It’s here. Hanukkah ends on Friday, Christmas is right around the corner, retail stores are bursting at the seams with holiday shoppers and seasonal staffers. Our mailboxes and inboxes are clogged with coupons and catalogs, and our bellies with far too many cookies.
It’s the hap-happiest season of all. Just ask a fundraiser.
Chances are that you’ve noticed that in December, nonprofits take center stage. And for good reason. From St. Jude’s celebrity-studded, tear-jerker ads to the Salvation Army’s industrious bell ringers, nonprofits understand that the holidays provide a prime opportunity to tug at your heartstrings. Nonprofits know that now is the time to ask for a year end contribution or remind you that a donation in honor of a loved one is the gift that truly keeps giving. And of course, with a December 31 deadline for getting your tax deduction, charities have an unparalleled opportunity to literally cash in on the end of the year.
But does all of this year-end goodness come at a cost for the rest of the year?
Don’t get me wrong. There is not one nonprofit in the world that doesn’t absolutely love and appreciate – and often count on – the influx of support and generosity that comes with the end of the calendar year. For many nonprofits, however, the number of donations received during the month of December is disproportionate with the rest of the year.
According to Food Gatherers , a nonprofit food rescue and distribution organization in Michigan, “during the winter holiday season, we receive many generous food drive donations, but as the months get warmer, our food donations dwindle” but the need does not. And, according to an article in the New York Times, last weekend food banks would more appreciate your charitable donations than your canned food, because “while the good deeds people want to do are heavenly, the inadvertent waste and the wasted money — they’re of the devil.”
At the Toy Industry Foundation , Foundation Manager Amanda McDorman notes that while their toy bank is a year-round campaign, she sees a huge influx of both contributions and requests for toys in December. “A rush of random checks in July would be nice,” she added, as it would take off some of the pressure that comes with the end of the year.
Despite the frenzy that year-end donations may cause internally, few nonprofits abstain from capitalizing on the season. The fact of the matter is that as Americans, we really like giving away our money. While 2009 has been one of the most challenging economic climates since the Great Depression, that’s no reason to expect that giving levels will fall this year. In 2008, which was no easy year by any means, charitable giving exceeded $300 billion for the second year in a row . So when all the numbers are tallied for this year, I venture to guess that, our collective charity will yet again go above and beyond what any of us thought possible.
So fundraisers and nonprofiteers, ask away. Put that collective spirit of generosity to good use. And don’t stop when December 31 rolls around. You may just find that if you ask, the masses might harness the feel-goodness of Christma-kwanza-kkah in July, too.