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How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist: A Review

February 6, 2011

This review is the result of a fortunate accident. Recently I found out about Nicole Bouchard Boles (@NicoleBoles) on Twitter. I was intrigued by her book, How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist (2009, Workman Publishing), and I added it to my online bookstore wishlist with the intention of reading it at some undetermined date in the future (i.e., when I had “more time” for such things). A few weeks later when my husband was ordering a different book, he accidentally ordered my wishlist too.

I am very grateful for that happy accident. I have always valued participating in activities and making donations to causes that make a difference in the world. I have tried to pass on those values to my children as well. Sometimes I feel that I don’t make enough room in my schedule for giving my time and talents to charitable activities, and over the years I have not found as many opportunities to involve my children in hands-on philanthropic activities as I would like.

What I loved about How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist is that it makes giving seem like a very do-able, routine activity. This book is loaded with concrete ideas and links for more information about a wide variety of ways that people can make a difference in their worlds.  It gave me new ideas and introduced me to programs and projects that I had never heard of before. The book is organized in chapters based on different ways of giving such as “Use Your Body,” “Use Your Computer,” “Use Your Talents,” “Use Your Belongings,” and several others. There are 330 resources for potential giving ideas described and listed with contact information to learn more. I also loved (and used) the page of stickers at the back of the book, which made marking the ideas I was interested for my own family very easy and convenient.

I think some of my feelings of inadequacy about my own giving stem from ideas that may be too big for the current moment in my life. I have ideas about organizing a family meal assistance program, but don’t get too far with those plans because I know it would take a lot of time and effort to get going. I have ideas about taking my kids to a soup kitchen, but there are age restrictions and other limits that make this idea unfeasible for my family. How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist made me appreciate some of the things that I’m already doing with my family and inspired me to follow through on other small yet meaningful actions that we can take as a family that will make a difference in others’ lives. Things like donating suitcases to local social service agencies for foster children who often have to carry around their belongings in garbage bags, exploring some of the several click-to-donate sites mentioned in the book, and using our bevy of stamping supplies to create some greeting cards for some of the programs described. So maybe I don’t have to start a brand new program (although maybe I will someday…) when for now I can simply contact the local office of Meals on Wheels and explore volunteer opportunities there.

I would highly recommend this book if you searching for ways that you can involve your family in everyday giving activities. And I would love to hear your comments about what you may be inspired to do.

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