01 January 2013

Happy New Year! Welcome to “Causes and Effect: My Year of Giving Daily.”

Join me on this journey as I commit to donating at least $10 every day of 2013. I need your help.

I don’t expect my $10 to change the world, but my hope is it will somehow change me. And I am reminded of this quote by Edmund Burke: “No one made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.” 

To be honest, I’m a bit of a cheapskate. Every year when I file my taxes, I’m  surprised that my annual giving amounts to so little since it feels like I’m donating to various causes continuously throughout the year. Even though I make a decent living, the uncertainty of my financial situation as a freelance writer has even kept me from committing to automatic monthly donations to charities that I support so the idea of promising to give away $3,650 in advance feels a little frightening. 

What happens if I take the fear that comes from not knowing exactly how much I'll bring in every month and thumb my nose at that? What happens if at least once a day, even if it’s just for a few minutes, I take the time to focus on how to help someone or something else? Will the effect be a sense of gratitude that I get to renew on a daily basis or will I start to resent that I have to research and donate every single day? All 365 of them. 

What about when unexpected expenses invade my bank account? The truth is I'm doing OK and I have savings, so it won't come down to deciding if I should eat for the day or donate by any means, even when the occasional un-budgeted car repair or dental bill creeps it. It's more that I'd like to see my relationship with money change.

But more than any kind of financial exercise, it's an experiment to see what happens to my heart and my spirit and my soul over this year.

How did this idea come about?  After a friend asked me if I was working on a book — a somewhat occupational expectation and hazard of being a journalist —I started to give it serious thought. There was no music trend or biography, authorized or unauthorized, that I was eager to pursue, but the idea of a book stuck with me. 

In a flash of inspiration, or maybe desperation, this notion came to me a few months ago and has stayed by my side, gently pushing me toward its birth. I have felt a responsibility to the idea since its conception.

Here’s where you come in. I need to come up with 365 organizations or worthy causes so I’m taking suggestions. Some of the giving will be to recognized international charities, but others will be to Kickstarter campaigns that catch my eye, friends’ 5Ks, and maybe even to homeless people on the street. The only criteria is to give the money to some outlet that needs it that day more than I do.

So on DAY ONE, I start with a cause very personal to me: The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. My mom died on Christmas Eve five years ago from Parkinson’s and other complications. Instead of flowers, we asked for donations to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. It felt right to start this project here. The minimal suggested donation on the webpage was $50 or “an amount that’s meaningful to you.” I like that last part.

As far as turning this into a book, that’s another mystery. A friend who makes her living writing very successful books graciously listened to my idea and suggested that I start the project as a blog. The worst that happens is that I’m out the money at  the end of the year. Actually, the worst that can happen is that I find some reason to quit giving daily and live in fear instead of faith, so my going public with the plan is one way of honoring my commitment. 

Return every day to see where this road takes me, which outlets I’m giving to, how the process is affecting me, and to make your suggestions (and to see how my nascent blogging/formatting skills improve). It won’t cost you a thing. 

Thank you.

Jan. 1: Michael J. Fox Foundation. https://www.michaeljfox.org/


  1. Good luck, Melinda!
    I saw this when Rosemary Young Boyle posted it.
    Several aspects of this intrigue and interest me. The idea of researching to which organization you'll donate each day's $10.00 seems like a lot of work. I am interested to learn your choices and your reasoning for those choices. I tend to "delegate" my choosing process by restricting most of my giving to church-related donations.
    My mother belongs to a Catholic women's organization whose entire purpose is to first raise funds, then choose where to send those funds. I've always found that whole process interesting.
    I look forward to "following' your journey.
    Happy New Year!

  2. Mary,
    Thank you! I made a list of places I've given to before and that I respect and those will be the first ones, but a lot of folks have already posted great suggestions that on my Facebook page, so that helped make the list a little longer. I'll check those out. I'll also go to Charity Navigator if I get stuck and look at some places they recommend. I'm interested in homeless, poverty, education and children's issues, so I'll probably lean toward those. Cheers and Happy New Year to you! Let me know if you have any suggestions. Melinda

  3. Melinda,
    Personally, I always lean toward any place that helps moms in difficult times, esp. pregnant or new moms, whether wed or unwed. Birthright is one which has locations nationwide. But many churches have their own. Mary
    P.S. - I also am a "manager of the world" and a "grammar nazi." :)