Charity Begins at Home

Last night I volunteered some time to help at a local fundraiser and it reminded me of  how much charitable organizations depend on all of us for their support. Most nonprofit organizations have no fundraising staff.  They are never going to send you a solicitation via the mail or call you.  We often think we have to give big , and a gift of five or ten dollars isn’t significant.   Working for a nonprofit I can tell you nothing is further from the truth, every gift is important.

If these nonprofits that are doing important work aren’t going to contact me, how am I going to find them and more importantly what is going to inspire me to give?  This is what works in our family,  I hope this it will give you food for thought about how you give or don’t give.   Maybe it  will inspire you to give in a very connected way.

In our family we give in the name of someone.  Most of our gifts are connected to birthdays.  It helps spread our giving out over the year.   We do not see our little donations as significant when we are making them.  They don’t  result in us not having enough money for groceries or pay the bills.   We are always surprised at the end of the year the total amount that we gave.  Those little checks do add up and it is not likely we would have written one or two big checks that would have totaled what our little gifts did.

How does it work? A birthday or holiday rolls around and we reminisce about that person and special memories.   Sometimes we know exactly who or what charity we want to pick.  Other times we get on the internet and find a new charity that we think represents that person or feel they would give to themselves.

My grandparents didn’t have two dimes to rub together.  Yet they had a Thanksgiving feast second to none, and they served not only the family but also the extend family and friends.  If you did not have family or a place to go, you must go to Don and Mae Virtue’s place.   Thanksgiving is part of my best family memories and my favorite holiday.  Years after my grandma retired in her late 60’s and 70’s, she would make wonderful meals and serve them at local soup kitchens.   On her birthday, I write a check to the local food bank.   When my grandpa died, my grandparents only had $300 in the bank.  If not for the support  and contributions from their five kids I am not sure how they would have buried him.  Each year on his birthday I send a check to funeral parlor when his service were held to be used for a family who needs it.

My family has a history of military service from the revolutionary  War to the present.  Who has not attended a military funeral and been moved to tears by the 21 gun salute and the playing of taps?  Yet the honor guard  are not provided by the US government at many of the national cemeteries.  There are 131 national cemeteries.   The Fort Snelling Memorial Rife Squad,  provides the honor guard at the Fort Snelling National Cemetery, where I am from.    This amazing all volunteer group in 31 years has provided the rifle squad and bugle player for over 56,000 funerals, never missing a one in spite of some of the worst weather you can find.  This group is supported wholly by the generosity of the volunteers and donors, buying their own uniforms, guns and their transportation around Ft. Snelling to attend the funerals (They have logged over 3.8 millon miles).  Each Veteran’s Day we write them a check to help support them in honor of our military family and in hopes of comforting other military families.

My nephew was born with a heart defect.   He would eventually have surgery at a university hospital, and my brother and his family would discover the Ronald McDonald house charities.  They are a gift to a family in their time of greatest need.  My local hospital has a equivalent facility, the Paul Clark Home .   It provides a low-cost place for families and  folks coming the local community hospital for services, be it surgery, cancer treatments or during rehabilitation.   It isn’t just for families  of children, but any who is seeking medical treatment in southwest Montana.   The Paul Clark Home  doesn’t have a built in budget based on  the help of a large organization like McDonald’s, instead it depends on the donations from folks like you and me.  Each year on my nephew’s birthday I make a donation.

Our family pets have all come from rescue organizations.  Once a year we make a donation to a shelter for spay and neuter services in honor of the joy our pets have brought to our lives.

These are just some of the things on our radar, and I share them with you to get you thinking about your family and how you might give locally and to something out of the box for you.  Using birthdays, special holidays, pets, friends and family as inspiration  gives you a built in giving schedule that allows it to happen throughout the year, and be significant to you.      In September and October I have many birthdays and reasons to give and my donations are likely smaller, and yet in April when their are fewer my gift may be larger.   Some year’s finances are a little tighter and the donation may only be $5 other years we feel more flush and are more generous.   No gift is too small.

I don’t share this with you to toot my horn, but to hopefully remind you that there are many organizations out there on the ground who are making a difference in your community.   They don’t have the staff, money or time to seek you out, they are busy doing what you want and expect them to do.  I hope you will consider writing a check, or donating some time to one of these organizations.  They are part of what makes your community, and country great.   You are and can be part of that greatness. Charity does begin at home, mine and yours.