I admit it. I have an online wish list, populated by items that I would like to own. Frivolous, beautiful things, mostly. Or a practical extravagance (stand mixer anyone?) that makes me seem industrious, craving the right tools for the job. But it occurred to me that I also have another wish list. There is no real home for it online, but it floats around in my head…

I wish we valued all families.” Strong Families

“I wish trans people didn’t have it so hard.” Transgender Law Center

“I wish our economy worked for everyone.” Demos

“I wish all newborn babies had access to the technology they need to grow strong.” Embrace

“I wish women worldwide had access to HIV, STI and pregnancy prevention *they* could control.” Coalition Advancing Multipurpose Innovations  

And it goes on and on. And at the end of the year, while visions of sugarplums are dancing in our heads, the non-profit organizations working every day to grant our wishes have their own wishes too: “I wish we could sustain our important work.”

And we can make their wish come true! By donating money, especially at the end of the year when many have matching grants or other opportunities to maximize our gifts.

I have another confession to make. Until recently I didn’t give much money away at all. For years I was broke and couldn’t afford it, but as that changed the habit didn’t. Then I would want to, but as a person close to the non-profit sector I would get overwhelmed. There are so many worthy causes, so many worthy organizations. Where to begin? And I knew that what I could afford to give wouldn’t be enough to make or break any organization, so I let indecision and inertia lead the way.

That changed a few years ago, because someone I love and trust (our own Holly Minch) asked me to give to an organization she was supporting. I was grateful she asked, because it woke me up to what I had been missing. When I confessed to her that I didn’t really donate money to causes, she was surprised, knowing how passionate I am about making change in the world. And kindly, and without judgment, she encouraged me to just start giving.

And so I did, and I am happy to say that ever year, we sit down as a family, and we budget how much we can afford to give and we talk about what issues we want to affect, and we write checks. Not a ton, but more than I thought I ever would. And it feels fantastic.

In addition to giving, I ask other people to give. That’s what it took to get me started, and I am grateful and hopeful that I can be that catalyst for others. Because even as I keep wishing for that artisan mixer, I know I am taking steps to make my real wishes come true.

. . .

How can you help someone start giving? I am glad you asked!

Make it personal: “I am asking you for your support. I am asking you because…”

Skip the jargon. No acronyms, no terms of art for those in the sector or more familiar with the issue.

Talk about impact. How is the world different because of this organization? How do they change the world in a way that matters to your friend or family?

Be confident. Asking works! The number one reason why people donate to any cause is always cited as “because someone asked me to.” You can be that someone!

No worries. What’s the worst that can happen? Someone says no or ignores you. Both have happened to me and it was no big deal. And you know what was a big deal? Raising cash for causes I believe in!

. . .

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Pianoman75.

Amanda Cooper is a LightBox collaborator who gives to the causes that make her real wishes come true.