November and December are filled with various holidays that encourage giving and graciousness. That’s why we are dedicating this season’s Thursdays to thoughtfulness. From donations and acts of kindness to simple actions that brighten someone’s day, join us in giving a little something back this season.
Thursday, November 3
Giving back isn’t just for adults, get the kiddos involved. Children tend to be very tactile, therefore having projects or activities that promote giving tends to speak highly to them. Letter writing and picture drawing can be a great way to get younger children involved.
The American Red Cross has a program to thank and recognize our military personnel around the world. Kids can show their appreciation by creating a special drawing or letter.
For older kids with an entrepreneurial spirit, raising money for a charity may be more appealing. Consider paying them a bonus for chores around the house or helping them earn money by doing projects for neighbors and friends. Do all this with the understanding that all or a percentage of the proceeds will go to a particular charity of their choice.
If you are short on time and inspiration, there are little ways kids can be kind on a daily basis. Brainstorm with your child on ways they can be kind then set aside time each day where everyone in the family shares what they did that day. It can be as simple as asking someone how their day is going and stopping to listen, or as hands on as writing a kind message with sidewalk chalk.
Thursday, November 10
As we approach Thanksgiving, offices around the country are grappling with what to do to honor this important American holiday. Each office has its own personality and some have well-organized events and themes for Thanksgiving. Smaller, more organic celebrations can be just as effective. So how can you help facilitate giving thanks in your place of business?
First, identify a leader. This person may already be organizing catering and events. If not, it is essential to have one point of contact. Next, identify what is already planned. A meal is a great way to bring your team together. That meal does not have to be expensive or extravagant, a potluck is perfectly acceptable for a small group or office. If catering is a better option, make sure you have the space to accommodate all employees.
While the meal is the central part of a Thanksgiving celebration, there are other ways to give thanks to your co-workers. Find a way to publicly give thanks to individual employees or departments. It could be as simple gathering words of thanks then displaying them during your meal. Some organizations will hold contests or games and award the winner with a donation to a charity in their name.
Finally, try brainstorming to find a way to give back in a way that is uniquely tailored to your company’s strengths. For instance, LinkedIn has developed a program to assist US Military Veterans in finding a job. Giving back as a company has multiple benefits including a more engaged workforce. The holidays are the perfect time of year to living thankfully as an organization.
Thursday, November 17
Decorations are popping up all over, radio stations have started playing holiday music and the seasonal section at Target switched to Christmas lights before Halloween even ended. Are you ready for this? Are you ready for the holidays? If you find yourself being a Scrooge this time of year, try making it a point to practice some gratitude, both internally and externally.
Externally, you can express thanks verbally, through short notes or even behind someone’s back. Try to remember to say thank you to the crossing guard in front of your kid’s school. Make sure the receptionist at your office knows how much you appreciate him or her and what they do for your company daily. Or…write an email to another supervisor praising the good work of a coworker (and it probably shouldn’t be your BFF at the office). People like to hear they are doing a good job and it won’t cost you a thing!
Giving thanks daily also has benefits. Start and/or end your day by reminiscing what you are thankful for. This may take the form of a journal, a gratitude jar or simple reflection. As you progress in your journey, your feelings of gratitude will sharpen from statements like “I’m thankful to have a job” to statements “I’m thankful for my coworker Tim who is always willing to take the time to brainstorm with me.” Finding gratitude in your life on a daily basis will turn any Scrooge around.
Thursday, November 24
Happy Thanksgiving! Today we take a moment to reflect on the year and our many blessings. If you are hosting Thanksgiving you have an amazing opportunity to make your guests feel special. If you are attending Thanksgiving somewhere other than your home, you have the opportunity to make your host and other guests feel appreciated. Remember, not everyone has had a year to brag about in a holiday card. Many people can find this, and other holidays quite depressing.
As a host, you will set the tone of Thanksgiving for your guests. From attire to food presentation, the perfect Thanksgiving event does not exist. If you are hosting, try to make guests feel comfortable and at home today. No need to cook the turkey in your stilettos, consider some sensible flats or…go barefoot (gasp). Think of ways to recognize your guests by writing their names on place cards or creating a “thankful tree.”
For both guests and hosts, remember that this may be an especially difficult day for many Americans. From the loss of a loved one to stress from family relationships, many gatherings can be rife with tension, sorrow, and loss. Use today to show some grace to loved ones. If they are late, tell them you are happy they are there. If they seem upset, ask them how they are, then give them space (and encourage others to do so). Find a way to engage in positive conversations, and for goodness sake, don’t ever ask a couple when they are going to have children!
