3 Reasons I’m Donating My Birthday to Charity: Water. And 1 Way You Can Help.

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” – Charles Dickens

Good morning from Peoria, AZ. I am currently writing this post on a beautiful Saturday morning from my kitchen table. Sitting next to me is a nice warm cup of coffee with Amaretto creamer—it’s always been my favorite. While I write, my kids are still snuggled in their beds and my wife is in the bathroom getting ready for the day. We don’t have much planned. I will probably play some tennis this afternoon and we might go out for dinner this evening. We haven’t really decided yet. But no matter what we decide, I’m reminded that I am a fortunate man. All my needs are met.

Next Tuesday is my birthday. I’ll turn 38. I’ve been asked a number of times over the recent week what I would like for my birthday. I’ve told them all the same thing, “I don’t need anything for my birthday. I’m donating it to Charity:Water.”

Charity:Water is one of the leading non-profit organizations in the world bringing clean, safe drinking water to people in developing countries. Currently 800 million people (1 out of every 9) drink water that is likely to make them sick. And diseases from unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Safe, clean drinking water provides a community with health, sanitation, vegetation… opportunity. The need is great:

Charity:Water currently uses 100% of all public donations to directly fund water projects, and they prove every dollar using photos and GPS coordinates on a map. It is a pleasure to be donating my birthday to their efforts. They have worked hard to redefine charity. And they are very good at what they do.

3 Reasons I am Donating my Birthday to Charity:Water.

1. There is nothing that I need. Since becoming minimalist four years ago, my definition of need has changed dramatically. In fact, I rarely use the word… and cringe just a little bit when I hear others say it. Looking around my home this morning, I am reminded again that any use of that word in relation to my life is complete foolishness. With food in my kitchen, clean water in my cup, a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and a family who supports me, I am not in need. My wife claims I need some new black sandals because mine are starting to stink… but if that’s on the top of the list, I’m well-provided for. There is truly nothing that I need for my birthday.

2. There are 800 million people in my world who won’t drink clean water today. Among the most basic needs of life, water tops the list (alongside air and nourishment). Yet, 1 out of every 9 people in our world don’t have it. And we cannot stand by and pretend the problem doesn’t exist. This is our world and our opportunity to change it. We only get one life to make a difference. We either leave this world better, unchanged, or worse off than when we arrived. And in a world where delivering clean water can eliminate more deaths than violence, asking for anything else seems unreasonable.

3. I hope to encourage you to do the same. This post will be read almost 20,000 times in the next 7 days. As a result, we’ll raise some money and deliver clean water where it’s needed most. But hopefully, this post will outlive my birthday… and some of you who also realize you already have everything you need will also donate your birthday to Charity:Water… and will inspire some of your friends to do the same… who will encourage some of theirs. As a result, this post will far outlive my birthday. And together, we can make our world a better place to live for everyone.

1 Way You Can Help.

1. For my birthday, you can donate to my personal Charity:Water page. You can donate $19.00, $38.00, $380.00, or any dollar amount you choose. I have selected $10,000 as a fundraising goal because it is enough to fully fund an entire water project for a village in Ethiopia. Once completed, we would receive photos and exact GPS coordinates of our completed project (how cool would that be?). The goal is high (maybe too high), but the need is great. The opportunity to make a difference is very real and the Becoming Minimalist community is among the most generous on the web today. Donate small or donate big. Just please don’t leave this post unchanged.

Additionally, you can support this goal by sharing this post on social media. You can also choose to donate your own birthday to Charity:Water. But the greatest gift you can give today is the needed funds to provide clean water to somebody who needs it. And as I turn 38 next week, somebody you will never meet thanks you for it.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. Jordan says

    Inspiring post. My birthday is next Thursday, and if I get any money, I’ll go to the store and buy a prepaid credit card (I’m only turning 17) to donate towards your goal!

  2. Norm Deplume says

    I donated my 40th birthday this summer to a group that helps victims of human trafficking. It felt good to have a way to do something positive, instead of just begging people not to give me tchotchkes.

    Happy birthday to you, and thanks for spending some of your 38 years in front of a computer, writing. Your words have inspired me many times.

  3. Kit says

    This is just what I’ve asked for my family for Christmas, for pretty much exactly the same reasons! Thanks for giving this idea a wider voice.

  4. Isabel says

    I wish you a great birthday!
    I love this post. I love how one persons birthday can bring so many people joy. You and other writers has really gotten me to look at giving in a totally new way this past month. I’ve been thinking a lot about that there is so many ways to give than just to transfer some money. (give love, give blood, give time, give knowledge, give clothes…)
    I’m not really good at transferring money or calling a number to give money to cancer-shows on tv so I try to do it when an opportunity arrives in the “real” world.
    For example, here in sweden we have a magazine wich is sold by homeless people. 50% of what you pay goes directly to the seller. I made myself a promise to buy a magazine everytime I see a seller. It’s supereasy and everytime I’m reminded to be greatful and to give.

