Reflections on 2015

On the last day of the year, I’m thinking about and sharing my reflections on 2015. It’s been a year of major milestones, as documented in my post on my one year blog anniversary. Yet what’s mattered even more than the big events is how each moment helped to change my life as a whole. Being able to look back on how it happened through this blog is pretty special.

 

Centennial Park

 

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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…

...it 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 Guidestar.org.

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.

‘Do good, and good will come to you’

I hope everyone had a very happy Hanukah and merry Christmas, and any other winter holiday that may have been celebrated in the past few weeks!

I find that the last few days of the year, from Boxing Day to New Year’s Eve, I spend time reflecting on how far I’ve come and think more about where I want to go. I used to think about my life and the time I’ve spent on Earth thus far in terms of events and tangible accomplishments – a birthday, a graduation, a major trip to somewhere exotic. I evaluated where I stood by how much further I needed to get to be at the next Major Life Moment. But in the past year, the way that thoughts swirl around in my head has changed – and for the better.

It turns out, there are a lot of assumptions I’ve carried with me about what it would take to have a great life that aren’t worth holding on to. I was never much for expensive toys as a kid, always preferring books (with the exception of an American Girl Doll, of course…) and I still don’t feel the need to buy many gadgets. My old wish list was books and leotards; now it’s books and running shoes. I love the arts and all the outlets provided in New York City to explore the cultural scene, and happily pay to be a member of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and New York City Ballet because of the experiences I’ll have. But I don’t need a new designer dress, a four-star dinner out, and a cab ride to make those experiences complete. Just being there and enjoying the paintings, the sculpture, the music and the dance is enough. After all, Balanchine himself told audiences to “see the music, hear the dance” – and I’m not about to contradict the greatest ballet master of all time!

I love spending time with my closest friends, and the best times I’ve had with them, all it took was a blanket and some wine and cheese in Christ Church Meadow at Oxford, or ice cream and fireworks in a Connecticut field, for the perfect setting for a wonderful day. Today I get to see two wonderful friends who I danced alongside in the Nutcracker and who came to my bat mitzvah – a decade later, interspersed with years of being out of touch, and it feels like nothing’s changed between us at all. No amount of money in the world could equal in value this time we spent together.

 

Taking the time to appreciate natural beauty

Taking the time to appreciate natural beauty

 

I suppose what I’ve realized in the past year is really just some version of the old saying that the best things in life are free. I don’t need a lot of the material things the world tries to convince you will make you happy. Being outside in the fresh air is the best feeling in the world, and if you’ve got a good pair of running (or walking!) shoes, treading a path through the park or down country roads is in my humble opinion one of the most life-affirming ways to spend a morning, rain or shine. Really, all I need is the time and energy to spend my life with family and friends, reading great books, going for long runs and really looking at the world as I pass it by, and hopefully finding my way to work that’s meaningful and allows me to do well by doing good.

 

Some might call me idealistic, or naive. They’ll say the world will change me, that the cold hard truth of life will make the walls come tumbling down. But even at 23, I’ve seen a lot of what’s out in this world, and I’m well aware of the harsh reality. The way I see it, there’s enough war and hunger and pain in this world without adding to it the complaints of privileged life in a privileged nation like my own. If I take a step back and look carefully, I realize that most of those complaints come from pursuing something other than real happiness. I intend to try and carry that knowledge with me over the next year, so that even if it’s a particularly “miserable” time – studying for the bar exam, or being in the office at all hours – I’ll have the presence of mind to remember that I’m doing whatever I’m doing at that moment in time because I’m trying to earn enough security for independence, so that in the future I will have the freedom to spend more of my time on what truly matters to me in life.

 

Sunrise and sunset

Sunrise and sunset

 

And, while I’m living my life, I can also make sure that I give back to the world. I really believe that you get what you give, even if it’s “just” the feeling that you’ve touched the life of another human being for a moment in time. This can take so many forms. For me, for now, it’s meeting my fundraising goal before I cross the starting line at my next half marathon in January, of raising $2,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. It’s also volunteering in the community with the Junior League. It’s walking or biking to the grocery store instead of driving (well, that’s helping the environment, but we all live on this planet for now!) It’s smiling and saying hello on that walk instead of looking down at my cellphone, because you never know when a simple hello will brighten someone else’s day. And all of this together? Well, it’s just the beginning of the rest of a wonderful life.