This last weekend made me think back to the Thanksgiving of 1985. I was a mother of two young children, twenty-seven hundred miles from home, no family nearby, all of my friends were going out of town for the holiday. I felt horrible. Then I saw an article in the Killeen Daily Herald that read a local soup kitchen was in desperate need of help for Thanksgiving Day. But I had little ones. And I worked. And I was going to school. And emotionally I was a wreck. What did I have to offer?
But I thought if I was around people who had it rougher than me, I’d feel better about my lot in life. So, I called. I figured they would say, “thanks, but no thanks”. To my surprise, they asked if I could be there at 8:00 am. “We need as many hands as possible! And we have a playroom for the babies”. That day, I met so many people, not just the bums and druggies I thought I’d see but nice average families who were just having a rough time financially. I left there feeling so warm inside, rejuvenated emotionally, especially after seeing my four-year-old serving rolls to the guests.
Afterwards, I was reminded of what President Kennedy said in his inauguration speech January 20, 1961, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. We all have something that we can share or do for a worthy cause. Giving is not hard and can be very rewarding. Currently, I work for your public television and radio stations here in Killeen, organizations that rely on the generosity of the public. Like other non-profits nationwide, we have seen fewer donations in the last year and have felt the pinch. In fact, a country is measured by the way it treats those most in need.
Therefore, we all should be giving something to a cause we feel is worthy, be it money, things or time. Tonight, I’m going to spell out the problem charities face right now, then tell you what caused the problem and finally let you know how you can help and be part of the solution. So let’s look at the problem, need has risen but contributions are down. According to Stephanie Strom in a New York Times article from June 10, 2009 titled Charitable Giving Declines, A New Report Finds, charitable giving fell last year by the largest percentage in five decades, this according to a Giving USA Foundation report.
About two-thirds of public charities saw donations decrease in 2008, the Foundation said, and the trend continues. Basic need services like food banks and homeless shelters are experiencing a large increase in demand for their services. During the last 12 months, the Killeen Food Care Center has seen about 2,100 new families, Ann Farris, center co-director said in a Killeen Daily Herald article by Mason Canales title Area food banks trying to meet increased need during holiday season on November 20, 2009. Supplies coming to the Food Care Center have dropped by about 40,000 pounds during the last 12 months.
In an article titled The Nonprofit Squeeze by Dan Kadlec in Time magazine from the March 30, 2009 issue, the projected budget shortfalls come at a time when non-profits’ services are most in demand. Last year the United Way saw a 68% increase nationally in the number of calls for basic needs. We see the problem, charitable giving is down, now let’s address the causes. There are a couple of main causes for charitable contribution crisis. According to Noelle Barton’s article Businesses Buckle Up in the Chronicle of Philanthropy from July 7, 2009, many of America’s largest corporations plan to reduce their giving or keep it flat this year.
Also, the high unemployment rate is a major factor. The U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website on November 6, 2009 states that the unemployment rate is currently at 10. 2 percent. That basically means one in ten people has no income, let alone disposable income. When people aren’t making money, or in danger of losing their jobs in the near future, it’s really hard to justify giving their money away. With the causes addressed, the stock market decline and high unemployment, let’s talk about what you can do to be the solution.
President Obama said in a March press conference, “When each of us looks beyond our own short-term interests to the wider set of obligations we have to each other — that’s when we succeed. That’s when we prosper. And that’s what is needed right now. ” Here’s what you can do. 1. Give money. If you’re not sure of the nonprofit that you’re thinking about donating to or if you want to see what is out there, charitynavigator. org will answer a multitude of questions for you. How much of that dollar you send them actually gets used for the program. How much their leadership gets paid and what percentage hat is of the total revenue. How to contact this organization. These questions are all answered here. 2. Donate your extra stuff. Sharon Waldrop writes in her Good Housekeeping magazine article titled Turn Your Trash Into Cash from April 2009 that charities like Goodwill and Salvation Army often need clothing or household items in good condition; in return, you’ll get a tax deduction. She quotes Judith Schwartz, CPA, as saying, “If you donate a computer now worth $500, you can deduct $500 from your taxable income, which would translate to a savings of about $125 for a couple in the 25 percent tax bracket”.
C. A: It’s a terrific way to help others while you help yourself. Food banks are another easy way you can help. Buy a case of canned green beans and take it to your local food bank. You will be rewarded by their appreciation. 3. And my personal favorite, volunteer your time. So you don’t have money or things to donate. That’s fine. We all have a few hours every month that we can give to help our fellow man. In her Library Journal article from July 7, 2009 titled The Call to Service, Allison Gray tells us how even President and Mrs. Obama were serving the Washington D. C. ommunity the day before he was inaugurated. But just because you’re not a big-shot doesn’t mean you don’t have much to offer. Serve in a soup kitchen, mentor a child, answer phones at your local PBS station during a pledge drive…all things that don’t cost you a penny but have huge social capital rewards. Now you know what you can do to help. So please, give generously of your money, things or time to an organization like the Salvation Army red kettle, your local food bank, Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity or a PBS station whenever you can. Demand for their services never goes away.
Far too many of us are just one paycheck, serious illness, or personal tragedy away from needing help, be it at a food bank, an organization to pay our light bill or health care. Charitable giving has fallen and the need has risen, but you now have the tools needed to help out. A country is measured by the way it treats those most in need. Almost all of us spend money on luxuries — after all, even bottled water is a luxury. Giving up one bottled water per week for a year will allow you to give over $50 that could save a life. Answer President Obama’s call to service. Together we all can succeed. Together we all can prosper.