Friday, November 23, 2012

Festivus, Fly Fishing and Meaningful Gifts

Remember the Seinfeld episode where George makes holiday (in this case, Festivus) charitable donations in honor of his coworkers to "The Human Fund?" In typical Costanza style, he solves a perpetual gift-giving problem, "what to buy coworkers," by making up a charity and printing up cards that say, "A donation has been made in your name to The Human Fund.... The Human Fund, Money for People." (Get a glimpse of the cards here.) His gift is widely appreciated among coworkers until his boss, Mr. Kruger, decides to support the Human Fund with a $20,000 donation of his own. Then, accounting informs Kruger of the charity's nonexistence, and ... yada yada yada... we end with feats of strength. Love it!

But, there are two things to we can take seriously about this episode:
  • Giving gifts to nonprofit organizations "in honor of" coworkers, friends, extended relatives, clients, vendors, etc. is a great idea! You give a double gift, especially if you tailor the gift to something personal about the honoree.
For example, if your grandad is a veteran, and he loves fly fishing, you might want to make a gift in his honor by contributing to Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, whose mission is "to assist in the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active duty military personnel and veterans through fly fishing and fly tying education and outings." Take what you know about someone's life and passions, and turn it into a gift that is meaningful to the honoree and beneficial to people who need help.
  • It is important to do your homework. You would hate to to find out, like Mr. Kruger did, that there was a problem with the charity you've supported financially. A great starting point is Guidestar. (Check out Nicole's previous post here.) Those organizations with the Guidestar Exchange Seal have demonstrated a commitment to transparency. Talk with your honoree to find out if there are causes and organizations close to her heart that she already supports. Talk with your local community foundation or United Way (find them by clicking on the links) to learn about outstanding organizations in your honoree's hometown. If you have the time, volunteer at the honoree's organization to learn more about why your friend is connected.
George Costanza thought that giving a gift to a charitable organization was taking the easy way out, but the truth is that giving can be intensely emotional and personal, and you can show your deep appreciation for someone in your life when you take the time to know and support what is meaningful to her.

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