A couple of years ago, I put together this blog post about charitable giving. Remarkably, the included links are still alive and kicking.
The instinct is strong to shake off the frustration we feel when Black Friday comes, Small Business Saturday goes, and Cyber Monday gets smaller in the rear-view mirror… if your gift list seems lame in the face of world realities, maybe the personal urge to make things better can be indulged for the good of the many. Read on:
You know you want to save the world. You have a heart the size of our great State o’ Maine and finite finances. Where, oh, where to begin?
The good news is that there are some terrific resources out there to help you make good decisions that suit your priorities. Before your good intentions grind to a confused halt, take a look at some of these websites.
Where to start? A really terrific site to check out is Philanthropedia, Guide to Better Giving. It is a great tool to help you focus and to understand various strategies for giving. It answers questions you may not know you have!
Sometimes you have a good idea of who you’d like to give to, but you’d like some reliable nuts-and-bolts rating information* about how they use your hard-earned donated dollars.
* Keep in mind that different sites will use different grading scales when rating nonprofits, as outlined in this TEDTalk. This one is well worth a few minutes viewing time. It presents an interesting view of nonprofits’ spending strategies.
These sites can also provide some focus when you know you want your donation to go toward a particular area of need, but need to find an organization that is a good fit.
It isn’t easy to know who to trust when unsolicited pleas for donations come your way. It might be a phone call, an email, something in your mailbox, or someone at your door. The Federal Trade Commission has a few things to say on the subject.
And let’s not forget that when we indulge our urge to be generous, we do so with the blessing of the US Tax Code. Here are some tips from the IRS. Charitable giving can really pay off !
There are so many ways to make a difference. Finding what works for you can feel overwhelming. When opening your wallet seems like the best option, these resources may serve as guides. And, let’s just say it: there is nothing like the good feeling you get when you use your head to put your money where your heart is.
Happy Giving! Eileen of the Business and Government Team.
This month I could not decide on just one book. Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Grow Weary, by Elizabeth Partridge and We’ve Got A Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March, by Cynthia Levison, work together to tell the story of young peoples’ role in the civil rights movement in America. Both Levison and Partridge use photographs, quotes and original text to show how children stood up alongside, and sometimes in the place of, adults. Children stood up to brutality and hatred with peace and perseverance. Many were beaten and jailed and came back the next day to march again. In times of unrest, children show a keen sense of justice. Both these books do justice to the sacrifices and contributions of countless children. Read them together or by themselves, and share them with the young people in your lives, as beacons of hope and inspiration.
Author Nick Ripatrazone recently recalled some sage advice, given to him by a writing professor when he was worrying over writing. His teacher wrote to him, simply: Worrying isn’t work. This advice—I note a little ruefully, thinking of some recent worry-warted days—seems widely applicable, above and beyond a writing life. Even just shovel your neighbor’s driveway, a friend said the other day, and chat with them this winter. The spectrum for good and thoughtful work, for reaching out, happily, is huge. You can go small. You can go really, really big. I’d love to shout out to the Maine Public Radio’s Voices of Giving series this month, which has been warming my commute with wonderful stories of local people helping out others here in Maine- seeing a need and working to fill that need. And from the library’s collections? I’ll pick Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History…and Our Future! This beautiful book is powerful and inspiring. Written for youth, featuring brief bios of “agents of change of all kinds,” it shares an alphabet of awesome women who have worked hard in our country. The cut-paper illustrations by Miriam Klein Stahl are bold and active, and each woman—activists, artists, authors, such as Dolores Huerta, Wilma Mankiller, Kate Bornstein, Maya Lin—shines on her page in brilliant black lines and rich color. All the reviewers seem to like the entry for the letter “X,” and I do, too. (See book for details). I plan to pick up a copy of Rad American Women A-Z for my nephews this winter; I’m gladdened by the thought of them growing up in a world where their E stands for Ella Baker, their P for Patti Smith, and their Z for Zora Neale Hurston.
