The College Donor Digest

GivingTuesday: When Gratitude Meets Generosity

November 28, 2023 | Rebecca Richards

The tradition of GivingTuesday did not start until nearly 400 years after the first Thanksgiving. Despite its relatively young age, GivingTuesday has grown in popularity in the United States and abroad. According to GiveWP, over 85 countries participated in GivingTuesday in 2022, and American donors gave over $3.1 billion. The close proximity of Thanksgiving and GivingTuesday in the calendar year highlights the intimate relationship between gratitude and generosity.  

According to Paul G. Schervish, a sociologist and the former director of Boston College’s Center on Wealth and Philanthropy, gratitude is a driving force behind why people give. In his article, “Why the Wealthy Give,” he writes, “Invariably, beneath the desire to give back is a sense of gratitude, and behind that gratitude is an appreciation of blessing, grace, gift, luck or fortune. Gratitude is an active, mobilizing sentiment.” Ideally, feeling grateful inspires us to bless others through action.  

Gratitude was the motivation of philanthropist and entrepreneur John Altman, who worked with the Fund for Academic Renewal on a gift to Miami University. In our interview with Mr. Altman, he told us, “My own journey of philanthropy started in Chicago. I was head doorman at a country club in high school. The president of the club, Mr. Winski, wanted me to stay on and become a manager eventually. When he found out I couldn’t afford the tuition for college, he put 10 $100 bills in my tuxedo uniform. I vowed that night that if I ever had the resources, I’d do the same for someone else.”  

He did just that. As soon as he graduated from Miami University, he began giving back to the institution. Over time, his gifts grew from $100 to establishing the John W. Altman Institute for Entrepreneurship.  

While establishing an academic program is not in everyone’s budget, philanthropy comes in all shapes and sizes. FAR helps donors like John Altman maximize the impact of their gifts to higher education when giving back to the institutions that formed them. Whether or not you give to colleges and universities, GivingTuesday is a special opportunity to discover new ways to give, whether time, treasure, or talent. Visit the movement’s website for inspiration on how you can participate.


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The Fund for Academic Renewal is a program of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a not-for-profit, tax-exempt organization as defined by Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. All contributions to FAR are fully tax-deductible to the maximum extent provided by law.