    Your blog is a total inspiration!
    /Isabel 23, from sweden, been reading for years but this is probably my first comment :)

  5. says

    Happy Birthday! What a good thing your doing here. People definitely should consider what there needs actually are. My life went from material excess to virtually nothing, and I’ve never been happier. Thanks for the post.

  6. Erin says

    My son turns 3 on January 1. He’s a toddler. He doesn’t need much to be happy and he is very happy. We already request that family donate to his college fund instead of buying presents (that’s a need, right?). This is the first year we are having a party with friends (we live in South Korea now, so family isn’t an option). We were already talking about asking his friends to donate to a charity of their choice, but maybe we will make him a page, so we can track the donations and see the good we are doing. He’s young, but it’s never too early to learn about helping the less fortunate. I’m also thinking of doing the same for my birthday in March. Our apartment is small and we already got rid of so much. No need to add to it! Maybe we can make a family page…

  7. says

    What an excellent idea! People want to give, and this gives them an opportunity to do that while educating them about the problems going on in the outside world.

    We frequently donate to Kiva, and I had not thought about using the money that we receive as gifts (because everyone says we’re difficult to shop for!) for that purpose.

    Have a very happy birthday!

  8. Diane says

    I have recently started reading your posts. I really enjoy them and am inspired, as many are, to make some changes. This time of year I find it hard as a Mom to a very busy, happy 3 year old boy. I have a large extended family who all want to buy for him. I actually returned some of the things I had already bought him because I knew there will be such an influx of gifts for him. I am truly thankful for all the help from my family and all their love and support. I am not at the point where I can give up all the things I “think” I need but I tried to do a small start. I cleaned out both of his toy boxes and explained to him that he has so many wonderful things that maybe we could share with some other children who may not have a chance to play with some wonderful toys. He was reluctant at first but soon thought it was fun to pack a large bag to give to our local salvation army. One small step forward, will lead to the second step and so on. Thank you for shining some light on what is really, truly important in this world, and it is not what we own but who we are and how we help each other,

    • Kirsty says

      Thanks Diane for sharing. I have two boys (6 & 3). There normal comment when they see something on the TV “That’s what I want for MY BIRTHDAY”. I can turn the TV off but they are surrounded by other Australian children who have SO much more than they need. I recently moved all the rooms around our small house. We ended out throwing out alot of their toys. We had a garage sale on the weekend (which I’ve extended) to sell EVERYTHING we don’t need! I want to thank Josh for this amazing website. I think my family & friends think I’m crazy as I’ve been forwarded them so many of the blogs. I haven’t stopped de cluttering. My friend Kirsty from church put me onto your sites. I worked for Samaritan’s Purse back in 2002-2004. I had the privilege of handing out shoeboxes to children in Cambodia for 10 days. That experience changed my life FOREVER. They have a water programme too. For Christmas we have packed our shoeboxes. But I need our boys to understand that they don’t NEED anything. We are going with the ‘Operation Christmas Child Shoebox’ theme…http://operationchristmaschild.org.au/?page_id=76

      Teddy bear, doll, soft toy, etc.
      Exercise book, pencil case, pens, pencils, colouring pencils, sharpener, eraser, chalk, etc.
      T-shirt, shorts, underwear, cap, beanie, sandals, thongs, etc.
      Tennis ball, cars, skipping rope, marbles, musical instrument, yo-yo, slinky, finger puppets, wind up torch, etc. (No battery operated items)*
      Soap and face washer, toothbrush, hairbrush, comb, hair-clips, scrunchies, etc.(No toothpaste)*
      Carry bag, sunglasses, bangles, necklaces, craft kits, stickers, note or photo of yourself.

      ** Sorry, I totally went off the track of WATER. It’s your fault Josh, you keep my mind racing!! **

  9. Kate says

    Oh this is such an awesome thing. I love to get presents but somehow I have noticed lately that I almost dread getting them, I think to myself ugh where am I going to put all this STUFF. I never really realized how stuff is so suffocating and overwhealming to my spirit! I am thankful for your blog and the other minimalists out there to give me encouragement to keep moving closer to the minimalist life! Merry Christmas!

  10. Debbie says

    I happened to read this on my birthday (today!) and am really inspired to do the same! My husband and I do something similar for each other at Christmas time, where we buy livestock or medicine or books for kids in developing countries through various charities in each other’s name for our Christmas “gifts” to each other instead of buying material gifts that we probably don’t need. I should do the same for my birthday, too. :) Thanks for a great post!! And happy birthday!

  11. Bishop says

    Joshua —

    Interesting to find this post. I am only recently stumbled,upon your site and also visited the charity:water site this past Saturday. I was struck by the simple campaigns and the ability to address such a need so easily.

    As a result of a conversation with my wife, we have decided to host an open house between Christmas and New Years in which we will have hot chocolate bar. We intend to invite friends and family an to,encourage them to bring nothing more than a simple donation to help charity: water. I am not sure what will be raised but our hope is that we will spread the word of the great need for clean water.

    After this event, we will move on to birthdays! Thanks for your post and encouragement.

    All the best — Bishop

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