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Thomas J. HealeyMay 05, 2020
(iStock/MicroStockHub)(iStock/MicroStockHub)

People everywhere are feeling helpless in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, but as we mark this spring’s Giving Tuesday, it is important to remember that even small acts of generosity can make a difference. With some imagination, anyone can have a powerful impact on the lives of others through their own individual philanthropic acts. For instance, a good-hearted benefactor could purchase Bibles for a small group, or an entire Christian community, to provide them with the inspiration and wisdom from the most-read book of all time.

With some imagination, anyone can have a powerful impact on the lives of others through their own individual philanthropic acts.

Here are some other examples of how creativity multiplied by even modest resources can add up to a meaningful impact for those in need.

$12 will cover the cost of a book with outsized benefits for readers: A Pastor’s Toolbox, by Father Paul Holmes. This award-winning guide teaches valuable management skills and best practices for parish leadership, enabling new pastors in particular to get a handle on difficult temporal issues they routinely face. A donor with even a modest pocketbook can achieve considerable outreach, ranging from a small group of priests in a diocese to an entire seminary graduating class.

$13 will turn the book Making the Most Out of College, by the Harvard professor Richard Light, into the ideal gift for a first-generation high school student who can’t draw upon family advice. This practical book—which has sold more than two million copies—could also be given to a whole graduating class.

Making the Most Out of College is an ideal gift for a first-generation high school student who can’t draw upon family advice.

$42 will purchase an indestructible soccer ball from the One World Play Project, meant for use in the harshest environments. It can withstand everything from glass to barbed wire, and can even be run over by a truck without imploding. Thanks to generous patrons worldwide, this unique futbol is now being used in venues as diverse as the boys’ soccer championship in Nairobi, Kenya, and a women’s prison in São Paulo, Brazil.

$100 can help Catholic sisters and small Christian prayer groups in Kenya and Uganda to assist families whose houses were severely damaged by recent mudslides. Almost three million people in East Africa have been affected.

For those who can spend more, here are a few more suggestions for creative philanthropy.

$800 can help obtain the services of a skilled linguistic instructor to provide an accent reduction program for priests at a parish or for foreign-born students at a seminary. Why is this important? Because many U.S. parishioners have difficulty understanding the accents of their internationally born priests or pastors.

$4,000 to a Catholic college could help underwrite dinner during vacation for all the foreign scholarship students who cannot afford to go home while a university’s dining facilities are temporarily closed.

$6,500 can cover tuition for a nonprofit leader to attend Harvard Business School’s “Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management.” This program rewards a worthy senior executive with superb continuing development, and returns him or her to work with renewed energy, enhanced skills and broadened perspective.

And for other ideas, $130 will purchase The Catholic Funding Guide, a directory of resources for donors interested in funding Catholic activities. In the spirit of “teach a man to fish,” the guide contains basic information on private foundations and grant-makers with histories of support for Catholic programs.

The point is clear: Philanthropy does not necessarily demand big bucks to be effective, just a big heart and ample imagination. Think about that…and good luck with your own philanthropy.

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