We all know ‘tis the season for giving, but does the thought of where to begin overwhelm you? There are so many charities and special interest groups vying for our dollars it can be difficult to separate the reputable from the shady. And if you’re using your charitable donations as a tax write-off or as a public relations tool for your business, it can be downright intimidating! This year, rather than contributing to the same big name charities, consider thinking outside the box and get more bang for your buck.
Many of us are financially strapped in both our personal and business lives, so the right answer this year might be to donate items instead of money. It’s a well documented fact that money collected by too many charities goes largely into administrative overhead rather than in direct aid. Ensure that your giving gets to those in need by donating tangible items like clothing, furniture, perhaps depreciated office equipment.
If you love furry friends, consider donating to an animal shelter. Shelters nationwide get overrun this time of year and even the best struggle to provide adequate food and medical care for their burgeoning numbers. If you don’t want to give money, donate dry food or blankets. You could even sponsor adopt a pet day at a local pet shop, or pay for spay and neutering of all pets adopted during a certain time period.
Do you have an appreciation for the arts? Unfortunately, they are severely under funded in most public schools. Consider donating equipment or supplies to a local school’s art or music program. If you’d like to give a cash gift, earmark it for costs such as instrument repair or uniforms. One of the dirty secrets of public school music programs is that most band and choir programs are lucky to have their uniforms properly cleaned once a year simply because the cost is so exorbitant. With the majority of outside donations to schools going toward athletics, the arts are always in need of support.
Maybe you don’t have ready cash, but still want to give something to the community. You have knowledge, right? Maybe you’re even an expert in your field. Consider offering free lessons, seminars, etc. to students, at-risk youth, the working poor, anyone who might benefit. In many cases your local library will provide a banquet or conference room for free if the subject is something beneficial to the community.
Finally, consider helping others while helping yourself. Unemployment is a persistent problem in today’s society, but particularly for minorities, veterans, and recent college graduates. Pledge to employ a certain number of one or more of these groups in the coming year. If your growth forecast looks good, make a five year plan to show your continued support for hose who need help getting back into the workforce.
The reasons to give are many: people and programs in need, financial benefits for end of the year taxes, establishing or maintaining a good name in the community, and because giving just makes us feel good. This season I challenge you to find a new and creative way to give.