Today is a new holiday, Giving Tuesday. It is a day set aside to encourage us to reflect on our fortunate circumstances and give to those who could use a hand. I hope you will all consider giving something to a cause you support in this season. Having worked for a nonprofit for nearly 7 years, serving on nonprofit and foundation boards I think I have some insight that may be helpful if you are unsure about your giving.
Give locally. When you give locally more of your money is likely to stay on the ground locally. I love to read and having been an at-risk elementary school mentor I know that many children struggle with reading. I believe in this cause and there are many great national organizations that have a mission regarding children and reading. Locally my community’s after-school programs include a reading program at the library. With ever shrinking budgets, a gift the library will help support that program. If I gave on a national level, it may only come back if some organization is lucky enough to get a grant from that program. Make it easy and find the local equivalent of the national charity calling at you and give there.
Consider setting up monthly giving. People tend to be generous during the holidays and then forget a charity the rest of the year. Lots of charities have a monthly giving option on their website where they will debit your account or credit card monthly. If they don’t and you do online banking many of the banks allow you to send checks monthly of an amount and date you pick. Most of us feel a crimp out budget and December is not the flushest month to write a check for $100, however if you do monthly giving of $10 a month, you give $120 a year and likely did not feel an impact on your budget.
Consider the charities that have impacted you and those you love. I have friends who have taken advantage of low cost/free women’s health care from organizations I had never heard of before. I have been there when I was a student using similar organizations, but had been fortunate enough to not had to use them recently. My friends sharing their story reminded me of how lucky I was there when I needed them.
Consider making a donation in memory of someone. I have two favorites on this list:
- Memorial Rifle Squad at Fort Snelling National Cemetery I come from a long list of people who have served our country since the American Revolution. Most recently include my brother, my father, my father-in-law and my grandfather. Though this group has only been around since 1979, they have provided honor guard burial for those at the Ft. Snelling National Cemetery in Minnesota. They are the only self-supporting organization of its kind. All volunteer, raising funds to cover the costs uniforms, rifles and transportation. They have never missed a funeral, an amazing accomplishment in Minnesota winters. I first knew of them when my father-in-law was buried. They now hold a place in my heart. I hope you take a moment to check out their site. Though only one person in my family is buried at Ft. Snelling. I give to them in hopes that every military person can have that last moment of honor when they are buried.
- Animal Shelters are where we got out pets. RangerSir and I have always had pets. They have all been shelter pets. We make an “in honor of” donation each year of those who have gone before us. If those shelters had not been there holding our cats and dogs for us we would not have made that connection.
In closing we all like to know we are making a difference when giving, so be smart about your giving.
- A great name does not make a great nonprofit. Look at their mission. Look at the programs they provide. Make sure you agree with it and would like to support their programs.
- Nonprofit is not all volunteer, nor should it be. They need to pay for postage, lights and generally someone to be there keeping it all together. For years the Butte Emergency Food Bank had a retired couple as their executive director and they were able to volunteer, but the organization still had overhead or admin costs. The building still had taxes and upkeep. Trucks still broke down and things wore out and need to be replaced. Look at what they are providing not just the overhead costs.
- Do your own research. Thousands of people repeat urban and online legends, none of it being true. If you are making a small donation your friend’s referral my be sufficient. However if you are making a larger donation or doing monthly giving, (large is relative to each of us) do your research. Visit their website, and check out their 990 (most have it on their website, but there are other places on the web to find them). The 990 is an IRS required document providing their financial information. You decide for yourself, but I look at just a few things. Most importantly what programs did they provide and the cost for those programs. Then I look at their income. Depending on how significant the gift, I may look at the volunteer hours and/or salaries. If you need to know more, call or email them and ask your questions. I can say what is the right balance for me, but each of us determines what it right to us.
Enjoy the day and remember to share.