Share the Love

I’ve celebrated Valentines Day many ways – from quiet nights at home with take-out and chick-flicks, to roses and fancy dinners with reservations made weeks in advance. Most years I felt a twinge of regret after the flowers wilted and the dinner bill was paid.

So last year I gave homemade gifts. From heart-shaped cat nip pouches to conversation heart cookies, Martha Stewart’s Everyday Living is my go-to site for fun and thoughtful gifts for all the Valentines on my list.

 

This year I’m taking it up a notch with personal gestures of love that last longer and make a bigger impact. For my animal-loving sister, I’m giving a gift collection, with donations to four charities dedicated to animal rescue and protection. For my Mom, who is new to philanthropy and loves discovering local charities, I’ll select a GiveNow charity gift card that lets her choose and make a difference for one of them.

 

For my friends getting married this year, I’ll remind them that the I Do Foundation has many ways to share the love! From creating a gift registry with stores like Target and Macys, where a percentage of purchases benefit their favorite charities, to choosing charitable favors with customized cards for their guests, there are many creative and budget-friendly ways to include charity in their special day. If you or someone you know is interested in creating an eco-friendly celebration with style, check out several great ways to Celebrate Green at I Do Foundation too.

 

Not only is February 14th Valentines Day, it’s also the start of Random Acts of Kindness Week! This site is full of simple sharing-the-love ideas for at home, at work, and at school – like donating used books to a library, making care packs for the homeless or offering to babysit for a family member.

 

Tell a friend about JustGive. Then jump over to Facebook and Twitter to tell us your thoughtful and creative plans for sharing the love this month.

Don’t miss out on a full year of deductions!

Our Director of Programs was born on January 1st and her father always teased her that they missed an entire year of tax deductions.  When my daughter was born, my uncle congratulated me on my “beautiful bundle of tax deductions.” Loving humor aside, I want to make sure I don’t miss out on any opportunities—including those from my charitable giving.

The holidays are winding down, and tax season is right around the corner. JustGive makes it easy to end 2010 on a positive note—with charitable donations that help someone in need and you.

Want a quick way to repeat your 2009 donations?

Start by reviewing your prior year Giving History and select any or all of your past donations and instantly make them again. You can view and print your giving history at any time. It’s perfectly organized for tax purposes.

Start your New Year resolution today

The best way to make an ongoing difference is to make monthly donations to your favorite charities. I find it helps me manage my monthly budget and feel good when I see the posting each month.

Donate and check recurring to give affordably, as little as $10 per month, throughout the year. You can even give anonymously to avoid any unwanted mail or newsletters. Each month, we’ll automatically send your donations to the charities of your choice.

Need the perfect gift for your New Years Eve party host?

A GiveNow charity gift card lets them ring in the New Year by supporting their favorite cause. Instead of adding a stop at the store to my to-do list, I can print the card from home and tuck it in a festive card on my way out the door.

When the clock strikes midnight (if this new Mom can stay up that late!), I’ll know 2011 is a little brighter for myself, and many others.

Pass along the JustGive message. Then visit us on Facebook to share your favorite cause or giving resolution!

Last minute holiday gifts? No problem…

It’s the last few days before the Christmas holiday and I’m in countdown mode. Given the traffic, craziness in grocery store and mall parking lots, I know I’m not alone. How does the holiday always seem to sneak up on us?

What I really want this Christmas is to make time stop and enjoy the season more. Pausing to take in all the wonder and joy. Having time to wander around and see lights. Talking with friends I haven’t caught up with in a while. Singing at a local convalescent center. And finding time to bake and fill the house with cinnamon and chocolate aromas.

Charity’s my choice

When it comes to gifts, I think less really can be more in some cases—For me, less shopping and less time in retail shops frees up time to do more of the things that make the season special.

It’s not a magic formula, but I’ll let you in on how I make that happen, even at the last minute: Charity gifts. Gifts I don’t have to leave home to buy, and that make me and the person I give them to feel good. Gifts that do so much more than anything I pick up in a store. Giving happiness and help while banishing holiday frenzy!

 

To thank a client of mine, I’m sending a GiveNow charity gift card. She can use it to donate to any charity she wants (JustGive has 1.8 million of them in the database). I like the online poinsettia thank you card, and sending it via email makes it easy for me to get this gift to her before the holiday.

