During the holiday season many people reflect on their year and are inspired to donate and give back. The charitable season gets kicked off with #GivingTuesday (November 28) and will continue through the year end. It could be the direct requests promoted from organizations asking for donations during the holidays or the philanthropic desire to give back, whatever it is that moves you to donate, it is important to think before you donate.
If your impulse is to donate at the holidays, I would first ask “why?” and “who is that for?” Then I would consider the following things:
- Any time you can give items, money, or time it is helpful. But let’s be honest dropping off items is convenient. It is common nature to want to donate items because frankly that is easy and convenient. If you are going to donate items maybe consider donating clothes and household items directly to refugee organizations or organizations that do not in turn charge people for the items.
- We have all been there-it is the night before you are to send your child to school with a canned good item and you look to the pantry. I urge you to skip the can of lima beans and Ramen and opt for items that your family enjoys and has good nutritional value. Things that are often forgotten in donation drives are the small simple treats; for example desserts or hot chocolate.
- Toiletry, diapers, and feminine hygiene products are some of the least donated items but are of the highest need. These items usually come with a high ticket price and end up being the first to be compromised when a family has to prioritize their budget.
- Don’t forget to dry clean and wash items before donating clothes. It is a small act that elevates the decency and pride of the donation.
Other Ways to Give:
- Donate blood, according to the American Red Cross only 3 percent of the population actually donates. It is low effort, low time commitment, and a great way to contribute to an immediate need.
- Donate your time, many non-profits are short staffed and could use an extra hand. Many non-profits prefer it if you can make a regular commitment but of course won’t turn down a volunteer.
- Consider your talents; what do you do really well? Maybe it is volunteering your musical talent, your financial knowledge, your carpentry skills, or your home to foster pets.
- Always start by asking, don’t assume. Call an organization and say, “I’m interested in the work you are doing-how can I help?” Or, “it seems like you are doing great work and I’d like to support it-are there particular donations that are high need items?”
- Contact the organization to find out what they need and what resources go the furthest. For example, in many cases while food is appreciated, there are times when organizers and directors have resources and are part of wholesale programs that allow them to get more food for a $1 than can be donated.
- Research how much of your financial donations are used for salary versus the greater good? Focus on organizations where the majority of each dollar raised goes directly to the cause, especially in the case of a monetary donation. From my research it looks like the industry standard for excellence is 85 cents/dollar. Most non-profits publish this information or will be able to tell you if you contact them directly.
Things to Think About:
- I understand the importance of having your family, especially kids, see the value in their giving and the families that are receiving their donations. However, families in homeless shelters and at food pantries are not on display so that others can feel good.
- If you are truly interested in contributing in your community I would suggest doing it year round and especially in the summer when kids are out of school.