Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukkah or if you don’t celebrate what is known as the holiday season (because after all it is just another set of days), Happy December. Thanksgiving is a time to be with family and eat till you can’t move. Unfortunately for me, this meant being hungry for the next three days while eating normal portions of food. Thanksgiving gives way to Black Friday, which we could all write an entire article about: the price slashing, deal trampling (literally people get trampled you know) and hypocrisy of buying gifts for yourself in times of thanks. But today I am here to talk to you about what the season is really all about, giving.
For most of us this month is a month of thanks, of being with family, exchanging gifts and donating to charities because ’tis the season. This is a time for individuals to feel good about themselves by giving, instead of the other 11 months when people look to satisfy the needs for oneself. This month we increase our empathy dials and feel for those who have not; we give gifts to our families, we feed the homeless, we donate toys to toy drives and canned goods to can-food drives. Some of the more wealthy of us give to charity organizations, not unlike the ones that bombard the campus asking for a dollar or your annual membership.
I think this is a good time to reflect on how much we give annually and to what sorts of organizations and companies. I am sure you have all heard of the phrase ‘vote with your dollar’ and if you have not, the concept is pretty simple. Everywhere you spend a dollar whether it is food from the I.V. Food Co-op versus food from Albertsons, or Nike’s as a Christmas present to yourself versus an airline ticket home or some other sunny beach, counts. Spending money online versus spending money in the store — this is all information producers look at to understand how to better market products to you. All of these dollars spent show where we, the consumers, spend our money and what we would like to see more of.
Because this is the season of giving I encourage you to reflect on where you spend your money and how you could be a more efficient giver, and consumer for that matter. I was shocked when I actually tore apart my bank statements and created a pie chart of where I spent my money from things like food, rent and bills, beer, bike parts, charities and all of the other random crap I buy. In order to be a more efficient human being with my money and make better choices I created a budget and am including ‘giving’ on it. I did this for many reasons, one of which includes not being a hypocrite as I am a global studies undergraduate.
But I think we all have a bit of room to improve when it comes to being less hypocritical, and because ’tis the season for giving and New Years resolutions I encourage you to take an afternoon to reflect on your budget and create more room for the things you say you actually believe in and support.
With that being said, just as carefully as anyone selects a pair of sick new Nike shoes this season, we should also carefully select which organizations we give to. This is because each organization will spend that dollar you gave them in a variety of different ways. These ways range from merchandise, marketing and actually helping with the said cause they market for. There are plenty of ways to help, for example: Fighting Malaria with bed nets (MalariaNoMore), Earthworks protecting the environment from mineral and energy waste and ChildHelp, an organization helping with the problem of child abuse.
All of the organizations above will have what is called a ‘990 form.’ Basically this is their taxes and their breakdown of program costs and what money goes where. MalariaNoMore’s is located at the bottom of the Homepage of their website. Most other websites I have checked have very similar breakdowns and easily accessible information. If they do not — there is your first red flag. Checking for red flags in a companies’ budget is one of the best ways to know if a company is actually spending your dollar on what they say they are. This, instead of stuffing their pockets or spending it all on ‘marketing’ to continue to market to you again next year for more of your money. . .
We should check for red flags in companies that we donate to just as we should condemn the actions of corporations that operate in the ever-contentious sweatshop factories. We should support and spend a proportionate amount of our hard earned dollar into organizations that support causes that we say we are in support of. Donating is a good thing, donating smart is a better thing. Now of course, we cannot all donate a significant amount of our paychecks — we all gotta eat and pay bills sometime. But we can take a moment to vote with our dollar and spend money on things that we believe in most.
Riley Brann believes if we want our voices to be heard we need to speak to the one percent in the only language they understand: Money.