Inspired by Betty Londergan's What Gives 365 and the Bible (not necessarily in that order!), I'm giving away $250 a week in 2011.

This is where I'm recording that journey, and I hope you'll come along for the ride.

Friday, October 28, 2011

United Way - local programs, local results

I continue to wrestle with the question of in which contexts is one big donation is better than lots of small ones? As I look back over this giving adventure so far this year, the money has gone to a combination of large and small efforts, via large organizations, smaller ones and individuals. In the end, I suppose I hope it's like a balanced diet -- a little bit of everything, moderation in all things...you get the idea.

This fourth week of the month is my opportunity to give to a cause suggested by others to me. Once again, this time it's come in a rather backhanded way. I sit on the Board of Directors of the United Way. Last night at our monthly meeting, one of the other Directors made a passionate presentation to us to give to the United Way campaign -- partly to demonstrate what she so capably does when she goes out to community groups to speak, and partly to encourage Board members to write cheques.

I have mixed feelings about most things, and United Way is no exception. But I do choose to support it, with both time and money, for several reasons. My main motivation is that the United Way responds to local needs. That might seem obvious, but I don't take it for granted. Working close to home is really important to me (I'm looking forward to reading Who's Your City? before too long), and they're supporting over 80 local programs. I also know firsthand that the United Way is really responsive to community requests for support and that the programs it supports actually make a difference. What more should I ask?

It's United Way campaign season. During that season, agencies who receive United Way funds are asked to observe a 'blackout period.' You won't be hearing from them during this time -- they're making sure that United Way gets lots of air time for its fundraising messages in the community. Last year, United Way of Guelph Wellington surpassed its fundraising goal (no small feat, given the economy and reliance of this community on manufacturing!). This year, their target is $2.85 million, and they're well on their way to meeting that -- but it can't happen unless lots of us get involved.

So thank you, Irene, for reminding me to write that cheque this week.

PS -- I hear that Kiva loan is being paid back, little by little. So exciting! I also hear that the Globe and Mail online is starting a feature on philanthropy this weekend -- join me in having a look. Have you seen the People for Good  ads on TV? They caught my attention...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Investing in the Competition with Joy

I try to live my life out of an abundance mentality -- that there is more than enough to go around. (Enough love. Enough food. Enough work. Enough dessert...you get the picture). Thankfully that's been pretty easy for me to do, as I've been blessed to be born into an abundant life and to have been given one as well.

Lately I've been thinking about what it means to bring this view of the world to my work as a self-employed consultant. A few of us who do similar work in similar ways have been getting together occasionally to talk about our work. And it's already led to some very fruitful collaborative experiences. I've built some friendships, landed jobs I never would have been able to get alone, and am enjoying having colleagues in what can often be quite solitary work. One thing I love about this is that we are, strictly speaking, in competition with each other. But we have found ourselves entering new territory here (sometimes running, sometimes tentatively on tiptoe), sharing information and experience and opportunities, largely out of a conviction that there is enough to go around, and that we are all better from having worked together.

In other conversations in my life, I've been considering the extent to which I actually 'put my money where my mouth is' in terms of living out what I believe to be true. Does what I believe really make a difference in the choices I make day to day?

This week (belatedly -- sorry again!), it's time for Just Giving It to honour an inspiring individual. So I'm pulling together these two strands of my life and supporting a colleague who is heading to Arizona for professional development. Gayle is involved with Creating the Future, and she had the courage to send a request for money to some of her friends and colleagues, to help defray the costs of her upcoming trip. The trip will bring together a small group of creative minds who will be developing social change curriculum for social entrepreneurs and executive directors. That curriculum will be brought back into the participants' local communities as 'rocket fuel for social change.' I live and work in Gayle's community, and I trust that we will all benefit (even more than we already have) from her energy, wisdom and commitment to community building as a result in having participated in this week away. (And her request also introduced me to Start Some Good -- very cool.)

So today, I'm 'investing in the competition,' with great excitement. I've learned that whenever I loosen my grip on stuff, life-giving things happen. So it's withe open hands that I say, "Go for it, Gayle!" -- and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Friday, October 14, 2011

With Thanks for the Local Harvest

I love to eat. I also love to shop at markets and to cook, but I especially love to eat. And lately, one of my daughters is very much into cooking (specifically baking cupcakes, although she's a very good veggie chopper too). She and I had a ton of fun at a local food swap recently. We showed up with 12 jars of our tasty 24-ingredient high fibre granola, and left with a bin full of gloriousness: pumpkin spice doughnuts, coconut chocolate cherry granola bars, baba ghanouj, zucchini bread, lavender bath salts (to bathe in, not to eat -- but the herbs were home-grown), butter tarts and maple glazed cinnamon buns. Beyond yummy. We've already signed up for the next one, and this time my daughter has her own table rather than sharing mine. She's made lists of possible recipes already, and it's six weeks away.

