We're approaching the time of year when many of us, moved by the holiday spirit -- and often aided along by tax benefits -- look to give back to our communities and the causes that are close to our hearts. If the measure is simply monetary value, not everyone can make a big gift -- but with a little extra thought and effort, everyone can make a gift that will have a big impact.
For more than 120 years, One Hope United (onehopeunited.org), the organization I lead, has been helping children and families reach their full potential through a wide range of programs including early childhood education, family support and youth services, foster care, adoption and more. Historically during the holiday season, our supporters have donated physical goods like toys or clothes for us to pass on to the children and families we serve.
While I also love to donate holiday gifts, I have come to learn there are more meaningful ways to give, and other organizations better positioned than ours to distribute goods to those who need them. One of One Hope United's strengths is in our direct interactions with over 10,000 children, adults, and families each year. Through education, counseling, training, and other supportive efforts, we help people develop the intellectual and emotional tools that enable a successful life -- a life without limits.
We wanted to help our donors have a bigger impact through their holiday giving, and for the third straight year, we're doing that through our Wishbook (wishbook.onehopeunited.org). It's set up like an online catalog, where donors can virtually "shop" by making monetary donations that reflect the costs of services that One Hope United provides -- as well as goods that directly enhance those services.
These items provide more than an afternoon of fun or a one-time giveaway; they truly transform people's lives. There are items for every budget, ranging from $30 to $250. Many donors choose to "buy the Wishbook" for $1,000, which covers every item listed. Highlights from the Wishbook include:
• GED testing ($30): We work with many teens and young adults who for various reasons have not finished high school. In our Wings home visiting program, new moms and dads may have had to leave school to care for their newborn. The young men in our Rebound transitional living center are coming out of the child welfare or juvenile justice systems and may never have had the chance to finish their degree. By helping them earn this credential, we help put them on a path to greater success and the ability to support themselves and their family.
• Job interview attire ($75): Here's an example of when goods can provide impact. Interviewing for work is inherently stressful. For teens and young adults who may grow up in a residential facility, without the luxury of mom and dad's credit card and car to get to the mall, this gift gives them the professionalism and added confidence that can make the difference in landing the job. And by giving them money and thereby choice in attire, we're giving them agency -- something far more valuable than the finest suit.
• Preschool scholarships ($100): Many families who attend our early learning centers receive government child care assistance, which helps children regardless of family income to access quality education. To be eligible, the parents must be working; if they lose their job, they also lose the assistance and often can't afford their child's preschool. Scholarships enable their child to stay in school -- and on track -- while the parent looks for new work.
• Teen violence prevention programming ($250): When teens have undergone trauma or significant stressors such as abuse, neglect, or community or domestic violence, they can be more likely to turn to violence to solve their issues. This gift is the equivalent of sending one teen to participate in SPARKS, a 16-week group program that helps them learn effective ways of dealing with difficult situations. This can also help reduce violence in their community.
Wishbook is a great option for generous people who want to know how their gift will be used. We've also had local companies make this part of their staff philanthropy programs, which allows them to have a direct and collective impact on children and families in their community.
By giving targeted financial support in this way, our donors can have a real, sustained impact on the life of a child or family. That's not only great for the giver, who knows that their gift will be put to good use -- it provides a greater benefit to the recipient. The impact of education, professional success, or any of the services One Hope United offers, is lasting and can grow over time.
• Scott Humphrey is president and CEO of One Hope United. For more, visit onehopeunited.org.