Seven Questions for . . . Colleen Giles Timms

One of my favorite things about running The Picture Book Club has been the people it has led me to. Some are old friends who have offered new mentorship and support, some are fellow book people or entrepreneurs whom I've met through my work, and others are visionaries who inspire me from afar. I'm thrilled to introduce a few of them here.

-YiLing Chen-Josephson, Founder, The Picture Book Club

Colleen, co-founder of #GivingTuesday, with her kids.

Colleen, co-founder of #GivingTuesday, with her kids.

Q: What do you do?

My professional background is in corporate social responsibility, and currently most of my time is spent as mother to a 5 and 3 year old. However, 5 years ago, any spare time that I wasn’t using to catch up on sleep, I used to work with my husband and a team of influencers to launch a movement called #GivingTuesday. The idea was simple: a philanthropic response to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. A day of giving after two days of getting.

That first year, 2012, we had 2500 partners and it was mainly focused in the US. This year #GivingTuesday currently has tens of thousands of partners and will be active in over 70 countries around the world. 

Q: What’s your favorite thing about doing what you do?

Watching how #GivingTuesday has grown exponentially each year has been incredibly exciting and so inspiring. This grassroots movement is built by individuals, families, organizations and communities who all want to come together and give back. It doesn’t work without the passion of every project, every act of giving. I’ve been so proud to watch the movement grow. It really showcases how generous people are and how creative the nonprofit world can be. 

Q: What's something challenging about it?

It is so easy to measure philanthropic success in monetary value alone. One of the most challenging aspects has been not thinking about success purely in terms of the money raised. Each year we hear stories of how one small organization, community or family came together to celebrate this day of giving and I never want those stories to be overlooked. One favorite example this year is groups of dads who will be coming together all over the country to help pack and deliver food to those in need. Another is an online drive to get people to sign up as organ donors. These moments of everyday generosity matter so much.    

Q: What is something you’re proud of?

It is amazing to have been a part of something that is really developing into a new national ritual. In America, there are two days that are all about getting deals - Black Friday and Cyber Monday. #GivingTuesday is pushing its way onto the calendar too. That really gives me a lot of pride.

Colleen on a billboard in Times Square, ringing in last year's #GivingTuesday at the Nasdaq Opening Bell ceremony.

Colleen on a billboard in Times Square, ringing in last year's #GivingTuesday at the Nasdaq Opening Bell ceremony.

Q: Who is someone who inspires you that you know personally?

My husband, Henry. Shortly after our son was born we starting thinking about the world he wanted for our child. He took an idea that started at our kitchen table, worked with an amazing group of people on this idea and through that first year, as our son grew, so did #GivingTuesday.

Q: Who is someone who inspires you that you've never met?

Time and again I am inspired by stories of people who see a need in their communities and take it upon themselves to serve, to give, any way they can.  I am so inspired by the people who run Giving Tuesday campaigns all over the country. The nonprofit sector doesn’t get the credit it deserves, but it is so entrepreneurial and dynamic. One great example is Dress for Success. They turned Giving Tuesday into “Giving Shoes Day” and collect shoes for women heading back into the workplace. I’m looking forward to joining that campaign this year.

Q: What’s a picture book you remember as a favorite from your childhood?

Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss. I have such wonderful memories of reading that book again and again with my mum. From such a young age reading about the value in giving of oneself was very powerful. It also made me realize the value and reward of promises kept and taking responsibility. To this day, I truly hate when I have to break a promise to anyone.

Also all the Hans Christian Anderson stories, especially The Little Mermaid. I remember understanding and being so moved by what she gave up for the Prince’s happiness - her own life. At 11 years old, I was outraged when I watched the Disney film and saw how they changed the ending!

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The Picture Book Club will make a donation to Donors Choose, the charity chosen by Colleen, for every purchaser who mentions this Q+A.

Help The Picture Book Club support other great causes: for every 12 Women Who Changed the World subscription sold, we will make a donation to Running Start.  For every Pick of the Litter Book Bundle sold, we will make a donation to Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue.