‘Tis the season for giving back

Full disclosure – this post should have gone up earlier this week, but things in real life have been a bit nuts. My father had surgery yesterday and it has thrown my whole week out of whack. Thanks for sticking with me as I get through this!

Thanksgiving has come and gone, the leftovers have been consumed, and you finally threw out the last slice of pecan pie that has been testing your temptation all weekend. You’ve survived both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and you’re ready to bask in the holiday season. Not so fast!

The first Tuesday in December is known as #GivingTuesday or #GivingDay. It’s a day dedicated to giving back – either through donating to your favorite charity or taking time out of your day to serve your community. In the spirit of the day, I wanted to take a short break from the normal fitness/wellness content. Volunteer work is a huge part of my life, and I wanted to share some of my favorite gifts that keep on giving. When you’re thinking about buying gifts this year, perhaps think outside the box – yes, those prettily wrapped gifts under the tree do add a festive air to the season, but there are some wonderful gift ideas that will continue to give back long after the decorations have come down.

Kiva Gift Cards

Kiva is a nonprofit microfinance organization. This organization makes it possible for people in areas without access to traditional banks or loaning bodies to receive the money necessary to accomplish their goals – from starting small businesses to furthering their education. You can learn more about how the process works by clicking here. Kiva loans are paid back, so giving a Kiva gift card can help establish a long-standing relationship between the gift recipient and the Kiva organization. As the funds from your gift are repaid, they can be reloaned to other causes. Through this process, just one small gift can be a positive force for change in countless lives.

Give the Gift of Health with Watsi

Watsi is a nonprofit that connects donors with individuals requiring medical treatment who cannot afford the care necessary to restore them to health. The website allows donors to choose where their funds will be allocated, and if you make a donation as a gift, the gift recipient will receive regular updates on the progress of the treatment that their gift funded. I learned about Watsi this past spring, when a dear friend of mine made a donation in my name for my birthday to help fund surgery and treatment for Nary, a Cambodian woman with a broken arm. I received a photo and information on Nary’s progress at the time of the donation, and an update about a month later confirming that her treatment had been successful. Watsi’s a relatively new nonprofit – they were founded in 2012 – so chances are your gift will introduce a new audience to this excellent cause.

Support small farms through Rent Mother Nature

Rent Mother Nature is another awesome gift-that-gives-back cause that a friend recommended to me. This organization is committed to supporting small, family-run farms, and to pursuing sustainable agriculture practices. Gifts purchased through this organization are referred to as “leases.” You can rent a goat, and receive a gift of fresh chevre; you can rent a maple tree, and receive a gift of maple syrup; you can rent a honeybell tree, and receive a gift of fresh oranges. The site offers customization options for your gifts, and provides information on when the various gifts will be harvested and delivered to the recipients. This is a great idea for foodie friends, or for friends who would be interested in learning more about farming practices in the United States. I especially love the idea of giving this gift to a family with younger kids who would benefit from a better understanding of where their foods come from!

Support your favorite nonprofit

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Time for a bit of shameless self-promotion! When I’m not blogging, I volunteer with the Massachusetts Youth Leadership Foundation, a MA-based 501(c)3 nonprofit committed to providing leadership training (free of charge!) to high school students from across the state. I currently serve as the president of our Board of Directors, and previously spent four years as the Director of our flagship event, the MassSTAR Citizenship Conference. Community service, volunteering, and charitable giving has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember.

December is a key time for many nonprofits; if their fiscal year coincides with the calendar year, this is their chance to make a final push for donations before launching a new year. However, giving back does not need to take a monetary form – there are so many ways to make a difference without spending a dime.

This is a great opportunity to open up a conversation with someone in your life about giving back. Growing up, my family would “adopt” a family in need through our local church; my parents prioritized teaching me that not everyone was as fortunate as I was. We shopped together for gifts that would help the family to have a happier Christmas – warm clothing; food essentials; basic necessities like shampoo and toothpaste – and it really helped to open my eyes up to how lucky I was to have a roof over my head and plenty of food on the table. I’m grateful that my parents made it a priority to instill these values in me from a young age, and I like to try to do the same for my own family members now. When some of my younger family members hit an appropriate age – usually high school – I like to discuss with them what causes matter to them. It’s important to instill values of charity and service from a young age, so we discuss how they can make a difference. This doesn’t always have to be a monetary gift. If they say they like animals and would like to help in that way, I might look into volunteering at a local animal shelter together, or make a donation to the local ASPCA. It’s a great bonding experience and I can’t recommend it enough!

Do you take time out of your holiday season to give back? What are some of your favorite causes to support?

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3 thoughts on “‘Tis the season for giving back

  1. great post!! I use smile.amazon.com as often as I can remember it, too. This year we have a “giving tree” at work and there’s requests to buy gifts for kids in need… and all of the kids belong to a student here so it’s done anonymously but you know you are helping someone you walk by everyday. 🙂 Matt & I are going shopping for our kid this weekend!

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