The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

A Family's Vote for Charity

Posted by | January 18, 2013 | Filed under: Culture

Back in mid December, the Laudholm Trust staff quietly celebrated the end of a well spent year. As Karen, Tracy, and I sat with Nik in his [new] corner office, we sighed relief at having autumn's events behind us and wished one another well for the holidays.

Annual appeal mailing stacked up and ready to goBack to business, we talked about our big Thanksgiving mailing, those 1,700 thick envelopes shipped to members near and far. It was a big job made easy by many hands, like so many things are around here.

Then Nik posed a question: What would be the result of this mailing? Would the neat package — stuffed with a fresh Watermark, a daringly long President's letter, and a ready-to-write snow globe card — inspire more gifts to the annual fund? Or would it have little more impact than a simple request for year-end donations?

Informed by results from recent years, the four of us made our estimates. How much would Laudholm's faithful send our way by the end of the year, the closing of the charitable gift window, December 31, 2012?

Nik's rules: "Closest without going over." The prize: A bottle of wine.

I guessed high. Way high compared to the rest of the staff. I had a plan.

A Lincoln pennyFor the past couple of years, my mother and her children, with their spouses, partners, and grown kids, have been making charitable donations in place of exchanging gifts at Christmas time. In the month leading up to our PCFG (Post-Christmas Family Gathering), any of us can propose nonprofit organizations as potential recipients of a pooled "gift" fund. At the PCFG, we each receive five pennies to drop into containers labeled with the names of candidate organizations. At the end of the day, after the pennies are counted, we find out which two organizations will share a 60/40 split of forthcoming donations. We made some meaningful gifts to worthy entities in 2010 and 2011. 2012, I figured, could be Laudholm's year.

I'd had two reasons for not previously proposing my employer. First, I felt awkward asking my family to donate to the place that pays my salary (some hold memberships anyway, but through their own volition). Second, I prefer to relieve my work-day marketing mind while yakking about the year with sister and brothers, nieces and nephews, cousins, in-laws, and "significant others."

With bragging rights and a bottle of merlot at stake, though, I resolved to overcome my reluctance. I'd simply ask that PCFG donations be made earlier than usual (we normally have till mid January to ante up) so they'd count for the contest. With that unprecedented dose of generosity — assuming the votes came in — plus our pumped up appeal package, I'd have that bottle of wine in the bag.

Before I could counter my in-grown reticence, Mom beat me to it. She nominated this place — thanks, Mom! — in a cc'd family email. Quickly, my daughter seconded and the stage was set for "Laudholm Farm" to stand among the penny jars.

My extended family with Richardsons at the coreIt was a wonderful PCFG, the eighth Mom has put together, and with the afternoon announcement "Don't forget to vote!" we made our third year of choices, dozens of copper coins clattering into four tin cans (less worry than glass jars). To my content and with my gratitude our assembly favored Laudholm.

For that friendly contest launched in Nik's office before the holidays, though, our family's gesture won't make my wild guess any more likely to win the wine. The bell for year-end donations rang 3 weeks ago and I never did get around to asking folks to speed along their deposits. Instead, we all had till the 15th to submit our shares to mother's eldest, who has now collected them, done the math, and written two checks. They're in the mail this morning. Soon, Laudholm Trust will get a little lift, a welcome and appreciated vote of confidence from one knowing clan.

As for our workplace competition, the winner will be announced at our next staff meeting. We know that annual appeal return envelopes flowed steadily through the last day of December, a heartwarming and encouraging sign. But was it an unusually brisk stream rushed along by new donors and regulars reaching deeper, or more the normal flow of generosity that thankfully keeps this organization, and by extension the Wells Reserve, heading on course downstream? Either way, really, every penny counts.


A penny for your thoughts? Expressed in a donation? We're listening.

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