The Gift of Giving

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and in spirit of the season, we are also beginning to make our lists and check them twice.

While receiving a thoughtful gift is always enjoyable, it is well known that giving a gift is the best part of the Christmas tradition. The joy truly is in the giving at this time of year.

As you flip through countless catalogs, the choices are endless. You could be extravagant and give someone another Aston Martin golf cart, or you could be a little more practical and give a set of monogrammed bed sheets. But what could you possibly think of that would express both the passion and purpose of the important people on your list?

We have all heard that you cannot buy happiness, but there is one holiday catalog that is out to change that motto for good.

The Greatest Gift Catalog Ever is sent out during the holiday season. In it you will find page after page of worthy local charities and gift-giving opportunities to fit every budget and enrich the lives of real people in our community. In fact, on the cover of this year’s 2012 edition of the catalog, you will find the slogan: Happiness Available for Sale Inside.

Five years ago, while they were wading through stacks of holiday catalogs, Elliott and Heather Goldman had a unique idea. “What if there were a catalog that offered the opportunity to contribute to worthwhile charitable organizations?” Goldman said. Heather agreed, and before thinking about the ramifications of her statement, added, “You should make that happen!”

After Goldman convinced several local charities that they should take part in this new combined effort, The Greatest Gift Catalog Ever was born. There are now more than 30 applications every year from local charities hoping to be chosen for one of the highly coveted rotating spots.

How do you make a dream a reality? The answer: A lot of hard work!

Amanda Stallings, executive director of Gill Children’s services, which provides services for children in Tarrant County who do not qualify under any other program, was in on the original brainstorming sessions along with Ted Blevins, former executive director of Lena Pope Home.

Goldman describes Stallings as “one of the brightest and best nonprofit minds in the community.” In turn, Stallings says, “Without the commitment and ultimately the untold man hours the Goldmans have devoted to this project, none of this would have happened.” She thinks that the increase in awareness for all the charities is an amazing outcome and says, “Our donors appreciate our collective efforts and the fact that the catalog is essentially a one-stop-shop for their giving.”

The idea has taken hold and become a part of our community. In its first four years, it has made a remarkable $1.75 million worth of total charitable impact. Goldman is quick to point out that the success would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of what he calls, “an army of amazing, smart women who volunteer in every aspect of the organization from media to direction.” Because of all these committed volunteers (there are more than 20 involved) the catalog can proudly say that 100 percent of donations go directly to the 15 charities represented each year.

“I am amazed by the work going on in our community,” says Blevins, who has spent 40 years working in the nonprofit world. “It is in-depth, professional and highly effective.” He agrees with Goldman about the importance of female leadership, noting the number of executive directors in our area who are women, and says, “They are truly the driving force. They network so effectively and never take no for an answer.”

Linda Fulmer, of Fulmer & Associates, has been a donor, supporter and board member from the start. She has been an integral part of coordinating the promotional outreach for the catalog. “I think it is a great opportunity to provide a mechanism for people to contribute,” Fulmer says.

The gift card aspect of the catalog gives shoppers the ability to purchase a gift card in any amount, and then allows the giver the chance to be introduced to what each of the charities does before choosing where they would like to give. It introduces people, and even children, to the joy of philanthropy and gives them a more active role in the process.

“All of the non-profits in Tarrant County are struggling, and grant writing alone will not meet their budgets; they need to make connections with individual donors, and that is what the catalog does so well,” Fulmer says.

Each year the catalog holds a Launch Party, and in the past few years, it has become a crucial component to funding, not only the production and administrative efforts involved with producing and distributing the catalog, but also in the extensive media campaign that gets the word out.

Since being invited to attend a launch party two years ago, volunteer Molly Snyder “got hooked” on the catalog and was tapped to use her marketing background in planning the annual Launch Parties. This year’s event was held on Nov. 5 at the Community Arts Center with the theme Hats off to Helping, where attendees were encouraged to don their favorite hat. “From the radio spots and advertising, the exposure that our charities receive from our media campaign is phenomenal and not something they could easily afford to do on their own,” Snyder says.

Goldman, whose official title is Lead Volunteer, and whose compensation is nothing but the satisfaction that his efforts are making a difference, highlights several aspects of the catalog that are unique.
“The broad reach of the catalog helps these charities find new donors. It helps them break through the holiday clutter to find their target audience during this season of giving. And, it provides the donor with a convenient avenue to impact their community, not to mention that with our $80,000 worth of matching funds this year, their contributions are doubled, so that 200 percent of their donations impact these charities and those they serve,” he said.

With 400 distribution partners around the city, getting your hands on a catalog and finding your happiness this season will be easier than ever.