Give local for greater accountability

by Monika Salvage
September 24, 2017
Published in The Citizen

One only has to tune into national or international news and is immediately confronted with tragedies on a daily basis. Some are due to natural catastrophes; others are health or war-related incidents. We feel terrible for the affected people or regions and helpless in the wake of unthinkable human suffering. Monetary support may be given by calling a relief hotline, texting a donation amount or going to a website to donate online. Often times we don’t even know which organization we are actually donating to, what they will use the money for and how much of it goes to the people who need it. While it is good to be informed about what is happening elsewhere and try to help if you are able, it is also smart to do a little bit of research before you give to a charity. Check out their website, see how transparent they are with their expenses (programming versus administrative), review their IRS form 990, and find out what projects they fund. Because more often than not we give and can only hope that the money goes to the right place.

I feel a greater sense of accountability on the local level. We have many nonprofit organizations in our community that do not only respond to emergencies but also help people in need on a daily basis. Most of us know people who work for these organizations. They are our neighbors and friends. We probably also know people who benefit from the many programs these nonprofits provide. We may even be among the recipients. This is the benefit of a tight-knit community like ours – we know the people who administer the programs, we hear about their work and the people they serve, which builds trust, and we feel comfortable supporting them.

The support can come in the form of monetary or goods donations. You may seek out a particular organization to support a cause that you are interested in – be it animals, the arts or human services for instance – or you may donate to an organization such as the United Way, which funds many different nonprofits and their programs in the area. Your church may collect loose change offerings that go to different nonprofits. If you are thinking long-term, you could consider a gift in perpetuity to sustain the work of a local foundation.

Sometimes it just takes some cleaning out around the house to find items that make valuable donations, such as clothes or toys in good condition. There are many local organizations in need of these items, and you can even write them off. To make it an educational experience, you can have your children pick which clothes or toys they want to give away to another child. This is a powerful lesson in empathy and compassion. Non-perishable food items are always needed and were recently collected at the Tomato Fest that supported the local food pantry. We have many such ‘events with a purpose’ in our community. You may attend because you enjoy the music or food there, but at the same time, you are supporting an organization that works to combat domestic violence, substance abuse or illiteracy.

Seasonal giving is filling a big need these days. Often times, children from economically disadvantaged families are hit hard by their circumstances. That’s why there are local school supply drives before school starts in September and winter clothing drives for children during the cold months. For the holidays, many community groups will once again organize Thanksgiving dinner baskets for families in need and Christmas presents for their children, so they may enjoy dignified holidays with their loved ones.

Charitable giving is another way how you can support our local community. If you are not able to donate money or goods, there is always the opportunity to give the precious gift of your time.

Next month, just in time for local elections, I’ll talk about volunteering and the ultimate gift of time – public service.

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