  • A charity Gift Collection is perfect to honor my future mother-in-law’s love of animals. And giving to four charities in the “gift basket” that protect and prevent cruelty to animals helps me spread the giving around to nonprofits whose work I know she appreciates.
  • For a good friend who’s passionate about helping stop the spread of Aids, I’ll make a donation in her name to the Palo Alto Face Aids charity, which is engaging youth from around the world to help fight HIV/Aids.

     

    With only days to go before Christmas, I can take a few minutes tonight and get these gifts without driving anywhere. Wrapping up my giving before I start baking….

    Do you still have gift to buy? Follow my lead and choose charity. These gifts are truly in the spirit of the season and will generate smiles, joy and hope. Taking away stress and frantic last minute shopping—with gifts that matter more and leave you more time to enjoy special once-a-year activities and time with family and dear friends.  Making sure you have a very Merry one.

    Pass it on!

     

    Creating New Traditions

    Celebrating my daughter’s first Christmas makes this holiday extra special for me. I’m reminded of memories from childhood, and traditions shared with my family. We baked cookies with Grandma and decorated the tree with sparkling lights. We watched movies like Rudolph and A Christmas Story in our pajamas until the fire in the fireplace burned out.

    Family traditions create the magic of Christmas. With this in mind, I’m creating my own magic and starting a new tradition that my daughter will remember for years to come–a tradition of giving. While there are many ways for me to show her this, here are a few ideas I wanted to share with you!

    Redefine Christmas

    Redefine Christmas is a movement to change the way we give gifts. Instead of giving in to the pressure of buying a tangible gift with little meaning (another scented candle, bath product or belt?), it suggests you redirect your spending to charity. The thinking is that small changes in the way we give during the holidays – made by many, many caring people – can have a big impact in our world. Helping us all recapture the joy of the holiday season. (JustGive is proud to partner with this movement to spread the message of charity.)

    Check out the public display of the Redefine Christmas message on Black Friday at a Connecticut shopping mall.

     

    Just 51 Bucks

    The Just 51 Bucks Challenge issued by JustGive and several competitors asks you to invest $51 — 10 percent of what the average consumer will spend this holiday — on a Charity Gift Card instead of the conventional “stuff.” With Just 51 Bucks, everyone wins.

    Your holiday gifts make a lasting difference while your shopping is easier. GiveNow Charity Gift Cards only take a few minutes to personalize and send to your recipient. It’s a meaningful gift for friends, family, co-workers, and more. Happiness doubled: you give and they select the charity to support.

    At a time when so many non-profit organizations are struggling to survive, giving charity gift cards can certainly help them—and, at the same time, give you a new holiday tradition.

     

    Join me in creating your own new tradition! Redefine your Christmas, join the Just 51 Bucks Challenge, and make gift giving matter for more this year.

    Share your charitable ideas with us on Facebook, follow the conversation on Twitter, or help us spread the word and pass this idea on to a friend.

    Gifting Outside The Box

    Do I already have plenty of stuff? Yes. Do I care deeply about a cause and want to make a difference? Yes. Am I looking forward to opening brightly colored boxes with my name on them? Absolutely.

    This year, since money is tight – I’m approaching the holidays in a different way. Many of my friends and family members like opening tangible gifts so I’m putting together “packages” they’ll enjoy and including charity too!

     

    Charitable gifts don’t have to be all or nothing.

    I care about making charitable giving a part of everyday life. (That’s why I choose to work at JustGive.) During the holidays, I know people want to wrap (and unwrap) presents. And I know we really want to give gifts that make our recipients’ faces light up.

    Whether we participate or not, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, 24 hour deals, and last minute doorbusters are here to stay — through financial highs and lows. And I appreciate good deals just as much as the next person. But I also think there are clever ways to embrace both ways of giving, with gift thoughtful, personal gift packages. Giving smiles and making the world better at the same time:

    – Have a foodie friend? A box of gourmet treats, or dinner at a new restaurant is made meaningful when paired with a donation to the recipient’s local food bank (find local charities here).

    – Shopping for the handyman in the family? When you wrap up the power tools and fix-it gadgets, include a donation to Habitat for Humanity.

    – If you buy a Christmas tree this year, consider giving to the Arbor Day Foundation. $10 is all it takes to plant 10 trees in a National forest.

    – Pay it forward and donate some the money you saved shopping for the best deals. Buy a GiveNow Charity Gift Card and your recipient can easily choose from more than 1.8 million charities to support their favorite cause. For as little as $15*, you can give a great stocking stuffer, hostess or teacher gift that makes a big impact.

