Giving back to a nonprofit is a noble action that goes far. During today’s times, a donation of any amount can go a long way- so what’s holding you back from donating?
Written by Hannah Loewenthal and Christina Fagan
Giving back to nonprofits in our communities is a noble action; one where the impact extends farther than we can know. Nonprofit organizations rely on the help from donors to keep their mission alive. During today’s times, especially, a donation of any amount can go a long way. From fulfilling the funds needed to carry out a project for the community or simply paying bills to keep the lights on, nonprofits are appreciative of the support from their donors, no matter the amount.
So, what’s holding you back? We’d like to address a few “hang ups” that many people have when considering donating.
"I don’t trust that my money isn’t going to pay large staff salaries or that the nonprofit is really helping the community"
You aren’t alone in this thought. In fact, according to a recent survey by the Better Business Bureau, 70% of Americans stated that trust is essential before making a donation, but fewer than 20% said they highly trust charities. So how do you know if a charity is “doing good?” First when looking to donate to a nonprofit organization it is important to be passionate in what you are donating your money towards. If you find a nonprofit you are curious about, do a bit of research into their outcomes in the community – you can typically find these in a nonprofit’s Annual Report, or set up a visit with their Development staff to dive further and ask the hard hitting questions you are wondering about. You can also use sites like Charity Navigator or GuideStar that will actually rank charities and show how much of their overall budget is used on overhead versus programs. You can also verify their nonprofit status directly with the IRS or find more details on financials by reviewing their annual 990 (these are typically online through the nonprofit themselves or one of the charity ranking systems). Keep in mind that nonprofits whose programs are direct services/counseling/teaching, etc. may naturally have more funds allocated towards salaries in order to carry out their mission.
"I can’t donate a lot of money – how can my $5 donation make a difference?"
Donating what you can, even if it is a small amount of a one-time gift or reoccurring gift both make an impact. Giving $5, $10, or $20 all go towards a purpose at an organization. If you work at an organization that has a charity or supports one there might be an opportunity to be on a payroll deduction program. Taking $1-5 out of every pay might not seem like a lot but can build up over time as a larger donation by the end of the year.
Think of it this way, $5 for you might mean the difference between your favorite coffee beverage of the week or providing a meal to a family that depends on donations from their local food bank. You can even ask the nonprofit you are considering donating if they can give a breakout of what different donation levels might help fund at their organization to give you a better idea. When combined with donations from others – it all adds up.
Still not convinced? Take the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign as a perfect example. Every holiday, volunteers stand outside of popular retailers with bells asking for donations (many times, coins) to fill their red kettles. In 2016, this campaign brought in a total of $147.3M, translating in providing 56M meals and 10M nights in shelters for 25M people – that’s a huge impact. In Addition, Engage for Good did a research project on point of sale fundraising – you know the kind…you are checking out at the grocery store and the cashier asks if you’d like to round up your amount as a donation or give $5 for XYZ charity. In 2018, these types of fundraising campaigns raised over $486M by just the top 79 campaigns nationwide.
It is important to not be discouraged by thinking a small amount will not make a difference. Giving what you can, when you can, will always have an impact.
"I just don’t have the resources right now to donate – I have too many bills, student loans, etc."
There are many ways you can still “donate” when you do not have “extra money.” You can lend your time and skills, donate items, and even organize drives and raise funds to help get the word out there for the organization. Nonprofits that have smaller budgets could often utilize those with skillsets around areas like marketing, human resources and governance policies, IT, event planning and even accounting or finances – some might even have spots on a committee around one of the topics you could join. In fact, according to the Independent Sector, as of July 2020, the estimated national value of each volunteer hour is currently $27.20 – a huge relief for nonprofits with small staffs.
Or, leverage your own personal networks and those around that might have the available funds by organizing a “walk-a-thon,” birthday fundraising event through your social media accounts or even just an awareness campaign to teach those around about a key issue in your community. There are so many recognized months or holidays dedicated to various causes – see if the ones you are passionate about have one, and find some statistics to post online. The organization Blackbaud conducted a study on peer-to-peer fundraising, including traditional 5Ks, marathons and DIY fundraising ideas (like birthday campaigns). According to their study, the average DIY Fundraiser has a value of $604.30 per fundraiser.
There is always a way to support an organization that you are passionate about even if you think a donation of a small amount is not going very far. We urge you this Giving Tuesday to take another look at the causes you care about and consider the ways, large or small, that you could personally “donate.”
“Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.” – Helen Keller
Blackbaud 2019 Peer to Peer Fundraising Study: https://hello.blackbaud.com/rs/053-MXJ-131/images/2019-Blackbaud-Peer-to-Peer-Fundraising-Study.pdf
Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign Statistics: https://blog.salvationarmyusa.org/nhqblog/news/126th_RKC_Brings_in_147million
The Trust Crisis – Chronicle of Philanthropy: https://www.philanthropy.com/article/the-trust-crisis/