Support a cause, share your skills, give money

Published 6:39 pm Monday, July 26, 2010

An essential part of living simply with style is giving. You can give money, donate time, support a cause, share your skills, even, leave a legacy.

The vast majority of Americans (more than 70%) give money every year. Of course, you want your money spent efficiently. A great source for investigating various organizations is the web site: For almost ten years, this group has evaluated non-profits both on overall as well as fund-raising efficiency.

If you want to provide funds for emergency assistance, a local option might be Steps to Hope (countering domestic violence). An effective national group, Feeding America, provides most of the food used in food banks such as Manna in Asheville and Thermal Belt Outreach in Polk County.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Perhaps you can give the gift of time. Organizations such as Americorps, Peace Corps, Make a Wish Foundation, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and Hospice can effectively use your skills. Also, you could tutor, deliver for Meals On Wheels, perform roadside or creekside cleanup, or assist with maintenance for a worthy cause.

You might want to contribute to groups that support others in a more long-term manner. If you go to, you can participate in their microfinance effort. Kivas mission is to connect people, through lending, for the sake of alleviating poverty. Another effort is Heifer International where you can fund farm animals that allow the poor families to raise their level of sustainability. Then, they help others by Passing on the Gift.

After the Haiti earthquake, one persons plan for long-range development gained some publicity. Abe Valentin has created self-sufficient fish hatcheries that are being deployed among the poorest villages, enabling them to dramatically raise their meager cash flow. You can read more at the Social Enterprise Funds web site.

Perhaps, youve heard of Craig Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, and his efforts to help Pakistanis and Afghans build schools for their villages (especially for girls). Pennies for Peace, created by U.S. school students, has raised thousands of dollars for the effort.

With a little research, you could discover Ashoka, an ambitious organization that supports third-world entrepreneurs. The success of its fellows over the last eleven years is impressive. You can donate or volunteer.

Another way to give is by conserving land for future generations. Sign a conservation easement or work with the Pacolet Area Conservancy. Look at Walnut Creek Preserve in northern Polk County. Visit nearby Hatcher Garden in Spartanburg to learn what one couple created from farmed-out, red dirt cotton fields with minimum financial resources.

You can also donate goods to thrift stores administered by various non-profits. You can even sell items through Ebays Giving Works section and allocate all or part of the proceeds to your favorite charity.

At some point, you might consider leaving a long-lasting legacy. You could tell or write a story, create a visual record, or learn to pay it forward. Consider Warren Buffets example of pledging to have 95% of his fortune given away to favorite causes after his death. Endow some scholarships. Create a fund administered by the Polk County Community Foundation.

We can choose to live simply, but learning to give generously has style.

Editors Note: Mara & Ford Smith hope to leave a legacy with their writing and photography. Their books are available at The Book Shelf and their wine list at La Bouteille. Their photographs can be seen at Kathleens Gallery, The Purple Onion, and the Saluda Inns wine cellar. This article and earlier ones can be found on their web site at