By Kate Atwood

August is my favorite month of the year because it’s my birthday month.  Don’t worry – I’m not going to ask you for presents.  In fact, I plan to do just the opposite.  I want to take this opportunity and share with you how I plan to give away my birthday and provide some ways you can do the same, no matter what your age.

Today, more and more people are turning their special day into a call to action to family and friends, asking them to help raise money or goods for a favorite cause.  I began participating in this tradition last year and used my birthday to raise money for Kate’s Club. I had so much fun doing it that I am planning to repeat my efforts this year.

My hope is that you will join me. First, decide on the cause that you want to support. Once you have that cause selected, you can decide on ways to help. Here are a few suggestions:

Raise money. There are many websites that make it easy for you to raise money for your favorite charity. I use a website called FirstGiving.com.  This site makes it easy for my friends and family to donate an amount that works for them. I can post a link to this page in an email with a special message, on my Facebook profile, and other social networking sites of which I belong.  I also like FirstGiving.com because it is very easy for people to leave a message or note for the special day. Extra Tip: When asking for a donation, choose a number that relates to your special day.  I use my age as my suggested gift amount.  Let people know they can give more or less.  If you want to see my page as an example, visit www.firstgiving.com/kateatwood.

Party with a purpose.  If you are more of the festive type, plan a party for your birthday that also raises money for your cause. I suggest looking into art galleries as a great location to host your charitable festivities. First of all, you support the arts just by selecting this as your location. Second, art galleries will love the traffic and may be willing to host you for free, or at a low cost.  Be sure to mention in your invitation, for your guests to bring a donation in lieu of presents. Extra Tip: Ask the gallery owner if he is willing to donate proceeds of any art sold on the evening of your party to your cause. These funds will be icing on the (birthday) cake.

Kids can give too. You may be surprised at how easy it is to suggest to your child that he give away his birthday to help others in need, most relevantly other kids. Get them excited with an idea of doing a toy drive for a local homeless shelter for kids and families. Engage them in sending out an invitation that tells their friends what they are doing, and asks everyone to bring a toy to their party. Collect the toys and still have a great celebration filled with fun. Extra Tip: Don’t stop at the collection. Be sure you and your kids partake in the delivery of the toys to the shelter.  The act of seeing where the donations go, and who they help, can connect their little altruistic cores to a feeling of joy – which we adults know is a good thing that can last a lifetime.

I do love my birthday! And now, because I give my birthday away, I look forward to it more and more. So maybe I will ask for a present from you this year after all. The best gift you can give me for my birthday is to give away yours!

For more about Kate Atwood and her nonprofit, Kate’s Club, visit www.katesclub.org.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

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