Today, Giving Tuesday, highlights the good that Georgians do all year.

Wildfires, hurricanes, the delta variant, supply shortages, economic worries, election fatigue, geopolitical unrest: Over the past two years, we’ve gone nine rounds with the universe.

I think it’s safe to say, as the holiday season approaches, that we’d all like our two front teeth back, thank you very much.

But in this time of personal exhaustion, overload and grief, nonprofit organizations have been stepping up, doubling down and breaking new ground to mitigate hardships as they arise — providing direct relief in terms of hunger and health care, respite from the storm in the form of arts and green space, and much more — even as they struggle with hardships of their own, from the complete disruption of the way they work to the burnout experienced by nonprofit staffers and volunteers who serve on the front lines day-in and day-out.

That’s why this year’s GAgives on Giving Tuesday, taking place today, is more important than ever — and why we need everyone to help spread #GAgenerosity by donating, volunteering and sharing this celebration of giving back. As the biggest day of generosity in our state, GAgives highlights the work and worth of the nonprofit sector as well as the power of everyday Georgians to make a difference.

Individually, it is easy to give in to anxiety, depression, rage and apathy when faced with a list of problems that seem all too big to tackle. But even in the worst of times, giving back can help us feel better about ourselves and our world while making a material difference in the lives of our neighbors, here in Georgia and across the globe.

That’s the opportunity GAgives on Giving Tuesday provides all of us in Georgia. In fact, last year’s GAgives on Giving Tuesday, taking place as the pandemic raged into its 8th month, inspired more people than ever: Counting 260,546 individual donations, 2020 giving topped 2019’s record-setting figure by more than 94%.

That groundswell of #GAgenerosity translated into more than $24.88 million, benefiting thousands of Georgia nonprofits and causes of every kind — and that was after a COVID-19- specific Giving Tuesday event in May that saw Georgians contributing $1.26 million, even as we were all reeling to adapt to pandemic conditions not seen in the U.S. for a century.

It’s been proven that, even in the face of complex challenges, simple acts can improve our mood, our health and our outlook.

Take smiling: A recently released study substantiates the evidence that smiling improves your mood, relieves stress, boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure, releases feel-good hormones, makes you more attractive to others and is contagious — helping others change their own circumstances.

Yet another recent study shows that smiling can even diminish physical pain, such as the sting from a vaccine injection. All this, just from moving a few facial muscles.

If this simple, individual act of positivity — a smile — can have such a profound effect, imagine what an international positivity movement could do.

That’s Giving Tuesday: Situated after the two tentpoles of holiday consumer spending, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday is celebrated annually across the globe by millions. Giving Tuesday was conceived in 2012 with a simple idea: one day each year that encourages people to do good. Over nine years, this idea has grown into an incredible force for good, reaching every state in the nation and more than 75 countries around the world. Last year alone, individuals participating in Giving Tuesday gave a total of $2.97 billion.

Think of Giving Tuesday as a worldwide grin: a mosaic crafted by countless individual contributions of dollars, time, talent, social media space, enthusiasm and influence, in which every piece helps improve life for others.

There are plenty of problems to chew on, but if we each do one simple thing within our power — whether that’s giving, volunteering or sharing stories of recovery, hope, love and respect — we can contribute to meaningful, immediate and lasting solutions.

Georgia’s nonprofit sector, missing front teeth and all, will be all smiles today.

We hope you’ll be smiling back, and encouraging everyone you know to give and to spread #GAgenerosity themselves.

(The official giving platform of GAgives on Giving Tuesday, GAgives.org, makes it easy to do both — and to start your own fundraiser for the Georgia nonprofit of your choice.) Remember: Research shows smiling makes you more attractive.
Ahh — there you go. You look amazing, Georgia!

Karen Beavor is president and CEO of the Georgia Center for Nonprofits, the official state organizer for Giving Tuesday in Georgia.

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