Archive for Monday, December 5, 2011

Spirit of giving comes through for nonprofit groups

Abby Wagner, 11, Lawrence, rings a bell as her father Scott holds her sister Ava, 4, outside of Weaver’s Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010 in downtown Lawrence. The family was collecting donations for the Salvation Army.

Abby Wagner, 11, Lawrence, rings a bell as her father Scott holds her sister Ava, 4, outside of Weaver’s Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010 in downtown Lawrence. The family was collecting donations for the Salvation Army.

December 5, 2011

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Toy drives, adopt-a-family programs, Salvation Army bell ringers and holiday meal deliveries keep charities busy through the holiday season.

Fortunately for nonprofits, something about the holiday season equals an increase in donations.

“There’s definitely a surge,” said Jane Blocher, executive director of the Douglas County American Red Cross.

The extra holiday giving couldn’t have come at a better time for some nonprofits, such as the Just Food pantry, said Jeremy Farmer, agency director. Just Food had planned on 300 families signing up for a Thanksgiving food package this year, but they received more than 500 requests.

“We were distributing food like crazy,” he said. Holiday generosity carried them through.

We knew “stuff would come in to take care of them,” Farmer said.

The increase in giving this time of year mimics national trends and amounts to a boost for charities across the country, said Kim Klein, author and fundraising consultant.

In 2010, charitable contributions between Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day added up to $48 billion, according to the research firm Convio.

Klein said there are several reasons why people seem more inclined to give this time of year. For starters, the end of the year is also the end of the tax year, and some get those tax-deductible donations in at the last minute. Add in the religious holidays, and “people are really thinking about giving,” Klein said.

While agencies bank on increased donations during this time of year, it can also create a funding gap later.

Klein said that’s why it’s important for nonprofits to spread out fundraising events year-round. “Use the end of the year, but move on from that,” she said.

Blocher said the Red Cross prepares for slower times, such as hosting its major fundraiser in the spring.

“Most nonprofits are used to” a dip in donations after the holidays, she said. “You budget based on history.”

The No. 1 way to increase nonholiday giving, Klein said, is to increase awareness of funding needs and ask the community for help.

That’s a lesson Farmer’s learned, and he said reminding people that hunger is a year-round issue in the area usually brings in funding.

“If somebody tells us there’s a need, (the community) steps up,” he said.

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