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The Gift of Giving: Changing How & What We Give

My ‘twenty-somethings’ were home for Thanksgiving.  We had a wonderful time eating and playing with the dogs. We talked about all kinds of things including how we want to celebrate the Christmas holiday this year. We decided that we were not going to buy any gifts for each other and we were all happy about this.

For those of us who are unemployed, the holidays can produce increasing financial stress. We want to be able to give our family everything they want. We feel if we limit what we give them that we are depriving them. I ask that you think about this.

Instead of buying ‘more’ – why not buy less. This article, Telling the Kids: We Need to Spend Less; talks about how to involve your children in your job search process. These are special teachable moments (see this LiveStrong article) that remind us about the true meaning of giving. I have a friend who told stories about how proud he was of his children each of whom offered to forego things and activities they wanted in order to ‘help the family’.

This could be a good year to start new traditions with your family. Instead of making it all about getting; how about concentrating on giving:

  • Cookies or home made breads
  • A small donation to a favorite charity
  • The gift of time
  • Gently used clothes (especially warm ones)
  • Home made cards or e-cards

One of our favorite charities is Heifer International. Donations provide livestock (everything from flocks of birds to sheep and cows) to needy families. The animals provide food (eggs and milk) and a source of income when the family has more than they need.

Please share your gift of giving ideas.

5 Responses
  • Sandi Vidal
    December 1, 2009

    Christian HELP offers families an opportunity to help other families in need with sponsorship opportunities. A gift of $40.00 can be given which provides gifts for the children and a holiday meal. Gifts can also be made in honor of a specific individual.

  • Melinda Lewis
    December 1, 2009

    Great topic–too often, those of us who work in the not-for-profit sector think that our jobs ‘excuse’ us from other contributions. This year, I’m mainly volunteering–interpreting (English/Spanish) for a Christmas Bureau store, preparing food for another organization–and doing alternative gifts for our extended family. Thanks for reminding us to live our convictions outside of work, too!

  • Deborah
    December 1, 2009

    Thank you for sharing your ways of giving; they are wonderful and inspiring. Deb

  • Deborah
    December 1, 2009

    Sandi, I appreciate your comment but I think you missed the point. I did not write this post so charities could ask others for money. The point was to share how each of us is stepping up to give (walking the walk) ourselves. Even though my income is 1/3 of what it was last year, I am still finding a way to cook, clean and volunteer.

  • Deborah
    December 7, 2009

    I received a wonderful comment on this post from Rebecca Hunter. I wanted to include it here since I was so inspired by it.

    Here are Rebecca’s comments:
    When I was a wee lass, making all of $14,000 as an associate director of development, I couldn’t have been convinced about the importance of giving as a means of setting an example for those I would ask to give.

    However, had someone presented relatively painless ideas about how to accomplish this goal to set an example, I doubtless would have been more receptive. I use these same examples with board members and my colleagues on staff:

    Payroll deduction — a semi-monthly or monthly gift adds up when multiplied by 24, 26 or 12 — the small amounts don’t seem difficult to do

    Make the beneficiary of your employee life insurance policy your NPO — if they are paying the premium, you can give all or part of the proceeds to the nonprofit (and it’s an easy do)

    Use gifts-in-kind to reduce expenses: fly to a conference on frequent flier miles; use credit card points to pay for office supplies that you’d need anyway; volunteer to keep the coffee for the office well-supplied

    Apply for your travel and other expense reimbursements, and then turn around and donate part/all of one or two checks back to the organization

    “Change” your giving by collecting your spare change and turning it into greenbacks several times a year. My family used to use this method to find “mad money” for recreation expenses or special things we’d do on vacation; with stay-cations, perhaps this change can go a long way within your organization, especially if you can engage your colleagues to do the same

    We achieved 100% staff participation in 2009, even though there were no salary increases and several positions were cut. How? We have a donor wall, and at our annual volunteer appreciation event, the staff chipped in to buy a (name your recognition item) grape leaf, brick, flower, etc., in honor of all our volunteers. No minimum dollar amount was established, and everyone participated at the level to which they felt comfortable and able.

    Do special events? Encourage your colleagues to help sell ads in the program book, to solicit sponsorships or gifts-in-kind for runs/walks (such as water bottles, or fruit, or race sacks). Do you just promote the idea or do you participate, too?

    When we are more senior in the profession, all these things should go without saying. However, it never hurts to get a reminder now and then.

    What do you think?

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