Posted by Wendy Wilsker

Wendy WilskerEarlier this month, I was in Washington, DC for a family event. Imagine my delight when I read about a new exhibit at the American History Museum about philanthropy! Giving in America is a permanent exhibit that looks at the historical role of philanthropy in shaping the United States. The exhibit showcases four major themes of American philanthropy centered on the questions of Who Gives? Why Do We Give? What Do We Give? and How Do We Give? and displays artifacts ranging from an alms box of the 1800s to a bucket used during the 2014-15 "ALS Ice Bucket Challenge," which went viral on social media.

The exhibit featured copies of letters from individuals who have committed to participate in Warren Buffett's Giving Pledge, as well as a fireman's boot, which many people associate with tossing spare change into as a way of making a donation. The exhibit clearly demonstrates that no matter how much you give, where you give, or how you give – it matters and it is an American tradition.

According to a report released last June from Giving USA 2016: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2015, donations from America's individuals, estates, foundations, and corporations reached an estimated $373.25 billion in 2015, setting a record for the second year in a row, up 4.1% from 2014. Clearly, Americans from coast to coast are seriously considering the difference they can make with their charitable dollars.

During this holiday season, I encourage you to have a conversation with your family – what bothers you, what inspires you, how you and your family make a difference. In my family, on one night of Chanukkah we make a donation to a favorite charity and on Christmas Day we deliver meals to homebound seniors in our town. These activities have become part of our holiday traditions. Consider some new traditions for your own family this holiday season.

With warm wishes for the holidays and a happy and healthy 2017!

Wendy Wilsker is the Senior Vice President of Institutional Advancement. Throughout her life, her Jewish identity has been deeply entwined with tikkun olam and tzedekah. She began her career in development at Combined Jewish Philanthropies and has led development at the American Jewish Committee, the Rashi School, and Lahey Clinic. Prior to joining JF&CS, she served as a consultant and executive recruiter to local and national nonprofit organizations.