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SAPP Guide to Year-End Giving: Sharmila Rao Thakkar

December 15, 2010

And I’m next… as the newest writer to this blog, exploring philanthropy and giving back in the South Asian community is on my mind plenty, especially at this time of year.  And working in a family foundation has me thinking more and more about how individuals and families can connect to truly have an impact with their contributions – and how critical it is to make giving part of my family, now that we also have young children.

Giving Back, Giving Together … a new extended family tradition

Several years ago, my extended family started an adult secret Santa gift exchange when we gathered from near and far for the holidays.  We thought it was a good way to reject the marketing craziness of buy buy buy!  When talking about holiday traditions with some friends earlier this fall, other ideas floated: do a grab bag or a White Elephant party… but no one suggested not gifting to each other at all.

It was an email about a website that will do the “name pick” for us that led me to take a tip from the family I work with and it’s rearing of the next generation.  Why not start a new tradition to give back as a family – a group gift to a worthy cause.  I wasn’t sure if the 15-20 family members gathering next week would go for it… but they did. My colleagues were surprised the idea took so quickly.  They spent several years coming to a consensus.

I promised my family I’d do the due diligence.  I was worried about how we would choose an organization.  I support causes locally in Chicago, cousins live in Delaware and other family members in New York.  Before I could even ask, my brother suggested a school – based in India, where a friend is volunteering.  He shared personal thoughts.  I pulled financials, shared information online, including videos and volunteer blog posts.  I spoke to the local director and current and former volunteers.

The school is in an area where my family has its roots.  We are hoping to support one child for the year at a school built and managed by a US foundation established many years ago by an NRI (non-resident Indian or a person of Indian origin who resides permanently outside India) who wanted to implement evidence-based programs to eradicate poverty and build sustainable communities in his native India.  The school is just one of the foundation’s initiatives. 

Spouses and family members with no affinity to this part of India are on board, too.  It’s wonderful.  Not only have we committed together to fund a child’s education and her related expenses such as health care and housing, we have learned a little more about each other’s motivations about giving.  The email dialogues have been thoughtful:  how will we create a common fund to ensure our “giving together;” what about workplace matching gift programs to increase the value of our gift; should we give in the US/there’s so much need here; and how we will continue to choose wisely and fairly (everyone is bound to have their own pet projects) in the years to come.  (Stay tuned; I’ll try to keep you posted. )

In my immediate family, we spend a lot of time speaking to our children (ages 6 and 3) about giving back.  They donate toys and clothes and participate in food drives.  For me, it’s both a professional and personal pursuit, so I’m over the moon thrilled my extended family is doing this and starting a new family tradition.  Giving ties us all together in a different and meaningful way. 

The give give give theme certainly remains.

Hope you and your families can take some time to explore how you may want to make a difference together.

Happy Holidays! 

Some resources in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal:
How to avoid making mistakes when giving to charity 
Teach your children (how to give) well
Five Ways to Be Smart About Resolving to Donate More in 2011

And two more:
Ten money smart ways to give thanks this season 
More proof that December is critical to charities’ annual giving

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Bindu permalink
    December 16, 2010 3:27 am

    Your comments are so thoughtful and really resonate with me. I come from a family where volunteering and “giving” is so strongly valued. What a great way to channel our energies in a way that promotes a longstanding “gift.” Please do keep us posted about your family’s beautiful project!


  1. Top SAPP Posts of 2010 – Happy New Year! « The South Asian Philanthropy Project

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