What's next after Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

After the big shopping days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, nonprofits across the country want you to spend more — on Giving Tuesday.

This is a fundraising initiative in which nonprofits and even big corporations will encourage people to make a charitable donation on Tuesday. Promoters hope Giving Tuesday will become an annual event as popular as those two post-Thanksgiving shopping days.

"It's an opportunity to redirect the conversation and narrative at this time of year," said Daniel Lee, vice president for external relations for Baltimore-based Lutheran World Relief, which is participating in Giving Tuesday. "There is so much emphasis on Black Friday and purchasing things. And every year someone is trying to start the consumer holiday earlier."

The idea for Giving Tuesday came from the 92nd Street Y, a Jewish community and cultural center in New York. The group enlisted the muscle of the United Nations Foundation and a movement was born. As of last week, 1,700 nonprofits and businesses had signed on as partners. That includes 140 diverse Maryland groups, such as 4-H, Catholic Charities of Baltimore, US Lacrosse, the American Visionary Art Museum and the Washington County Historical Society.

"Everyone talks about the giving season. Shouldn't the giving season have an opening day?" asked Henry Timms, deputy executive director at 92nd Street Y and a founder of Giving Tuesday. "We have Black Friday and Cyber Monday, two days that are good for the economy. Wouldn't it be good to have a day that's good for the soul?"

Giving Tuesday also comes in the wake of some tough fundraising years for nonprofits.

Nationally, donations in the past two years have remained flat or declined for half of nonprofits, said Greg Cantori, president and CEO of Maryland Nonprofits, which has about 1,400 nonprofit members.

In Maryland, nonprofits are "attempting to keep pace with the needs," Cantori said.

In 2006, Marylanders reported nearly $5.2 billion in charitable deductions on their tax returns, according to the Urban Institute's National Center for Charitable Statistics. But with the 2007 recession followed the next year by a stock market crash, charitable deductions by 2009 had fallen to $4.5 billion.

Cantori said 2008 and 2009 declines were like "nothing we have seen in a half-century."

Donations have begun to pick up, with Marylanders' charitable deductions rising to $4.78 billion in 2010, according to the latest figures.

"It's been quite challenging on all fronts, both from the grant perspective and individual contributions," said Steve Farr, development director for the Assateague Coastal Trust, which promotes protection of the coastal bays watershed.

Foundations, for example, pulled back on grants when investment portfolios took a hit during the stock market crash a few years ago. And even though the market has come back, a recovery in grants is likely to lag a year or two because many foundations still are operating under old financial projections, Farr said.

Giving Tuesday, though, will give nonprofits another way to make their case to donors, he said.

"It's a good vehicle at a good time," Farr said. "It allows people to think about their consumption versus their giving."

Much of the promotion of Giving Tuesday has been through social media, which nonprofits expect can help expand their donor base.

"This is something we hope will engage a lot of really young new givers, people who haven't given in the past," said Ashley Gorby, assistant director of marketing and communications with the United Way of Central Maryland.

Some Maryland nonprofits are going beyond social media on Giving Tuesday to reach prospective donors.

The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore plans to conduct a phone-a-thon, calling donors to thank them for past gifts and to talk about what new giving they would they like to do this year, said Leslie Pomerantz, senior vice president of development.

Lutheran World Relief, an international charity that helps people pull themselves out of poverty, will be promoting its LWR Gifts program, which allows donors to help purchase livestock or plants for struggling families overseas, Lee said. The group will give a stuffed toy goat to the first 400 people who donate at least $200, he said.

Worldwide Shelters in Glenwood helps individuals and communities displaced by natural or other disasters with shelter.

For Giving Tuesday, the nonprofit plans to sell $38 T-shirts to fund a trip to Nicaragua next year by Earthen Endeavors, which teaches mostly women in rural areas on how to construct community buildings out of readily available supplies, such as mud and straw, said Jeannie McMahon, Worldwide's executive director.

She said she learned about GivingTuesday in September while tooling around on the Internet looking for fundraising ideas.

"It's awesome for a charity like us," said McMahon, adding the event can be a way for more people to learn about the work of her six-year-old organization.

With the enthusiasm generated by the event so far, nonprofits are optimistic about future Giving Tuesdays.

"It's such a great start, and next year I can see this taking off even more so," Cantori said.