Saturday, January 2, 2010

Small Gifts from Many Make a Huge Difference

In a world filled with dire need and tens of thousands of charitable organizations out there to help, making a decision of which one to support can be overwhelming. Even though I work for a local charity, deciding who to help and when is a daunting task. So daunting, in fact, that most of the time, our family just didn't give at all.

I recently picked up a book called "Give A Little: How Your Small Donations Can Transform Our World" by Wendy Smith. I was relieved to discover that I wasn 't the only one who had the heart to help but didn't feel that my small contributions would make a real difference.

Wendy has a wonderful way of breaking down the numbers of us so called "small donors." Remember the devastating Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004? Of the $6.2 billion in world-wide aid, individual US citizens contributed a shocking $2.78 billion... and the median donation was $50.00.

Ever heard of the March of Dimes? In 1938, President Roosevelt, a polio victim, called for the public to send just one dime to the White House to help fight polio, which affected tens of thousands of children at the time. In the first year, $238,000 in dimes were sent by ordinary citizens. The dimes continued to arrive over the years as cases of polio decreased until the disease was eradicated in 1979. The March of Dimes now focuses on the prevention of birth defects and infant mortality.

Wendy gives more examples of collective giving - inspirational stories that will bring tears to your eyes. It was this book that gave me the idea for our 12 Charities of Christmas Project. Setting up a structured giving program where we choose only one or two charities each month eases the overwhelming feeling of who to support and when. It also keeps the conversation going throughout the year of new organizations that come to our attention and which ones we feel strongly about.

In addition, supporting a charity does not always have to be monetary. As we were packing up some of my daughters outgrown clothes today, she said "We can give these to Goodwill - that's supporting a charity, too!" There are volunteer opportunities at lots of worthwhile organizations and other non-traditional ways of giving such as using (you search, they give), (you shop, they give), eBay Giving Works (shop or sell to benefit charity), donating Lowe's Foods Greenpoints or Food Lion's Shop and Share Program (register your MVP card and they donate a portion of your grocery bill to your favorite charity.)

We don't all have to be the next Bill and Melinda Gates - in fact, it's us little guys in major numbers that make the real difference!

"Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has." ~Margaret Mead

(Thanks again to Wendy Smith for all her amazing reasearch in for the book "Give A Little: How Your Small Donations Can Transform Our World". I highly recommend it to everyone with an interest in charitable giving!)

Friday, January 1, 2010

January Charities Selected!

In December of 2009, we received lots of charitable solicitations by mail. This was great because we pulled them all out and fanned them on the floor. We discussed supporting valuable national organizations like the Cleft Palate Foundation or Smile Train, the Salvation Army, the Hemophilia Foundation and our favorite local organizations like the SPCA or Carolina Tiger Rescue. We also discussed international organizations like Heifer International, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria and buildOn.

We ended up deciding to focus on national wildlife and conservation this month. There were two charities that we loved and couldn't pick just one - so we selected two!

The first is the National Parks Conservation Association. We love visiting national parks. In North Carolina, we've been to some breathtaking ones: The Blue Ridge Parkway, Cape Hatteras National Seasore, and the Wright Brothers National Memorial. When we moved cross-country, we were lucky to have the chance to visit the Grand Canyon National Park and Arches National Park. The National Parks Conservation Association works to protect the wildlife in national parks as well as focusing on clean air initiatives, protection from commercial development and park safety.

The second is the National Wildlife Federation. My daughter is an animal lover, so when we discussed the habitat and safety of bears, wolves and eagles, she was all for it. I loved their Backyard Wildlife and conservation programs, Climate Crisis efforts and outreach methods to kids. Have you seen the NWF Expedition Ecotourism Trips? What a dream!

We felt great about our decisions and mailed the checks this morning!

By the way, you can follow both organizations on Twitter:
The National Parks Conservation Association account is
The National Wildlife Federation account is