America’s charities, and more importantly, those they serve, need your support throughout the year. And at this time of year, as you can tell when you open your mailbox, they aren’t afraid to ask for it. Why do appeals increase at year-end? Because the year-end holidays are a time of religious and moral reflection that inspire many people to reach out to those who are less fortunate. Just as important, donors need to make their end-of-year giving decisions by December 31 to qualify for a tax deduction in this calendar year. Knowing that, charities increase their solicitations to increase charitable giving between Thanksgiving and New Years.
There are many organizations eager to accept your donation but how do you determine which one you should support? Think about what is important to you; supporting children and families, animals, the environment, education, community services, nature centers, a health organization, etc. Follow your passion but most importantly, follow your heart. My heart calls me to support families less fortunate and children. I donate generously and frequently throughout the year and I hope by reading this blog post it will stir an urge to donate to a cause that may be important to you.
Since this is the giving season, I thought I’d give you:
Ten Holiday Charitable Giving Ideas
10. Bridging – Bridging was founded on one simple, yet powerful idea – “that together we can create a bridge between those in need and those with excess”. Now, over twenty-six years and nearly 50,000 square feet later, Bridging is the largest furniture bank in North America. Bridging provides furniture and household goods to thousands of local families and individuals in need. By providing the essential items for a home, the thousands that come to Bridging feel hope – and for many – a leap toward stability for the first time. You can make a monetary donation or give your quality furniture and lightly used household essentials to help furnish a home for a family or individual in need. Bridging is partnering with Subway locally (MN); bring new or gently used, clean blankets in good condition to any participating SUBWAY® restaurant on Sunday December 14th and in return for your donation, you’ll receive a free regular six-inch SUBWAY® sandwich.
9. Schools – You know those field trips we all used to go on and we had to bring a few bucks for a ticket. Those few bucks today are now $15 to $20 per child. Think about how that feels to a family that barely has two nickels to rub together. Sponsor a student throughout the year or make a lump-sump donation to the schools scholarship fund so all children are able to participate in off-site activities, whether it be a theater production, a sporting event or a trip to the local zoo.
8. Backpack Food Program – I think this is a program that is available throughout our country, it ensures that students have nutritious food on weekends and during school breaks. Breakfast, lunch and a snack are provided to the participating students for each day school is not in session. My dear friend Nancy, a retired teacher, started a weekend backpack program in her community in southern Minnesota and to hear her talk of this program and kids who go hungry when school isn’t in session, breaks my heart. One in every five kids in America lives without enough food, that’s nearly 16 million kids. Let’s feed these kids!
7. Volunteer – If you, yourself are struggling financially but feel strongly about supporting an organization, donate your time. Every non-profit organization relies heavily on volunteers; an afternoon a week is huge to a non-profit. Whatever amount of time you can donate, they will appreciate it. Be creative in volunteering your time, perhaps a senior center and visit with seniors or get a group together and go caroling at a senior living facility. While helping serve meals at your local soup kitchen is thoughtful, honestly they are flooded with do-gooders during the holidays and your time would be well spent elsewhere. And while we’re on the topic of volunteering, remember, non-profit organizations desperately need volunteers January through October too. Perhaps your philanthropic time could be invested in the off-months rather than during the holidays.
6. Your Local Food Bank – There are many food pantry type programs throughout each of our communities. Families and seniors rely on these emergency food programs everyday. Food banks appreciate non-perishable food items to stock their shelves as well as monetary donations so they can purchase in large volumes to save money as well as select the most need items which many times isn’t even food but rather toilet tissue, kleenex, toothpaste and deodorant.
5. Toys for Tots – In 1995, the Secretary of Defense approved Toys for Tots as an official activity of the U. S. Marine Corps and an official mission of the Marine Corps Reserve. Over its life span, the Marine Toys for Tots Program distributed over 469 million toys to over 216 million less fortunate children. Wow! There are Toys for Tots drop-off locations throughout our communities, find a location near you and make a child’s Christmas wish come true with a toy. They take toys for all ages and are always experiencing a shortage of items for teenagers such as curling irons, skateboards, clothing and gift cards. Again you can make a monetary donation in addition to toys.
4. Salvation Army Bell Ringers – With Christmas shopping in full swing, the Salvation Army’s bell-ringing season is also underway. The red kettle campaign makes it easy to contribute to an organization because they’re at the entryway of major big box stores beginning in late November. This is how they support their programs for the upcoming year, and make it possible to help people in desperate need in our communities. They’re also looking for volunteers to help adopt a kettle.
3. Sponsor a local family – It seems every year at this time we hear of a tragedy that has affected a local family; a fire, death of a parent, terminal illness of a child, etc. Pay attention, these families are all around us and they need our help. Purchase gifts, offer to do laundry, bring in meals…they have various needs based on their personal situation and are too proud to ask for help. Many times these families are a featured story in our local newspapers this time of the year, be on the look-out for a family that you can sponsor to help make their Christmas a little bit merrier.
2. Remember our soldiers – Cell Phones for Soldiers is a family run, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing cost-free communication services to active-duty military members and veterans. Since 2004, Cell Phones for Soldiers has provided more than 210 million minutes of free talk time. They accept monetary donations as well as newer and gently used mobile phones from all service providers.
1. Giving Tuesday – Today is the day to give, my friends, #givingtuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. It doesn’t matter what you give, who you give to or how much you give; just give. We all love BOGO right? Watch for businesses and charities that match your donation or purchase. Find a way to give and then tell everyone you can about how you’re giving at #givingtuesday and be a part of a global celebration of a new tradition of generosity.
Happy holidays, happy giving and give generously!