Asha Curran is the Chief Innovation Officer and Director of the Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact at 92nd Street Y, which was recently named one of the 10 Most Innovative Nonprofits by Fast Company. She leads #GivingTuesday, the global giving movement, as well as a portfolio of global, digitally-driven initiatives including 7 Days of Genius, the Social Good Summit, the Ben Franklin Circles, and the Women inPower Fellowship. She is the recipient of the 2015 Social Capital Hero Award, named a 2016 Woman of Influence by New York Business Journals, and is a Forty over 40 Women to Watch honoree. Asha serves on the board of directors of TheGuardian.org, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing civil discourse and issues-driven journalism, and she is a non-resident Fellow at Stanford University’s Digital Civil Society Lab.
Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.), #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and year-end giving. Since its inaugural year in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become a movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy.
This year, #GivingTuesday is on November 27. We caught up with Asha after our recent webinar on year-end fundraising, for some #GivingTuesday inspiration.
What attracts you to nonprofit work?
Nonprofits are tackling the world’s biggest challenges, at a global and local level. It’s the most important work that can be done and everyone who works in our world should be outspokenly proud about it. I believe the nonprofit sector can be seen as trusted and purposeful and also innovative, exciting, and entrepreneurial. That will take some work, and that work will be best done collaboratively.
With #GivingTuesday just a little over a month away, what can nonprofits do now to be successful on November 27? Is it too late to participate and be effective?
We do recommend leaving a good amount of time to prepare to be most effective, but no, it’s not too late. We have loads of resources on GivingTuesday.org on how to prepare a successful campaign, and experts like Beth Kanter, Farra Trompeter and others also share plenty of resources. My #1 thing to advise organizations to do is to use the day to try something new, something collaborative, and most of all, something celebratory. Giving on #GivingTuesday is not about mourning all the things that are wrong with the world, but celebrating the ability of each and every person to make an impact.
What are some of the more innovative campaigns and partnerships you’ve seen small nonprofits execute?
One of the very first #GivingTuesday campaigns was GivingShoesDay, a campaign run by Dress for Success to inspire people to donate shoes to under-resourced women returning to the workforce. We loved that adaptation of the brand, a classic example of the value of co-ownership that the movement champions. We love the “Confession Week” social media campaign in Russia: it’s a fun campaign playing off the fact that in Russia, giving to nonprofits is fairly common but talking about it is not. In Bethel, Alaska, a tiny Alaskan town, volunteers stood on a freezing street corner to collect donations from passing motorists—with smiles on their faces.
What can individuals do on #GivingTuesday in addition to donating to their favorite nonprofits?
They can bring a gift and a smile to an elderly neighbor. They can offer a colleague at work help or mentorship, or just gratitude for being a great person to work with. They can pay for the coffee of the person next to them at the coffee shop in the morning. We’ve seen groups of people writing love notes to Baltimore in chalk on the sidewalks on #GivingTuesday; teenagers from Kansas to Croatia to Tanzania volunteering to help those in need, whether children or the elderly or the disabled; groups of volunteers handing out hot chocolate and coffee to the homeless in Denver. There are a million ways to show generosity and each one of them makes us better as people and strengthens our communities in countless ways.
What do you do to keep your energy up when you get campaign fatigue?
#GivingTuesday is the thing that gives me energy when I get everything-else fatigue.
And one for fun…If you could have dinner with any social leader alive or dead, who would it be?
Joao Paolo, Masha, Anita, Teresita, Jorge, Pushpa, Ricard, Jallah, Lisa, Will, Yaele… all of them and any of the other community or country #GivingTuesday leaders. They’re not just changing the world. They’re the most fun to have a beer with. That’s setting a high bar.