It’s that time again: Christmas trees and decorations are up, families are planning to come together for sumptuous meals and Christmas carols waft through the air as people shop till they drop. In a sense, the season has become all about money, and amidst it all, it is so easy to lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas. What can you do differently this year that truly epitomizes the true spirit of Christmas?
The word ‘Philanthropy’ stirs up thoughts of ‘affluence,’ but philanthropy takes on many forms. It is our individual response to human needs; it is about caring and serving; an opportunity to be involved.
A philanthropist can be defined as “someone who gives of his or her time, talent, treasure to causes that can have a positive impact on society.” What this means is that anyone and everyone can and should be a philanthropist.
So how can you give this season?
Philanthropy affords you the opportunity and privilege of making a difference in society, in shaping or even saving lives. Determine what causes you identify with and have the capacity to support; you can be intentional and deliberate about issues or causes that we believe in be it education, entrepreneurship, health care, the arts, sports, etc. Review your finances to decide how much you can afford to give. Will it be a one-off donation this Christmas, or is it something you can continue to commit to every year?
Narrow down your choices and focus on a few causes you identify with and do some research on them to ensure that their ethos and mission are in consonance with your core values. Follow up to see if your support is making a difference; when you see the impact it is having, you will find it easier to continue to give. Collaboration will make your giving have a wider reach and impact.
It’s not all about money
Giving does not mean that you must give only financially; there are several other ways to give in a meaningful way. Many of us have so many “things” that we do not need or want, lying around cluttering our homes for years. Christmas is an ideal time to clear out unwanted clothes, books, toys, appliances from crammed wardrobes; they will all be appreciated by so many that have little or nothing. Think of the homeless, orphanages, millions of Nigerians displaced by terror or social strife and victims of migration and trafficking.
The possibilities of giving of your time, experience, talent and intellect are vast. You can give of your time to volunteer, visit the elderly, support a foundation, participate in charity walks or runs to raise money for a particular initiative. Are you a resource person in a particular field? There will be something, some talent that you can share with others that will impact positively on their lives.
Is your old school a shadow of itself?
Do you often complain of how far standards at your old school have fallen? An endowment is a sound investment towards the future of your old college. With an endowed gift, you can provide permanent support for the educational establishment. Your gift will be invested and each year a distribution is made to fund a program or area that matches your interest in a particular field of study or the school environment and facilities. Once it is officially established, you or anyone else may continue to add to its principal at any time. You may also decide to, through the title, forever link your name, or that of a family member to excellence at the college.
Teach your children the gift of giving
As we practice giving and philanthropy this season, let’s try to also imbibe the culture in our children. Try to emphasize the non-material aspects of the season, such as family and fellowship. It is not enough to just tell our children to be charitable and kind. Our own actions in supporting others will speak louder than anything we can say. Guide them through a program of action that teaches them a powerful lesson that they can have a positive effect on the wellbeing of others.
Challenging times can compel us to recognize the true value that we hold as human beings and what makes us more successful, effective, balanced, and fulfilled people. Indeed it is during trying times, even when your finances might seem stretched that you are forced to look inwards at what is truly important in life. Sometimes, perspectives become warped and the most important aspects of life, such as your relationship with God, family, friends and associates, your health, job satisfaction, and fulfilling interests take a back seat.
Having money comes with a huge responsibility because it makes it possible for you to improve the lot of others. If you look around, you will find that there is always someone far worse off than you are. By deciding to make a difference in someone else’s life, you can bring so much more meaning, and value to your own.
Photo Credit: © Igor Mojzes | Dreamstime