When my husband and I were a young couple starting out, we both believed in the importance of giving back. We donated to causes and organizations that mattered to us, including our synagogue, mental health causes, public broadcasting and nonprofits that provide the safety net for the most vulnerable in our community. Every donation we made required some thought, but fit comfortably within our budget.
Then there was a time that we knew we had to go above and beyond our normal giving. In the early to mid-1990s the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina was intensifying and the world began hearing about the horrible “ethnic cleansing” that was ravaging the former Yugoslav federation and triggering the greatest wave of refugees and genocide seen in Europe since the end of the Second World War.
We knew we could no longer sit by and hear about the atrocities committed on the Muslim Bosnians and Croatian citizens without taking action. We couldn’t travel to the region since we had jobs, small children and other obligations, but we could make a difference by giving a larger gift than we’ve ever made before. We decided to make a donation to an international medical humanitarian organization.
This larger gift required some discussion about what we were able to do and why we needed to make the donation. I remember putting the check into the envelope and feeling like this more meaningful gift from our family mattered. It was important to us and would contribute to an important cause.
That donation shifted my thinking in terms of our philanthropy. I realized our family could cover our needs, and save for the future, and make donations of larger impact. We are more deliberative about our giving now, seeking to give fewer but larger gifts where we can. And while we give to some national or international organizations, we choose primarily to give locally.
One of the reasons I give to The Alaska Community Foundation, and have left it in my will, is because I feel blessed to live in this state. Both my husband I were born in Alaska and chose to raise our children here, appreciating the great schools, easy access to wilderness, rich cultures, and the great opportunities of this state. We made our living, and our lives here and we want to reinvest in our community. And, we like the idea of donating an endowment so that what we give today will be here for many generations to come.
Do you remember your first truly meaningful donation? What did it mean to you or your family? Please send me an email or call at (907) 334-6700 to share your story about your philanthropy. I’d love to hear it.