Macro photo of tooth wheel mechanism with imprinted RECEIVE, GIVE concept words

Editorial: Get back into charitable habit for Giving Tuesday

Inflation sapped donations for charities last year; things may be looking up this year for more.

By The Herald Editorial Board

With the four-day shopping holiday of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday complete and some indication that consumers are again willing to spend on gifts — a record $9.8 billion was spent on online shopping on Friday alone, up 7.5 percent from the previous year — maybe that bodes well for Americans’ attitude toward charitable giving through the rest of this year.

Charities and nonprofit organizations, along with the general mood toward the economy, could use a boost. And today, Giving Tuesday, offers a good opportunity to make that gift.

Charitable giving fell in 2022 for only the fourth time on record from the previous year, hitting $499 billion that year — $18 billion less than the year before — as average Americans coped with inflation and wealthier donors absorbed losses in the stock market. Adjusted for inflation, total giving tell 10.5 percent, according to the Giving USA Foundation.

Some context explains that decline, an economist and two philanthropy researchers explained for The Conversation earlier this year. Giving, particularly during the height of the pandemic, hit a record high of $517 billion in 2021, making a repeat level of giving unlikely as the pandemic eased. As well, inflation, which hit a peak of 9.1 percent in June of 2022, forced some to cut back on charitable contributions. And even when people gave the same amount as in years past — say, $100 to a food bank — that $100 didn’t go as far for the food bank as it had in previous years.

And while pessimism persists for many Americans regarding the overall economy — with just 17 percent rating the economy as excellent or good, according to the Pew Research Center — there are signs the economy has improved since 2022, including a slowing of the growth in inflation to 3.2 percent; the lowest unemployment rate (3.8 percent) since the start of the 21st century; and wages that are now outpacing inflation, leaving more in checking accounts after the bills are paid.

Which brings us back to Giving Tuesday, and the importance of supporting the charities and organizations whose work you consider important and valuable to your community, state, nation and the world.

Those who want to keep their dollars in the community and support the work of other nonprofits can consider organizations that focus their work locally. Those looking to support local charities and foundations can consult the United Way of Snohomish County (uwsc.org); Community Foundation of Snohomish County (cf-sc.org); the Stanwood-Camano GIVE website (scgive.org) and its list of specific groups and requests; and Providence Institute for a Healthier Community’s LiveWell Local resource hub, which lists organizations and programs seeking contributions, including food and clothing banks, wellness clinics and more.

But as we get back into the habit of giving, charity does require some care be taken, especially when some look to take advantage of our generosity; that’s another reason to give to established organizations. People should be especially wary of phone calls, texts and emails requesting donations, as those often are used in scams. A donation to a charity that you contact is often safer, as it allows more control and an opportunity to review where your money is going and even direct how it will be used.

The Washington Secretary of State’s website offers tips and links on a number of charity watchdogs, that rate and review charities.

Among the most useful are:

The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, www.give.org, which accredits charities and offers reports to donors on hundreds of charities, rating them on governance, effectiveness, finances and fundraising practices; and

Charity Navigator, www.charitynavigator.org, which also offers ratings and information on individual charities, scoring most on the percentage of donations that go toward programs rather than overhead and on the charity’s accountability and transparency. For those uncertain of where to direct their donations, Charity Navigator offers lists of charities and their ratings for specific issues and regions, including the humanitarian crisis in Israel and Gaza; the earthquakes in Afghanistan, Turkey, Syria and Morocco; the wildfire in Maui, Hawaii; tornado’s, tropical storms and hurricanes in the U.S.; U.S. gun violence and the crisis in Ukraine.

It also offers tips on smart giving, such as setting up monthly donations, giving to established charities and how to verify crowd-funded campaigns.

There’s logic in the saying that charity starts at home; it makes sense that we should take care of our families, first. But it still implies that charity isn’t limited to our homes and can extend out into our community and our world.

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