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The Gift of Giving Back.  How to have a Philanthropic Birthday!

A recent and unexpected hospital stay with my 3-year-old son left me with such gratitude for the extraordinary hospital workers and health services we have access to in Canada. You only have to turn on the news to realize just how lucky we are to not have to worry about the costs of care or worse - avoid treatment altogether because you don't have insurance.  

As my son's condition improved, I thought of all the things I could buy to help ease some of what he'd been through.  You want a new puppy, buddy? Sure!  I equally thought about all the ways I could give back to those that had helped us through this ordeal.  As I scrolled through the internet for new dinosaur toys and car ramps for my son, I found myself thinking "we don't need this stuff!"  It's often the same way I feel about birthday presents.  They are a wonderful gesture and sort-of something that's come to be expected when you receive a birthday invite, but it's often stuff we (as parents) don't want or need. So in the spirit of giving back, we wondered how we could combine birthday presents with the act of helping others in need.  Here's what we found out.

Party with a Cause

Host a party with purpose with the help of Wish & Give.  This charity lets you host a celebration while raising money for a cause that's most near and dear.   When you send the Wish & Give invitation, friends and family will be given the opportunity to contribute to a group gift and make a donation to a local charity of choice (you get to choose the amount to give to both).  We love that Wish & Give let's you search for all the non-for-profits right in your own backyard through their postal code search feature.  What a great way to celebrate a birthday!

Birthday Donations

With or without the party, you can ask for donations to a specific charity of choice in lieu of presents.  Cleary indicate which charity you are supporting and why, to provide some background and additional incentive for friends and family. Not quite sure where you want to donate to? CanadaHelps is a great directory that helps you easily browse over 86,000 charities by area of interest and location.  You can even use their Birthday Pledge page to make it even easier for friends and family to support your cause.

Give Birthday Parties to Children in Need

There are fewer things nearer and dearer to our hearts than birthdays.  The thought of children not being able to celebrate on their special day is completely heartbreaking.  This is why we just love Birthday Angels, a Toronto-based non-for-profit whose mission it is to spread the happiness of birthdays to children living in shelters.  They do the decorations, crafts & activities, cupcakes, party favours and birthday cake! A special birthday gift is also given to each child celebrating a birthday that month.

Donate Presents 

Said no gifts, but still ended up with a few?  Most children's hospitals and shelters will happily take them off your hands.  Even organizations like Diabetes Canada does too!  Most of their websites have information on what they can and cannot accept so make sure you review that before you drop anything off. Our personal fav is the McMaster Children's Hospital.  They have a handy "wish list" on the website that highlights a variety of items they would appreciate in whatever volume you choose. 

Collect Food 

Have a few guests that insist on bringing something to the party?  You can always ask them for non-perishable food items instead.  When they arrive at the party, they can drop their items into a box destined for a local food bank or charity of choice.  One of our go-to food charities is Food4Kids in Halton who provides packages of healthy food for kids who have limited to no access to food.  During the school closures, they provided gift cards by mail to families registered in the program.

Toonie Jar 

Save guests from having to make a formal online donation themselves by having them bring cash - we suggest between $2-$5 - towards a charity. Guests can put the donation into a money box when they arrive. It's always a good idea to offer a specific number to reduce any discomfort or worry for guests.  If they want to give more than the suggested amount - bonus! 

Spare the Party

Did you know that the average person spends about $500 on a birthday party?  Between the decor, food, venue and activities, things can really add up!  If you're looking to really teach your child about sacrifice and the gift of giving back, opt to skip the party all together and donate what you would have spent on the party on your charity of choice. It's a little non-conventional, but you never now - your philanthropic child just might go for it!

Happy partying + giving back!

- Karin

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