By The Herald Editorial Board
Following the launch of the holiday shopping season with Black Friday, uncertainty remains regarding the mood of consumers. Black Friday sales topped a record $9.12 billion, yet near-record inflation, concerns over a possible recession and shrinking savings accounts may yet find shoppers thinking twice about what they’re spending.
Those pressures are no less a concern for charities and nonprofit organizations that count on the season’s generous spirit and have for a decade now added their own annual plea with Giving Tuesday, to encourage financial donations, volunteer hours and other support for their work.
Americans, especially as individual givers, remained generous, at least through last year. Giving in the United States in 2021 topped $484.85 billion, a 4 percent increase over 2020, with two-thirds of that — more than $326 billion — coming from individual donors, swamping the $21 billion given by corporations, according to the National Philanthropic Trust.
But some of those donors may have already started pulling back in 2022. Figures for the first half of the year, showed the number of donors had decreased by 7 percent, with a “collapse” in small-gift donations, according to a report cited in October by The Chronicle of Philanthropy. The number of people making contributions of $100 or less to organizations dropped more than 17 percent in the first six months of the year, while those donating between $101 and $500 decreased by 8 percent, the report said. And those slipping numbers for smaller donations usually are reflected among wealthier donors, too.
To be fair, those dollar amounts don’t typically reflect the volunteer hours that many organizations — especially those performing public service in communities — depend on, and an avenue that many use when they’re more able or prefer to donate their time rather than money.
But even if donation dollar amounts are able to keep pace or outperform those of previous years, individual charities and nonprofits are facing the same sticky inflation rates — and the additional costs to goods, services and labor — everyone else is facing.
There also may be some cultural changes accounting for the drag on donations to charities and nonprofits. A recent study cited by Vox found that 57 percent of those in Generation Z — those born in 1997 and later — believe giving directly to those in need, specifically through crowd-funding and online services such as GoFundMe, has more impact than giving to organizations.
There’s a challenge there for organizations and nonprofits to work on their message and how it’s delivered to all generations, but the work of charities and nonprofit groups often leverage individual donations into cost-effective efforts, still deserving of support.
And, as the year’s end and tax time nears, don’t forget that donations to registered charities and nonprofits also can be deducted from taxes.
Donations should, of course, go toward the efforts and organizations that mean the most to donors. And those who want to keep their dollars in the community and support the work of other nonprofits can consider three 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) or the Stanwood-Camano GIVE website (scgive.org/) and its list of specific groups and requests.
Charity does require some care be taken, especially when some look to take advantage of our generosity, 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 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, including gun violence, the war in Ukraine, veterans and military service members, Indigenous and Native nonprofits, LGBTQ support, climate change, voting rights, and recent hurricanes and other disasters. It also offers tips on smart giving, such as setting up monthly donations, giving to established charities and how to verify crowd-funded campaigns.
Recognizing the uncertainty that nags at many because of inflation and other concerns for the economy, exercising careful thought about your gifts — for friends and family and for community and charity — is understandable and necessary. Yet most of us can find ways to give that make a difference for those around us.