Putting It All Together: How Do You Give Back?

I have around a million things to tell you about England---which is where I still am, incidentally, stuffing myself with Easter chocolate---and about Paris too, and you will find that most of them involve food, which will probably not come as much of a surprise, but those things will have to wait, because today, as part of my second foray into Putting It All Together, we are going to talk about giving back.

Yes, giving back. Do you give back? I like to think that I give back, but sometimes I worry that just sorting through my closet and dropping off a few bags full of stuff at the thrift store isn't.....well.....giving back enough. Does it count if I also shop at the thrift store too, considering the thrift store is one of those ones where all the money goes to a specific charity? I like to think so, especially since this has the added bonus of justifying my vintage cake stand habit---seriously, how many cake stands does a person need? How many cakes do I even make? Maybe two a year?---but I say we should count it anyway. I mean, it's not like I'm buying my stuff back or anything, right? (I had a friend that did that once, by the way: took a whole bag of clothes down to the thrift store, then couldn't find anything she wanted to wear on a date that night. She went back to the thrift store and bought back a sweater she'd just given them. Charity begins at home!)

Anyway, San Francisco is a pretty easy city to give back in because there are a lot of people who need giving to. My company runs a great program that connects employees with volunteer opportunities: in the last few years here, I've helped prepare meals for people living with HIV at Project Open Hand, dug a garden at Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center, and pulled up weeds on a nature trail with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy (sadly, no Leslie Knope in sight.)

I could do more, though. I suspect we could all do more---unless, of course, you're Mother Theresa, in which case feel free to sit down on this comfy chair over here and I'll bring you a latte and maybe also a scone---and that's what I'm interested in hearing about from you today. If like me, you seem to find yourself with a deficit of hours in the day, how do you give back effectively without turning your entire life upside down? I've set up a direct deposit, for example, to send a little bit of my paycheck each month to a charity that helps Cambodian children who've been injured or orphaned by landmines, and I'm a sucker for those paper shoes at the drugstore, where you pay a dollar for whatever cause you're supporting and they just add it on to the end of your bill. They're small things, yes, but they're a start.

What about you? Do you give back? How do you give back? I'm thinking there are probably a few more ways to do it than just buying every cake stand from every charity shop in the land. Though hmm, it's certainly not such a bad idea.

1
Hannah
Apr 05, 2010

Kiva.org (microloans) is bloody amazing. You can use the same chunk of money over and over again to help people out.

2
beth
Apr 05, 2010

www.camphappydays.com
I focus all of my available resources in one place. There are always other needs in other places and occasionally I'll write a check, but by focusing on one need that I really believe in, I can see the difference my time, money, and energy makes.
I've been supporting them for seven years.
Cancer changes lives - so does Camp Happy Days!!

3
Ari
Apr 05, 2010

I spend every other Saturday evening at a cat shelter in the next city over. I am assigned different cats each week, and I tend to their basic needs and give them lots of attention. It's win-win: the organization has a great mission to reduce euthanasia and spending time with a house full of cats is a fun Saturday night!

4
Kristen
Apr 05, 2010

I get really overwhelmed when I think about all the people and organizations and places that really, really need help, so for me, it's about focusing. I give a little here and there to a lot of charities I hold dear, but the bulk of my time and money and brainpower goes to a local pet rescue (http://www.puppyhillfarm.com/). I knew I couldn't do adoptions because, well, I'd adopt them all, but I *can* do fundraising and marketing and I can sponsor an animal who lives there. So I do. And because it's a small, local organization, I really see the difference I'm making.

Could I do more? Of course, but I do enough now to feel proud, and that's a good start.

5
Kate
Apr 05, 2010

I love this topic. Thanks for getting this conversation started, Holly!

