Our Holiday Priorities are Backwards

by Ken Mueller on December 4, 2013 · 4 comments

Stack of Greenbacks

The time from Thanksgiving through the end of the year is quite the whirlwind. We move quickly through a series of holidays where we spend a lot of money on food and gifts, all the while focusing on endings.

As a teacher, it’s the end of the semester for my classes and my students are doing final projects while I’m taking care of grading. As businesses we are focusing on our year end numbers, hoping to close out the year in a good place to start the new year. For nonprofits, it’s a crucial time to bring in as much money as possible from people hoping to squeeze in a last minute tax break.

This past week, much of the focus was on consumerism. Buying stuff. We had Black Friday, which actually began on Thanksgiving morning (if not before), followed by Small Business Saturday, and then Cyber Monday. Why? Because we need new holiday names to promote shopping opportunities. We can’t just buy, we need to BUY, BUY, BUY! A lot. It’s a major event of epic newsworthy proportions. If you watched any newscasts, local or national, over the past week, it was very likely the top story.


And then buy some more. Because apparently the deals are great and we all need more stuff. Besides, there’s nothing better than video after video of people fighting over stuff, all for the sake of a few dollars. That’s the holiday spirit! Keep your hands off of my towels or I’ll stab you! And Cyber Monday? We very well can’t stampede or fight over stuff, but perhaps we can send computer viruses out to prevent others from purchasing what we want. Hmmm.

Then, after we’ve done all of our buying; spent our money (or depleted our credit), we’re not left with much. But that’s OK, because all that’s left is Giving Tuesday.

That’s right, after we’ve spent all of our money, we are asked to dig deeper and give to our favorite nonprofits. With what?

Buy first, give later.

Isn’t that backwards? Shouldn’t Giving Tuesday happen the Tuesday before Thanksgiving?

We’ve created a culture that thinks about giving as something we do IF we have anything left over. It’s not a priority, it’s an add-on. I think that’s wrong. We need to change our way of thinking and at least give before we buy. Let’s make buying stuff that thing we do when we have something left over from giving.

Better yet, we learn to give regularly, throughout the year, rather than waiting for those giving moments like Giving Tuesday or year end appeals. If we cultivate a culture of giving, perhaps nonprofits would no longer need to blitz us through every available channel at the end of the year.

This is something we can do as individuals, in our families, and even in our businesses. Build giving into your business model year-round and include your customers in the process.

Let’s put giving before buying and getting. Let’s make it a regular part of our lives.

How are you making giving a part of your business model and culture? Is it a priority for you?



Well, although there's been a feeble attempt in Canada to create something of a black Friday atmosphere to keep people shopping locally, what I'm happy about is this: no stampeding crowds, no frenzy, no wild shopping. Just the "normal" Christmas shopping and giving: to the Salvation Army, local food bank, SPCA and donations of used clothing to various organizations. I know several of my friends head south of the border to partake of the buying frenzy, but I'm quite happy to stay here and shop "normally" and give graciously. Cheers! Kaarina


Yes, yes, yes! Love this post, Ken. I've been thinking a lot about this after you shared that Huffington Post article about Thanksgiving shopping. In fact, I even expounded upon that article. It's so sad to me that a holiday designated for giving thanks has turned into a consumeristic frenzy. And, even worse, giving back has become an after thought shoved to several days later. I didn't even realize there was such a thing as "Giving Tuesday" until I heard a radio station doing a promotion on it yesterday. Where was the promotion and frenzy around that? I'm with you - we should give first, buy later. Perhaps that's the wrong way to think about it as a marketer, but I think that our culture focuses too much on the "stuff" and instead of the real reason behind why we give gifts in the first place. 

KenMueller moderator

@KDillabough I hope that continues! Would hate for you to pick up our bad habits and greed!

KenMueller moderator

@lauraclick I heard about Giving Tuesday here and there, but it surely wasn't promoted well. And as for this time of year, I've seen a big difference over the past ten years, and I think the Internet is a big part of that. And I understand the need to make money and be successful in business, but I think we're headed down a dangerous path.

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