If Summer and Fall are considered the growing seasons, Winter is the official giving season. In fact, Tuesday, December 3, has been named The National Day of Giving #givingtuesday with an international movement and website dedicated to motivating companies and individuals to work toward giving back to help the common good. I like the idea of #givingtuesday starting a movement. It is a comforting detour from Black Friday, Monday Madness, Cyber Tuesday,and Gridlock Friday because it is about paying it forward. http://www.givingtuesday,org
If you are like me, you may be getting bombarded with heart warming solicitations for donations this time of year. While we are stuffing our faces with food, clinking glasses at holiday parties and shopping for gifts, those slim #10 envelopes with my name often misspelled and the e-cards often made out to my former company stuff my inbox and remind me to remember those in need and to make that tax deductible year end donation.
I grew up in a family where every season is the giving season. My mother believes in doing small acts of kindness every day as a way of life. As I mature (yes, I am still maturing!) I am trying to follow her example even if it is as simple as sending a personal note of encouragement to someone.
Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, We make a life but what we give.”
“Philanthropy” is a big word that you think is applied only to the wealthy (as in: a “philanthropist”). The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of philanthropy is “the practice of giving money and time to help make life better for other people….an act or gift done or made for humanitarian purposes.” That sounds pretty simple. But how does one high on hope and low on funds pay it forward and make it matter in the spirit of philanthropy? I have a few tips:
1. Support fewer charities and make a longer term commitment. Find something you believe in or are passionate about and donate year round with money, goods or services.
2. Think local. Align yourself with a cause that supports your community. Your contributions may go further.
3. Consider crowd funding donations as an option. While not all crowd funding is really “charitable” since you are contributing funds to help someone with a business, it can be invigorating to help someone realize his or her dreams come true. There are numerous crowd funding sites covering various interests offering a tier of options for contributing. Some examples: Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Rockethub, Peerbackers. Here is a helpful article (among many) http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/228534
4. Do your homework. Before you write a check, learn more about the organization and how funds you contribute will be used. I have been solicited by a few cancer and animal rights groups whose funds are really being used for government lobbying. That’s not how I want my contributions used. Here are some charity rating websites: www.charitywatch.org www.charitynavigator.org and www.guidestar.org
5. It’s not always about giving money. While the usual solicitation is for a financial contribution, there are other ways you can donate. It is worth asking the organization how you can help aside from writing a check. Here are six ways to donate if you have a large heart and a lean income.
- donate your expertise, time and talent to the charity who cannot afford staff or consultants to do the necessary job
- donate goods. This is a season for toy drives and coat drives. Year round many charities need office supplies, furniture and equipment. Next time you clean out your home or office, think about what you can donate
- sell items and donate the cash. If your heart is in writing a check but your checking account is lean, fatten it up by selling items on Ebay or holding a tag sale or bake sale and donating the income to the charity of your choice
- pool your resources. Start a charity giving group at your office or among friends who join together to volunteer or pool funds to donate
- become a mentor. There are many organizations geared toward helping others grow and learn through mentoring. The great thing about mentoring is that you share your wisdom to cultivate someone’s knowledge and talent. Mentoring is a commitment of time but the rewards at both end can be very fruitful.
- be social and share. If you support a charity “Like” its Facebook Page, Follow it on Twitter and “Share” its news and initiatives with your friends and followers. Charities rely on social media more than ever, so your shout out is great way to support a cause
But if your heart is into giving, do your homework, thinking perennially not seasonally and give to what you love and believe in, not what someone else wants you to support or because it looks good for your image or your product
I attended the annual Citymeals-on-Wheels Women’s Power Lunch last Friday in New York City. Citymeals-on-Wheels deliveries nutritious meals to greater NYC’s homebound elderly who are often too frail or lonely to enjoy the bounty of the city. As I watched the photos of the elderly whom Citymeals feeds, I thought, “That person could be me or my husband one day.”
At the lunch Citymeals-on-Wheels Co-Founder Gael Greene summed up her vision of philanthropy noting she couldn’t take it with her so she gives while she is alive where she can see the difference it makes.
My husband and I have no children who can inherit our so called “worldly goods” and I have no siblings to care for. I hope when I die I have nothing left to give because I gave it my all when I was alive.
“All you have shall some day be given;
Therefore give now, that the season of giving
may be yours and not your inheritors.”
posted by Melanie Young