OK, sit back take a deep breath. Exhale slowly.

You've survived another hectic holiday season.

Many of us had a chance to visit with loved ones and share good fellowship with friends.

And, of course, we did plenty of shopping.

So what comes after Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday?

This year, we added Giving Tuesday, an effort to encourage Americans to open their wallets to support charities.

Celebrated Nov. 27, it was backed by corporate and philanthropic heavyweights nationwide. Among the founding partners: United Nations Foundation, United Way, JPMorgan Chase and Indianapolis' own Simon Property Group Inc., which collected donations in its malls.

More than 2,000 not-for-profits across the country used the occasion to ask for gifts or mobilize volunteers.

The daylong focus on giving may be new, but history tells us Santa's not the only one who gets his jollies from being generous.

Charitable giving typically picks up in the last quarter of the year, accounting for about a third of all donations.

Americans gave an estimated $298.4 billion to tax-exempt organizations last year. Total giving increased in 2011 for the second straight year, according to a report released by the Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

That's a trend we need to maintain.

It's natural for us to want to help, but we shouldn't wait for a disaster or a holiday to spur us to charitable action. There are plenty of opportunities year-round for us all to share our time, talent and treasure.

We have a lot to offer other than money. Not-for-profits need good board members and active, engaged volunteers. And many just need everyday essentials like office supplies.

The demands on charities don't end when the year does, and neither should our support.

- The Indiana Business Journal

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