Dec 06

‘Tis the Season to be Giving

In Brief—This is the time of year when our thoughts turn to what we will give Uncle Charlie or the kids to keep the wheels of commerce turning. Well, let’s initiate a change this year and make it a real season of giving.


“Happy Holidays” instead of “Bah, Humbug!”—

I’m not Scrooge! Really!

As I recall Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, after spending a harrowing night with spirits who showed him the error of his ways, once-miserly Ebenezer Scrooge gave the Cratchit family a fat turkey to make their holiday season merry and lived out his life as a generous man. I am proposing the same for the rest of us.

Give With Love

Give With Love

I have told my family that they should contribute a sum to one or more of several organizations rather than give me a regular gift. I have more stuff than I will ever use. I have suggested they make a contribution to two medical/health care organizations, one justice-related and one journalistic organization: Doctors Without Borders, Planned Parenthood, ACLU and Truthout. That’s my choice, but I propose that readers make a charitable donation to the organization(s) they favor. Their choice.

More Bang for the Buck—

Doctors Without Borders, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU rank very high in the amount of charitable receipts going to the services they provide. Truthout is an alternative to the mainstream media that provides the facts to counter the bias of the mainstream media that frequently ignore the facts that citizens need to know. Put more plainly, the organizations I suggest are honest in spending contributed money for those in need or that act in your interest.

Red Cross, by contrast, is less than honest and, as valuable as it sometimes is in major disasters, spends way too much on administration and conceals costs in creative ways. Put plainly, caveat emptor, beware.

To make sure that your charitable giving goes to those in need, I suggest you do the following: into your browser type the name of the organization to which you want to give, follow that name with the words “administrative costs, donations” and then CLICK on “Charity Navigator Rating” to see where the organization stands.

You may want your donation to go to a small or unlisted organization. I suggest you ask the organization for a statement of their administrative costs. The important thing is to make sure your donation goes to those in need rather than into someone’s pocket.

The homeless are looking for a safe roof over their heads and a hot meal. There are reliable organizations that can assist them. The financially pressed and needy folks need a place to live, decent food and a job. You can’t give them that, but several charitable organizations can provide assistance. Look for the best and make a donation rather than giving a tie to Uncle Charlie.

Nicholas Kristof of the Times has suggested that donations be made to some charities that he believes are worthy. For me, the four organizations suggested are my choices of worthy causes. Readers may want to consider Kristof’s choices.

You might be interested in giving the gift of reading to a child as suggested by Frank Bruni of the Times. Check it out.

Some Deserve a Regular Gift—

Neglected children should receive a regular gift—a doll or a stuffed toy or a child’s book—because they can’t appreciate a donation to some organization. They want something tangible that they can play with, that they can hug, that they can look at or read. Some reliable groups are there to give that present to some child who doesn’t get one. Help them.

Make this year and every year a time when you contribute where it counts. Make this a real Happy Holiday for folks in need.


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  1. Hear, hear!

    With a daughter-in-law dealing with MS and Marilyn’s son suffering to a greater degree with same, I give to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. With 17% going to administration and 83% to research, I’d like to see the admin costs lower, but the research is so important.
    Here’s an article that may be helpful:

      • Don Bay on December 6, 2015 at 21:20

      The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is an organization that advances the fight against a serious disease. Your donation is just one of many ways to help others. Thanks for mentioning another organization that can help people who are suffering from a devastating disease. This is just one of many such groups. Uncle Charlie doesn’t need another tie this year.

    • Brenda on December 6, 2015 at 19:13

    Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful post. Also, do not forget to give of yourself if you can. Find an organization that could use your assistance for a worthy cause. If you cannot make a dollar donation because of tight times, you always have yourself–the most valuable asset you have.

      • Don Bay on December 6, 2015 at 21:11

      Excellent suggestion. If someone can’t afford to give a monetary sum, then donating one’s time to a worthy cause is a good option. Soup kitchens always need the help. Hospitals and hospices are looking for compassionate people to lend comfort to those less fortunate. Dozens of organizations want willing people to pitch in, and this doesn’t have to be just at the holidays, it can be year-round. But if you can’t do that, your donation to a worthy cause can be as little as $5.00. Whatever, give to others less fortunate.

