How to Choose a Charity for a Holiday Gift

As promised in yesterday’s post on giving back during the holiday season, I’m checking in to share some knowledge I’ve gained over the past few years about how to choose a charity for a holiday gift. So let’s get to it!


How to Choose a Charity for a Holiday Gift



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Putting the ‘fun’ in Fundraising

When December rolls around, the phone calls, e-mails, letters and old-fashioned in-person solicitations seem to come in a flood. Every charitable cause seems to want to be in touch, with you, knowing as they do that it’s the end of the calendar year and thus their last chance to obtain your contribution, in exchange for a nifty tax deduction pursuant to Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3). Now, I am a law student who is particularly interested in the law relating to nonprofit organizations and charitable giving, so I could talk (or write!) your ears (or eyes!) off about this, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll share a few tips for choosing a worthwhile cause to donate to, or for raising money for a cause yourself. As we look ahead to 2015, I’m hopeful as always that giving will be on the rise. I’m by no means an expert, but I’m seriously wonky about this stuff!


Snow or summer...

Snow or summer… can always be a season for giving

…it can always be a season for giving










For donors overwhelmed by the sheer number of different organizations, one of the best ways to start is to clear away the fliers and to think about what sort of donation you personally want to make. There are many factors to consider, and these are just a few:

  • Sector: Do you want to donate to education, to healthcare, the arts, animal welfare, or another area?
  • Location: Do you want to contribute within your local community, or on a state, national, or international level, or to a specific community elsewhere?
  • Program (or not): Do you want your donation to fund a particular program, or would you rather it go toward the general operating costs of a charitable organization?
  • Type of donation: Do you want to give money, or can you contribute your time to volunteering and using your particular skills to help an organization?

Once you’ve thought about this, you can narrow the list of possibilities to those that are best suited to the donation you want to make, and go from there. If you’re thinking about going beyond a local community organization, an excellent place to check out charities is

For fundraisers trying to meet a goal by a certain date, there are also specifics to consider. Reaching out through social media and putting flyers on bulletin boards at school, work, or in the community is just the start. Often, just casually slipping into conversation that you’re fundraising for a particular cause is enough to enervate the giving spirit at a gathering. Friends, family, classmates and co-workers are of course potential donors, but they are part of a bigger picture. Just asking your friends to mention your efforts to their friends can do wonders. As long as you are passionate about your cause, others will be too.

Keep in mind that simply soliciting donations is just one way to fundraise. You can put your skills to use and offer to babysit or build a bookshelf, putting the profits of your work toward your fundraising goal. You can hold a yard sale, or consign clothes online, noting carefully where the proceeds will be directed. Friends and family can get in on these efforts, making it a team endeavor. You might even decide that fundraising is indeed fun! Because in the end, it’s not about the amount you raise personally. It’s about giving something of yourself to help make a difference, and just making the effort is a step in the right direction.


Well, that’s all for 2014…wishing everyone a happy and healthy New Year!


PS: Check out this New York Times article on giving and socially responsible investment…timely and thought-provoking.




© 2014 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

Giving and Gifting

As a follow-up to my earlier post on the holiday season in New York City, I thought I’d take the time to share my thoughts about a major part of the holidays for many fortunate people – the giving of gifts. Whether it’s a pile of presents beneath a Christmas tree or the steady stream of them over the course of eight nights of Hanukah, most children grow up dreaming all year long of the bounty that awaits come December. I’ll be honest, I was one of them. Every year, once Thanksgiving had come and gone, I’d start making a list of all the things I wanted. But at some point in my late teens, I took a look around and realized I had enough “things” and didn’t really need any more. I started to understand that experiences are really what matter in life.



I used to spend trips I was lucky enough to take trying to choose the perfect souvenir to remember a place by. I’m not sorry I did that, because I ended up with a pretty great shelf in my childhood bedroom of bits of culture from around the world. A tiny Canadian Eskimo dog from Quebec, a painted glass charm from Florence, a nesting doll from St. Petersburg and even an Anne Boleyn Christmas ornament from the gift shop at the British Museum (I was obsessed with the Tudors when I was eight). But now, looking back, my memories of those trips did not become any more vivid because I had the objects I associate with them. It’s the constant telling of certain stories, over and over, that embedded some experiences more firmly in my mind than others. The way a certain place made me feel is hard to forget.



I think this house is a gift to the world in its own way - it brightens your evening to pass by

I think this house is a gift to the world in its own way – it brightens your evening to pass by



Now when the holidays roll around, I think less about the gifts and more about the giving. Some of my best memories are of times made possible because a family member or a friend gave of themselves to make something happen. My mom driving me to and from a thousand Nutcracker rehearsals, so I could have the unforgettable experience of performing on stage in front of thousands. My friends at Oxford organizing a potluck party for ‘Oxmas’ replete with a Secret Santa in which the gifts were all tasks we would be willing to perform for one another when each was struck with the malady known as exams. My little brother letting me hold the Shamash on the first night of Hanukah, and pick the colors of the candles because he knew I liked to make different patterns and see how the colors fit together.



I still love holiday windows!

I still love holiday windows!




These times are what make the holidays so special, and why I love this season. And lately, I’ve had cause to think more and more about what I can do to create a little bit of magic for others, and not just my own family and friends. One of the biggest parts of my life is the time, energy, and money I put into philanthropy, both as a volunteer of the Junior League and supporter of other organizations. I love contributing to the Met and the ballet.  They are particularly important to me because they shaped the person I have become. Ballet taught me grace and strength, not just in the physical sense but in how I handle everything that life throws my way. Art has been both my refuge from reality and a way for me to develop a more nuanced view of the world and all the people in it.



I’ve come to believe that though I am just one (rather tiny!) person, I can make a difference in my own way. This holiday season, I’d like to ask you all to think about the places that educated you, shaped the way you think, brought a smile to your face and made you feel good about your life. Choose to give to them, and it will be the best gift you can imagine.





© Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.