12/02/2014 12:09 pm ET Updated Feb 01, 2015

Happy #GivingTuesday -- Join the Movement

Black Friday and Cyber Monday marked the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Over the next several weeks -- as we navigate mall parking lots, fill our shopping carts and test our patience in check-out lines -- let's not lose sight of what's behind this excitement. It all comes down to the simple act of giving.

Today we celebrate the third annual #GivingTuesday. Seeing an opportunity to channel the generous spirit of the holiday season to inspire action around charitable giving, a group of national organizations -- including United Way Worldwide -- created this holiday, which takes place on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, to promote and celebrate the great American tradition of giving. This special day is a chance for you to take collaborative action to improve your local communities and give back to the charities and causes you support.

The spirit and potential of #GivingTuesday extends beyond the confines of a single day. It's a global movement that has engaged individuals and groups around the world, as well as more than 10,000 organizations from both the nonprofit and private sectors. Taking part in #GivingTuesday can mean making a monetary contribution, but it can also mean volunteering your time and talents or lending your voice to a cause. By joining this movement, you have a chance to embrace the notion that giving is more than simply a one-time act. Rather, it's an integral component of lasting, systemic solutions that benefit us all.

This understanding forms the foundation of United Way's work in communities around the country. In collaboration with our partners, we work to address education, income and health. We consider these essential areas to be the building blocks for a better quality life and a stronger community. That's why we focus on helping our young people develop skills for success on a birth to 21 continuum. It's why our local United Ways and partners undertake initiatives to help build the financial stability of families when it comes to employment, savings and housing. And it's why we promote efforts that help kids develop healthy habits from an early age.

Your involvement in the #GivingTuesday movement -- however you choose to participate -- is an essential component of developing those building blocks in your community.

So now it's time to take action. Visit the #GivingTuesday website to get involved. Reach out to your local United Way to learn about its #GivingTuesday programs. Or find a way to give on your own. And make sure to spread the word.

It's a simple idea with big implications. I hope you'll join us in this global celebration of a new tradition of generosity.