Last month we gathered our four kids together for another stay-at-home dinner. This April, that wasn’t saying much. The days of people declaring, “It would be nice to eat together as a family more often” seem like some nostalgic bygone era. I mean, it’s kind of the only option now, right? But this night we had a different kind of conversation in mind.
In the time of coronavirus, our collective good health as a family felt especially precious. Add to that the fact that my wife and I were both in jobs that appeared stable despite the pandemic – and we were feeling more than just fortunate. So we turned our family’s attention towards an action which seemed more important than ever: giving.
Recognizing Needs, Considering Our Capacity to Give
Our kids span ages from 7 to 17, so a talk about “giving” in our house could mean any number of things. “Give us some help cleaning the kitchen”… or “Give your Mom and I five minutes to ourselves”…. or “Give us one good reason not to send you to your rooms right now.” You know, giving. (Seriously, though, our kids are pretty cool. Maybe you’ll get to meet them in the post-coronavirus world and find out.)
What we actually wanted to explore together was fairly simple. It was our family’s answer to two questions:
- What causes, issues, or people need support right now?
- What capacity do we have to help them with our money?
I recognize the enormous privilege I have in asking these questions against the backdrop of countless people enduring financial hardships. I’ll pause and acknowledge that there are many ways to help beyond financial donations. There are heroes volunteering right now and giving their time and talent to essential needs in our community. But this dinner conversation was about exploring our personal philanthropy and how it could meet the moment.
The extended economic implications of this virus mean that the impact will be felt within all charitable organizations and across all types of issues. Arts organizations. Animal shelters. Human rights groups. The list goes on. The causes you believe in matter more than ever.
Exploring Our Personal Philanthropy Amidst Coronavirus
Personal Philanthropy – in this case making a donation – is not a unique exercise for individuals or families in the United States. In 2018, the most recent year we have numbers from, Americans gave $427 billion to charities, and $290 billion of that was done by individuals making donations. Six out of ten people in the United States donate at least once a year. Of course, this doesn’t take into consideration other informal methods of giving outside of nonprofit organizations. For example, it won’t capture simple acts of financial generosity expressed to friends and family in need. Any way you analyze it, giving is a force in our country with deep roots. But why give now?
I’ll state the obvious: there are enormous needs right now. Our friends, families, and communities are facing a once-in-a-generation type of challenge. The extended economic implications of this virus mean that the impact will be felt within all charitable organizations and across all types of issues. Arts organizations. Animal shelters. Human rights groups. The list goes on. The causes you believe in matter more than ever.
Choices Around the Stay-at-Home Dinner Table
So, it was time for dinner. We told our kids that while we had needs as a family, there were much greater needs facing other families and other communities. We explained that as a family of six, we’d be receiving a significant amount of relief money from the federal government, but that we needed to decide how to redirect some of that towards those greater needs. We invited them to research a cause they cared about and a group that was doing something about it. In short, we formed our own giving circle.
Their choices were as unique as they are. A restaurant workers relief fund, an environmentally-focused school initiative, support for frontline healthcare workers, and a childcare program for children of sex workers. We also dedicated some money to our Dreamer friends who have no access to federal relief money. Our gifts were ultimately a celebration of the opportunity we have to practice generosity together.
Giving as an Act of Defiance, Faith, and Hope
There was a heaviness this April, one that doesn’t quite seem finished with us yet. I often find myself confronted by the staggering loss of life from coronavirus and the unsteadiness of the new world we are navigating. But in the midst of that, I’m also making new space to celebrate simple moments and be alive. Watching sunsets, taking extra long walks, eating dinners together… and giving.
Giving helps us stay at hope. In a way, it’s an act of defiance signaling faith that the world we envision is possible here and now. Today is #GivingTuesdayNow, a global day of giving and unity meant to advance an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19. As we’ve been sharing at the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking, exploitation doesn’t stop for a pandemic. So when you consider your own personal philanthropy in this season, I invite you to join us and directly support anti-trafficking. Together, we can stay at hope.
This May, the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking is leading Stay at Hope, a special call to sustain anti-trafficking efforts in Colorado. To get involved visit combathumantrafficking.org/hope or text HOPE to 71777