Archives For Giving

Christmas Gifts Storm Trooper

What does a  Stormtrooper give his little troopers? Credit Kalexanderson.

Christmas is a season of giving. It is about blessing others because we ourselves have been blessed. It is a time to remember the gift of Jesus. We want to express our love and appreciation. Plus there are other reasons to give that I wrote about if you need more motivation to give.

You may be convinced that you should give gifts for Christmas, but there are other thorny questions lingering about giving that we should address.

Should I give if I’m in debt?

Yes, I suggest to my clients that you should continue to be in the practice of giving. Be cautious about your heart that it doesn’t become greedy, even though you’re in debt. Decide to give a certain percentage of your income each month as a practice. If there is no way you can give money this year, then give your time volunteering at a local non-profit.

I don’t want to give ‘Stuff’. What should I do?

Give relationally! Give gifts that will have you spend time together. Puzzles, games, outings, events…etc. Relationships are more important than boxes. Have you heard of the Advent Conspiracy?

How much should I spend on Christmas gifts?

You’ll have to decide for yourself of course. I do suggest you make a budget and stick to it. There is no reason to go into debt to buy stuff for others, especially if it involved co-signing or loans.

Can I give too much at Christmas?

As long as you don’t go into debt, go crazy giving. Just be wise in how you go about it. You don’t want to make a relationship awkward by giving too much. If you’ve got the dough, go and bless others!

I’m not a Christian, can I still give gifts for Christmas?

While Christmas is largely a religious holiday, it is also part of Western culture. If you want to give, then give. There are no restrictions. I’m sure both you and your receiver will be blessed no matter your spiritual views.

Whom should I give to?

Again, a personal decision. If you feel obligated to give to someone out of guilt or shame, then perhaps either your motivation needs checking or that relationship mending. If you’re in business don’t forget your boss, co-workers, clients, and vendors.

Should I give my boss a Christmas gift?

Why are you giving to them? To show thanks? To get a promotion? Giving to your boss or co-workers can be tricky. Whew! I’m glad I’m self-employed. Here is a good guide for shopping for your boss and coworkers.

I got a gift last year that I didn’t use. Is re-gifting ok?

Yes, but don’t get caught or give something cheesy unless it’s funny and the recipient will get your humor. Remember Seinfeld’s “The Label Maker”?

Is it ok to give cash for a Christmas present?

Of couse! Especially in hard economic times or if you don’t know what to get someone, then cash or a gift card is acceptable.

I want to give to charity. How do I know if my charity is legitimate?

First off, I’d ask them. This is a common question and they should have a ready answer including reports, recommendations, and facts. You can also check out Charity Navigator or Guidestar to see if your nonprofit is listed.

Action: What are thoughts about giving? Please share in the comments below. Merry Christmas! 

Did you know that you can change the world?

Yep, it’s true. Your single decision to act can dramatically change the world for the better.

A few friends of ours had a crazy idea to build a house for someone.

Giving Big and Changing the World

Our friend Sam became involved in Habitat for Humanity in Los Angeles on his days off from saving lives as a local fireman.

Though his involvement a small group of friends were challenged to build a house, which they couldn’t afford to do by themselves.

The video below tells the inspirational story. (Sorry, ladies Sam is a married man)

View more videos at:

These couples are amazing! Their action is challenging my faith and humbling when I look at my selfish life.

I want to give big and change the world too.

If you want to give to this Habitat House, click this link to the Philippians House in Culver City. Or just find your own way to give big and change the world.

What if we all took on challenges like funding and building a house? What would the world look like?

The following is an excerpt from a reader about their endeavor to give bags of goodies to the homeless in Los Angeles: 

“A few weeks ago, some moms and I got together to make ‘blessing bags‘ for the homeless. Basically a gallon size Ziploc bag full of nonperishable snacks and small toiletries. You keep them in your car and give them to homeless people begging at stoplights. I was inspired by my daughter who saw a man holding a sign that said “hungry” and wanted to help him.

Anyway, we made the bags and listening to some of the stories coming back are curious. We are all having trouble giving the bags away!!! The homeless people I’ve encountered have either yelled at me, simply declined, or asked if there’s “any money in there.”

Now I’m trying not to feel hurt. And I’m trying to figure out why they don’t want my goodwill!”- Reader Email

Alternative Giving to Homeless: My Thoughts

If you live in an urban area, homelessness is an overt fact. I (Brent) rode the subway from Hollywood to downtown Los Angeles (yes, we do have a few subways) and was hit up twice for money on that trip.

I honestly didn’t have cash or change and I’m always torn about whether to give it when I do. Am I the only one with this dilemma?

My wife and I have also made and given out such Ziplock bags of goodies to the homeless. We learned in San Francisco that fresh clean socks are a hot item among the homeless, so they seemed appreciative.

We were never yelled, but they did seem confused at times when we leaned out the car window to offer our blessing bag.

Why did we make up these bags instead of handing out money? Lack of trust for those who would use money to harm themselves. The desire to do good. Wanting to help the problem and not fuel the problem. We wanted to feel good about ourselves…It’s a complex answer isn’t it?

