School-based fundraising drives can often be a fire-and-forget exercise. Students concentrate on a given cause, mount all manner of means to gather resources, then hand off their collected gifts at the fundraiser’s conclusion. Everyone involved gets to feel helpful and engaged, the recipient(s) gets a quick infusion of support, and then both sides move on with their lives. It helps, but only a little.

I am so moved by their giving; some students already purchased ducks for a village! I’m so excited to see what all is given at the end of the 12 days! Oh…and no, this is not for points…empathy + giving = selfless acts of kindness. — Charity Stephens, Spanish class teacher

Having had a fair amount of experience in this field, we at Outreach know that those who take time beforehand to consider their motivations for giving, and conceptualizing an outcome where gifts serve as the start of a story for beneficiaries— instead of the conclusion— is a much more meaningful path to resolving a distinction between “us” and “them.”

It makes sense that an educator would conceive of a tremendous way to introduce students to the notion of mindful, responsible fundraising. As the holidays approached, students in all five of the Spanish language classes taught by aptly named teacher Charity Stephens at Liberty High School in Liberty, Missouri, found themselves engaged in a lesson on empathy, selflessness, and generosity alongside their usual classroom duties.

A Partridge in a Giving Tree

Liberty High School Spanish ClassStephens herself was inspired equally by Shel Silverstein’s timeless book “The Giving Tree” and the apocryphal short story “The Man Who Hated Christmas” by Nancy W. Gavin, a personal account of one family’s holiday tradition of giving gifts to their hard-to-buy-for father in the form of donations made to local non-profits, signified by leaving blank envelopes with notes inside specifying the good deeds in the boughs of their living room’s christmas tree. Once she learned that one of her students’ mothers worked at Outreach International, she decided to have her classes compete to raise the most money on our behalf through our Shatto Milk partnership, thus kicking off what she called “12 Days of Giving.”

Students used their own blank envelopes to hold index cards, on which they kept track of their donations (as well as their respective standing in comparison to other classes’ running totals). For more than two weeks, classes filled empty Shatto Milk bottles with whatever they could spare, with some students going one step further and purchasing ducks for an Outreach-affiliated village through our online Sustainable Gifts Catalog. So great!

When the 12 Days of Giving concluded, students placed their envelopes alongside others on a bulletin board that split the difference between the two inspirational stories— a big, friendly felt tree with lots of hungry clothespins running along its width, waiting for new envelopes to clamp and save.

These Kids Today…

All told, these future world leaders collected over $400 for Outreach over 12 short days. This is remarkable and touching for a few reasons: 1) Oft-maligned younger generations working together to support a wonderful cause always warms our hearts, 2) Discussions of the long-term personal benefits of generosity that preface an act of giving are a dynamite way to equip people with the mindset that leads to a lifetime of responsible giving, and most importantly— so important that we’re making a new paragraph just to emphasize it…

3) There was no promise of extra credit, bonus points, or any other academic reward for participating in the 12 Days of Giving. Their motivation was the simple, beautiful concept of doing good for good’s sake.

We can’t thank them enough for their gifts, and are proud to have them as new members of Team Outreach. Their great work not only provides hope for people around the world to lift themselves out of chronic poverty, it gives those who have it within their grasp to create a brighter, more equitable future with a model they can follow for a lifetime of generosity.


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