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 GoodSearch.com (you search, they give), GoodShop.com (you shop, they give), or the eBay Giving Works (shop or sell to benefit 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
This post updated in 2023 to remove AmazonSmile which ended in February of the same year. More details here.