.

The challenges our world collectively faces are great, but with a strategic vision and actionable framework like the Global Goals, our collective giving can make great progress.


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