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Agriculture Today

Inspire philanthropy this holiday season

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December 28, 2011 | 2,434 views | Post a comment

By Tom Locke

From the hottest electronics to the best-selling toys, one can quickly get inundated with ideas on the “best gift” for those on your gift list. With such pressures, it is easy for many people to fixate on the towering gift list instead of the spirit of the holiday season.

Consider a different approach to gift giving this season, one that will inspire philanthropy and put the focus on the importance of giving. A gift that inspires charity will encourage generosity and may ultimately change the culture of giving for your family.

Instead of spending a large amount of money on gadgets that will be out of date in a few months, consider giving cash to your children or other loved ones, with one caveat -- they must donate that money to a charitable organization. Not only does the gift empower trust to choose an organization, it sets an example of how to be generous while creating a worthy activity for the family. If done over time, charitable giving may become embedded in your family’s giving patterns.

Explore additional ways to encourage philanthropy this holiday season. For example:

•Charitable gift cards: Instead of giving cash to a gift recipient, organizations such as Charity Choice ( and Global Giving ( allow you to purchase a gift card that can be used toward a worthy initiative. Friends can use the card and select a charity or cause that is particularly meaningful to them. For example, with their gift, they can choose to donate to organizations that protect animals or send underprivileged girls to school in rural India.

•Give locally: Research local organizations and charities that would be a perfect fit for a family member or friend. Do you have a foodie in your life? Explore food pantries or local nonprofits that fight to end hunger and make a donation to that organization in a family member’s name.

•Gift planning: If you have more to spend this season, consider whether it’s time to make a significant gift that can bring joy to others for years in the future. Perhaps you want to endow a scholarship at a nearby seminary or you would like to become a sustaining member of your favorite charity. This type of giving allows you to participate in the fruits of your generosity -- you may be able to assist in the selection of the scholarship recipient, for example, or get involved in a much needed program at the charity you’re supporting. Organizations such as the Texas Methodist Foundation can assist in the process and help donors reap additional benefits from gift giving, such as increased income and generous tax savings.

While holiday gift giving can be stressful, it is important to remember the true spirit of the season. Choosing a gift that inspires philanthropy and impacts the lives of those around you is the perfect way to celebrate the season.

For more information, visit

Tom Locke is president of the Texas Methodist Foundation, a statewide nonprofit organization offering assistance to United Methodists through investment, loan, leadership, stewardship, gift planning, and endowment services.

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