I volunteer as a Wish Granter for the Make A Wish foundation. It doesn't take much of my time and the reward is a thousand times greater than what I give my making hospital visits or telephone calls. I also volunteer for the Human Rights Campaign locally and am always happy to spend a few hours stuffing envelopes or pouring punch at a fundraiser. I'm not at a point in my life which makes it easy to make large monetary contributions to the charities I want to support, so I have chosen to give up some hours instead. Eventually I'd love to do both - but for now, I'm doing what I can!

6
soul-fusion
Apr 05, 2010

I second the vote for kiva.org micro-lending. I also give to and have worked with choicehumanitarian.org. They run humanitarian trips where you work along side the people you are helping. They are a no frills organization where the money really reaches the people. Heifer International is another one I like to give to.
My work used to run a homework club for a charter school in Harlem and I loved spending a couple of hours once a week working with the kids but they had to end the program due to lack of participation (sadly) and I haven't managed to replace that regularly scheduled volunteer time and I miss it.

7
marymuses
Apr 05, 2010

I always wish I could do more, but for now I take opportunities as they fall in my lap. Currently, my husband and I are sponsors of four children through various humanitarian aid organizations; it's easy because it's an automatic withdrawal from our bank account every month. The thing that brings me the most joy, though, is visiting an elderly woman once a week. She has no family and very little income, so a few of us girls look after her. Mostly I just bring her groceries and wear something cute since she likes to tell me I look like a fashion model. Really, it's a win-win situation, as I am giving back AND getting compliments every single week.

Ah giving back. This is something I always want to do more of.

I try to give to Goodwill often, but sadly I don't shop there. Our selection in Olympia is NOTHING like SF. I have dreams of direct depositing money into the Humane Society, Planned Parenthood and the local library, but seeing as I am hardly able to currently pay bills AND feed myself those are still waiting...

I recently joined a roller derby team, and one of the requirements is we have to participate in charity events, so finally I am out there helping my community with my time. My most recent was a few hours feeding women dinner at a battered women's shelter.

They are small things, a few hours, a few words, but I hope they make a difference.

9
Georgia
Apr 05, 2010

I JUST donated a bit of money (wasn't much, but I did my best) to a girl who's running a triathlon to raise money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I gave blood recently, and also had my cheek swabbed so I can be a candidate for bone marrow donation.

I also gave a drunk homeless gentleman all the money in my wallet (again, wasn't much) the other day.

Yay for giving!

10
ScottsdaleGirl
Apr 05, 2010

Monthly debit from my checking account to the AZ Humane Society.

11
Sarah Ashley Williams
Apr 05, 2010

Hey Holly & Everyone! If you want a really cute tote bag, Feed Foundation bags are great to buy for a great cause. Buy one bag and the money will feed hungry children in 3rd world countries. It's a really great cause. http://www.feedprojects.org/

12
Kate
Apr 05, 2010

I third (or fourth!) the kiva.org amazingness. I give to them 6 times a year, and also donate to one other charity each month. It's not a lot, but I increase the amount each year, (which hopefully, now I'm finished studying, will correlate with salary increases!!)

13
beyond
Apr 05, 2010

donating money is great, but donating time is important too. i'm a reiki therapist and volunteer at a cancer center one day a week. so rewarding.

14
suzrocks
Apr 06, 2010

I love to travel and other cultures- Since I became a nurse, I've spent quite a bit of time volunteering in Ecuador and Haiti. I'm currently in grad school (for anesthesia)but am working with Health Volunteer Overseas www.hvousa.org, helping with the education of healthcare providers in developing countries. Next Month I'm headed to Honduras for a week long surgical trip. I'm pretty pumped!

15
Angela
Apr 06, 2010

My husband and I currently sponsor two children through World Vision each month. I also volunteer at our local Humane Society. But I'd sure like to do more :)

16
Sensibly Sassy
Apr 06, 2010

I hold a coat drive every year (for the last four years) where I collect coats, canned food, and other supplies for the homeless around my community. I have also made some lunches to go hand out to the local homeless.

