Bringing the “Giving” to your Thanksgiving Table

During Thanksgiving, we all want to focus on gratitude, and usually, this manifests in a quick pass around the table so that each guest can share what they are grateful for. The sharing often ends with someone jokingly saying, “I’m grateful this is over,” or “I’m grateful it’s time to EAT.” To help make these discussions more meaningful, we’d like to offer some ideas for engaging your friends and family in a conversation about how their giving reflects their values. While these ideas can be used year-round, they are particularly relevant and meaningful around a Thanksgiving table.

In my family, we have used this conversation to share my grandmother’s recollections of the Shiffrin Family Circle. My mother recounts that when my grandmother was growing up in New York, her mother was the treasurer of an enormous family network founded by brothers from Zembin, Lithuania. They gave loans and grants to family members to support new businesses, personal crisis situations, and education. This family circle even helped very distant relatives move into the middle class. Our family is fortunate that we do not need this type of help now, but this shared history spurs conversation about how we can help those struggling, particularly in our own backyard, to get a foothold here. For us, this has meant giving to our local food bank and supporting an organization that aids asylum seekers.

How to start the conversation

We’ve created a printable page of questions to help facilitate conversations about gratitude and giving, for both adults and children. Use these questions to lead the discussion or let participants choose one or a few to answer. Particularly if your Thanksgiving includes three or more generations, take this opportunity to share some family stories about Thanksgiving, gratitude, and the help your family has received along the way. This is a perfect moment to help younger generations hear the story of your family’s resilience and generosity.

Set giving goals for the year-end season

The Thanksgiving season can be a wonderful time to set other giving goals that make these conversations concrete and actionable. As you wrap up your conversations, here are some ways to drive the point home:

  • Plan a group volunteer day at a nonprofit.
  • Designate a location and schedule of giving to a family tzedakah or share box.
  • Bring change to a Coinstar and then donate the funds to charity. Kids love to see the machine counting money. This empowers children to see that small amounts of generosity add up.
  • Kids can pick an organization or issue and adults can offer their own contributions or a matching donation to deepen the impact.

This year, with a little planning, your Thanksgiving celebration can become a true springboard for meaningful giving. Let us know if we can help.

Debbie Berkowitz is a Senior Philanthropy Advisor at the Federation.

Learn more about Federation Philanthropy Partners.

Categories: Philanthropy, Holidays


November 01, 2019


Debbie Berkowitz