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Giving for Good

The Chilean miners were rescued, the Day of Giving is over and the Big Ben suspension has ended.  For the most part everyone is now disconnected from all three.  We’ve moved on.  It’s funny how we do that.  We follow the story, wait for the outcome and then forget about it. Sure, our memory retains a piece of it for history’s  sake.  But after the climax, the feelings subside.

I have to say, I am feeling a bit of a let down now that my involvement in the Day of Giving and a few other projects I have worked with have finished.  It’s as if the switch got turned to “off” and now I am listless.  I miss the intensity and passion that comes from feeling needed, doing something good, and being connected to others.

This week I heard the  morning radio Freakshow on Kiss 96.1 FM talking about how tip jars have sprung up just about everywhere.  The general sentiment from callers and hosts, Mikey and Big Bob was that it has gone over the top and become irritating to feel you have to leave money in places that maybe shouldn’t be asking in the first place.  Good point.

A discussion between the hosts followed. They presented the idea that the shaped paper donation wall hangers(like those shamrocks and shoes)  for which  stores ask you to donate to a cause, in exchange for signing your name on it (so that everyone can see)  makes people feel guilty when they don’t give. Another good point.

My curious nature led me to wonder three things:

1.  What is it about organized charitable events, activities and the organizations themselves that draws us in and makes us want to give of ourselves?

2.  Is it possible to keep up the momentum of giving all year-long and feel good about it?

3.  Why do we feel guilty when we don’t give and how can we avoid that?

Let’s not tackle them all in one blog.  Three questions; three posts;three days.

I will start with number two, first.  I don’t always answer my thoughts in the order I have them.

2.  Is it possible to keep up the momentum of giving all year-long and feel good about it?

Yes.   It takes a little insight into yourself.  The reward of staying connected is that you will feel good about what you are doing.  It doesn’t have to be about money.

Just about everyone in my social circle advocates or does fundraisers for a certain cause.  I enjoy a car show, bike run, pledge walk/run, fund-raising party, et cetera especially when it is for a good cause.  Most of my family and friends are involved in something at least once a year. When it’s over though, it’s over.  What if we could take that commitment and follow it through all the time?  Wouldn’t everyone benefit from that?

In the August 2010 issue of “The Voice,” a publication of the National Alliance of Mental Illness, a SWPA volunteer is spotlighted and gives her impression on why giving  her time is a good thing for her.

“Volunteering gives me a rewarding outlet for
focusing my efforts outward rather than inward, and giving
back to others makes me feel more positive and hopeful.”- Carol Kirk

It is a three-fold win when we donate in some way. We win because it keeps us connected to others and maybe makes us feel better about ourselves.  The cause we choose to donate to wins because they gain resources of some kind. The people that the cause supports win when the organization can provide what it sought to give.

Here are my ideas for simple ways to Create a Habit of Giving that can last throughout the year..or a lifetime.

  • Define your intent.

Do you intend to give time, money, or talent?  Advocate, donate or volunteer?

  • Create your boundary.

We are all busy and on a budget.  How much can you consistently give without feeling overwhelmed, but while staying connected?

  • Find your connection.

What events have happened in your life that might bring you to a cause that you care about?  Do you want to choose a new cause each month and participate in a local event?  Maybe you want to keep your eyes open to the community in which you live and get involved in local needs.

  • Research the possibilities.

Talk to people in your communities, both in your neighborhood and your online ones for suggestions on organizations that help your chosen cause.  Google it. Don’t just search people on FB/Twitter- look for groups and organizations.

  • Get excited about helping others.

This will motivate you to keep up the habit.  Your cause will appreciate it. It really does take a village. Be part of the solution.  (oh, so cliche..I know)

When you read about why people do good works, there is always an intense level of energy and passion about  it.  I have a theory that people continue their involvement with giving because it increases serotonin/endorphin levels in the brain, producing a natural “high”.   Therefore, being motivated to volunteer and donate  throughout the year could actually benefit health and overall well-being.

It’s like anything else, though. You have to get started and you have to make time. It really is worth it.

  • Go Out(or stay in and online) and Do it!

Advocate by spreading the message. Using social media for your chosen cause is a  quick and easy way to stay connected all year. It also provides a way to keep informed on need and events without taking up too much time. Donate money in whatever amount you can afford. Share your talents and time with others by volunteering on a regular basis.  Attend events that pop up around our area for those in need.  Join an online movement that promotes their ideas for giving and seeks volunteers.

I’ll even help you get started with a short list of sites  and a few upcoming events that might get you connected.

The Pittsburgh Foundation helps connect people to information and links to locally based nonprofit organizations at the PittsburghGives website

Become a Secret Agent for Random Acts of Kindness doing missions that concentrate on spending five dollars or less: Secret Agent L

Like to write and send positive messages of encouragement?  This no cost movement is spreading kind words and thoughts to those in need: It Starts with Us

Want to just simply help others and believe we should “pay it forward” to one another: HelpOthers.org

Upcoming events in the Pittsburgh area:

ReddUp ThreadUp is asking for men’s and women’s clothing donations for the event being held on November 6,2010. Donations are being accepted in the week leading up to the fundraiser. More info @ http://www.reddupthreadup.com/

Ti Kanaval, a nonprofit organization benefiting Haitian orphans, is hosting an event on November 13 from 6 pm-9 pm at Whim Nightclub to raise funds for an orphanage in Port Au Prince, Haiti. Fun, food and Freakshow dj’s will be on hand.  More  info @


Interesting article on The Feel Good Hormone


National Alliance for Mental Illness (SWPA) http://www.namiswpa.org/content/index.php

There are so many more resources. Check your local phone book, newspaper, churches and websites.  Someone is waiting for you to help in whatever way you can.

Simply put- Once you stay motivated to make a habit of giving for good, it will be a habit to feel good about yourself for giving…and the world around you might be a happier place.

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