Thanks to our partnership with the 92Y, Nightingale's reputation as a leading school, and History Department Head Dr. Heidi Kasevich’s exceptional new curriculum on giving, I was invited by the White House Office of Innovation and Civic Participation to represent K–12 schools in a conversation about #GivingTuesday, an international day of giving aimed at inspiring people to take collaborative action to improve their local communities and give back in better, smarter ways to the charities and causes they support.
Forty "thought leaders" from business, nonprofit, and philanthropic organizations convened at the White House on Monday, October 6, to discuss how #GivingTuesday can activate new donors and drive change at scale. Dedicated to strengthening and supporting the social sector, the White House sees innovations such as #GivingTuesday as having great potential to address the gap that remains between demand and resources after the economic downturn of 2008. As Special Assistant to the President Jonathan Greenblatt said, "Whether it’s a single individual or a large-scale foundation, philanthropy has a crucial role to play as we seek to move the country forward. #GivingTuesday is poised to expand these activities and bring the country together to the benefit of causes and communities across the country."
As I sat around the large table at which we were gathered, it struck me that an event like #GivingTuesday brings disparate people together in meaningful ways—the 40 organizations present ranged from the Salvation Army, Google, and PayPal to the Methodist Church, the Gates Foundation, and the Nightingale-Bamford School (the only school represented). Each representative had an opportunity to address the group, share best practices, and contribute ideas. Kathy Calvin from the UN Foundation proclaimed that grassroots initiatives like #GivingTuesday could never have happened without social media. Building on that notion, the director of the It Gets Better Project said that his organization's emergence into the public conscience is evidence that if you get enough people talking, you can shift a culture. The Gates Foundation focused on what they call "Greater Giving”: They want to inspire more giving, but also "better” giving, since only 30% of all gifts are researched in even a cursory way. When it was my turn, I said that Nightingale is a small girls' school with a proud history of service. More than merely inspiring our students to give to the broader world, we teach them how to be better givers by helping them discover their talents and understand the world around them—both for its potential and its inequities.
I must admit that at the beginning of the meeting I was reminded of my earliest days of college when I placed into an advanced Calculus course that I was not prepared for: What was I doing here? As the morning went on, however, I felt confident that the Nightingale-Bamford School deserved the place it had been given alongside other leading organizations. Our teachers' ideas and our programs are worthy of sharing, and when we share, we broaden our public purpose. When we broaden our public purpose, we do our part in making the world a better place. When we do our part of making the world a better place, we remind every girl that that is our expectation of them, as well.