Utah County nonprofits jumpstart holiday season with Giving Tuesday

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Volunteers at The United Way of Utah County sort and organize books as part of the second annual #GivingTuesday. Photo courtesy Michaelann Gardner.
Volunteers at The United Way of Utah County sort and organize books as part of the second annual #GivingTuesday. Photo courtesy Michaelann Gardner.

Just days after Black Friday and the day after the largest Cyber Monday in history, the second annual #GivingTuesday was held to officially kick-off the holiday giving season.

Many service organizations and nonprofits in Utah County engaged in efforts to raise funds and awareness and recruit volunteers, despite being blanketed with a massive snowstorm. The United Way is one example, inviting community members to attend a book cleaning and sorting project on Tuesday, Dec. 3 to support its literacy project.

“We didn’t have a great turnout likely because of the weather,” said Michaelann Gardner, communications director for the United Way of Utah County. “We got about 370 books cleaned, labeled and sorted into genre though.”

The group also received $350 in online donations, providing a kick-start to its holiday fundraising. The United Way joined with more than 2,500 other organizations throughout the country in providing a catalyst to holiday service efforts.

“I would hope that all children in need will have Christmas presents to enjoy and warm clothes to wear. We also want to bring relief for their parents — that they don’t worry about holidays,” said Jenn Kilstrom, the director of Sub for Santa. “If volunteers and donors can feel the joy of giving during the holidays, then we’ve succeeded.”

Bringing in volunteers during the holiday season is often easier than other times of the year, and service organizations hope to establish a pattern of volunteering that will continue year-round.

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The United Way of Utah County is one organization that used #GivingTuesday to kick-start its holiday fundraising. Photo courtesy Michaelann Gardner.

“I hope that volunteers enjoy their experience this holiday season enough that they will not only come back next Christmas but that they will realize that there is much more that needs to be done throughout the year,” said Lisa Hammon, volunteer coordinator for the United Way.

The scope and strength of the movement also drew the attention of the BYU Ballard Center for Social Innovation, which encouraged its students to ask themselves what kind of philanthropist they want to be. The Center hoped to use the event to support its overall mission.

“Besides raising awareness regarding Giving Tuesday, the BYU Ballard Center provides students with impact education,”  said Alicia Gettys, communications and operations manager for the Ballard Center. “We help students understand how that dollar or volunteer hour can have the greatest impact possible.”

Organizations also asked volunteers and supporters to post “unselfies,” pictures of volunteers performing service to provide reminders of the joy of serving.

“I hope that they are reminded that people in our community care about (families that need support) and that they can experience joy even in hard times,” Hammon said.

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