Giving Gelt: Starting A Family Giving Circle This Season (Part 1)

Thanksgiving 2015: We had a full house down here in Jackson, Mississippi, with all of our kids home for the holiday.  It was wonderful to spend quality time talking about college, internships, school and all of the activities everyone’s engaged in these days. And of course, we talked about the next holiday around the corner: Hanukkah.

As we have done since they were little kids, we asked our children to write down their Hanukkah wish lists. They won’t get everything on their list – but they will get something they really want. (When your kids are ages 22, 18 and 14, the wish list is very different from those long-ago days of wishes for dolls, toy cars and Legos. Now the list includes gadgets, clothes, and money to save for really big ticket items – car payment, anyone?)

For years, I have been thinking about starting a family tradition that for one reason or another, I never got off the ground. When the kids were younger, instead of a gift for one night of Hanukkah, I wanted to give them money for tzedakah and have each child make a donation to a charity of his/her choice – something similar to the Fifth Night project. But now, my kids are older, and already make donations on their own. So I thought we could tweak the Fifth Night project. Having recently participated in Natan’s Amplifier Giving Circle workshop, I decided we would create a family giving circle! I reviewed my notes and decided we would use the “pop-up circle” model, which is a 90-minute version of the entire giving circle experience. Armed with the pop-up circle instructions, the Slingshot ’14-’15 guide, and information from local nonprofits, I was ready. We were going to start discussing where we wanted to pool our resources to make a difference!

Only, we didn’t get started.

The long weekend went by far too quickly. Between the arrival of the last family member Thanksgiving day at noon – the eating, visiting, cleaning up, football, followed by a bit of shopping and Shabbat services on Friday, sleep-in day Saturday, and study time (why would you schedule an exam the Monday after Thanksgiving?), the kids spending some time with friends — in a blink, it was over. All of a sudden it was Sunday morning, and my older two are getting ready for their drives back.

So in our final visit around the table as a family, I talked to them about my hopes and dreams for a family giving circle. I asked them to begin thinking about the organizations that they know (or want to research) that do good work. During Hanukkah,  we will create our giving circle. We are committed to it!

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed during this stressful time of year, Thanksgiving to January, which always includes travel, gift giving, finals, deadlines, and on and on. But let’s not get overwhelmed today.

Today is Giving Tuesday, which is why it felt like the perfect time to share step one in my family’s giving circle journey. Giving Tuesday emerged as a day for philanthropy amidst all of the other flurry this time of year, as their website explains: “We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals. Now, we have #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back.” It’s a nice reminder, and a good way to kick off the “stressful” month of December: Let’s think of others, give generously, and be thankful for all that we have. And later this month, I’ll share the details of our family giving circle. Stay tuned.

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