     

    Do you plan on giving to charity in combination with a traditional gift?

    We’d love to hear about it! Share your ideas with us on Facebook or Twitter.

     

     

    * GiveNow charity gift cards never expire and are available in any quantity. Minimum fees apply.

    Food nourishes the body. Giving nourishes the soul.

    Thanksgiving is, without a doubt, my favorite holiday. Nothing makes me feel warm and fuzzy quite like friends and family gathered at home, sharing laughter and memories, and eating generous helpings of my favorite comfort foods. But what makes this holiday so special to me isn’t roasted and placed on a table. Thanksgiving is a time to take a moment to appreciate the abundance in our lives, even in hard times.

    This is my first Thanksgiving without my father, and the first with my daughter. Like most families, we go around the table saying what we are thankful for this year. My father always said things like, “I’m grateful to complain about going to work tomorrow, because it means I have a job” or “I’m grateful I’ll be stuck doing the dishes, because it means we had food to eat.” He truly understood what it means to give thanks. I’m grateful for the wisdom he passed on, and hope to pass it on to my daughter.

    This Thanksgiving, give someone else something to be thankful for. Your generosity can provide a hot meal, a warm bed to sleep in, and comfort in a time of need.

     
    Is there food in your kitchen?

    The USDA announced the number of Americans who rely on food stamps has increased 17% in the last year—up to 42 million. But with $2 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, resources for hungry families are dwindling. A report from theU.S. Department of Agriculture reported nearly 6 million households—affecting as manyas 1 million children—had ongoing financial problems that forced them to miss meals regularly.

    I found a few charities that are working to bridge this gap:

     

    • A $20 donation to Feeding America provides an amazing 140 meals.
    • For $35, Meals on Wheels will provide a hot meal and a comforting visit to 5 home bound seniors.
    • A $50 donation to Rubicon Programs buys a grocery bag of fresh food for a formerly homeless family moving into their new home.

     

    Not just a man on the corner holding a sign

    After years of record high unemployment and foreclosures, it’s likely that someone you know—a co-worker, a friend, a relative—is now without a stable place to call home. Budget cuts trickling down from a rough economy make the future uncertain for those who need a roof over their head so they can get back in their feet.

    When you’re cleaning your home for visitors this holiday, consider donating to organizations helping those in need of shelter and warmth:

    • A $25 donation buys paint for a house built by Habitat for Humanity. For an additional $100 you can buy the kitchen sink, too!
    • A $35 donation to Covenant House provides clean sheets and a blanket to a homeless youth.

     

    Are you a guest at Thanksgiving diner?

    A charity gift card makes the perfect hostess gift! You choose the card and gift amount, and add your personal message. Your recipient uses the card to donate to any charity of their choice. For as little as $15, you can give a green gift for good!

    Have something you’re thankful for that you’d like to share with friends of JustGive? Visit us on Facebook.

    Then let’s spread the thanks around – Tell a Friend!

    Celebrating & Honoring Grandparents Day

    Grandparents Day

    My grandmother is 104 years old. She’s actually in wonderful health, though she lost most of her hearing years ago. This may be a blessing when all 10 great-grandchildren are running around creating chaos. She loves to play Scrabble™, work a crossword puzzle or read a good book. What she loves most of all is sitting in the warm summer sun by the water.

    Sunday, September 12th is Grandparents Day. Though this isn’t a widely celebrated holiday, it’s the perfect opportunity to plan a family dinner in honor of your grandparents or even your parents who may be grandparents in their own right. (Or, you can honor the day by scheduling a visit to a nursing home or taking a moment to help an older adult in your neighborhood.)

    My grandparents spent most of their lives on the Chesapeake Bay, so I want to honor my grandmother with a dedicated donation to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

    When she was young, the Chesapeake Bay was a thriving body of clean water. But today, the Chesapeake Bay in the East and the San Francisco Bay in the West, along with many other U.S. waterways, have fragile ecosystems. Pollution, invasive species and climate change are threatening our waterways and all the marine and human lives they support.

    As we have all seen and read about the Gulf Coast disaster, it is still unclear the long term impact the oil spill and dispersants will have on the health and habitat of water and wildlife.

    By making a donation in her name to help restore the Bay, I’m giving my grandmother something meaningful—a link to the past and to the future, both of which she can share with her 10 great-grandchildren.

