4 Easy Ways to Give Right Now

Philanthropic Friday 9th Edition

In the last few days before the new year I thought I would leave you with some quick virtually painless ways to be philanthropic and end 2009 on a giving note.

Four Easy Ways to Give in 2009….make that 12?

Number 1:

#1 is the most painful…don’t worry they get easier from here.

I know most of us are receiving a bounty of goodies this holiday season and if you are anything like me, you have no place for this new stuff!  Take a few minutes to clear out some space under the bed, in the closet, attic, spare room, garage…  Bag up those perfectly good things you haven’t seen in ages and give it away!  While you’re at it, throw that ugly sweater you got from Aunt Mary for Hanukkah and that horrible gift you received at the office gift swap in the bag too.  You’re never going to use them!

Where do I bring the bags?

In the US the most widely known places that come to mind are the Goodwill and the Salvation Army.  Those of you who are churchgoers why don’t you just bring those bags with you when you go to the holiday services, most churches welcome donations and they will likely go to someone in need in your congregation.

The best part about this idea?  You make space for all of those shiny, new, hopefully handmade goodies you just received.  You keep that stuff out of our landfills and put it into the hands of someone in need.  Don’t forget the tax benefits!  You will be filing those babies sooner than you think, so get a receipt for your goods and write it off!

Speaking of the Salvation Army…

Number 2:

Drop some dough in those red buckets!!

I know you have seen the bell ringers.

Maybe you’re familiar with this scene: You’ve just come out of that wonderful store with bags full of goodies weighing on your arms, but somehow you can’t muster up a few cents to drop in the bucket.  Maybe you are on a budget.  Maybe you just spent way to much at that swanky store and are already guilt ridden, plotting how you will intercept the credit card bill before anyone else can see the damage. I know at some point you have hung your head or faked a phone convo to avoid looking into the cheery bell ringer’s eyes.  I have.

Once you make eye contact, it’s over, the guilt really sets in.  That lady has been standing outside for hours, in the bitter cold no less, ringing that bell tirelessly and you can’t be bothered to drop in that quarter you were saving to feed the meter in order to prolong your shopping spree.

Don’t get my wrong, I have certainly cringed at the sight of that red bucket in front of the shop I intended to enter.  I’ve even contemplated driving by and going to another store just to avoid those annoying bell ringers with their joyful cries of Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Maybe this year we can all muster up the courage to look those bell ringers in the face and drop that five dollar bill in the bucket.

What five dollar bill?  Are you crazy?!  I don’t even have the money for all of the gifts I just purchased, I’ll be paying for those until June.  Where do you expect that $5 to come from exactly?

I’m talking about that stray note in your pocket.  You know the one.  It’s that one that makes us feel rich 10 months from now.  That one that somehow eludes the cashiers and holds strong in the pocket of our winter coats until next year when we pull that coat from the back of the closet and find money we didn’t know we had.  That money.

I know it is one of the best feelings, finding that little treasure next year when you forgot it was there, but trust me it’s better off in the bucket.

In the bucket it goes to someone who maybe doesn’t have a winter coat to pull out of the closet from last year, or to someone who doesn’t have a closet at all.  And you know what? Next year that $5 isn’t even going to be worth the 500 cents it is today.  The average inflation rate here in the US is 3% per year.  That means that $5 is only going to get you $4.85 worth of 2010 goodies.

Just drop it in the bucket!

Oh, and you know that fantastic store you just came out of?  Well that’s another virtually painless place to be philanthropic.

Number 3:

Have you ever gone into the supermarket just to get a pack of gum and the cashier asks you if you want to donate a dollar to ‘xyz charity of the month club’?  It’s hard to say yes to that.  I mean it’s practically doubling my purchase right there!

Well, from now until the end of the year I say we just say yes, every time.

It really is easy.  I mean most of us are just swiping the card, one more dollar won’t cause our wallets to writhe and scream in pain.

The fun part is, you get the Hey-look-at-me-I’m-great feeling when you get to write your name on that paper shoe, cornucopia, mitten, narwhal.  (That last one was just to see if you were paying attention.)

Okay, I know I’m saying let everyone with a hand out, reach into your wallet and take what they want, but for some of us that’s not an option.

Some of us can’t afford to get our kids the fancy toys constantly taunting our children on the television.  Some of us can’t afford to put enough food on the table to fill our tummies.  That doesn’t mean we don’t want to be philanthropic.

Number 4 (5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12):

To those of us I say, VOLUNTEER!

Walk into that soup kitchen up the street, slap on a pair of gloves and a smile and start dishing out meals.

Watch your neighbors kids for a few hours while they pull an extra shift so they don’t have to pay a sitter.

Go down to the nursing home a few blocks over.  Just sit and talk to a resident.

Be extra polite on the streets.  Yes, even to the really bitchy people.

Offer your seat to someone else on that crowded bus ride home from work.

Shovel the snow from your elderly neighbors walk.

Just stop in on someone you know lives alone and make sure they are doing okay.  It’s hard to be alone during the holidays.

Invite the family who can’t afford their heating bill, who pile on blankets and hope their kids make it through the night, over to play board games (and warm up).  Maybe let the kids sleepover one night.

There are endless ways you can help.

You don’t have to have lots money, and you don’t need a lot of time.  Sometimes all it takes is a smile or a kind word to turn someone’s world around.

So go forth and be philanthropic my friends!!

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