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George H. Lambert, Jr.

Shawnice is a single mother of four children, one with asthma. When she was laid off from her job, she could not pay her electric bill, and the Greater Washington Urban League was able to help stabilize her financial situation. This small but crucial gesture was made possible by Pepco and our community of generous donors.

According to a recent survey, Washington, D.C., Alexandria, and Arlington are three of the four most generous cities in America when it comes to online giving. As a community, we recognize that individual donations power the forces that fight disease, spread peace, protect the environment and care for our neighbors in need. We are part of the solution.

I believe that everyone can and should be a philanthropist. Whether you are a child putting aside part of your allowance for the local pet shelter or a corporate executive with a donor-advised fund for tracking your philanthropic priorities, everyone has a responsibility to pitch in. Often, those of us blessed to have good jobs get so busy with our daily responsibilities that we lose sight of the privilege we enjoy.

The relatively new tradition of Giving Tuesday—Dec. 1 this year—helps nonprofit organizations of all sizes and types to break through the clutter of holiday commercialization to get busy people to remember the power they have to make a difference in the world. The organization that I lead is taking part in Giving Tuesday because our supporters tell us they appreciate the reminder during a time of year when holiday entertaining and shopping take up more of their precious free time. It only takes a minute to make a contribution at www.gwul.org that lasts all year.

In fact, we at the Greater Washington Urban League believe that giving should be a year-round endeavor. Giving Tuesday is a great start, but the environmental, economic, and educational challenges we face don’t take a break for 51 weeks a year, and neither should we.

The crises we read about in the newspaper and on the Internet may seem to dwarf any good intentions we may have, but studies show that giving makes us feel happier and more in control of our lives. It can expand social networks and open up new opportunities.

I am inspired by the work my staff does on behalf of our neighbors in emergency situations. In addition to partnering with Pepco to provide assistance to individuals and families who need help to pay electric and gas bills, we collaborate with the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority to help families pay their water bill during times of financial crisis. When people walk through our doors in need of assistance, we don’t stop at their immediate needs. We also provide advice and assistance on such issues as housing and employment. These robust services depend on the generosity of our donors and funders. Henri Nouwen said, “Fundraising is precisely the opposite of begging. Rather we are declaring, ‘We have a vision that is amazing and exciting.’” We agree.

On behalf of the Greater Washington League, I wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving, and if you are already a supporter, thank you for helping people like Shawnice get back on their feet.

Please share your thoughts on facebook.com/GreaterWashingtonUrbanLeague and twitter.com/GWUrbanLeague.

George H. Lambert Jr. is the president and CEO of the Greater Washington Urban League.