    Notecard Sample

    While normally I would send an email with a dedicated gift, my grandmother doesn’t quite get the Internet nor does she have email. That’s why I’m sending her a note card announcing the donation. The card lets me add a personal note, and JustGive conveniently sends it directly to her, through the mail, on my behalf.

    -Andrea Lloyd, JustGive Director of Programs

    This Grandparents Day, celebrate your grandparents—whether they’re with you or have passed on—with a gift in their honor. Donate Now.

    Visit us on Facebook and tell us how you celebrate Grandparents Day.

    National Park and Recreation Month: Time for a Green, Volunteer Vacation

    My family visited Shenandoah National Park recently, renting a rustic cabin from the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. For those of you who have forgone running water and electricity with an infant in tow, you understand this is no small commitment. But we all made it through happily.

    There must be something in air this summer, because the First Family flew to Maine recently for an outdoor weekend vacation at Acadia National Park, the iconic end of the line for the Appalachian Trail. More and more people are visiting the great green outdoors. If you haven’t already made plans to visit a national park this summer, it’s the perfect time.

    July, designated as National Park and Recreation Month by Congress, salutes the vital role of parks and recreation: How they help us establish and maintain a healthy quality of life, and contribute to the physical, economic and environmental well-being of communities. Since 1985, this month has been a chance to showcase our national parks.

    Green and Volunteer Vacations

    National parks are a uniquely American creation. They are truly the first foray into what is now called ecotourism. But more simply, they remain one of the best ways to vacation in nature.

    After a decade of decline, attendance at national parks shot up sharply in 2009 to almost record numbers—ten million more people visited national parks last year than in 2008. People are once again seeking out greener pastures (and forests and deserts) for their vacations. And vacations aren’t just what they used to be.

    Organizations are connecting with vacationers across the country—and the world—for nature cleanups, preservation projects, and to help promote local, sustainable practices. Volunteer vacations are a growing trend and parks in the US are becoming popular destinations. The Ecology Project International‘s Yellowstone program for teens saw a near doubling of participation by students, who take on conservation work at the park.

    USA Today posted a great article to get you started on a national park volunteer vacation.

    Vacationing Generously

    No matter where you choose to vacation, our national parks and refuges are a treasure. My family tries to get out into the woods as often as possible, and our son is working on filling up his National Wildlife Refuge Passport. With 552 National Wildlife Refuges, he has a long way to go. It’s for his generation that we try to travel with five goals:

    • Go local, Go green. By supporting local businesses committed to sustainable and indigenous practices, and researching hotels and tour companies that have ecotourism policies and standards in place, we are doing our part to create a market for green vacations.
    • Choose green activities. We make use of the parks and their surroundings on our vacations by biking, hiking, whitewater rafting and kayaking, among other outdoor activities.
    • Pack in, pack out. We leave as little a footprint as possible, so others might enjoy the same surroundings for years to come. We work to stay on trails, not to leave garbage, and respect the local environment.
    • Offset the vacation. I like using such services as Carbonfund.org where we can make sure our vacation is green by offsetting carbon emissions for travel.
    • Support conservation. By donating to organizations working to conserve national parks and wildlife refuges before we visit, we can empower a force of local volunteers and Federal workers to continue to give their all to make the places visited safe and green for generations to come.

    What can you do?

    The First Family’s next trip will be down to the Gulf for a volunteer vacation of their own. Visit our Facebook page to learn more about some work that’s been done right now to protect the eight national parks and 33 wildlife refuges along the Gulf of Mexico threatened by the BP oil spill. Search our database for a local “friends” organization of your parks. Or check out some of these national organizations working to benefit parks and refuges:

    • National Park Foundation – For more than a century, private philanthropy has been essential to the preservation and protection of America’s national parks. The National Park Foundation upholds this commitment, working to raise the funds necessary to connect all Americans to their national parks and guarantee their future for generations to come. They recently launched a special fund to help the Gulf in the aftermath of oil spill and to assist sustained recovery efforts.
    • National Recreation & Park Association – NRPA is the leading advocacy organization dedicated to the advancement of public parks and recreation opportunities. Founded in 1965 through the merger of five national organizations dedicated to the same cause, NRPA has grown over the years —in total membership, in outreach efforts, in building partnerships, and in serving as the voice and defender of parks and recreation. This year, they’re encouraging all to “Celebrate, Advocate and Recreate!”
    • National Park Trust, Inc. – NPT’s mission is to provide important recreational and educational parkland opportunities for current and future generations.  As a country, since we’re spend more time indoors and successive generations are growing up with less of a connection to nature, their goal is to build greater awareness and appreciation for the country’s public lands and parks. Their vision: Everyone will have an American park experience.
    • National Parks Conservation Association – Americans expect our national parks to have clean air and healthy wildlife, and to be well-cared-for historical treasures. But years of underfunding and external threats such as air pollution and climate change are taking their toll. National Parks Conservation Association is working on these key initiatives to restore America’s national parks by the centennial anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016.