    • Donna Boe on December 7, 2015 at 00:18

    Your suggestion is a great one, and I couldn’t agree more! We already give to the organizations you listed, and plan to give more next year. I also like to contribute to organizations that lobby for causes I believe in, such as Friends Committee for National Legislation, Bread for the World, League of Women Voters, and others – not tax deductible of course.
    Here, we have an alternative gift market every year at this season, where different organizations are represented – national, global, and local. So, I’ve had a chance to give to our local Free Clinic, a shelter for abused women, a forest of cacao in Honduras, or an ambulance for our Sister City in Berkina Faso. —-too many choices; it’s hard to choose. But each organization has a gift certificate that you can enclose with a card, so that the recipient knows you remembered them at Christmas time.
    Then, Roger and I also give to our church because it is a way of helping locally and globally. The hospital where we worked in Maua, Kenya struggles financially and we like to support the work they do.
    It’s certainly true that we need nothing -at least nothing that money can buy, and so appreciate it when people will give in our name rather than trying to think of a present. We try to do the same for others. It’s too hard to mail a gift over-seas anyway. So, Don, what do you want for Christmas?

      • Don Bay on December 7, 2015 at 13:22

      You exemplify the meaning of giving with the heart. I am amazed that you and your husband have anything left to live on in view of the many contributions you make. Not only have you donated money to worthy causes, you have given of yourselves to better the lives of those you have helped in other countries. This is the definition of humanitarianism.

    • Kitty Courcier on December 7, 2015 at 01:00

    Dear Don, Thank you for these suggestions. David and I have been discussing this very thing. So many of us have everything we need and more stuff is just “too much”. Southern Poverty Law Center is another worthy organization. They do so much to help educate and eliminate racism in this country. On a personal level we have a new baby in the family and thought a college trust fund would be a good gift to the parents. It seems we all need reminders of what the true meaning of giving during the holidays is all about. I think the best gift is sharing of oneself with others when you can. David has found a great satisfaction helping out some evenings with a local group/team who have coordinated feeding and safe shelter for the homeless in our community. How does the saying go? Give the gift that counts. A little goes a long way for many…

      • Don Bay on December 7, 2015 at 13:14

      Along with your excellent points, you raise an important issue that needs addressing. When a person gives of her/his time to a worthy cause, it should be to the poor, to those suffering from war, to those seeking justice, NOT to a corporation or a government to help their bottom line. Dropping a few bucks in the church collection basket on the sabbath was not my intent. This piece is aimed at helping the needy, not a way to enhance profits. Give to those who really need a hand up. This is the true meaning of giving.

  2. Your suggestions and those of other respondents are all good ideas. We stopped gifting each other and family members many years ago on the same basis, and our contributions go to some of the organizations mentioned by one or another of you. Watching for administrative expenses is mandatory for us, because we want as much as possible of our donations to go to the intended recipients. With Edzimkulu our administration costs averaged 4% over the life of the organization because every administrative person was a volunteer, so the funds went directly to the community. We had to pay for such things as audits where professional audits were required.

    Anyway, good Christmas (or anytime) message.

    Readers might want to check out love languages if they haven’t already. One love language is receiving gifts, and if your loved one has that as part of her/his love language, you might need to do some negotiation or at least talking if you are in the mood to switch away from gifts. Neither Chris nor I saw gifts as important so it was easy to not do that relatively early in the relationship

      • Don Bay on December 7, 2015 at 13:32

      Your approach to gift giving is truly admirable. We have so much that it’s only right to give to those who have so little. Administrative costs are an important way to gauge whether the contribution you make goes to the people for which it is intended. Sounds like your administrative costs were low. The recipients benefitted, as they should. I hope your efforts will show the way into a brighter future.

    • Don Bay on December 20, 2015 at 19:10

    Good advice then is good advice now. Make it part of your life to donate to a worthy cause throughout the year every year.

  1. […] A couple of weeks ago, I suggested that we give to a worthy cause rather than spend the money on something that will wind up unused. There are many people in the world who do not have the bounty that we enjoy. They may be young or old, able or disabled, homeless, refugee or abused. One thing they all have in common is that they are in need. […]

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