By Christine Guardia

Now that Halloween is over, we start to turn our focus to the upcoming holiday season. I believe taking time to reflect upon what we are thankful for in our lives is important during this time of year. For example, we recently voted in an election with a black candidate for president and a female candidate for vice president. So I suggest we all take a few minutes this holiday season to focus less on the gifts we are receiving (or not receiving) and focus more on the gifts we already have, such as our family, friends and freedom.

I recently toured A Refugee Camp in the Heart of the City presented by Doctors Without Borders, an international humanitarian organization. A nurse practitioner, who has worked in refugee camps in Africa, led me through the camp, explaining how refugees often travel long distances to camps, have to wait for rations of water and food, are susceptible to contagious diseases and traumatic stress, and sometimes spend years in camps. The organization employs over 25,000 employees around the world and relies almost entirely on support from individuals, foundations and corporations.

During these difficult economic times, supporting nonprofits is more important because the need for their services often increases during economic downturns. I realize that many people may not be able to donate as much this year, but there are other ways you can help, such as through your purchasing power. As U2’s Bono said at the Starbucks meeting announcing the company is joining the (PRODUCT)RED campaign, “This is not charity; this is commerce.” (Andrea James, Seattle PI, 10/29/08) Every time you go to the supermarket, to the mall or online to purchase something, you have choices because of cause-marketing pioneers, including Newman’s Own, American Express and Ben & Jerry’s. The recent PR Week/Barkley Cause Survey found that 66% of the moms surveyed have purchased a product because it was related to a cause. For example, Whole Foods Markets are selling Aquamantra I AM GRATEFUL enhanced water this month and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Nourish America.

In addition to purchasing power, we have the power of web 2.0 to change the world. A new book, CauseWired by Tom Watson, chronicles the emergence of online activism and philanthropy, such as Causes within Facebook and Kiva, which allows users to micro-finance entrepreneurs in developing countries. Philanthropy is not limited to the Rockefellers, Gateses or Buffetts; we can all have an impact and it does not have to be by writing a large check – it can be by adding a cause badge to your social networking profile, buying an item affiliated with a cause or volunteering at a local nonprofit (you can find volunteering opportunities in your community via volunteermatch).

So please take a few moments this holiday season to think about what you are thankful for and how you can give back, including:

  • Purchasing products associated with causes
  • Raising awareness of causes
  • Volunteering
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