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23 November 2007

Overserved?

Sansabelts across America could be heard stretching and popping after the annual day of engorgement. And today most people self medicated by walking it off at the mall in a frenzy of credit cards, lattes and posturing for this year's "it" toy. We are a predictable society, especially this time of year.

Even the homeless and downtrodden among us eat like kings for the most part on Thanksgiving. This time of year we wave our collective flag of charitable giving and beat our chests at the annual office party about our selfless act.

Yet by some accounts, only 28% of Americans donate to charity each year. And I suspect that much of that is in November and December. While they don't talk about it, some of the good folks who run soup kitchens and the like end up throwing food out on Thanksgiving that is in over abundance, yet they still scrape together barely edible meals the rest of the year.

The act of giving has been sold as a grand act that absolves the soul and makes the giver feel so gooood about themselves. And why not? We are giving of ourselves right? Money, time, last year's unwanted gift, etc. What is increasingly missing is the awareness of what the recipient needs to actually feel gooood too. That still matters right?

The good news is that something is still better than nothing. The American Red Cross for example received $3.2 Billion dollars in donations 2006. That is a lot of cabbage. Some charitable studies suggest that up to 89% of Americans give (categorized as money, stuff and maybe even happy, charitable thoughts). Of course the American Red Cross has been around since the late 1800's and have a simple name to remember. But what about the thousands of other non-profit organizations that need community support?

Regardless of what stats we believe, it is our own level of investment that truly matters. If you want to feel gooood more than just 2 months a year, have a family meeting, find out what floats your boat and then you can bet your over served behinds that there is a non-profit group somewhere that is furthering the advocacy, or whatever, of your topic of choice. Make sure to check them out first though. Guidestar.org, the Better Business Bureau and your socially conscious friends are good starts.

Lots to be thankful of this year. And don't forget to include our troops serving overseas in your shopping and giving.

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