It's Thanksgiving season here, and this year I am immensely grateful not only to have enough food, and delicious food, and loved ones with whom to share it, but I'm also thankful to live in a community where local, accessible, real food is a priority. I'm not true, year-round locavore by a long shot -- I lack the self control for that, as I would miss bananas and coffee far too much (and OK, who am I trying to kid? I've eaten Swiss chocolate and American raspberries and Chinese tea while typing this!) -- but I do try to support local food producers as much as possible.

This was the first year in many that our family decided not to be part of CSA -- we were going to be away a lot this summer, and we couldn't find a local CSA that would let us opt out for certain weeks. We decided instead to shop more intentionally at local markets. Not long after that, we learned that a local farmers' market was opening at our kids' school, right in our neighbourhood! It's an initiative of the Food Roundtable in our area, which has been doing lots of interesting work, including developing a Food Charter. It's been such a pleasure enjoying local cheeses (even Haloumi, that I learned to love in Greece this spring!), fruits and veggies, the world's best lemon tarts, and fresh-baked sourdough bread to supplement the loaf already delivered to our door each week by our 'bread angel' each Wednesday. And of course the main market on Saturdays whenever we're in town.

But I still very much missed our CSA that we'd been part of in our previous town for many years. It's at Everdale Environmental Learning Centre. I loved going there -- choosing how to spend our 'veggie points' on the bounty that was always beautifully displayed, picking beans, cutting bouquets of flowers, buying eggs from Rosemary's chickens, admiring the draft horses, and inevitably running into someone I knew and having a friendly chat as we carried our loot to the car.

So this week, our local donation is going to Everdale. Karen and Gavin and the Dandy Girls, we miss you. But this donation is also for what Everdale represents: a community that is committed to finding creative and varied ways to support a local food economy. I love the local food, and the inspiration and conviction I encounter in the people I meet who grow it, cook with it and eat it.

Friday, October 7, 2011

ALS and David/Jonathan

One week ago, I should have been blogging. Instead, I was browsing through stores on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan with my 13-year-old. Hardly my usual Friday morning activity, but once I discovered that we couldn't get Internet access at our hotel anyway, I decided to give myself a week off.

A week off from writing, but not from giving. And that feels like a break, because that's actually how it's been. The giving part of this blog doesn't bother me in the least -- in my head, the money is already spent. It's sort of like having a gift card now, already paid for but waiting to be cashed in. It's the writing part that's proving to be a bit of a chore. I so admire Betty L. (inspiration behind this blog) for doing it daily last year -- I can hardly make myself do it weekly! I don't love to write. I like adding things to my to-do list even less. So the giving is still fun, but the writing is just discipline. Not a bad thing.

So I need to give (and to write!) double this week. The first donation is going to the ALS Society of Canada, in honour of two people I love. One is my grandmother, whose husband Gord died of ALS quite a few years ago. Nanny is taking our whole extended clan to a resort for Thanksgiving, as she generously does every year, and her building memories and relationships in this way makes me extra thankful this weekend. The other is my friend Mary, whose mom died of ALS one year ago this month. Mary is soon running a half marathon, along with her brother Will, in honour of their mother. ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease) is an agonizing illness that causes your muscles gradually to shut down as your neural pathways degenerate. (Mine would gradually shut down if I were to attempt a half marathon!) The ALS Society provided practical and essential supports to both Gord and Mary's mom as they battled this disease, and it's my pleasure to support it in continuing to do so.

The second donation on this first week of the month (international week -- have a look back at the Rules of the Game if you've forgotten!) goes to the David /Jonathan project. It's a microenterprise initiative, working mostly in South America, giving start-up capital (usually $200-300 dollars -- perfect!) to [female] entrepreneurs living in poverty. It works out of a belief that even those in the most dire of circumstances can improve their lives if given an opportunity to do so. Its founder Vince is a long-time friend of ours who has recently left his job to work full-time with this project -- you can see his picture here. He's a successful,  passionate, godly guy whose enthusiasm is contagious. (Plus he has a son named Jonah, which gives him bonus points in my books!) If you're curious about the reason behind the name (David/Jonathan, not Jonah), have a look at 1 Samuel 18 for some context.

Be thankful on this glorious weekend, and every day!

Phew. That wasn't so hard.