StoriesEvents GivingEveryTuesday

Behind the Scenes with Lys Hugessen, GivingTuesday Canada

1 Apr 2018 by GivingTuesday

As the next part in our global leaders series, we sat down with Lys Hugessen. Lys is one of the faces driving the #GivingTuesday movement in Canada. Here’s what she had to say about her experience so far championing #GivingTuesdayCA.

Q: Lys, tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from, and how did you get involved with the social good world?

Lys: I was born and raised in Montreal, where I currently live. I have lived in a few different places, including Bogota in Colombia. I studied Business and worked in the corporate world in market research and marketing for 25 years, and I was looking for a change. The opportunity came up to work for the GIV3 foundation and I was so excited to get involved. GIV3’s mission is interesting because it’s all about engaging the public in giving, volunteering and philanthropy. It was a great chance to take what I had learned in the corporate world and apply my skills in strategy to the social good world. The last seven years with GIV3 have opened my eyes and my heart in new ways which has been exciting!

Q: What inspired you to get involved in #GivingTuesday?

Lys: At GIV3, we were looking around for programs to engage the public. When we saw #GivingTuesday happening in the US in 2012, we watched the campaign from Canada and thought this was a great idea. Black Friday was starting to make its way into Canada and we thought this was the perfect platform to engage the public to turn their attention towards the social good sector. We got together with a few other organisations including Canada Helps, and started in #GivingTuesday Canada in 2013. That year we set a goal of 100 organisations to participate — and we got over 1,000 in just a few months. The movement has only been growing since. It’s the best thing we’ve ever imported from the USA!

Q: What has worked well for #GivingTuesday in Canada so far?

Lys: What works really well is the philosophy of the movement. The open-source and inclusive nature, the “tools, not rules” aspect and the whole model of decentralization allows any community or organisation to own it. We’ve always loved that it’s not a brand that people try to control and I think that’s had great appeal for the leaders that have taken it on as well as the grassroots community organisations. As soon as we saw the BMore Gives More campaign in Baltimore and then the GuelphGives movement as Canada’s first civic day, we realized it was a model that could work anywhere, all it took was a little bit of a resource and support to enable #GivingTuesday to flourish. And of course Canadian are so generous; and they seem to LOVE the idea of joining in and having fun with their generosity.

Q: What challenges have you faced in getting #GivingTuesday in Canada off the ground?

Lys: You have to know and accept that not everyone is going to love #GivingTuesday, and that’s okay. We put a lot of resource and support into those who are on board so we really put our focus where there’s existing energy.

Building public awareness has also been a challenge. We’ve had a lot of great media support over the last five years, but when we look at awareness and growth for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we’d like to see the share of voice for #GivingTuesdayCA be as high as it is for those days. To find creative ways to engage the media in that story is a challenge that we’re really trying to tackle.

Q: What’s the potential or impact of the movement in Canada?

Lys: The impact we’ve seen has exceeded our expectations by far. We have several donation platforms reporting back on how strong the increases in online giving have been. #GivingTuesday has become one of the big giving days of the year as we’ve been able to bring awareness and intentionalilty to giving earlier in the year. Organisations that understand that and have focused their efforts on growing their #GivingTuesday initiatives have been performing much better throughout the whole month of December than those that are not involved.

And beyond the numbers, we have seen so many wonderful stories of community impact. Mountains of toys, food and clothing donations, blood donor and organ donor commitments. These kinds of acts of giving really open #GivingTuesday up to anyone in Canada to participate. Research also shows that #GivingTuesday is engaging youth in a big way, with awareness, participation and motivation levels even higher for that group than the older groups. This is where we see the biggest potential; to increase meaningful engagements for the new generations getting involved in giving.

Q: What is one of your favourite #GivingTuesday stories?

Lys: Local community movements are one of my favorite things and we have so many great leaders across the country. We have this incredible movement in Nova Scotia with a dynamic leader in Halifax driving the growth. There’s a small business there, Wilsons Home Heating, that donates $10,000 each year on #GivingTuesdayCA and does this by sending out teams into the streets to give out hugs. The person that gets the hug gets to choose which charity they’d like to contribute $10 of Wilsons money to. It’s a very warm culture in that part of the country they really embody what generosity means.

Q: What are you most looking forward to for #GivingTuesday 2018?

Lys: I am looking forward to seeing the growth continue and really seeing the community campaigns hit their stride. I have a feeling that this could be the year that we reach a tipping point in Canada, and that the media and the public get that this is a great story with new twists every year. The cool thing about #GivingTuesday is that all kinds of things happen that we don’t orchestrate, and it’s exciting to see how organic it is. I’m looking forward to seeing what generous Canadians have in store this year.

Q: One of the reasons the #GivingTuesday movement has been so successful globally is because of the vision and leadership of country and community leaders like you, who step up in the name of social good. What does leadership mean to you?

Lys: I think leadership is a lot about vision. Where do we want to take this, what is the purpose of it? But it’s got to be done with empathy and the awareness of the people around you and who’s making things happen. It’s about the people who are out in the organisations and out in the communities and the businesses getting involved – those are the people who are really making this movement happen. As leaders, you have to realize that and tuck the ego far away because that’s not what this is about.

Q: Do you have any advice for leaders thinking about starting a #GivingTuesday movement in their country or city?

Lys: For us, partnerships have worked so well. The original founding partners were all super helpful either giving us resources or pointing us in the right direction. Reach out to as many people as possible to include them in starting the movement and getting it off the ground and bringing the right resources to it. Don’t expect everyone to be 100% sold on it, that’s fine. Focus your energies on where the positive energy is and it’ll grow organically because this movement is a fantastic idea.

Q: What is a quote by one of your favourite leaders? Or Who is someone you admire for their vision and leadership and why?


“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou.

I think this movement is about making people feel good about community and their role within it and that’s what is going to really help it grow over time. That’s why I am a part of it.

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