• By: Tatum Bergen

Gifts that give: A guide to giving to your community this Christmas

Something about Christmas makes us look beyond ourselves and to our community. Neighbours adorn their homes in twinkling lights, wreaths welcome us on front doors, and suddenly we want to teach our children the value of caring for others by volunteering at soup kitchens or joining the local food drive.

The reality is you don’t have to be rich to impact your community because there are many ways to give. After all, the best Christmas gifts are more than material–they have meaning.

Christmas is the perfect time to consider giving to local organizations yourself or on behalf of others. 

1.Christmas provides giving opportunities–pick one!

When giving this season, first determine whether you will donate personally, as a family, as a business, or a combination of the three. There are many group events to incorporate giving. Suppose your family, community group, friends or colleagues are playing Secret Santa. You can rally your group to contribute a small portion of your gift to a collective donation for a charity: fifteen people who add a $10 donation to their Secret Santa gift will have a joint $150 donation. This form of group giving can be very effective!

Businesses might also consider corporate donation matching, where a company matches its employees’ donations to a non-profit. Not only is it great for tax credits, but it creates buy-in and builds community within the workplace.

You can also choose gifts for friends and families that support a charity’s work. Many charities provide cards that state the donation you made in their name, or even have stores with gifts that sponsor programs. For example, Pearls4Girls sells beautiful, authentic pearl jewelry that funds girls’ empowerment in Lesotho, and each purchase comes with a tax receipt.

2.Find an organization that resonates with you.

Many people do good work, and while it can be overwhelming to choose a cause, this gives you the freedom to find one you will stick with for the long run. Are you passionate about refugees? Indigenous communities? Disability programs? Homeless outreach? You are more likely to continually invest in learning and supporting humanitarian work that you resonate with.

When you narrow down to an organization you want to build a relationship with, consider the different ways to support them. Consider subscribing to monthly giving to provide consistent support or simply stay updated with their work through newsletters.

3.Giving comes in many forms.

When you find an organization, there are more ways to get involved than cutting a cheque. While it is necessary to financially support charities–and you’ll be thankful you did when you do your taxes–giving money is not always the only way to give.

Non-profits need more diverse skillsets than those certified in non-profit management. When applying to volunteer at non-profit organizations, mention your skills. Are you skilled in graphic design? Photography or videography? Accounting? Do you have legal skills you could offer to refugees claiming asylum? Are you an electrician or mechanic that can look over their equipment or the vehicles they use for their work?

If you don’t have time to spare, consider signing up for a monthly donation to become a consistent supporter of the work. You can also donate stocks, leave a portion of your estate in your will, donate blood to Canadian Blood Services, or furniture to refugees or low-income families. Even simply sharing about the organization’s work on your social media can help the organization gain a bigger audience, which is impactful because they rely on an extensive support network. Educate yourself on the work local charities are doing, become passionate about it, and tell others! In short, there is a way for everyone to give, and showing your support is impactful.

4.Most importantly, create a generous lifestyle.

While the Christmas season is magical, it can be lonely for many. You can change this. Check in on your neighbours: make sure your elderly neighbours or relatives have somewhere to go for Christmas and invite them to your home or offer to bring them a meal. Look at your network. Do you know any singles who don’t have family living nearby? Extend an invitation to them. Do you know a single mom or dad who might not have money to buy Christmas presents? Ask how you can support them, offer to babysit, or drop off an anonymous gift-card.

Relational poverty often hits harder than monetary poverty during the holidays. So, take the time to reach out to your family members and connect with people in your network. It doesn’t take much to impact your community. After all, living generously is always a blessing in disguise.

Looking beyond ourselves to those around us is the gift of Christmas.

Stay tuned for OLM’s Gifts that Give profiles of local charities.

Photo: iStock