I have a lot to be thankful for in life. Yes, I have suffered some pretty difficult setbacks, but the joys of my life have outweighed the sorrows and for that I am so very lucky.

When the times were hard, there were nonprofit organizations that made them a lot easier. City of Hope medical center saved my father and gave my brother one last chance to fight his cancer. The National Center for Lesbian Rights fights tirelessly so queer people like me can have rights equal to their heterosexual counterparts. Salon97 give me soothing music to listen to when I can’t calm my mind.

Nonprofit organizations save lives and make life worth living.

The holidays are a time to thank those who helped you through the last year, who supported you and made your life a happier one. Let’s make sure the organizations that do good in our lives are also helped.

Join my holiday give exchange!

Ever participate in a gift exchange, or a Secret Santa, one where you are paired up with someone and buy them a gift? In my give exchange, instead of buying them a gift, you donate to one of their favorite charities.

$25 is the suggested donation, but you’re welcome to give more if you’d like! To join, sign up here via Elfster, a website designed for gift exchanges.

Inspiration for my gift exchange came from two sources.

1. My mother.

A few years ago, my mother and some friends realized they didn’t need any more “stuff” for Christmas. They had all the “stuff” they needed. So my mom came up with this idea: instead of buying presents for each other, why don’t they come together, pool their money and donate to a charity.

This idea took hold and now a large group a people gather each year in my hometown to raise money for charities instead of buying presents. This year they raised thousands of dollars, one small donation at a time!

2. Suzi Istvan

Suzi runs a group on Facebook to help people boost their brands online. She recognized that many of us work at home alone and miss out on the camaraderie of an office, so she started a gift exchange with our Facebook group. It was a great way to get to know people and send them a small, thoughtful present. It was during that exchange that I thought about doing the same thing, but for charity donations.

To participate:

  • Sign-up via Elfster (before December 26).
  • Create a “wishlist” with 2-5 charities of your choice (see below for help on how).
  • On December 26, I’ll choose who is paired with whom.
  • Choose a charity from your secret partner’s list and donate to it!
  • Donations should be made by December 31 (so they’re tax deductible!).
  • After you make your donation, feel free to send a note to your secret partner telling them which one you chose.

Invite your friends to join!

The more people we have, the more charities that get donations! Send them this link to sign up: http://www.elfster.com/exchange/view/15251679/d61533/

Feel free to use the following photo to spread the word:

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Steps to help you add charities to your wishlist:

1. After you sign-up using this link, go to your home page and click “Create Wishlist” (it looks like a plus sign in a box) under “Your Wishlists”.

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2. Create a wishlist for this exchange. Make sure to click the box next to “Holiday Gift Exchange” so we can see it!

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3. Click “Add to Wishlist” from the top of the screen.

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4. At the top of the wishlist page, in the green box, choose “Link” and paste the link to your charity of choice’s donate page. Make sure you choose “Holiday Give Guide” from the “Wishlist” drop down menu so it is seen by our group.

Feel free to add info about why this charity means something to you (sometimes this option doesn’t show up).

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 13.45.59Repeat for 2-5 charities!

Feel free to email Info@LaurenMarieFleming.com if you get stuck and need help.