Learning to give back creatively!
A few weeks ago, a heart-wrenching image emerged from many of the major news outlets and on social media. It was an image of a seemingly endless line of cars sitting in traffic on a major roadway in Texas. It wasn’t rush hour traffic or a back-up due to a bad accident, though. Thousands of cars had waited on line for hours to receive food from the North Texas Food Bank ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.
In any given year, millions of families struggle just to make ends meet. With all that is going on in 2020 with the pandemic, mass lay-offs, furloughed workers, and the closing of many small businesses, this struggle is all the more intense. Now more than ever our neighbors and fellow citizens need our help.
Giving Tuesday is this upcoming Tuesday, December 1st. Giving Tuesday (#GivingTuesday) often takes a backseat to Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday – but it should be more widely embraced and celebrated – especially this year. Charities and nonprofits also have taken a major hit this year. Fewer donations are coming in and major fundraising events have been halted due to COVID-19.
Even though many of us are facing unprecedented tough times this year and unexpected, we have the power to make a difference not just on Giving Tuesday, but on any day and in any way that we can. Here are just a few ideas:
Donating Money Directly to Charities
If you are able to, definitely consider giving money directly to charities that help the most people in need. Not all charities are equal, though. Before donating a single dollar, research the charity to ensure that your money is mostly serving the people in need vs. covering the charity’s administrative expenses. Thankfully, there are many tools to assist you in your research. I prefer to use charitywatch.org to find and contribute to top-rated charities (which is defined as those who spend 75% of their budgets on programs, spend $25 or less to raise $100 in public support, do not hold excessive assets in reserve and meet governance benchmarks). Below are a few top-rated charities along with their Charity Watch ratings:
- Coalition for the Homeless – A-
- National Alliance to End Homelessness – A+
- Feeding America – B+
- Action Against Hunger – USA – A+
- The Hunger Project – A
- Fisher House Foundation – Military Charity – A+
- Covenant House & Affiliates – A-
The above list is just a small representation of the many worthy charities out there who need our support. Also, check with your company’s Human Resources department to see if any company charity donation match programs are in place to further augment your donation.
Donating Unused Gift Cards
Let’s face it. Gift cards are one of the easiest gifts to give and receive. We all get them for birthdays, graduations, holidays, etc. … and if you are anything like me, you get them so frequently that you likely forget you even have some of them at all. My company even offers a rewards program where associates are thanked for hard work and success with gift card rewards. I believe many other companies do the same.
Over time, I have amassed a whole drawer of gift cards (see below for just a few of the cards currently collecting dust in my drawer). While I definitely use many of the gift cards that I receive and will use many of them below, I haven’t been able to keep up with the steady flow of gift cards coming my way.
Did you know that you can donate gift cards to charity? This might be the perfect option for someone with tight finances this year:
- CharityChoice lets you donate most gift cards to the charity of your choice. The group deducts a small percentage of the donation for administrative expenses.
- GiftCards4change is similar to CharityChoice. They retain 5-10% of the donation for administrative expenses.
In addition, many charities like Goodwill and Salvation Army will accept gift card donations directly. Also, check with your local churches, nursing homes or community centers if you prefer to give the gift cards directly to a family or individual in need within your community this holiday season.
Contributing to Food Pantries/Food Banks
Many of us have extra cans of soup, vegetables, fruit and other pantry staples that could really benefit those in need this holiday season. A simple Google search can lead you to the food pantries and food banks in your communities that are accepting food donations. If you are unsure which place to donate, try calling your town hall or neighborhood churches for suggestions. Some food pantries and food banks are even accepting refrigerated or frozen food donations. It’s another great way to give back if finances are a bit tight.
Do What You Can on Giving Tuesday and this Holiday Season
Even the smallest act of kindness and charity can have a really profound impact on those in need this holiday season. If you can’t do any of the suggestion above due to financial or other limitations, do what you can. Like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday will be behind us before we know it, but the spirit of giving will hopefully continue this holiday season – when its never been needed more.