GivingTuesday was created in 2012 as a day that encourages people to do good. Coming after “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday,” staples of the year-end holiday shopping season, GivingTuesday is intended to encourage a different kind of giving – through donations, volunteering, or advocacy.

There has never been a better time to embrace the philosophy of GivingTuesday. While the pandemic is easing in parts of the world, its effects are still being felt by many.

According to a Federal Reserve Community Development survey of U.S. nonprofit, government and community organizations conducted in August 2021, the majority of communities and families are still struggling to recover from the effects of the pandemic.

For example, 57 percent of respondents said COVID-19 was causing a significant disruption to services for children, with 77 percent noting that conditions were still worse than they were pre-pandemic. Half the respondents estimated it will take one to three years to return to pre-pandemic conditions, and almost one quarter said it would take four or more years for housing stability to return to pre-pandemic conditions.

Globally, the pandemic continues to exacerbate issues like poverty and economic inequality, with the world’s poorest citizens absorbing most of the financial hardship. The World Bank reported in June 2021 that in the poorest countries of the world, the impact of COVID-19 on poverty is not only still present, but it is worsening.

Nonprofits working to address global poverty echo this concern.

“COVID‑19 has reversed decades of development gains, worsened conflict, and increased hunger, and may push an additional 115 million people deeper into extreme poverty,” says Tjada D’Oyen McKenna, CEO of Mercy Corps, a nonprofit that Cisco has partnered with for many years. “Many of the communities facing the worst ripple effects of the pandemic are also already experiencing the impact of the climate crisis. This makes Mercy Corps’ mission to alleviate poverty, suffering and oppression more urgent than ever.”

That was the bad news. Now the good news: for those of us who can, there are plenty of opportunities to help. And many of us are.

According to the World Giving Index, more than 3 in 10 adults worldwide donated money to charity in 2020, and more than 3 billion people (55 percent of the world’s adult population) reported helping someone they didn’t know in 2020. Also, the report showed that more people donated money (31 percent) in 2020 than had done so in the last five years.

And while volunteering may have been a challenge during pandemic lockdowns, many people sought opportunities to volunteer virtually.

For example, hundreds of Cisco employees have volunteered through Citizen Schools’ Expanded Learning Time after-school program for the past 10 years, reaching over 2900 underserved students. When the pandemic hit, Citizen Schools had to pivot quickly from an in-person, tactile instruction model to fully remote distance learning.

A group of children and adults holding up a Citizen Schools banner
Citizen Schools’ Expanded Learning Time after-school program

Throughout the 2020–2021 school year, Cisco employees worked with Citizen Schools to change their curriculum to fit the remote model. We used online games like Jeopardy! and Bingo to keep students engaged and provided doodle boards that students could use to draw or write their answers. Instead of hosting their final projects in person, students presented what they learned virtually.

Alisha Ghosh, an Insights & Innovation Manager on Cisco’s Customer Experience team and a Citizen Schools volunteer, taught a course on environmental sustainability. “Over the course of a few months, in an entirely new virtual learning setting, I saw students who were normally shy or hands-off transform into effective problem solvers,” she says.

Here at Cisco, our Conscious Culture encourages employees to make taking action for others a habit. In our last fiscal year, employee donations, combined with generous matching gifts from the Cisco Foundation, generated $34 million USD for charitable organizations worldwide – the highest amount ever.

Cisco itself also has a long history of strategic giving through its social impact grants, which support early-phase, technology-based solutions that serve underrepresented and vulnerable populations.

Are you ready to embrace the #GivingTuesday spirit but don’t know where to start?

Explore this list of our current nonprofit social impact grant recipients. From crisis response to education to economic empowerment, they are doing amazing work and making a positive impact.

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Alexis Raymond

Senior Manager

Chief Sustainability Office