Thursday, December 1
This is the time of year many people choose to increase their charitable giving. Whether that gift is in the form of time, money or donated items, it is important to understand who you are giving to and what their mission is.
First things first have a gut check. Seek out organizations that support causes that are dear to you. That could be anything from feeding the homeless to the beautification of a park. Is it important for the charity you are supporting to be locally based or do you want to support an international organization?
Next, check the facts. A charity should have a clearly defined mission and goals stated on its website. Check independent sources for information on the financial data behind the charity. If you are still uncertain, research another organization, you should feel confident in your decision to support a charity this time of year with your gifts, time and talents.
Thursday, December 8
What do you give the person who has everything? Give them the gift of giving. Giving a donation as a gift has become much more sophisticated over the years. Long gone are the days of homemade cards stating a gift was made in a person’s name (I mean how could you really know if it happened). These days charities offer more tangible ways to tell a loved one you have donated on their behalf.
DonorsChoose.org is an organization that collects requests from public school teachers from across the country. They organize the requests to fulfill the specific needs of that teacher or department for material and experiences for students. They even offer gift cards so a recipient may choose which project speaks most to them. This isn’t the only organization that allows gift cards holders to choose projects, JustGive.org is another resource for gift card charitable giving.
Another way to give a more tangible gift of giving is by buying something specific. Heifer International does this by allowing donors to choose what type of gift to give. You can purchase a goat, pig, chicks or over a dozen of other animals to help families become self-sustaining.
So do a little research on who you are getting a gift for, set a budget then choose a charity that meets your needs. This is one gift that you can truly enjoy giving!
Thursday, December 15
Charitable giving has seen an increase over the past few years. In 2015 an estimated $373 billion was given to charitable causes according to Charity Navigator. While religious organizations receive the most donations, causes that support education, the environment, the arts and health charities are also popular.
The word “philanthropy” comes from the Greek word “philanthropy” which simply means the love of mankind. Ancient references to benevolence and charity are present across cultures.
In the US, one of our earliest philanthropist, Benjamin Franklin started the Junto Club in Philadelphia dedicated to city improvements, thus starting a secular model philanthropy in the U.S.
Giving during the holidays is not a new trend. Most charities report that the bulk of their donations are received during the 4th quarter of the year. That can really make budgeting for charitable organizations a challenge. So as you open up your wallet this holiday season, remember to budget giving throughout the year.
Thursday, December 22
Christmas is this weekend, there is so much to do! Plan the food, wrap the gifts, wash your sweet sparkly Santa sweater…but what if you don’t have friends or family to spend the holiday with or what if you don’t celebrate Christmas? Holidays like Christmas can be a sad and lonely time for many people.
If you find yourself alone or in a small group, consider volunteering this weekend. Check with your local homeless shelter to see if they are accepting volunteers. Hospitals for humans and our four-legged friends may also have opportunities to give back. Our first responders are still working today, stop by your local police or fire station to bring a plate of cookies or a board game to help pass the time.
Can’t find an organization that meets your needs in your community? Consider performing random acts of kindness throughout the weekend. If leaving the house is difficult, use your day to bake goodies for others, knit gifts, write letters or make encouraging phone calls. No matter what you do, see if you can’t wear that sparkly Santa sweater while you are doing it…surely that will help lift your spirits.
Thursday, December 29
Hanukkah isn’t just about presents anymore, in fact, there is a national movement to make the Fifth Night (that’s the 28th this year) an annual event where children learn to make a difference by donating one night of their Hanukkah gifts to a chosen children’s charity. The idea is for children to deliver their donation at events surrounded by food, entertainment and of course, a menorah lighting.
There are other ways to give back beside hosting or attending a big event. Pick one person you want to thank and write down why then give them a call and tell them what you want to thank them for. You will notice immediately a change in how you feel and how the person you choose feels.
Try keeping a gratitude journal during Hanukkah. Each day, write at least three things you are thankful for this holiday. That half an hour after lighting the candles is an excellent time to think about your many blessings. Share them with your loved ones as you look into the flames and remember why you are celebrating. Use that feeling and act on it by performing small acts throughout the next day. Say a pray for a stranger, pick up a coffee tab or offer a compliment. Try to make these final few days of Hanukkah meaningful by incorporating giving to others in your tradition.