The holiday season of giving
Tips on how you can give back this winter
By Amber McLinden, Features Editor
The holiday season has everyone feeling extra generous. While you might be thinking about buying gifts for family and friends, it’s also a time to think about donating to charities and nonprofits who help those less fortunate.
The general public spends a ton of money on Christmas and other gift-giving holidays in winter. In December of 2014, Statistics Canada analyzed how many purchases and sales went up during the month. Revenue was in the millions and billions — with sales of televisions and audio and video equipment going up 136 per cent compared to the monthly average. Toys were even higher than that, going up 186 per cent compared to the monthly average.
Consumerism is rampant when it comes to the holidays. We’ve all heard of an incident, seen a video or read an article about a bratty kid who is mad they didn’t get the right colour of iPhone for Christmas. It forces people to spend money they don’t have on gifts that people expect and don’t appreciate as much as they should.
Maybe that’s a little cynical. It’s a really nice thing to give gifts and see how much people do enjoy it, and let’s be honest — it isn’t bad getting gifts either. But when Canadians claim they’ll be spending anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 on gift purchasing, with citizens carrying an average of $22,000 in debt, it’s hard to not be cynical.
But alas, in the chaos of all the spending, gift giving and the occasional break for a turkey dinner or two, there is a ray of hope. The feeling you get when you watch friends and family open your gifts can be replicated and multiplied. The answer is simple — take a break from the consumerism and donate to charity (and get a little bit of a tax deduction while you’re at it).
With the holiday coined #GivingTuesday, a global social movement to encourage people to donate to charity post-Thanksgiving and Black Friday, giving back is on many people’s minds.
So what are the best ways to donate to charity? What are some ways you can give back without leaving the comfort of your couch? How much should you give? Without further ado, some tips to donating over the holiday season.
Donate to local charities
Calgary has an array of places that are always looking for monetary donations. The Mustard Seed is one, an organization in the city that helps those in poverty and experiencing homelessness to meet basic needs. The Women’s Centre provides assistance to women in Calgary through peer support, legal counselling, social issues work and girls programs. Inn From the Cold is an emergency shelter for those who don’t have a place to go. There’s many more, and can be accessed by a quick Google search of “Calgary charities.”
Many of these places, due to their nonprofit nature, don’t turn a profit and rely on donations. The best way to help is to donate money and keep them running. They provide an important service that many people rely on. If you don’t have a lot to donate, or you don’t know which you want to donate to, that’s okay! Any member of an organization will tell you to donate what you can. If you don’t know where to donate to, choose one that speaks to you. Not everyone can donate to multiple charities, so pick one that you feel is important or that you hold close to your heart.
Donate to global organizations in need
Donating money to local charities is important, but there are also many national and global nonprofits that need as much assistance as possible. Organizations like the Samaritan’s Purse work on disaster relief, something that the world has seen no shortage of in the past year. Consider donating to disaster relief organizations that are helping those in Puerto Rico, those affected by the B.C. wildfires and areas affected by multiple hurricanes. While these events might have come and gone in the news, nonprofits supporting the redevelopment of these areas need continued support. It takes time to repair after a natural disaster and organizations will continue to need funding in the coming year.
Be careful who you choose to donate to, however. If you’re searching up disaster relief organizations, make sure to check they are legit before giving them money. There are a number of tools on the web to use when checking if a charity is legitimate or not. You can easily find tools to see if they’re tax exempt, if they’re registered as a nonprofit and much more.
Donate non-monetary items
Not everyone has the ability to donate money and that is completely fine. Perhaps you have coats laying around your house you no longer use. Project Warmth Society of Alberta is looking for donations in the cold months of winter. Maybe you have an excellent discount at Walmart or you have a Costco card -— consider buying socks and underwear and donating them to places like Inn from the Cold and other organizations that are looking for clothing donations. Even gently used shoes, boots and other winter accessories are a good way to donate.
You can even use your skills to donate things to organizations. Maybe you’re an amazing knitter or crocheter. Buy some cheap yarn and knit up a few hats, mittens, maybe even a blanket and donate those to different places in need of items.
Donate your time
Time is money — unless you’re donating it. Many places, especially during the cold winter in Calgary, need people to volunteer. Research places close to you or places that you think are important and interesting and reach out to see if you can volunteer. Many people are in a giving mood during the holiday season, so consider extending your volunteer hours beyond the month of December and give all year round.
You can also donate time and money by planning a fundraiser. Usually those who give to you are also eligible for tax receipts. You don’t have to know everything. Reach out to your charity of choice and see if it’s possible to host a fundraiser for them and they can fill in the blanks for you.
Those are just a few ways you can get involved in giving back over the holidays. After exams are done, consider looking into doing something good that isn’t getting an A in your classes (although that would be good too) and make the most out of your holiday season.