In what seems like a galaxy far away from a $2,500 a plate Oprah celebrity fund raising gala, local charities in this community have hands outstretched asking for just a buck or two from folks who may have no more to spare than loose change.
Historically, almost 70% of donations to charities in this country come not from corporations, but from individual donors who recognize a need and do what they feel is their part to help meet it.
Unfortunately, traditional givers, from construction laborers to mortgage brokers, may find themselves applying to receive unemployment benefits and not inclined to give this year, as reflected in a recent PBS article, “The Struggling Economy Spells Gloom and Doom for Charities.”
Goodwill Industries, serving the disabled population by providing computer training and jobs, is funded primarily by reselling donated items; nevertheless, even they have felt the pinch. An employee at the Yuba City store, who wished to go unnamed, said that one year ago the warehouse was so packed with bags of donated goods that they could barely forge a trail from one side to the other. “Workers now have no problem passing through the storage area,” she explained, as donations have dwindled to near nothing. People are trying to sell what they deem as non-essentials to earn extra money. Whether monetary or material, giving seems to be down on every aspect.
Relief charity representatives, like the Salvation Army’s Santa-hatted bell ringers who will be counting on shoppers’ generosity to stoke the fire under the traditional red kettle – which has slowed to a simmer, will take their place in high volume shopping areas Thanksgiving weekend. Due to recent weather disasters such as hurricanes, flooding and fires, many relief accounts of these organizations are nearly depleted.
Throughout the Yuba-Sutter area businesses have set up collection barrels for their annual coat drive for children and, although one container at a drop-off location was nearly full, a loose inspection seemed to indicate that donated items this year may be more “worn” than in previous years – regardless, a professionally cleaned coat, even if used, is a welcome gift to a child who has no coat.
Contrary to other reports that may create a sense of philanthropic doom, donations in the United States have increased steadily since 1969, and data show that even in times of recession, giving increases – just more slowly. The Giving USA foundation’s newsletter states, “It is important at this juncture for cooler heads to prevail and for non-profits to not listen to those who claim the sky is falling.” adding, “charities with a clear and compelling case … will continue to succeed, even in difficult times.”
How can I give if my pockets are empty?
In this economic down-time, many non-profits are hoping that people will become more creative about how they give, considering time and talent to be as valuable as money, which for many non-profits is in short supply.
The upper-middle-class consumers, not long ago an ardent driving force in free enterprise, may have now resigned themselves to a dispassionate day-to-day survival mode. Richard Adler of civicventures.org states that studies have found that volunteering can actually decrease symptoms of depression in addition to providing a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction from helping others.
In a recent survey of Americans’ attitudes about giving, 60% of young adults said that giving one’s time is the most important way to support a nonprofit organization, according to www.givingusa.org.
Ideas for giving
Drop off donations yourself – the price of diesel prohibits many pick-up services
Spread the word about YOUR favorite non-profit
Donate blood with a buddy: firstname.lastname@example.org (Yuba City location)
Contact a church that routinely provides meals to families who have lost a loved one
Give to a shelter: socks, gloves and knit caps, also extra blankets/pillows – while you’re there ask how to become a volunteer
Coats for Kids – donations accepted through Dec. 19
Charity begins at home – give by example
Invite someone over or make extra food/dessert and drop it by
Be conscience of ways you could help someone in need: a co-worker who has an abundance of walnuts/persimmons/oranges or, you hear of a job opening
Wake up every morning making the decision to be happy in your circumstance, put on your smile and flash it often and sincerely
Decide now how you are going make giving your life-long attitude
Make a sock monkey