A Merry Complex Christmas!

Christmas is a complex time of year if you think about it.

In the Christian faith, it is celebrating the birth of Jesus who, by all accounts, was not born in December anyway. For non-Christians, it is a good opportunity to enjoy a holiday, but why are  expressions of appreciation of friends and family emphasized so much at Christmas?

I am reminded of a piece I read a very long time ago, that challenged the ritual of flowers at funerals! The argument proposed that buying a bouquet of flowers out of respect for a departed loved one served little purpose other than a show of respect in front of other mourners. This is, of course, based on the premise that the “dearly departed” has no knowledge of what is now taking place. The author proposed that if a “loved one” deserves flowers, then one should buy the bouquets while they are alive and able to appreciate the gesture. Laying a beautiful bouquet across a coffin does little more than support the flower shops.

What do the two paragraphs have in common? A perspective which is debatable.

I see many similarities of debatable habits over the Christmas Holidays. The Salvation Army has their volunteers out on the streets and in the stores with their “buckets” for any loose change that you may have, and many of you will no doubt happily give. This only seems to happen at Christmas. Numerous organizations will be promoting various strategies designed to produce gifts for less fortunate children at Christmas. What happens when those same children have birthdays, or are presented with the idea that the Easter Bunny is imminent?

I am not going to pursue the obvious conclusion as that was already addressed in an earlier post (link below):


I had an interesting conversation recently with our Oakville & Milton Humane Society fund raising lady. Never having been involved in the administration aspects of a charitable organization, I asked a hypothetical question “If I gave you a choice of accepting a $30.00/month donation from me over a year, or one possible donation of $500.00 at some point during the year, which would you choose.” The answer, as many of you will probably know, was the $30.00/month. The rationale was quite simple, they can budget around monthly contributions but can do nothing with a possible lump sum other than really appreciate it, if and when it eventually arrives, and then apply it to the greatest need at that time.

I believe that both methods of helping out a charity are very valid however, where this becomes interesting is with the many people who feel that they cannot afford to give. They do not have $100.00, $200.00, or $500.00 to give and that must be respected. Those same people however, often enjoy a Tim Horton’s or a Starbuck’s coffee when out.

Please give consideration to donating the value of a couple of cups of coffee per month to a charity of your choice. $10.00 a month, multiplied by a few people, becomes a significant factor to include when the budget planning is done. Based on Starbuck’s pricing, that is probably 2 or 3 cups of coffee per month.

If you do not currently feel that you can help out a local charity, ask yourself whether foregoing a couple of cups of coffee a month is feasible for you. Take advantage of the spirit of Christmas, and perhaps you can help to spread good cheer throughout the next 12 months and possibly thereafter. What a gift that would be! Just thinking! 🙂

19 thoughts on “A Merry Complex Christmas!

  1. It’s true… I work for a non-profit, and we do make sure to get an extra push around the holidays because people are more likely to respond positively, but people have this and other diseases all year long, researchers need to fund long term studies if they hope to make any discoveries that can lead to new or improved treatments, and, honestly, the support staff at the nonprofit needs to earn enough to support themselves or they won’t be able to continue working for the cause anymore, and will have to start looking for jobs at more socially irresponsible companies. In short, it’s just problems year round!

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    • You bring up an excellent point about wages/salaries. Any organization that is totally funded from charitable contributions is walking a “tight-rope” regarding staff wages/salaries. If they pay too much, they may be seen as being a little extravagant with donations received or, if they pay too little, they may not attract the expertise necessary to run an effective operation. The fundraising aspects alone require a level of experience and expertise in that field. The efficient operations of any business require administrative skills covering inter-personal relations; strategic planning; financial planning and accountability. In the case of animal shelters, dog trainers are necessary to turn around those “challenging” canines into prospective adoption candidates. Either an in-house vet, or negotiated arrangements with local vets would also be critical.

      Fortunately, the nature of the animal welfare field (and many other social service fields) does tend to attract a personality that highly values the “job satisfaction” aspect such that they are often prepared to trade off the financial limitations where feasible. All this simply reinforces the benefits of monthly giving to enable budget planning.

      Thx so much for bringing this up! 🙂

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      • It’s true- I read a heart-warming article about a shelter “selling out” of all their adoptable animals because they slashed adoption fees for Black Friday… and I immediately worried about where the shelter would get the funds they need, and whether people who showed up because of a sale were really ready for the full commitment a pet is, etc.

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        • I really don’t think that adoption fees etc should ever be reduced as it simply encourages an “impulse to adopt” reaction, but can they really afford to look after the animal? If they can, then they can afford a full adoption fee. I also have problems with promoting bunnies at Easter, and kittens at Christmas. I won’t express my feelings about buying someone a pet for Christmas! Having said all that, and if a shelter is at capacity, perhaps there is a rationale for having a sale?

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  2. Thank you for reminding everyone how a little an a regular basis adds up to a lot for charities. There are also other opportunities to give: there is a home in town that is run by a mental health institute that houses 8 men. Each Christmas Mom buys enough gift certificates to a local billiards club that serves good food so that each man plus 2 house workers can visit it and enjoy themselves. Just look around, and you will find the way to give that will be close to your own heart.

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  3. Charities big fundraising push seems to come at Christmas. Maybe more people are generous? I worked for a while in a flower shop many years ago. Christmas was the biggest season through Valentine’s Day. What profit was made at that time would tide the shop over the very slow summer season. I’ve always assumed that it was the same with charities although many of my favs are now asking for the monthly stipend instead. It makes sense. I have always been a proponent of skipping the lavish Christmas gifts (unless you have children of course) and using that money for donations to whatever you believe in. Somehow I am not very popular when I express that.

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    • I could never make sense of random gift giving (typical in work environments). You spend money on a gift for some person you really don’t know. They will receive a gift they will likely not find of interest. Whereas many people see it is a fun thing to do, especially when the gift value is usually capped, I cannot help but think how much more that “capped value” could do in a charitable context. The same logic can be applied to ones “older” friends and relatives. They probably already have pretty much everything they need so it comes down to buying a “gesture” of thoughtfulness. Again, that same value could do so much more.
      It really comes down to ones social conscience. Because one has the money to buy lavish gifts should not dictate that one has to (or be expected to)! Regardless of ones spiritual convictions (or lack of), there is a message of compassion, of giving, and of helping the less fortunate over this holiday period. We must try to keep those perspectives alive.

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  4. Amazing thoughts and impulse! It is so true what you say, Colin! We have to share our appreciation and support before it is “too late”. And yes, does it really hurt to skip one treat and spend the money for those who really need it? No, and we should do it right away! There is so much we can currently do throughout the year. Someone can always need a hand or a shoulder or more! We only need to open our eyes for it. Where there is a will there is always a way! There are no homeless where I live and everything is well organized for people in need thank God. Whenever I am somewhere where I expect homeless people I have some money in my pockets to just pull it out and give it to them. I do some things here and there because it feels amazing to know that someone might feel better. And I spend all my tips for charity institutions. We should keep up the Spirit of Christmas throughout the year. What else is the Spirit of Christmas but God’s love shining through?

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  5. Nice post Colin, putting across both sides. Regular income is always easier to manage. Hubby and I always used to put our shrapnel into the Salvation Army bucket each time we saw them. All those cups of coffee soon add up.

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