Giving Tuesday

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Today is a new holiday, Giving Tuesday.  It is a day set aside to encourage us to reflect on our fortunate circumstances and give to those who could use a hand.   I hope you will all consider giving something to a cause you support in this season.   Having worked for a nonprofit for nearly 7 years, serving on nonprofit and foundation boards I think I have some insight that may be helpful if you are unsure about your giving.

Give locally.   When you give locally more of your money is likely to stay on the ground locally.   I love to read and having been an at-risk elementary school mentor I know that many children struggle with reading.   I believe in this cause and there are many great national organizations that have a mission regarding children and reading.  Locally my community’s after-school programs include a reading program at the library.  With ever shrinking budgets, a gift the library will help support that program.   If I gave on a national level, it may only come back if some organization  is lucky enough to get a grant from that program.   Make it easy and find the local equivalent of the national charity calling at you and give there.

Consider setting up monthly giving.   People tend to be generous during the holidays and then forget a charity the rest of the year. Lots of charities have a monthly giving option on their website where they will debit your account or credit card monthly.   If they don’t and you do online banking many of the banks allow you to send checks monthly of an amount and date you pick.    Most of us feel a crimp out budget and December is not the flushest month to write a check for $100, however if you do monthly giving of $10 a month, you give $120 a year and likely did not feel an impact on your budget.

Consider the charities that have impacted you and those you love.  I have friends who have taken advantage of low cost/free women’s health care from organizations I had never heard of before.   I have been there when I was a student using similar organizations,  but had been fortunate enough to not had to use them recently.    My friends sharing their story reminded me of how lucky I was there when I needed them.

Consider making a donation in memory of someone.   I have two favorites on this list:

  • Memorial Rifle Squad at Fort Snelling National Cemetery  I come from a long list of people who have served our country since the American Revolution.  Most recently include my brother, my father, my father-in-law and  my grandfather.   Though this group has only been around since 1979, they have provided honor guard burial for those at the Ft. Snelling National Cemetery in Minnesota.   They are the only self-supporting organization of its kind.  All volunteer, raising funds to cover the costs uniforms, rifles and transportation.  They have never missed a funeral, an amazing accomplishment in Minnesota winters.  I first knew of them when my father-in-law was buried.   They now hold a place in my heart. I hope you take a moment to check out their site.   Though only one person in my family is buried at Ft. Snelling.    I give to them in hopes that every military person can have that last moment of honor when they are buried. 
  • Animal Shelters are where we got out pets.    RangerSir and I have always had pets.  They have all been shelter pets.    We make an “in honor of” donation each year of those who have gone before us.   If those shelters had not been there holding our cats and dogs for us we would not have made that connection.

In closing we all like to know we are making a difference when giving, so be smart about your giving.

  • A great name does not make a great nonprofit.    Look at their mission.   Look at the programs they provide.   Make sure you agree with it and would like to support their programs.
  • Nonprofit is not all volunteer, nor should it be.   They need to pay for postage, lights and generally someone to be there keeping it all together.   For years the Butte Emergency Food Bank had a retired couple as their executive director and they were able to volunteer, but the organization still had overhead or admin costs.   The building still had taxes and upkeep.   Trucks still broke down and things wore out and need to be replaced.    Look at what they are providing  not just the overhead costs.
  • Do your own research.   Thousands of people repeat urban and online legends, none of it being true.  If you are making a small donation your friend’s referral my be sufficient.   However if you are making a larger donation or doing monthly giving, (large is relative to each of us) do your research.  Visit their website, and check out their 990 (most have it on their website, but there are other places on the web to find them).   The 990 is an IRS required document providing their financial information.    You decide for yourself, but I look at just a few things.  Most importantly what programs did they provide and the cost for those programs.   Then I look at their income.   Depending on how significant the gift, I may look at the volunteer hours and/or salaries.  If you need to know more, call or email them and ask your questions.    I can say what is the right balance for me, but each of us determines what it right to us.

Enjoy the day and remember to share.

 

Photo Challenge Day 6 – Shiny and Day 7 – Shopping

Apologies to the photo challenge followers.   Day 6 I continued to feel under the weather and although I did not post that day, I did take my challenge photo on day 6.   Today, day 7,  I am starting to feel better and we went out shopping and I was able to sneak in  a photo today using  my phone.

Photo Challenge Day 6 – Shiny

This was taken of a small vintage aluminum tree in a local store where I teach card making. The glitter covered ornaments just caught my eye and I knew that this was my shiny photo.   I played around taking snapshots of to the tree trying to find the right light and depth of field.    This one was the best of the what I came home with.

 

There is something magical in about this tree.

There is something magical in about this tree.

Photo Challenge Day 7  – Shopping

Those who know me, know  I am not one who enjoys shopping.    Today we went to town to do our adopt-a-family shopping.   RangerSir’s office adopts a family and the employees and several of the retirees all shop for this family.   Then the day of the office Christmas party they wrap all the gifts and get it ready for delivery to the contact person.    No matter how I feel about shopping I always find myself getting a little crazy picking out just the right things for the adopted family.   RangerSir and I hit the local store and it was not long until we had a full cart of goodies we had picked out for the family.

I am not going to win any awards for this photo, but I got more joy from this shopping trip that you can possibly imagine.

I am not going to win any awards for this photo, but I got more joy from this shopping trip that you can possibly imagine.

Like thousands of others who shop for others who are not as fortunate,  we dig up our best memories and try to share them with strangers by what we pick to give the family we will never know.    We want to help them create memories of holidays and family.   RangerSir and I by tradition always give pajamas and socks.    I remember having warm double brushed flannel PJ’s at Christmas.   I am not sure if they were a new pair or not but  I want these little kids to have something warm to wear to bed and lounge around in the evening.    My family was a great bunch of game players so we always get the kids each a game that hopefully they can play with their siblings.   Of course I have to add books to the collection, because they can take you places and let you do things you may never get a chance to do otherwise.     This year’s family of kids are being raised by a Grandmother and Great Grandmother.   I can not imagine have four kids under 9, as a grandma to raise, but thousands of grandparents find themselves doing just this.    Keeping warm in Montana is always a challenge.  My boss has a cuddly throw she swears by and I have one that I am sitting under here as I write tonight.    RangerSir and I decided that the grandma’s should have some thing like this as well.   We found one for each of them that we hoped each of them would enjoy as they spent time with their grand kids     Lastly like so many others in the group of employees we added a local grocery card.   The family  can buy what they need most or a special holiday treat. They know best for their family.  I came home feeling better about the day and encouraged that maybe I will make the holidays and the new year special for a family who I will never know.

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.