Homelessness is a macro problem, and the solutions needed are multilayered and complex. I only hope the goodwill and blessing bags of this group of moms and children will change this world for the better.

Have you ever participated in alternative giving to a homeless person? Please share in the comments below.

November Mentions & Stats

Thanks to all the new RSS subscribers, daily readers, those who have followed on Twitter, and random folks for stopping by! This has been our biggest month yet and we owe it all to you.

Visits: 4,641
Unique Visitors: 4,383
Pageviews: 6,034OTC received a few mentions on other sites in November for which I am grateful:

Top Articles in November
Top Comments at On Target Coach

Recently we had a bit of down time and found a show on Hulu called the Secret Millionaire  and decided to give it a go. We want to be millionaires some day, so why not right?

I was impressed with the show, though of course reality TV is always scripted and a bit contrived. Secret Millionaire can both teach us about the life and millionaires and a glimpse into the world of giving.

Giving in Oklahoma City

We watched the episode of Chuck Runyon & Dave Mortensen who built a fitness empire and went to Oklahoma City to live for a week in a broken down house with only $71.00 for the week.

It was interesting to see them shopping at a grocery store and how out of touch with the price of goods they were. They had to give up coffee because they just couldn’t afford it.

Chuck and Runyon ended up volunteering at two charities:

OKC Youth Wrestling Foundation– Tyler Williams started a wrestling and tutoring program for youth in downtown OKC to help save them from drugs and gangs. They have mentored over 300 kids since 2008.

“The OKCYWF not only develops strong athletes, but the ultimate goal is to create a culture of sound character to create generational change.”-website

Limbs For Life– Limbs for Life gives prosthetic legs to families who cannot afford it. This program annually helps about 500 amputees in the U.S. and overseas with several hundred on its waiting list.

I was shocked to learn that insurance only provides 1 prosthesis per lifetime. That means children will need a dozen or more of these expensive ($7-$16K per prosthesis) devices over the course of their childhood, not to mention over the course of their lifetime.

“The Limbs for Life Foundation is a global nonprofit organization dedicated to providing fully functional prosthetic care for individuals who cannot otherwise afford it and raising awareness of the challenges facing amputees.”- website

****Spoiler Alert****

The two ended up donating to both causes and bringing awareness to great needs in our society and in Oklahoma City.

The millionaires were also challenged to live outside of their normal millionaire bubble and face harsh realities that they, nor many Americans are exposed to. It was apparent Chuck and Runyon were affected by the causes and people the were exposed to. I hope they continue to give their wealth in strategic ways and teach their children how to give responsibly.

Can You Be a Secret Millionaire?

While you and I may not be a millionaire (not yet anyways), this show gives us motivation to give and to look at the fringes of society and see what needs are not being met. There are thousands of nonprofits living on a shoestring budget who need our support.

This show also shows the dangers of wealth and how it can isolate us from pain and the reality that most people face.

As we gain wealth, let’s make giving a core habit. Let’s stay connected to suffering though volunteering and giving to causes that change lives.

We can change the future no matter the size of wallets or our current financial situation.

Have you seen the show? What role does giving play in your financial, personal, and spiritual life? 

Photo Credit Enkhtuvshin

How does your charity compare to the rest?

One of the great parts about being out of debt is the ability to give more money away. Giving to others and to organizations that help others is a joy. How does your charity of choice compare to the rest of the pack?

When giving to a new organization, it is a good idea to do your homework before writing the check. Did you know that 6% of donations to churches are embezzled or lost to fraud?

Below are a few ways to make sure the organization aligns with your values and spends your money wisely.

IRS Exempt Organizations Select Check

There are many reasons to give beyond receiving a tax deduction, but it is wise to take any tax advantages the government offers.

The IRS has a new tool for checking the exemption status of non-profit organizations (501C3) to ensure you are able to write off your giving on taxes (assuming you are able to itemize your taxes). This tool improves upon their electronic publication 78 search.

The IRS EO Select Tool allows you to see if an organization (source):

  • Is eligible to receive tax deductible contributions.
  • Has filled out a 990-N form. (if gross receipts are $50,000 or less)
  • Has had tax exemption status revoked due to not filling 990-N for 3 years.

Search Feature

The IRS Exempt Organizations Select Check tool allows you to search by EIN or name of organization + location.

If you are searching by name, it is listed by their official Does Business As (DBA). Below is an example search for “Church” in Los Angeles. Use the “Description Status” on the right side to determine exemption eligibility.

Example Search

If your organization isn’t listed, then please make them aware and inquire further as to why or ask if they will release their EIN or DBA to search the database again.

Not being listed could be a red flag you are being scammed or that the non-profit isn’t yet organized.

Charity Navigator

Charity Navigator is probably the largest Non-Profit evaluator. The free feature allos There is a feature where you can sign in for access to more information on your charities: 3 years of historical data, comparison feature, and more.

They have some cool top 10 lists also.

Charity Navigator Video


Before making a large donation to a nonprofit or begin regular giving, it is advised to do your homework first using the above tools and others available on the internet.

Do you check your charities before you give? Use the tools above to grade the non-profits or charities that you give to.

Photo Credit TheBusyBrain (Creative Commons)