The emphasis on holiday giving does good regardless of intention

The winter holidays are clearly recognized as a time of giving. For verification, please check your inbox from December in which you will likely find an influx of emails asking for donations with increasing urgency as the month went on. The practice of giving during the holidays tends to isolate generosity to one time a year, and also potentially encourages people to give for the sake of praise and self-validation, rather than out of selflessness. Consequently, it can be difficult to discern whether the practice of giving during the holidays is truly good. However, in the end, having a specific time when people give more only does good for the world.  

People donate more during the winter holidays; it’s a fact. According to a study done by Nonprofits Source, 30 percent of all annual charitable giving occurs during the month of December, and 10 percent of annual giving occurs on the last three days of the year. At Berkeley High School, it’s easy to see this phenomenon play out. During December, there are posters for every charity drive imaginable, but during the rest of the year far less charity drives are organized.

It would be undeniably better if people gave to causes regularly. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 10.2 percent of all U.S. households were food insecure in 2021. The University of Chicago published a study showing that 500,000 to 600,000 U.S residents are experiencing homelessness on any given night. These problems occur at all times of the year and don’t simply disappear after New Year’s Day. Year-round donations and volunteering would be more helpful to organizations. 

However, without a specific time when people are encouraged to give more, there is no guarantee they would choose to spread their giving throughout the year. It is more likely people would redistribute their money towards more self-involved spending. So while year-round giving would be ideal, it is better to have a specific time for giving than to have no designated time at all. 

When people give, it is not always out of the goodness of their hearts. Many people give for self-interested reasons, such as praise from others or self-validation. A humblebrag photo on Instagram might be a worthy motivator for a teen. Tax benefits are definitely motivators for adults. Giving for self-interested reasons has always existed, and it is only encouraged by the fact that giving during the holidays has become an expectation.

Despite this, while the motivation behind giving may sometimes be self-interested, that never diminishes the usefulness of the gift. For example, if one person selflessly volunteers for months without bragging to a soul, and the other quickly donates a couple hundred of dollars to a charity to make a self-congratulatory New Years’ Eve post, is one a better person than the other? Morally, maybe, but in the end, the amount of good they put into the world is the same. It is about how the gift is helping someone that matters, not the person who gave it. Giving during the holidays, regardless of intention, is still a helpful practice.

While it would be ideal if people gave regularly and always with pure intent, that simply isn’t realistic. So while the practice of giving during the holidays isn’t perfect, as long as it puts good into the world, it’s good enough.