When my son was five, we gave him an allowance of 50 cents per week. Usually, he took his two quarters and put them in his Thomas the Tank Engine bank with all of the other coins he’d been given during his short life. There was never anything he wanted to buy. But one day when we were taking our cat to the vet, my son insisted on carrying his life savings along with him, stating he had something important to do with it. He remembered from a previous visit that our vet’s office kept a donation box in the waiting room to collect funds for a local animal shelter. He gave all of his money to help the homeless animals.
It’s a fundamental part of human nature to want to help those in need. That’s not just the view through my rose-colored glasses. There’s been research on the subject. Stefan Klein gathers and discusses much of this research in his book, “Survival of the Nicest.” He makes a case for altruism as the key to the survival of the human race. “The Giving Way to Happiness” by Jenny Santi shows that the act of giving has as many benefits for the giver as for the recipient. And Edgar Schein examines how to make sure efforts to help have the intended effect in his book “Helping: How to Offer, Give and Receive Help.”
Although almost all of us want to help others, contemporary life is busy and sometimes we need a nudge to remind us. That’s what Giving Tuesday is about. Observed each year on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, the day provides an opportunity for us to indulge our charitable impulses and create a positive difference in the world. We are encouraged to “help others through the gift of your time, donations, goods or your voice.”
If you want to participate but need ideas, the Giving Tuesday website provides suggestions, including directories for local communities. DBRL also provides a guide to volunteer opportunities. Before donating to an organization, it’s a good idea to check and see if they’re doing what they claim. Charity Navigator rates charities based on transparency and effectiveness, including information on what percentage of donations makes its way to the advertised recipients. Two other well-known sites are Guidestar and the BBB Wise Giving Alliance.
Whether it’s helping a neighbor shovel snow or contributing to global famine relief, we all can find a way to give back on November 28.