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On Giving Back: Positive Impacts of Giving to Charity
A Note on Virtue...
Charity is considered to be the most excellent of all virtues. It reflects the essence of humanitarianism which is a moral of kindness, benevolence and sympathy toward other human beings. Being a humanitarian, one accepts that all human beings are of equal moral significance. As a society we also value humility where we extend ourselves in selfless service to others. Through charitable endeavors and humanitarianism we demonstrate a higher form of love for one's neighbor and for oneself. In spiritual terms, it may be the ultimate perfection of the human spirit because it both glorifies and reflects the nature of God. Charitable work is therefore widely viewed as a selfless more esteemed pursuit.
People give to charities for different reasons. Few of us escape loss, tragedy or crisis in this life and those that have not experienced it yet are very fortunate. But in either instance, having compassion and empathy for your fellow human, animal or environment are strengths and indeed are expressions of our higher selves. It is said, that compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things. True.
In my many years of charitable consulting, I have realized people who strongly identify with the charity's mission and mandate give more and more frequently including of their time and efforts due to personal connection. Identification and connection may be simple or complex. It may be as simple as being a pet lover and supporting your local animal shelter or perhaps at one point you suffered a great loss and know the isolation and loneliness that comes with that experience. Maybe you once lost it all and got it back and want to assist the poor. Or you may be a generous philanthropist that desires to invest in long term poverty reduction and social change. Charitable people come from all walks of life. It is so cool!
A recent study by BMO Wealth Management indicated 60% of Canadians plan to make it a priority to give to charities in 2016. This is a relief to charities since so much time is invested in sourcing fundraising initiatives and donations and more energies can be directed into programs and services. It is true that most charities receive the majority of their donations around the Christmas holidays every year. It is a time of year when people reevaluate their lives, time and priorities as well. Then a charity must budget for the next quarters based on what that xmas drive netted. This is also a time of year when larger donations are provided as people feel particularly generous.
Don't underestimate the power and impact of smaller donations. Smaller donations can have just as much impact when provided in a payment plan throughout the year as this provides charities with revenues when budgets run thin like in summer and autumn. This may vary among charities so you may wish to directly ask the charity's director what period in the year they struggle most or fundraise most and adjust your giving strategy accordingly.
Whatever way people desire to give, it is all greatly appreciated by genuine charities who as non-profits have to work within tight budgets with limited resources and on limited salaries. The more donations received, the more a charity can extend itself to others and stress less about fundraising. Smaller and medium sized charities have less security and struggle more to make their budget goals and often lack high profile corporate donors as compared to large state/provincial or national charities who often have financial reserves, a marketing budget and large donor campaigns. If a small to medium size charity doesn't meet its fundraising goals, crucial services may suffer or it may be tougher to make payroll at other times of the year. So strategic annual giving and donation payments throughout the year makes a whole lot of sense and provides charities with relief.
Think Outside the Box...
Government grant and foundation fund opportunities are highly competitive and selective with only a very small and limited group in receipt of funding. This funding is usually of the 'one time' nature and is rarely ongoing. These organizations usually only provide funding for projects and rarely for any operational functions of a charity like utilities and salaries leaving the charity to invest so much time and energy in fundraising. It is also funding that can't be counted upon so many submissions to different funders is required. It is a numbers game and on average I would estimate only 10% of applications are successful. It's a whole lot of proposal writing for the often disappointing return on investment.
This makes donations and business sponsorships as well as gift in kind services throughout the year crucial to a charity's financial stability. For example, one charity I consulted with needed a new roof. Two companies came together, one purchased the materials and the other provided the labor free of charge and Voila, no more leaking roof or floods. These kinds of partnerships make practical sense and often a tax receipt can be issued from the charity to the donating business for materials provided- a win win situation.
On this note, special event fundraising is also a big part of raising that annual charity budget which the charity's management must leverage to get the most bang for the donor's buck. Often advertising can be very expensive and a burden on the project budget. But an event's success depends on how many people attend it or how well tickets sell, whether it be a fancy gala dinner, a golf tournament or a fun chili cook off. The media can play a big part in a charity event's success by providing in kind advertising paired with editorial coverage of a charity's special event in the press and on radio and television.
Businesses and corporations can do their part to help a charity event by either providing sponsorship funds for marketing or paying for the event advertising costs. In return, a charity will recognize your business with mentions, logo placement in the print and radio advertising and on their website and social media. This raises the profile of the sponsor in the public realm as a social conscious business and often assists in generating extra business for the sponsor. It is another win win scenario.
Ordinary Everyday Heros...
In addition to monetary giving and gifts in kind, charities really appreciate personal touches of time investment or volunteerism in the charity itself. Often charities struggle to find committed volunteers who regularly offer their time to sit on a committee or on a board of directors. Committee volunteering may involve sitting on an organizing, governance or special event group. The gift of a person's time is one of the greatest gifts of all. Although charities have to ensure they cover their over head, facility and salary expenses, volunteerism is usually calculated at a value of about $20 per hour for labour and $32 per hour for management or administration. Donating your time can save a charity from additional costs associated with providing services, programming or production they might otherwise have to hire or contract out. As the saying goes, team work makes the dreams work.
You may support the local animal shelter, mission, soup kitchen, food bank, clothing bank, environmental, arts or sports charity in your community. Different strokes for different folks. Strategic and planned giving, gifts in kind, sponsorship and volunteerism are a few of the valuable and different ways to contribute and 'give back. All of these options provide meaningful methods of support to your local charity and the sentiment is worth as much as the value to the people that operate them and the clients they serve.
People who work at charities are certainly not in it for the money (giggles) and often invest a great deal of 'free' and donated overtime to make the charity run and stay afloat. There is very little glamour or notoriety in charitable work, which is often also a personal investment in blood (not literally), sweat, sacrifice (time and lower salaries), sometimes tears and a labour of love as well.
Your pocket change when pooled can make an immense impact. In our time of more frequent economic recession and higher unemployment, social service and poverty focused charities addressing issues like hunger, health and homelessness are very strained. Simple giving makes us happier, reduces inequalities, promotes greater fairness, justice and helps to create a community and world we actually want to live in. Charity and humanitarianism are the best qualities of human nature and as a bonus, financial and material contributions are also tax deductible!
On the other hand, if you are wealthy or in a better position to give a lump sum, you may suggest your charity establish an endowment fund. An endowment fund is a lump sum investment that collects interest quarterly or annually. This fund is not meant to be accessed, unless in financial emergency, as deemed by your board of directors. It can be wisely invested in an investment portfolio or higher interest savings account and collects interest or profits that are then released to the charity when it needs it, like say during slow or low donation periods. People can directly donate and invest in your endowment and as it accumulates, it can add significant funds to a charity's annual operating budget to cover incidentals, emergencies, add a reserve to the budget or fill gaps in fundraising.
There are some national foundations that only provide matching grant funds specifically to grow a charity's endowment. It is becoming a form of financial security for charities and a great option for charitable investors and philanthropists. Other investments in your endowment can be bestowals of life insurances or inheritances and a charity's patrons can legally designate funds for this purpose. It is also good for the charity to create a policy to manage such investments, too.
Whether you are a financial donor, business sponsor, service club member, a volunteer or charitable employee, I salute you! Good folks, you are keeping the faith and many of us are more secure in knowing that there are angels that still exist in our fast paced and disposable civilization. You may never quite know the full extent to which your life touches another and makes an impact. But let me assure you, there is definite and quantifiable impact in the tears of sincerity, a humble thanks or a smile received for helping another or even in saving a life. Be an ordinary everyday hero in your own community- support a charity!