I think one of the most heartening things we can do when our future is uncertain and precarious is to take a moment to engage with our past. These documentaries both serve as necessary reminders of the collective power of people and the incredible potential of strong, united communities. Angela Davis’s words ring especially true these days: Freedom is a constant struggle.
The documentary Lizzie Velasquez: A Brave Heart is the story of Lizzie Velasquez, a motivational speaker and anti-bullying activist. The documentary begins with Lizzie reflecting on her childhood. Lizzie was born with a rare disorder that makes her unable to gain weight. Growing up Lizzie experienced bullying for looking different. She struggled to fit in, but eventually won over many of her classmates. She became an active member of her school. Her life seemed to improve, but then in high school she discovered a terrible YouTube video that would change her life. Someone created a video with Lizzie’s picture titled “World’s Ugliest Woman.” It was filled with hateful comments. Lizzie was devastated, but with the love and support of her family she decided to start speaking out against bullying. The film discusses her journey to becoming a motivational speaker and anti-bullying activist, and then ends with Lizzie traveling to Washington DC to lobby for anti-bullying legislation. The documentary is inspirational, and shows how one person can take personal heartache and turn it into the strength and courage to fight bullying, and to change the world for the better.
“Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”
After reading an interview with Bryan Stevenson in the New Yorker I decided to finally read Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, which had been sitting on my nightstand for months. (The thing with buying a book is that there is no due date, so those book languish more than my library books).
Once I started Just Mercy, I couldn’t put it down. Stevenson is an incredible civil rights lawyer but also an incredible writer. He is able to tell these true stories from his clients, all them heart-wrenching, with grace. The stories about children on death row were the hardest to read. Antonio Nuñez, for instance, became the only child in the country known to be sentenced to die in prison for his involvement, at age 14, in a single incident where no one was injured. The collection is an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of justice.
Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he didn’t commit. The book alternates chapters between Walter’s case and several of Stevenson’s other prominent cases. It highlights his personal journey, but at its heart it is about the flaws in America’s criminal justice system.
This is an important work which recommended for any individual concerned with the concepts of justice, compassion, and mercy. If you read Just Mercy and want more by Stevenson, you could watch his Ted Talk or learn more about the work he does with the Equal Justice Initiative.
As founder of The GW Lincoln Society, I think it especially fitting to share the wise words of President Lincoln this month, since he is largely responsible for instituting a nation-wide day of Thanksgiving, which, 153 years after his proclamation, we will celebrate once again this week.
Take time with his words and the story of his life. They will give you hope and inspiration. They will remind you of the power of principle, sacrifice and perseverance.
I close with the lyrical coda of his first Inaugural Address:
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
Choose Civility is a PPL initiative that focuses on promoting civil discourse and civic engagement in our community. In addition to reading items from this collection, we hope you will join us for upcoming programs and community conversation. To stay in the loop, please sign up for our CC newsletter.
National Novel Writing Month, or the snappily abbreviated NaNoWriMo, is well under way all over the world. For seventeen years, November’s thirty days have been embraced by budding novelists eager for a challenge: write 50,000 words, or an average of 1,666 words every day of the month. More than 400,000 participants have created free profiles on the official NaNoWriMo website, a hub for literary wisdom and inspiration, networking, and digital badge incentives. Maybe you are already participating, or maybe you’ll mark next year’s calendar, but either way, check out what PPL is doing to encourage and empower independent authors in our community.
SELF-e is a discovery platform designed to expose self-published ebooks to more readers through the public library. Authors submit their ebooks through a simple online form and decide if they’d like their book to go to libraries in their state with books from other local indie authors and/or to Library Journal to be evaluated for possible inclusion in a curated, national product.
PPL hosts a monthly Writers’ Meet-Up on second Thursday evenings. This is an opportunity to get feedback on short excerpts of your work and to be inspired by fellow writers. Or, if you’re feeling a little stuck and have nothing to share just yet, maybe you’d like to join the monthly journaling group at PPL. This is a supportive environment for creative, reflective writing, with the options to follow prompts and to share work.