Monday, December 14, 2009

Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Part IV

Charitable Giving

This is the time of year where charitable organizations seem to be going into overdrive trying to meet the needs of the people they serve. I urge everyone to step up this holiday season to give back to their communities. There are many ways to give back this holiday season. Don't have a lot of spare cash? You can give back without breaking the bank.

1)Remember that charitable donations can be used as tax deductions.

2)You can give the gift of your time rather than a monetary donation.

3)No time to shop and to lazy to write a check? Give a few dollars at the grocery store checkout. Many organizations team up with grocery stores or other chain retailers so customers can donate at the checkout.

4)Ask for people to give gifts or donations to your favorite charity.

5)When you find great deals in the stores, buy extra and give to local shelters or put bargain toys in the Toys for Tots boxes. If you are a freebie junkie and like to sign up for freebies online, donate your freebies to families in need. If you earn free gift cards or checks from online survey sites or sites that reward you for shopping online, pass on your good fortune to those in need.

6)Clean out your pantry and give to a local food bank. I always buy extra of everything around the holidays (since everything is on sale). Donate extra cans to local shelters. You can always get together with some friends or neighbors and do a food drive amongst yourselves and then have a volunteer deliver the food to a local shelter. If you are having a holiday party, have everyone bring a can of food to donate. A list of local food banks in your area can be found at

7)Clean out toy clutter. Have your children choose several toys that they no longer play with and donate them to a local program that serves children (ie. churches, day cares, or after-school programs). NOTE: Before giving away toys, make sure they have not been recalled by checking the U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission's website.

8)No extra cash to spare? Consider donating your unused computer cycles to worthy scientific research such as fighting cancer or climate prediction. All you have to do is install a computer program on your PC. Urge others to do the same. Check out PCWorld or for more information. I was first introduced to this idea in the fictional book Storm Cycle by Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen.

9)Give your extra change to the Salvation Army. The familiar holiday bell ringers with the red kettle are a familiar holiday sight. Now instead of just taking spare change, some also take credit cards. No more excuses at the door, folks.

10)"Gifts That Give" are gaining in popularity such as Kohl's Cares For Kids merchandise. I bought three of the books (from the If You Give a Cat a Cupcake series) and the stuffed moose that they are selling this holiday season for Christmas presents. They were only $5 each and 100% of the net profits go towards children's health and education programs across the country. Since 2000, they have raised over $126 million dollars, a staggering amount. Note: Kohl's coupons can not be used on this merchandise.

11)If you are interested in giving to your local community but don't know where to begin you can start by finding local organizations close to you by visiting and entering your zip code. You can also check out your local newspaper during the holiday season. Our local newspaper published a booklet of local nonprofit organizations and what donations they could use for the holidays, a wish list of sorts.

My husband and I plan on starting a fund next year where we put away about $75 a month. After Thanksgiving, we plan to decide as a family where the money will go. This way our daughters learn about saving and about giving back. It is our way of giving back, especially since we know what is like to be on the receiving end of the compassion and generosity of strangers. Back in 2008 our then 4-month old had to have heart surgery. The day we found out about her heart defect, we were on our way to the nearest children's hospital. Our liaison at the hospital put us in touch with the Ronald McDonald House. The Ronald McDonald House has had a special place in our hearts ever since.

Our favorite charities:
Ronald McDonald House
Toys for Tots
Children's Miracle Network (our nearest children's hospital benefits from their generosity)

Have a giving and blessed holiday!


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