Monday, December 1, 2014

{Giving Tuesday} Ten Simple Ways to "Be the Change"

National Day of Giving

Confession: We skip Black Friday, Cyber Monday and even Small Business Saturday (though I LOVE supporting local businesses and small businesses) because our focus on the "biggest shopping weekend" of the year is Giving Tuesday. I love focusing as a family on giving back and helping others during the holiday season rather than on buying more, more, more and focusing our children's attention on stuff. 

I invite you to join the movement and make this holiday season truly a season of giving. I'm excited to share ten ways to get involved as a family. Enjoy my "Top 10" below and then tell me how your family comes together to give back and serve others during the holidays.  

1. I'll be obvious with this first one: Just Give! Yep, pick a charity, go to their website, click donate and give. Select the charity together as a family and ask everyone in the family if they would like contribute some of their personal money. Many organizations have large companies or donors promising to match donations today, so you're $10, $25, $50 donation can go a lot further. This can be encouraging for children who may think their money won't make a difference. On Giving Tuesday, we'll be donating $42.45 to No Kid Hungry, which will be matched by Hickory Farms, so my donation becomes $84.90 or 800+ meals for children in need. 

Last year, I saw the true power of Giving Tuesday as our donation of $42.45 grew and grew. We gave that amount because it was the amount my two young sons raised through a coffee can challenge for Hunger Action Month that year. When I shared on social media about our gift (all derived from collecting change for one month), various friends and family members decided to match their gift and also give $42.45 to No Kid Hungry. In the end, I believe there were at least 5 additional donations -- all of which were matched by Tyson last year for Giving Tuesday. So, in the end, that spare change made quite a difference.It resulted in $212.25 being donated, which was matched for a grand total of $424.50 or nearly 4,500 meals for children in need. I learned a lot about the value of small gifts (it all started with spare change) and of sharing about your giving, which inspires others. Remember...

No gift is too small. 

2. Do something cool! I have lots of friends who run for charity. Why not decide as a family that you'll do a run for charity in 2014? It could tie in well with a "get fit and healthy" New Year's Resolution. You can also play games. is a favorite site of students I've worked with who love to show off their skills while also earning rice to be donated to those in need and has loads of ways for children to get involved and give back.

3. Cook - I love cooking and baking with my sons. When I heard from a fellow "giver" that their family always bakes extra homemade bread and pasta dishes to have on hand to give to tenants, friends, or colleagues in need, I was sold. Perhaps who know a family with a loved one who is ill or someone who recently lost a job, giving them a meal or even a batch of cookies made at home with love can go a long way. For me, Giving Tuesday is about showing you care and not necessarily spending money. 

4. Commit a Random Act of Kindness - Buy a stranger coffee. Give candy canes to everyone you see until you run out. Take the time to acknowledge and respond to those you encounter in your day to day actions. Encourage your child to eat lunch with someone who is sitting alone at school. For some additional inspiration, check out this Random Acts of Kindness Printable Advent Calendar from Coffee Cups and Crayons.

5. Invite others to give too - I love the way that Pennies of Time made one of their family service projects a community engagement activity by creating posters and asking neighbors to join them in supporting Captain Hope's Kids. It worked. This allows two levels of giving: 1) giving more to Captain Hope's Kids, 2) giving others the opportunity to give. (People really do enjoy giving and helping others. It is literally proven to make people happier). This year, we've invited friends to come over on Giving Tuesday for a special playdate where we'll be making Homeless Care Kits to have on hand this holiday season.

6. Swap out the Elf on the Shelf for Kindness Elves like the Imagination Tree did (you have to pop over and see how cute her elves are too!) These elves leave notes of kind acts that children can do and encourage kids to help others and to practice kindness and generosity. I personally prefer this emphasis on acknowledging good behavior, rather than threatening to tell on kids that are bad. Celebrating your children's kindness nurtures their interest in giving to others.

7. Volunteer - Even if you can't jump up and volunteer today, contact a local non-profit in your community and see how you can get involved and help. PBS has some great tips for volunteering with kids. We discovered that visiting nursing homes is something that is often encouraged and welcomed even with small children (or especially with small children) and it would be a great way to brighten someone's day this holiday season. 

8. Shop - This year, I created a gift guide highlighting some of my favorite gifts that give back highlighting TOMS Shoes, children's books, gifts from the RED campaign, gifts for foodies and much more. I also love this Top Ten List of Gifts that Give Back from She Lives Free

9. Focus on Gratitude - Focusing on gratitude as a family has helped my sons understand the value of what we have and the importance of helping others and spreading kindness. We have a simple daily gratitude practice. Each evening during our family dinners, we all share one thing that we are happy for -- it's become something we all enjoy and look forward to. In fact, my husband and I forgot one night, and our 5 year-old son emphatically reminded us. It's his favorite part of our dinners together. We also love these easy Gratitude Postcards.

10. Share - This one is so simple! Whatever you decide to do to give back on Giving Tuesday or throughout the holiday season, take a moment to let others know. Sometimes, we hesitate to spread the word that we are giving back because we don't want to sound like we're bragging or are worried about how it might make others feel, but what I learned from Giving Tuesday last year is that sharing what you are doing often inspires others. So, don't hide your light, shine it -- brightly and boldly. When you do, you inspire others. It's always nice to also mention some simple ways people can give (holding a door for others, putting away a grocery cart for someone, calling a friend in a nursing home, smiling at everyone you see, etc.) so that the message of kindness gets passed on and everyone feels they can be involved regardless of their personal circumstance. We can all make a difference -- for me that is what Giving Tuesday is all about. 

Need more ideas? Follow my Season of Giving Pinboard, which features family service projects, inspirational activities, and other simple ways to make a difference this holiday season. Please also share what you're doing, especially if you have a blog post so that I can pin it and share it on Facebook and Twitter! 

*This post is an updated version of last year's Giving Tuesday post.

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