Christmas Giving – to Charity Results

Last month I mentioned that we were going to donate to charity rather than buy lots of Christmas gifts to people. This really just expands on a tradition in my family, where we’ve had a Christmas donation component for many years. The big difference was that this year, we didn’t buy anything for adults in the family. I wanted to share how it went.

The overall idea was wonderful. I know that I, personally, felt far less stressed out than usual at this time of year. With being super sick for part of that time, it was especially helpful not to be responsible for obtaining gifts for everyone. It also felt just way more fun and easy to hang out with our families, just appreciating each other and enjoying Benji’s excitement, with no stuff to get in the way.

The mechanics of it were a little less smooth, mostly because, again, I had many other things on my mind during the run-up to Christmas and I didn’t devote any bandwidth to helping coordinate or determine what exactly the logistics would look like. We did discuss a bit what charities to donate to before Christmas, and I know my in-laws made their donation based on that discussion. After Christmas, my parents asked to get together to talk about it, so we had some further discussion, mainly about what charities to support.

In the end, Ian and I split our donation four ways this year:

  • Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) – we started a small monthly contribution at Ian’s suggestion, because these guys work to protect digital rights, and it’s looking like that’s an area that’s ripe for abuses.
  • Southern Poverty Law Center – their mission statement says it all: “The Southern Poverty Law Center is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy, the SPLC works toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality.” Again, it’s looking like these areas are going to come under attack in the coming years, and we have a responsibility to make a stand.
  • National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) – basically ditto for the above reasons, only these guys work to protect the environment. They’ve been on our list of charities for many years, and we give a monthly recurring donation anyway. But we gave some extra this year, because the incoming administration doesn’t even believe in climate change.
  • Seattle Times Fund for the Needy – all the other charities we picked are big national advocacy groups. Seattle Times Fund for the Needy is hyper-local, supporting Seattle-area charities that work with “help local children, families and seniors in times of crisis.”

I think we’ll want to refine the process, but in general I felt like it went well and was much more what Christmas is meant to be about.

Christmas Giving — to Charity

The holidays are fast approaching, a time when people start freaking out about what gifts to give hard-to-buy-for family members. Money flows. For many retailers, it’s a time to make or break; for many individuals, it’s a stressful and anxious time.

I wanted to share how my family has been fighting this trend, and what we’re thinking about doing differently this year.

Many years ago, my parents started doing a Christmas donation give-away. They would allocate a certain dollar amount to each family member, and give us Monopoly money to represent it. Then we would all go through the charity giving catalogs and decide where we wanted to put our giving dollars. Sometimes we teamed up to do something like help pay for a well (which are often expensive), or sometimes just spend it on something like vaccines for kids or bicycles for girls.

Similarly, in years past, Ian and I have given donations in the name of family or friends, and then provided them a handmade card to let them know what we did in their name. But usually, in both cases, the donation has supplemented gift-giving, or accompanied an actual physical gift.

This year, I think we’re going to do it differently. With the election, and with the precedent set by the officials so far appointed in the new administration, it’s going to be extra-important to support causes and people that will be hurt in the future. That’s why, this year, we’re starting to talk about doubling down on this commitment to donations at Christmas. We’re talking about going all in and, with the exception of gifts for Benji, forgoing gifts entirely. Instead, our entire gift budget will go to charity.

Gifts are supposed to remind us of the gift God gave to us at Christmastime: Jesus, and, through him, grace and redemption from our sins. Getting even a very appropriate gift that I like and appreciate is nice, but I believe that giving to nonprofits and charities that do Jesus’ work* is even more in keeping with the intention of Christmas giving. I’m going to be asking my friends what charities they would like us to support in their name (feel free to let me know in the comments or by email as you read this, if you want!), and I’m going to be researching organizations that I want to give to this year. It’s going to be more than just sending Bibles to Africa, believe me.

This election, and the national mood to go along with it, has really reminded me why we need to live generously. It’s not just people “out there” who need our help; it’s people right here, in our state, county, city, neighborhood. Many people have been hurting for a long time, and they chose Trump because they’re hoping to get some kind of help. Well, I doubt Trump is going to help them, but I’m pretty sure nonprofits will be there.

Probably, we should have been living with this level of generosity all the time. I guess it takes a serious jump to get our engines going, but this is about as big of a jolt as we could hope for. Time to take a leaf out of Jesus’ book. He gave everything, even his life. We can certainly allocate a few more dollars to help others.

*That’s not to say that we’re only going to support Christian charities; I know many excellent organizations that aren’t explicitly Christian do the kind of work Jesus would absolutely support.