While Black Friday and Cyber Monday did well, Giving Tuesday lagged

Dec 3, 2023, 2:26 PM

People walk past advertised Black Friday discount signs at the Macy's retail store inside the Queen...

People walk past advertised Black Friday discount signs at the Macy's retail store inside the Queens Center Mall, New York, NY, Nov. 24. (Anthony Behar, Sipa uSA/AP)

(Anthony Behar, Sipa uSA/AP)

(CNN) — Americans seemed more willing to spend money on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but less willing to donate money on Giving Tuesday.

While the raw number of dollars donated, $3.1 billion, represents a 0.6% gain from 2022, the number of Americans who participated, roughly 34 million, indicates a 10% decline from last year according to data GivingTuesday Data Commons shared with CNN.

“Our goal with GivingTuesday, not just on the day itself but year-round, is to create an ecosystem of giving that helps communities, causes, and organizations across the globe,” said Asha Curran, GivingTuesday’s CEO in a news release. “However, we are concerned to see a decline in participation in line with giving trends from the past year.”

Giving Tuesday, started in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y in New York City and the United Nations Foundation, is meant to encourage giving back and to inspire generosity on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

Over 200 million Americans, more than 60% of the nation’s population, shopped online or in person during the five days from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday according to the National Retail Federation, also known as “Cyber Week.”

Adobe Analytics reports that Americans spent a record $9.8 billion for online Black Friday sales and $12.4 billion on Cyber Monday, representing gains of 7.5% and 9.6% respectively when compared to 2022.

A miserly trend?

Giving Tuesday’s decline in participation is not an isolated incident, but rather, as its organization acknowledges, part of larger trends philanthropic organizations are experiencing.

While Americans are some of the most charitable people on earth according to some studies, some wonder if the current trend toward Ebenezer Scrooge is a temporary or longer term effect.

According to a report by Giving USA from this past June, Americans are giving the lowest percentage of their disposable income since 1995.

Americans gave just 1.7% of their disposable income in 2022, with charitable giving declining from 2021 by 3.4% to $499.3 billion, which represents an even larger decline of 10.5% when adjusted for inflation.

The current challenges in the economy may play a role. The Federal Reserve has raised Interest rates at their fastest pace in four decades, with the benchmark federal funds rate settling at a range between 5.25% and 5.5%.

Price inflation is 3.2% over the last 12 months. That’s down from 2022’s high of 9.1% but still below the Fed’s 2% target. Economic uncertainty from the coronavirus pandemic and layoffs in some sectors have perhaps dimmed the American spirit of generosity.

Buy now, pay later, donate when?

“I think the numbers are very interesting in terms of Black Friday and Cyber Monday but they don’t tell you the whole picture,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail. “For example, what they don’t tell you is that a lot of those purchases have been made on credit, more than ever have been made on Buy Now, Pay Later type schemes.”

On Cyber Monday, Buy Now, Pay Later purchases hit an all-time high, up 43% from a year ago, according to Adobe Analytics.

“Some of that spend is probably the consumer really looking for bargains for things that they would otherwise buy for the holidays,” Saunders said. “And I think when you start to place that wider context around it, what it paints is a picture of a consumer that isn’t perhaps completely robust, that is struggling somewhat.”

The US remains one of the most generous countries according to the Charities Aid Foundation’s 2023 World Giving Index showing that 76% of Americans surveyed helped strangers, 61% donate money to charitable causes and 38% volunteer.

“I think most people are fairly charitable and will make donations, but when times are pretty hard and maybe you’re really looking for the bargains …Charity does take a bit of a back seat,” Saunders said.

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While Black Friday and Cyber Monday did well, Giving Tuesday lagged