How Baltimore Became the Most Generous City in America on Giving Tuesday | npENGAGE

How Baltimore Became the Most Generous City in America on Giving Tuesday

By on Nov 4, 2015


Giving Tuesday

What does it take to really commit to a goal—one bigger than you’ve ever set for yourself before?

For Jamie McDonald and her team at GiveCorps, it took a willingness to fail.

You see, Jamie is one of those people who heard about Giving Tuesday early on, and from the beginning it resonated with her. She realized it wasn’t just a day for giving; it was a day of individual reflection and a focus on how each of us can matter in the world—an opportunity to ask yourself “how can I contribute more?”

Giving Tuesday is a day of generosity that’s focused on the standpoint of the donor—the standpoint of us as humans—as opposed to what we usually focus on. Instead of nonprofit effectiveness, metrics, and measurements, it’s a day that citizens can reflect on the impact that we want to have in the world. It’s a re-framing of where the power is in the decision. That’s the energy behind the movement.

With this in mind, Jamie and her team decided to do something greater for their clients and for themselves as givers, so they set their sights on building a campaign that would be meaningful for their entire city, Baltimore.

They created the BMore Gives More campaign and set out to become the most generous city in America.

The media would have you believe that Baltimore isn’t exciting or vibrant, so we wanted to declare on a very visible day that we’re the most generous city. That became our rallying cry.

A $5 million rallying cry on Giving Tuesday, to be exact.

They knew it would take a village to make it happen, so they used the Giving Tuesday movement as a platform to encourage their entire city to reflect on the role it plays as a part of a greater movement. Locking arms with local and philanthropic partners, community and nonprofit leaders, and corporate executives, they made the decision to do something that hadn’t been done before.

They decided to take the risk.

They harnessed broad-based community excitement and support

Giving means different things to different people. And when it comes to partnering with your community, you can’t ignore the strength behind small community merchants—they’re local citizens, too, with a desire to be a part of a broader community initiative. The BMore Gives More campaign gave local merchants a channel to do something that was good for their business and good for them. Like all of Baltimore’s citizens, they understood that a healthier city is good for all members of the community.

And that’s something a community can easily rally behind.

They were willing to fail

Testing your tolerance is critical. Not everyone is going to be willing to try for something big. But your goal provides a visible rallying cry for your campaign, a vocal point for how each person fits in. When setting a goal, you have to make it big and ambitious enough that people are willing to rally around it and work harder than usual to make it happen.

If you make a modest goal, it hasn’t really shown your team or organization that together you can do something bigger than you thought you could do.

The result?

$5.7 million raised and the title of the most generous city in America.

If you search for Baltimore and generosity today, this honor is the first thing that comes up, which is such counterpoint to the country’s perception of the city.

We’re so much more than what the media portrays. To have this ability to say ‘we are the most generous city’ is such a departure from the way the world has perceived Baltimore.

Henry Timms, founder of the movement, often speaks about the many missions of Giving Tuesday—its evolution in becoming a global learning lab around generosity. The giving day has inspired people to move and act on their passions in a way nobody could have imagined, and BMore Gives More saw this firsthand in Baltimore.

And the entire movement has benefitted because of it.

For the Giving Tuesday movement, centrally, and for the team at 92nd Street Y, Baltimore proved that the day is truly an open source movement. It’s ok to allow participants to own it—to inspire creativity and innovation that could not have been anticipated—because that’s how a groundswell of support is created. BMore Gives More’s interpretation of Giving Tuesday is an example of this, and the campaign is being modeled around the world, inspiring cities, counties, states and countries to think about how they, too, can create a movement.

Jamie now partners with 92nd Street Y and is helping shape civic campaigns and movements around the country. In doing so, she’s working with community leaders to help them make the Giving Tuesday movement their own.

Part of what made it work for us is that we did it in a way that resonated with our community. You have to make Giving Tuesday your unique thing. The movement was put out there so that we could shape it to make it compelling to individuals and communities.

As Rachel Hutchisson, leader of Blackbaud’s Corporate Social Responsibility, often says, “Good is for everyone.” We CAN build generosity and giving around the world. We just have to be willing to take the risk—to do something bigger than we ever imagined we were capable of.

If you’re interested in launching a movement for your community, you can contact Jamie at


Madeline Turner is a social media expert, and was formerly the online and social marketing manager at Blackbaud. Prior to running Blackbaud’s social media and thought leadership blog npENGAGE, Madeline worked as a managing editor for Blackbaud’s content marketing program. It is her goal to create content and share ideas that challenge the status quo of the nonprofit industry. When Madeline isn’t tweeting or writing blog posts, you can find her drinking coffee out of her ‘Crazy Cat Lady’ mug, wearing giant headphones and singing off-key.

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