9 Weeks ’till Christmas – Great Gift Ideas

On the day we honor those who gave the ultimate – their lives – I thought it fitting to include giving to charity in my Christmas countdown.

The rule of giving to charity is simple. If you have money, give it. If you don’t, give your time. Of those two commodities, it is time which I seem to find myself most pressed for in my life, so generally my charity giving comes down to giving out my credit card number, and writing cheques.

The charity of world scale we support most often is Amnesty International. To me, human rights is everything, and around the world, even in our own homeland (think Maher Arar), we waver too often dangerously on a precipice of good and evil. Freedom is what our soldiers fought, and continue to fight for. I guess I figure the least I can do is support the organization which carries on the torch.

Around Christmas, we generally donate closer to home, to the always worthy causes such as the Foodbank or Mustard Seed. This year, however, I caught a film which was so heartwarming, that we’re including Operation Smile in our Christmas charity giving.

It’s not always transparent whether the organization you are donating your hard-earned dollar to is particularly effective with the money it receives. Reviewing and rating charities on their real world results is a growing movement and there are several charity watchdog sites which can help you determine where your dollars can do the most good.

Charity Navigator is the largest of these sites. It uses a complicated system of evaluation to rate financial health, accountability and transparency of some of Americas largest charities.

The Canadian version of Charity Navigator may be Charity Intelligence Canada, though it’s model for evaluation is quite unique from the American version.

Finally, if you’ve been privy to the false and mostly outdated e-mail circulating telling of excessive salaries for the CEO’s of charities, here’s a link which gives you the true numbers, and another which discusses charity CEO salaries and also provides a list of interesting reading in the “giving” genre.

At this time of year, giving in a generous manner to those who have greater challenges than perhaps our own circles of friends and family, is perhaps the Greatest Great Gift Idea. Feel free to share your favorite charities in the comment section below.

Enjoy the film!

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