Happy Thanksgiving week! I am very excited for a few days off to eat my favorite foods with my favorite people and enjoy one holiday that is all about being thankful. For many, it is also the beginning of the shopping season. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and my favorite, Giving Tuesday, will take place and our economy will be stimulated with lots of spending. Thanksgiving is an opportunity to look at your own life and consider your blessings. While I can do this any old day, I am always more tuned to my gratitude as the holiday season begins, and reminded of those less fortunate. Last year, I posted a gift guide of a few of my favorite charitable organizations. This year, I’m sharing a few tips and a few ideas for how to get involved in giving back.
Tip #1: Give to the organizations that matter to you
Everyone has their opinions, the cashiers are asking you to round up, the commercials on television are encouraging you to give, but you shouldn't feel guilted into making contributions to every cause. Learn about the organizations that are most important to you and focus your financial energy there. That being said, a few pennies for the Salvation Army aren't going to break the bank so give if the giving's easy!
Tip #2: Do your research
Websites like Charity Navigator are there to help ensure that the charity you’re donating to is actually going to put your money where your intent is. Unfortunately, and for lots of reasons, there are organizations that only donate a few cents to every dollar that you give, with the rest of your donation going to overhead or administrative costs. Once you know what area you want to give to, look into your options and pick the one that is able to donate the most to the cause.
Tip #3: Stay local
I am biased because I work in development for a local hospital, but I see every day the impact that local donations have on our organization. National charities are amazing for certain causes, but helping the people in your community makes a difference that you can see. For things like the animal shelter, the food bank, and of course children’s hospitals, give locally and know that your neighbors and friends are grateful.
Idea #1: Incorporate charity into your holiday gifts
This may a mildly controversial topic because there are people out there who don’t appreciate charitable gifts being made in their name. I am not one of them, and I have received livestock from Heifer International that I adore and wish I owned in real life. If your recipients love presents and you love giving them, add a small donation to another gift. Every dollar truly makes a difference and your recipient may feel compelled to pay it forward.
Idea #2: Get something new, donate something old
Thrift and second hand stores are in need at this time of year as well, so if your list includes a new coat for Christmas or Hanukkah, donate the one that’s in your closet from last year. If you have kids, encouraging them to collect a few gently used toys for the children’s hospital or books and stuffed animals for the shelter can help you clean house and provide gifts for those who need them.
Idea #3: Turn Girls’ Night into Give Back Night
This is a great idea for any time of year – round up your girlfriends and turn your happy hour into a night of serving food at the soup kitchen or raking leaves for an elderly neighbor. A group I’m in recently painted pottery for our food bank’s annual event – the bowls are donated to the event and people buy them back filled with delicious soup from local restaurants. It was fun, creative, and we even had wine!
There are seemingly endless ideas and opportunities for giving back this holiday season and throughout the year. When you’re thinking about what you’re thankful for this week, imagine how you can help others. Every kind gesture makes a difference.