    Pass this on to friends and family who are interested in going green and exploring our national parks for their next vacation!

    Giving Back on Father’s Day

    Visit www.justgive.org for Father's Day Gifts

    Honoring the Men who Made Us Who We Are

    I was eight years old when my father stepped back on the wrestling mat after more than twenty years. His first opponent turned out to be one of the best wrestlers in the high school’s history, a hulking, punishing, future Marine. That matchup was no mistake; it was a trial by fire.

    He made it through that first day and kept going until I graduated from high school. He was 55. His choice to throw his hat onto the mat was a formative experience for me; coming with him to practices and matches, watching him interact with my boyhood heroes. Looking back what really influenced me was his passion for the sport and for life.

    The Gift that Says More

    This Father’s Day I want to show my father how much his exuberance for life influenced me. And a tie just won’t do. That’s why I’m dedicating a donation to Beat the Streets in his honor.

    Beat the Streets funds a program that is expanding wrestling into urban New York areas for middle school and high school students who otherwise would not be exposed to the world’s oldest sport. Wrestling builds confidence and capabilities for young people and helps them develop mental toughness and work ethics. These inherent requirements are critical to success in every sport as well as to success in academics and to success in life.

    I learned about Beat the Streets when they were promoting their annual gala. Each year, Beat the Streets celebrates wrestling with some of the thousands of students whose lives they’ve touched. This year their Main Event was conducted on the deck of the USS Intrepid with over 1,200 people witnessing some of the nation’s top wrestlers including several wrestlers from Beat the Streets.

    Athletes of all shapes and sizes can excel and enjoy wrestling. And all can benefit from the physical activity, strength and healthy self-esteem that come along with the sport.

    My father was never a coach, never paid, and never came back excited that he was able to beat a wrestler. He was patient, helpful, and enthusiastic with every wrestler. His team’s wins and losses mattered in the moment, but they weren’t held onto with ego or regret. My father wrestled because he loved the sport. That passion is what I carry with me every day, and what I want to give back.

    Donate Now to a charity your Dad cares most about. Add a personal message and we’ll take care of all the delivery details, if you like. Every gift made through JustGive can be designated as a memorial gift—the perfect way to honor and remember your Dad if he has passed.

    Don’t know what charity your Dad is passionate about? Personalize a GiveNow charity gift card your Dad can redeem to give to his favorite charity.

    Visit us on Facebook and tell us about a charity that reminds you of your Dad!

    The Perfect Gift for Graduates

    For many of us, graduation was a long time ago. But if you know a graduating senior you can see something in his or her eyes that you’ll still recognize. It’s the dream to make a unique impact on the world.

    Graduation is a time for new beginnings, filled with hopes and dreams for the future. For many those dreams include changing the world, whether their impact occurs in the rebuilding of Haiti, like our champions from Naples High School, or locally—like a graduating senior dedicated to helping local kids and families affected by the economy.

    For a generation on the cusp of change, the perfect gift can be a challenging find. Why not celebrate their momentous achievement with a message of hope and joy through our GiveNow charity gift card.

    No matter their dreams you can help start your new grad on the path of lifetime of giving. Most don’t have the ability to be a force as individual donors, but the ways they start to interact with social causes now will help define how they will give in the future. According to a recent survey, when asked who could inspire them to donate, 75% said they would give if asked by a family member and over 60% said a friend.

    A donation to the charity that your graduate chooses can be a powerful way to recognize their dreams and show how much you respect their choices. This generation has already shown they are ready to serve the causes they believe in, providing over a billion hours of volunteer service to our nation’s communities.

    For as little as $10, your graduate can begin to change the world. The perfect way to say congratulations!

    Visit us on Facebook and tell us what your graduate’s cause!

    Tell a Friend