THE BLOG

An Unconventional Holiday List

12/09/2013 06:27 EST | Updated 02/08/2014 05:59 EST

Made your list yet? Or should I say lists, in plural?

This time of year, I usually have several different to-do lists on the go: presents to buy, groceries for the big family dinner, an invitation list for our annual Boxing Day party, plus holiday supplies (wrapping paper, cinnamon and aspirin).

But my favourite holiday list is my own personal checklist for charitable giving.

Canadians are generous people, but we don't tend to plan our charitable donations. We might drop a few toonies into a bucket when we enter the mall, or give a colleague five or ten dollars when they pass around an envelope for their favorite charity. But there are so many good causes, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. So we tend to donate small amounts to many different organizations, leaving us wondering if we're accomplishing anything at all. Then we feel guilty for ignoring the earnest pleas to renew or give more.

Personally, I'd rather choose one organization that fits my values and priorities, and then confidently donate a good chunk of change over the long-term -- sort of like investing in a blue-chip stock.

How to choose? Before opening your wallet or clicking the "donate" button, ask yourself the following questions:

Does this organization:

• Have personal meaning for me?

• Address the deepest needs?

• Embrace complexity?

• Spend money wisely?

• Balance short and long-term change?

• Make a genuine impact?

Answering these questions won't take as much time as you think. Besides, the exercise will give you the best gift of all: peace of mind.

For example, my charity of choice is the Canadian Women's Foundation. For me, they check off all the boxes. Their mission matters to me: Yes, I do want to stop the violence, end poverty, and empower girls! Thirty-five per cent of their funding goes to programs for Aboriginal women and girls.

They take a holistic approach to issues like violence against women and poverty. Every year they leverage about three million dollars in donated goods and services. I love how they help people in immediate need but also work on long-term solutions. For example, they fund women's shelters but they also support programs that teach teens (boys and girls) to build healthier relationships and prevent future violence.

In its 22-year history, this organization has helped hundreds of thousands of people across Canada. It gives me goose bumps to think of all of the injuries -- even murders -- that were prevented, the new paychecks earned, the children's stomachs filled, the sexual assaults thwarted, the voices raised, the confidence gained.

Finally, here's a bonus question to consider: What's in it for me?

I know charitable giving is supposed to be altruistic but the truth is, I'd rather be involved in a cause that inspires me, challenges me to grow, and adds deep meaning to my life. With the Canadian Women's Foundation, I get more than I give. Sure, I donate generously and volunteer a lot of my time, but I've never felt more courageous -- not to mention proud to be female.

So if you need a break from the holiday frenzy, take a moment to write your own charitable giving list. Then the next time your coworkers rattle their donation envelopes at you, you won't feel guilty or say: "Um, I gave at the office."

I take so much pleasure in saying: "I give to the Canadian Women's Foundation."

Ah, peace of mind. Check.

Peace, Love and Gender Equality for all!