Bringing the “Giving” to Your Thanksgiving Table

Like most events this year, our Thanksgiving celebrations will likely be different. While our gatherings might be smaller or include connections made via phone calls or Zoom, we can still be intentional and creative in our focus on gratitude and giving. To help facilitate these discussions, 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 during the Thanksgiving holiday. And this year, more than ever, your focus on giving as an expression of gratitude is so very important.

In my family, we have used these types of conversations 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. 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. 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, especially if you can’t be together in person this year.

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:

  • Research how to help nonprofits. While there may be fewer opportunities to volunteer in person, many agencies have ways you can help from home, from making cards for isolated seniors to assembling toiletry kits for shelters.
  • Designate a location and schedule of giving to a family tzedakah or share box.
  • Kids can pick an organization or issue and adults can offer their own contributions or a matching donation to deepen the impact.
  • Let children lead a conversation about the places and activities they miss and how your family could provide support so programs will thrive when they are able to reopen.

This year, while we might not be able to gather as we have in the past, your Thanksgiving celebration can become a true springboard for meaningful giving. Let us know if we can help.

Debbie Tuttle Berkowitz is a Senior Philanthropy Advisor at the Federation.

Learn more about Federation Philanthropy Partners.

Categories: Philanthropy, Holidays


November 16, 2020


Debbie Berkowitz