17
Stephanie
Apr 07, 2010

I've been trying to give back more lately, particularly in not just monetary ways. Right now, I regularly support friends in walks/marathons and give to my church. I'm also on a committee for a non-profit that empowers inner city teens to pursue careers in the arts. But the biggest way I'm giving back this year is by sponsoring a Haitian child and traveling to Haiti in July to help with rebuilding efforts.

18
karen
Apr 07, 2010

Check out womenforwomen.org

Based on the premise that war-torn societies will need strong women if they are to rebuild... your monthly sponsorship goes toward leadership training, business training, and sometimes towards starting a business. But the letters! oh my goodness. I have had such amazing letters from my sponsored women, really they are giving back so much more than I could.

19
Gretchen
Apr 07, 2010

I volunteer for a breed rescue organization; I foster and transport dogs, as well as making snuggle sacks for the fosters to take to their new forever homes. I also donate blood regularly and just registered as a marrow donor. I donate clothes, linens, goods, etc. to AmVets a couple times a year and I also give to my local public radio station.

20
agirlandaboy
Apr 07, 2010

I always donate to charities on my tax form--usually something like the American Cancer Society or the Humane Society. I also always try to give at least SOMETHING to bloggers taking donations during or after tragedy.

21
Charity
Apr 09, 2010

I organize a March for Babies team for March of Dimes every year. GREAT CAUSE!

22
Susan
Apr 09, 2010

I usually give my stuff to goodwill. If I know of someone who needs something I have then I'll just give it to them! Sometimes my church my know of people with needs, etc....

23
Jeanette Huston
Apr 10, 2010

I give to the salavation army. My kids are always out growing their clothes.

jeanette_huston@yahoo.com

24
Kathleen
Apr 12, 2010

My husband and I sponsor two children through Compassion International. I'm also a leader for teens at my church, and I have a direct deposit set up to give monthly to my alma mater, a school I truly believe in. I also LOVE doing runs & walks dedicated to raising money for cancer research.

25
Melinda
Apr 13, 2010

We sponsor a child in africa and help out at local events

26
Wehaf
Apr 16, 2010

Every year I give to Kiva, Donors Choose, Heifer International, and Planned Parenthood. I also volunteer as a tutor, which is the most personally rewarding!

27
fweetieb
Apr 17, 2010

We started sponsoring a child in Guatemala a few years back. Then we found out her brother did not have a sponsor, so we now sponsor him as well.

28
DG
Apr 24, 2010

I love giving back by visiting the senior citizen community home. It's nice to visit with people who have little or no family...not the most major way to contribute compared to other forms of volunteering but it's the highlight of my week!

29
Carol
Apr 26, 2010

I shop for an elderly shut-in twice a month, and I drop food by for her weekly.

30
Deb Anderson
Apr 26, 2010

I signed up years ago to have an extra $1 per utility bill that goes into a pot with the utility company to help folks in financial distress or those on fixed incomes with unexpectedly high utility bills. I don't even miss that $1 per month, and yes, even though it's only a little, I still feel like I'm giving back and giving it to people who really need it!

31
Jessie C.
Apr 27, 2010

We donate to local shelter and food bank twice a month .

32
Jill Hayes
Apr 28, 2010

I donate items to Goodwill every month

33
Athalia
May 02, 2010

I use my home and network to meet other's needs.
Example, this week I am packing up a friend who had to leave in a hurry to help Haiti's disaster relief efforts. She'll be gone for a year; I'm coordinating movers, packers and subleasers. Next week we are going to host a 'new folks' potluck to welcome a handful of newbies to our town. We've also invited some 'locals' to help answer questions like 'who's a good mechanic' and 'where are the traffic shortcuts' etc.

34
Michael Dickson
May 19, 2010

I remember the last time we had a mention on this site..a few years ago! We're about to donate some of our turnover to Refuge, the UK based womens charity as 90% of our customers are women. I can't think of a better reason to give something back.

Salaams...Mike

35
Gabrielle
May 18, 2016

It's a pleasure to find such raitonality in an answer. Welcome to the debate.

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