When I hear the word “giving,” my mind goes to philanthropy rather than to presents. Maybe it’s because I have worked in and around development departments (fund raising for those who don’t speak nonprofit language) for the past several years.
In my nonprofit work, I have been on the receiving end of donations (of time and money) from individuals and companies. I’ve also fielded countless calls about giving to the nonprofit organization. I think what I like most about this part of my job is the moment when the donor realizes how much they really can help, even with what they perceive as a very small gesture. Too often, people and companies think that they can’t give enough to an organization.
Sometimes, it’s the really small stuff that can make the biggest impact.
As the holiday season starts, I thought I would share a few simple ways to give that also give back to your community. While these aren’t overly new ideas, it helps to be reminded of how you can make a difference in someone else’s life by stopping to think about how you spend your time and money in this “season of giving.”
- Donate money locally. The key word here is locally. There are some great national and international nonprofit organizations who, literally, help the world. Don’t forget the nonprofit organizations that make your neighborhood a better community in which to live. They give homeless people a place to stay at night. They reunite families. They feed the hungry. They educate us. They enrich our lives. And they do it in your backyard, even if you don’t realize it. This year, instead of buying gifts for those hard to shop for family members, why not donate the money to a local charity in their name? You could ask for others to do the same for you. Typically the nonprofit will send a card to the person letting them know a donation was made in their honor. (You can make this request, if you’re unsure of the process.) It makes them (and you) feel good about helping a cause, and you get the added bonus of a tax deduction.
- Share your time and/or resources. Take some time and volunteer for a local (again, the key word here) charity. Serve lunch at a soup kitchen during your lunch hour with co-workers. Call up a social services agency and see if you can help out by buying gifts for clients who would otherwise not receive any on Christmas morning. If you’re having a holiday party, ask people to bring non-perishable food items and help stock the nearby food pantry. These are all things that take very little time and effort, but they make you feel really, really good after you do them. They also put life into perspective for you. I promise.
- Shop smartly. By smartly, I mean think about where and what you’re buying as you do your holiday shopping. Start by skipping the big box stores and purchasing gifts at your local shops (see the theme here?). The small businesses in your area may not be nonprofits, but they enrich your community just the same. They are also some of the biggest supporters of your local nonprofits. Just last week, I spent some time shopping on Maine Street in Brunswick. The stores were open later and many had special sales going on for the event. I bought several gifts. At least two of them benefited a Maine nonprofit. All of the gifts supported small businesses in my backyard (literally, since I was able to walk to all of them). One of my purchases was a beautiful hand made scarf from Spindleworks, a nonprofit art center for adults with disabilities. 75% of the money from the purchase will go directly to the artist, and one of my family members will get a terrific accessory. Smart shopping.
So there you go. Pretty simple, right? Sometimes, we just need a reminder during the craziness of the holiday season of the true meaning of the word giving.