"Giving Tuesday" -- give the gift of hope

by Melissa Jaramillo

Giving TuesdayThe holiday season officially kicked off on Thanksgiving. The rush of advertisements, deep "discount" savings and sales galore bombarded us during Black Friday (which started on Wednesday this year), Small Business Saturday and wrapped up with Cyber Monday.

Some folks may have found it all a distasteful show of greed and materialism, while others appreciated the savings to help out an overstretched budget this season.

Either way, there's now a wonderful alternative available that can turn those unspent dollars into a gift of hope! It's known as "Giving Tuesday"!

"Giving Tuesday" is a day highlighting charities throughout the world that need your help! The needs are of course, many! Basics that we may take for granted -- food, clean water, clothing, and shelter are all in high demand! Adequate medicines and healthcare are topping lists. Safety and security -- refuge from political unrest, abuse, and violations of human rights are calling for assistance.

Any number of causes are requesting aid for seniors, youth, health matters, financial needs, environmental -- even rebuilding efforts such as those to help Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) Victims! Many groups have specific events going on now such as the sweet ornament craft from Mercy Housing or Angel Trees you find available at a local store. Your work, church, or even your workout group may present opportunities to consider together.

This "Giving Tuesday" I encourage you to target a few of your favorite charities and donate. While the spirit of the season is centered on giving, many charities struggle as donations tend to be pulled away into the retail market.

Look for how your gift may be used to help others globally, nationally, or close to home! You can make a donation for yourself, in someone else's name as a present, or even in honor of a loved one that has passed. Another idea? Let others know that this is the type of gift that you would like to receive as you promote "Giving Tuesday" to all your contacts!

If you've exhausted your funds until payday no worries! Go ahead and spend this day selecting the organization(s) you would most like to help out. Budget those in throughout the month or year ahead as they can always use support! Are you worried that your finances can't handle being tapped by yet one more expense right now? You don't have to be left out! Your time is valuable and needed! Use "Giving Tuesday" as an opportunity to volunteer!

Read more about "Giving back to your community as a family" for even more charitable suggestions. One word of caution – do take time to check out any unfamiliar organizations before donating. While there are countless worthwhile charities, unfortunately, there also is a world of scam artists. Some wonderful resource guides are available through ChangingThePresent.org and Charity Navigator.

How are you striving to make a difference this "Giving Tuesday"? We'd love to hear about your favorite non-profits to support!

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.