Monday, October 18, 2010

Philanthropy in 2010

Charitable giving is down 11% in 2009; the largest decline in the past twenty years as recorded by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The stat shocked me. Mostly because I think my personal charitable giving is up.  We've all seen some hard times in recent years. Personally, I think its motivated me more to be thankful for what I have, and to realize I still have more than most.  But where I see the difference is that my dollars are not going the traditional route.

I can spot a direct mail fundraiser pack from a mile away. Yes, I used to work in the industry which gives me a leg up.  Those handy return address stickers? I take them right out of the package, add them to my collection and recycle the rest of the mailer.  No donation from me.  (Especially if you've spelled my name incorrectly.)

LiveStrongs' requests for donations? Lance, I have just received too many emails from you over the past few years that I am irked to send you my hard earned dollar.  And the sad thing is that I believe in your cause. Just  not "the ask".

So how do you get me to part with my money?

  • Personal stories.  Through Facebook I connected to a high school alum who started a charity in honor of his brother.  The young man that I knew was handsome, smart, funny and yet at age 23 committed suicide.  I went to a small high school where everyone knew everyone.  So this one hit close to home.
  • If one of my friends is sweating.  This past year I've been easily swayed to support anyone who was walking a 5k, riding a bicycle or doing some other activity that  burned more calories than I could consume on a Sunday morning.  I like it when you work for the money.  Keep it up!
  • Randomness.  I've been known to roll down my window and pass out cash to the homeless. Again, it goes back to tugging on my heart. What must it feel like to create a sign on cardboard to plead your case, relying on the charity of strangers?  I've seen the shame in their eyes and the gratitude for acknowledging their existence.   It takes a strong person to ask for help.
This holiday season, the Salvation Army plans to have a system in place that will take donations via text.  It's a great idea for people like me who are motivated to give, sometimes on a whim.

What prompts you to give?  Would love to hear from you.