Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Five Really Good Reasons to Give

Black Friday is an event fabricated and perpetuated by the retail empire. Those same retailers made up Cyber Monday. Then small businesses banded together and created Small Business Saturday (though I suspect American Express is really behind that push).

This year, Twitter has been abuzz about #GivingTuesday - a day for giving to charities.

"But I already spent all my money this past weekend!" you cry, waving your pile of receipts with despair. "Now you want me to give to a charity!"

Yes, I do. Giving back is and always has been part of who I am and I'm not poorer for it at all. If anything, I'm stinking rich with gratitude. And I want that for all of you.

So here are five reasons you should take a moment to participate in #GivingTuesday today along with stories from my history of giving. Donate today (or any day of the year) and create some stories of your own!

1. Your Dollars Matter - How often have you spent $50 on a sweater you never wear because it itches, or a meal at a restaurant that was disappointing and gave you gas?

Donate that same $50 to Break the Cycle and they can send me to a high school in SoCal to talk to 50-100 young people about dating violence. Most of these kids have never heard about this topic or think it's just about guys hitting girls.

I can't tell you how many students of both sexes have come up to me afterward, shaking and nervous, to tell me dating abuse happened to them and they never realized it wasn't okay until seeing my presentation. One girl revealed she'd been abusing her boyfriend and needed help. And I told her where to get help. Because I was trained by the incredible, impactful team at Break the Cycle.

Donate to a charity doing work you feels is important. Your contribution goes into the world and changes lives forever. I call that money well spent.

2. It Feels Good - I've lost count of how many times I've grown out my hair to donate to Locks of Love. My thick hair is a bear to manage when it gets really long. Near the end of my growing period, I'm batting at my mane like an annoyed child, yelling at it to just get out of my way and stay there!

But when I walk into Salon 3 and tell my guy Christopher that I'm donating my hair to Locks of Love, the feeling is indescribable. I get smiles and expressions of admiration from other hairdressers and customers alike. They're all impressed I've committed to such a thing while marveling at the head of healthy black hair that is going to make a wig for a child suffering from medical hair loss.

Though regardless of what anyone else says, I feel proud and excited every time I grow and donate my hair. It's one of the easiest things I do for charity and it makes me feel terrific because I know it will have such a huge impact on a child's life. If someone could bottle and sell that feeling, they would be a millionaire.

And after my hair is shipped off and received by Locks of Love, I get an email that says thank you. That's it. Just an email. But every time I get it, I feel like it's all been worth it.

Giving isn't a sacrifice. It's a gift that pays your spirit back ten-fold. Try it - you'll see.

3. It's Easy - I was performing with the Agape International Choir at a John Legend concert when I first learned about text-to-donate. For example, you can text RELIEF to 864233 to give to $10 UNICEF's Philippines Typhoon Disaster Relief Fund. You can make a difference in less than five seconds.

I've seen quick, easy opportunities to give everywhere, from rounding up the balance of your phone bill for charity to giving a dollar at the CVS checkout for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. A buck may not seem like much for you, but CVS has raised more than $37 Million to date from those $1 donations at the register. Just imagine all the lives that money is affecting!

The little stuff adds up. Commit to giving in all the small ways you can find and know that you're still making a big impact.

4. It Doesn't Have to Cost Money - When it was time to let my clarinet go, I found a charity that refurbishes and gives musical instruments to students who want to learn music. Almost every month, I take a sack of stuff I've de-cluttered from my apartment to the National Council of Jewish Women LA for their thrift shops, which raise funds to serve thousands of women and children in need. I've also spent a few hours on a Saturday morning making sandwiches to feed the homeless in Santa Monica with the Hand to Hand Feeding Project.

Dollars spent? Zero. Goodwill and good feelings received? Priceless!

You can give in so many ways that don't cost a dime. Donate your time, manpower, or effort and revel in the gratitude you receive in return.

5. Giving is Fun - Have you ever been to a charity fundraiser party? They're the best! Food, drink, music and the great feeling that you're all partying for a cause.

Which makes it the best place to meet people, in my opinion. You have an instant conversation starter - how did you hear about this charity? You're starting every new relationship on a high - you're dolled up to do good. What could be sexier?

Try it for yourself by attending one of these fabulous fundraiser parties -

First, WriteGirl is celebrating 12 years of success and their National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award with a Sparkling Celebration fundraiser on Thursday, Decemeber 12 at Aventine Hollywood. Tickets are $30 and every cent goes to helping teen girls get creative, get writing, and get into college!

Come rub elbows with writers and celebrities! Touch the award plaque that Michelle Obama also touched!

Also, my friends at Artists at Play are hosting a holiday party fundraiser Saturday, December 14 called Making Spirits Bright. And these guys know how to throw a party! Tickets are $20 at the door and the frivolity is free!

I'll be at both events, so come celebrate the seasons of giving with me!

What are some of your favorite ways to give? Share in the comments below!

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