Friday, December 11, 2009

The Season of Giving - Responsibly

This post started out as a short little blurb on a comedy website I like to read.Cake Wrecks is kicking off a big cool charity drive today and through the next 14 days, pledging to give at least $200 (personally) and challenging readers to add their own $1 per day, which could result in over $80,000 for each day's chosen group if everyone really played along. Pretty cool. She's asked for suggestions of charities you support to help her decide what to feature. That really gets you thinking of what groups you've benefited from or are thankful for, and what you could do to give back.

Recently a couple I know well (that wishes to remain nameless) purchased, assembled, and delivered 10 bikes to a local charity. They'll be given to children in the community who otherwise wouldn't have holiday presents - and now imagine how wonderful it will be to get a new bicycle! They did it all anonymously and without fanfare, but I just have to say how proud I am of their act of generosity - thanks so much. What a great way to get in the holiday spirit, doing something fun and hands on, but totally for the benefit of a child you don't even know. It's a great example for the rest of us.

Another important figure in my life makes a special trip each year to shop specifically for teenagers and gives the items to a holiday charity. Teenagers are often under-represented in toy drives, it's usually cheaper and easier and more fun to buy dolls, trucks, and other toys for much younger kids, leaving the older ones feeling even more left out during a difficult time of year.

While I'm no longer a part of the Roseville Women of Today, they have chosen to adopt several families for the holidays as their final philanthropic project. I feel like I made a lot of this possible with all of the fundraisers I put together for the group, and while I don't get the fun of shopping for and wrapping all the gifts this year, I still know I helped to make it possible for a few local working-poor families to have a happy holiday.

I think giving back is a very important goal. That said, I think there is a lot of bad behavior that gets overlooked because it is "for charity." Am I sick of being asked at every fast food register if I want to donate $2 to this or that? Yes. Do I ever take them up on it? No. And here's why: I don't give $$ at the cash register because I like to look at the mission statement of a charity and see if it is really something I can get behind. I want to look at their financials and be sure nobody is getting rich off of it (i.e. National Night Out) and that a very high percentage of my donation will really make it to the end user of the charity, and not be frittered away on salaries and administrative costs. A lot of walks/runs/bike trips for diseases sound great, but you dig deeper to find out that more than 50% of what you pay just goes to cover the costs of the walker/runner/biker - this was really important for me to look at when I was thinking of doing The Breast Cancer 3-Day. I couldn't imagine asking people for money just so I could have a fun weekend - so I made sure that a huge percentage of the monies raised actually went to breast cancer research and education before I signed on. "Mission Trips" fall into a similar category for me - I don't want to fund your vacation, I want proof my $$ is going to HELP.

And another charitable concern I have seems to be getting a lot more popular - do I think it is okay to donate to a charity "in the name of" someone else, and say that is their gift? Absolutely not. If you wish to give to a charity you support, you should do so, do so generously if you can. Feel free to prioritize this over giving gifts to friends and loved ones if you will - but don't do it and then say it is for them, unless you know specifically that it is a charity they support and find worthwhile. I know there are several charities I would be horrified to give money to, and when money is given "in my name" that is nearly the same - and they're not always the charities you would think of.

For example, I do not support the Boy Scouts of America. Have I drawn your ire? Please, hear me out. The Boy Scouts of America is a wonderful group for those that they accept, and I had several friends who made Eagle Scout in high school and I was quite proud. But they are a private, religiously-based institution which has chosen not to accept gay scouts or scout leaders, along with atheists and agnostics. I do not in any way think these groups should be COMPELLED to accept anyone, in fact I fully support the court rulings. But, in turn, I will not support The Boy Scouts because of this decision. This means I don't buy wreaths, popcorn, or help with their food drives, even though I have some adorable little 2nd cousins who are maybe the cutest scouts ever. Instead, I choose organizations whom I feel more closely abide by my values - none are perfect, but I want my money to work towards achieving goals that I support.

I also try to look locally for groups working to make my community a better place. Our economic downturn has increased the need for food shelf assistance and the number of displaced pets - while donating to a national food program or ASPCA is good, even better is to donate to your LOCAL food shelf or shelter. This decreases administrative costs and more of your money goes right back into your own community.

It's not a bad idea to look at donating to charities your family and friends have benefitted from. I personally have several CaringBridge websites in my bookmarks, and have found the site very beneficial as far as following the struggles of my friends and family fighting cancer and other illness, and cheering them on when I can.

I also really love This American Life on public radio. Does it save lives? No. Does it bring a lot of joy into my life? Yes. Someday I'd like to be able to give something back to them.

With the recent passing of my husband's grandmother, he has repeatedly expressed his appreciation for the care she received at her hospice. He felt they really went the extra mile to make her comfortable, and not only that but they made her friends and family members comfortable during their difficult period of letting go. While I don't necessarily agree with everything in their mission statement, they have proven quite directly that they are a worthy institution doing much good, and someday I'd hope to give back to them.

So this "short little post" has somewhat grown, as I ruminate on Christmas and consumerism and charities and choices - on the times my family has been touched by tradgedy this past year, and how lucky we've been at the same time. Big issues, much too big probably for a craft blog, so I'll let them rest here. I hope you are all feeling the holiday spirit, whatever that means to you - and reflecting on this past year and all the good it brought, all the possibility that lies ahead. Best Wishes for Health and wealth and happiness and love, this season and all year round.

1 comment:

alison said...

I feel inspired by this post and your generous friends.