It's the fourth year of the Tuesday after Thanksgiving trying to become known as Giving Tuesday.

The thought is since there is a day for giving thanks and two days for getting stuff (Black Friday and Cyber Monday) there should be a day dedicated to giving.

It's a nice idea and an effort of not for profits to engage the online generation who may not be interested in appeals arriving in their mailbox.

For most charities, gifts on  what is known by it's hashtag #givingtuesday are a small percentage of gifts received during the year.  Most gifts arrive during December as people make gifts so they can be claimed on the year's income taxes or because the feelings associated with giving abound during the holidays.

I work in the field, so you might guess I'd encourage you to be a participant this year.  Whether you click your way to a gift online, drop some dollars in a Red Kettle of the Salvation Army, or write a check and mail it - you are helping change the world.

Large gifts get the headlines, but thousands of smaller gifts fuel the missions and ministries of organizations dedicated to helping feed the hungry; clothe the needy; help the disadvantaged; and share the Gospel.

Those not for profits depend on your gifts this year and every year.  Hopefully you hear from the groups you support with stories about the programs your gifts support, and those reports inspire you to give again a second year.

You already know what means the most to you, so take a moment to learn about the organizations aligned with the issues you think are important.  Then reach out to them asking for information before making a decision on which to support.

If you don't have a favorite charity of your own, or like the idea of helping someplace new, I'd like to share three places I've been blessed to be associated with through the years.

While working for the North Wisconsin District of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, it was my pleasure to work with Camp Luther south of Eagle River, Wisconsin.  The year round camp runs an awesome summer program for children, but also serves families and retreats throughout the year in their gorgeous location.  A great way to help is with a gift so every kid that wants to go can attend camp.

I was blessed to be part of the ministry at Lutheran High School Indianapolis for nearly 8 years.  It was a privilege to see lives change and students grow academically, emotionally, and spiritually through this wonderful place.  Like most not for profits, budgets are tight and your gifts make the difference in providing the best programs possible.

Maybe through my career in development, I've "graduated" from a program which reaches the very young to a high school serving teens to an organization serving older adults.  Oakwood Village is a continuing care retirement community in Madison with a campus on each side of the city.

Just three years in the Oakwood Foundation, I've seen donor gifts transform areas of care in ways to improve care and opportunities so each person can live to the fullest at every age.

By the way, it's always up to you as the donor about the kind of gift you like to give.  A general purpose gift provides the charity the most flexibility in using the money.  Lights need to stay lit and staffers need to be paid.   You may also restrict your gift to a specific program or purpose - if the charity accepts your gift it will be used as you direct or should talk with you if the restriction makes it difficult to use the money.

At the start of the Christmas season here, I hope you find the spirit of giving in your heart and realize the joy giving puts in your soul when you help others.

Thank you!