The Season of Giving

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’Tis the season to give, so why not give to the less fortunate?
The holiday season is all about giving, but that doesn’t always have to mean giving material gifts. They’re always a fun way to show your appreciation for someone, and nothing beats the smile that comes across a loved one’s face when they see what they’ve received, but giving to those in need can help us feel more fulfilled. Holiday philanthropy is an easy and fun way to celebrate the season.

Reasons to Give
If feeling warm and fuzzy inside isn’t reason enough for you to consider donating time or money to charity during the holidays, the tax deductions that many charitable donations are eligible for should entice you. Taking time to reflect on the wonderful things you have while helping provide those things to others who lack them will make you appreciate your life much more, leading to increased happiness as well. There are even health benefits to being charitable. In fact, studies have shown that people who donate to charities have generally better health than those who don’t. And with so many creative ways to give, what’s stopping you?

Whether you’re looking to donate money, time or talents, there are countless ways to help others during the holiday season. Consider these ideas if you’re looking to give in a way that doesn’t necessarily come wrapped in a bow.

Charitable Gifts
If you have a loved one who shares your desire to help others, consider using their gift to donate to charity. Choose one that correlates to his or her interests to make it more personal; there are countless charities covering a wide range of important topics. Many charities such as UNICEF, Oxfam, Livestrong and the World Wildlife Federation often have gifts available that when purchased donate a portion or all of the proceeds to the corresponding charity. Many of these charitable gifts are very popular and fashionable, such as TOMS® Shoes, a company that donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased.

If the charity you chose does not offer a gift in return for a donation, consider simply making a monetary donation in your loved one’s name. You will feel proud that your hard-earned money is going toward something good, and your loved one will be happy that their sacrifice of a tangible gift has helped someone. There are even charity gift cards available so that the recipient of your gift can choose the organization they want to support. Be aware that this option often deducts a percentage of the funds for handling fees, however.

Make It a Family Day
You can also look for a volunteer opportunity that involves the whole family. has an extensive list of family volunteer programs in several cities to help you find the best fit for your family, and it can connect you with organizations that fit your family’s interests. They’re also open to adding you as a volunteer coordinator in your own city.

Consult Your Employer
Find out if the company you work for has a matching program for charitable donations. Many do, and in most cases, the employer will match your contribution 100 percent. This is an excellent way to stretch your dollars for maximum impact, and your employer will appreciate your incentive.

Give a Holiday Meal
Many in our country and around the world don’t have access to adequate food and water to make the delicious holiday meals we’re so fortunate to be accustomed to. Homeless shelters, churches and charity organizations need help year-round, but especially during the holidays to provide meals to the less fortunate. If money is tight this holiday season, donate your time by volunteering to cook or deliver these meals through soup kitchens or organizations such as Meals on Wheels, or volunteer for a day at an organization that donates non-perishable, nutrient-packed meals to starving children in developing countries. has an extensive database and rating system for charities such as these nationwide. But at the same time, remember that your involvement is also appreciated and necessary during the rest of the year.

Donate Your Clothes
Be philanthropic this season by cleaning out your closet. Instead of throwing out-of-season clothing away or selling to consignment stores, donate items to homeless shelters or thrift stores that support important causes; there will always be a need for clothing items of every kind. Many places also accept gently used housewares, such as pots and pans, dishes, baskets and furniture.

The holidays are a time to be close to loved ones, and certainly to show them how much they mean to you, but they’re also a time to reflect on your life. Spending less time stressing about the material things and spreading holiday cheer by helping others is the real reason for the season. Gifts are always fun–especially during the holiday season–but philanthropy is a gift to those you are helping as well as to yourself. HLM

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