The days following Thanksgiving have made an institution of holiday spending from Black Friday to Small Business Saturday to Cyber Monday. While much of that is spending on gifts for friends and family, it’s encouraging to see a day set aside for charity, too. In recent years, Giving Tuesday has encouraged donations to organizations and nonprofits that are serving a range of needs in our communities, nation and world.
Just as holiday shopping is probably not finished for most of us — or even started for a few of us — we still have opportunities to continue our giving now and throughout the coming year.
The charities, programs and organizations that depend on our generosity of our time and financial support help those in need feed their families, promote health and fitness, create and foster the arts and culture, care for the elderly, protect the environment, provide job training, shelter the homeless, confront addiction and mental illness and provide many other services that build our communities.
That generosity is significant. Americans’ charitable giving totaled more than $389 billion in 2016, a 4.2 percent increase over giving in 2015, which was a 4.1 percent increase over the previous year, according to figures from the National Philanthropic Trust. And individuals remain the largest source of such donations, providing nearly $282 billion — 72 percent of the total — compared to 15 percent from foundations, 8 percent from bequests and 5 percent from corporations.
We’re also generous with our time. The trust reports that 63 million Americans — 1 in 4 — volunteer time, talent and energy to organizations, such as volunteering at food banks and with meal deliveries, fundraising, general labor and tasks, and tutoring and teaching. The value of that volunteer time totaled $193 billion in 2016.
The trick is to connect that desire to give with the organizations that can benefit from our time and financial support.
Each year, The Herald has run Snohomish County Gives. It’s the D Section in today’s Sunday Herald. A list of more than 100 nonprofits, describing what each does and what its particular needs are, is included in the section. Along with that list, the section also has a number of articles by Herald reporters that detail the work of groups in the community, such as Sharing Wheels Community Bike Shop, Lutheran Community Services, Housing Hope, Cocoon House and others.
Readers will also find a Q&A interview by The Herald’s Sharon Salyer with Rick Steves, the Edmonds author of numerous travel books and host of a popular public television series on European travel. Steves also is known for his philanthropy, providing millions of dollars of support for community-building efforts in Snohomish County and throughout the world.
Even if we don’t have millions to donate, Steves’ thoughts on giving provide good advice as we make our own gifts this season.
While his own community of Edmonds and Snohomish County benefit from his donations, including $4 million for a 24-unit YWCA housing project in Lynnwood, Steves also sees great value in supporting work nationally and around the world, an ethic that has been informed by his world travels and his Christian faith, such as world hunger and water security projects.
But Steves also makes clear that each of us has the ability to make a difference, particularly in our own communities:
“I always feel like I’m not impressed by a rich person who gives a lot of money away. I’m impressed more by a person who carves out some of their time to contribute to their community — a coach nurtures a bunch of school children. That’s every bit as noble of a contribution as someone who gives a lot of money,” he told The Herald.
As eagerly as we wait for loved ones to open the gifts we’ve selected for them at Christmas and other holidays, we can also find great satisfaction in seeing the good that will come from our gifts of time and money in our community and throughout the world.
More help in choosing charities
Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s office has a webpage with Give Smart tips for donors and other resources to ensure your donation goes to a worthy charity. Go to www.sos.wa.gov/charities.