Today is Giving Tuesday. After being bludgeoned into consumerist submission from Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, we are finally asked to fork it over for altruism. Or at least a tax deduction.
I fear that may come off sounding a tad cynical. Maybe it’s just weariness. With laser-targeted online advertising, there are few deals flooding my feeds and my inbox that don’t push some button, that don’t tug at my desire to Have It All.
But what do I really want, let alone really need? A new MIDI keyboard controller perhaps?
The ease at which I seem willing to part with my modest but hard-earned income is unnerving. It is only with great resistance that I can (almost) avoid all the temptations beamed into my skull from the economic juggernaut of capitalist consumerism. And if I don’t consume, the whole thing collapses, right? Maybe that’s why it’s called Black Friday.
The curse of too many choices
So here comes Giving Tuesday. It almost seems like a cruel joke, and not just for me, but for the struggling nonprofits forced to beg for the dregs of what’s left over from a population already shopped out with holiday presents left to buy. (Feel free to insert “Christmas” or “Hanukkah” or “Boxing Day” or whatever in place of “holiday.” Frankly, if you get hung up on it, you’ve already missed the point and Santa won’t take kindly toward it - but I digress.)
While it may be a much better idea to follow Thanksgiving with “Giving Friday” and leave the mob of Walmart shoppers trampling their neighbors to get their hands on a cheap flat screen until “Black Tuesday,” I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
I give or have given to the Natural Resources Defense Fund, Greenpeace, WWF, Union of Concerned Scientists, ACLU, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, and a bunch of others I’ve forgotten over the years.
Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust
As a journalist I’ve had the opportunity to interview representatives from many of these organizations, including Carl Pope, the former Executive Director of the Sierra Club. They all do great work. But there’s one other I’ve not yet mentioned. It’s one you probably haven’t heard of, but sums up why I can still wrench an altruistic sense of hope and meaning in the act of giving even paltry sums of money to causes I care about. It’s called the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust out of Monterey, California
MBFT is run by a lean team of four, headed by a smart, dedicated, effective, and downright charming executive director. The kind of leader that can grow something from virtually nothing, overcoming limited budgets and skepticism from her own stakeholders to carve out a real difference that small donors like me can see and feel. In a recent tweet, MBFT outlined the impact of their first five years protecting fisheries, securing fishing rights for local commercial fisherman, and helping rebuild a resilient local seafood economy.
Living in San Francisco, I am a neighbor and friend to the Monterey community. Our economies, seafood and otherwise, are intertwined. I feel more connected to the work of MBFT by more than just the few dollars I am able to give. I believe that those few dollars are appreciated and have a relatively greater impact than the same amount sent into a large national nonprofit.
Am I suggesting you drag out your wallet yet again and give whatever’s left to the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust? Sure, if you want to.
Am I saying you shouldn’t give to large nonprofits? Of course not.
Besides, who am I to tell you what to do with your money? Go for that flat screen if you want.
What I am saying is that Giving Tuesday can be an opportunity to get to know your local nonprofit. It may be a food bank, an arts program, a homeless shelter, or whatever worthy cause that’s taken on by a small, passionate team in your community. Whatever it is, give something. It may hurt it first, but not as much as being trampled at Walmart.
A dollar, an hour of your time, a kind word. That simple act pays dividends well beyond succumbing to some feckless huckster selling their wares on Black Friday.