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Monday, May 4, 2020

Why Give Now?

Tomorrow is #GivingTuesdayNow, a day of generosity.  You may be familiar with the #GivingTuesday that follows on the heels of Thanksgiving, at the start of the retail rush. It’s not “normal” to have this universal day of charitable giving outside of the year-end holiday season – but then, we threw normalcy out the safer-at-home window several weeks ago.

 Swirled within the endless news coverage of all-things-pandemic, you’ve seen the incredible stories of nonprofit organizations stepping up, particularly food banks and those addressing the immediate needs of people and communities most at health and economic risk. You may be one of the many people who has donated money or volunteered time to these frontline organizations – if so, thank you. 

What you haven’t seen are all the other nonprofits that are living under the shadow of the global crisis. While not all are called upon to do more, none have been asked to do less. Truly, even those that have had to abruptly halt programs or temporarily close their doors are not doing less, for they are pivoting their outreach and implementing innovative alternatives, in an effort to sustain critical missions against all odds.

Good fundraisers know an irrefutable truth: People rarely give unless they are asked.  Are there exceptions? Of course. You may have donated to a food bank or a frontline medical response organization recently without being asked. But something planted the idea of need in your consciousness, whether that was the experience of someone you know or a story on the news. What about the causes that aren’t top of mind?  How do they stay relevant and earn your support? They have to ask.

Truthfully, some nonprofits are a bit wary of asking for funds right now. Nonprofits that aren’t on the frontlines of the pandemic worry that their messages won’t resonate well with donors during the 24/7 COVID-19 news cycle. They worry that some of their donors are among those who are suddenly unemployed, furloughed, or fear they could be, and the organization has no way of knowing who not to ask. And they worry that, at least temporarily, you no longer care about climate change, other life-altering diseases, or any global crisis other than the one that has landed on our own doorsteps – that you have set those aside as causes that can wait until later. The conversation thread among many organizations right now is, “If we talk about coronavirus, we risk sounding opportunistic.  If we don’t talk about it, we seem tone-deaf.”

There are a lot of indicators that suggest they shouldn’t be so timid. Historically, while we see downturns in certain types of giving during economic low points — we also see fantastic evidence of human generosity. If you are not able to contribute financially, consider marking #GivingTuesdayNow with other non-financial acts of kindness.  There are many ways to support our communities and each other. You can find ideas curated by GivingTuesday, https://now.givingtuesday.org/ideas/

On the other hand, if you are among those who are fortunate enough to be financially comfortable if you received a stimulus check and you don’t need it to cover groceries and rent, put it to work doing some good. Here’s a suggested three-part giving plan:
1. Give to an organization that is being asked to do more.  There are many that are operating on the frontlines of the medical and health response or picking up where government services leave off to fill the gaps for vulnerable families and communities.  Charity Navigator has a curated list to help you search. 
2. Give to an organization in your community.  Make a difference right where you are.  Mental health centers, animal shelters, community theaters, youth programs – your gift of any size will make a difference in their ability to maintain basic operations and staffing. 
3. Give to your favorite organization.  Perhaps you usually give once or twice a year, maybe at year-end.  This is an excellent time to make an extra gift.  Whatever cause speaks to you – environmental, veterans, arts, children and families, international relief – the critical importance of their work is no less than it was pre-pandemic, and they are counting on donors like you to stand by them.  
Theodore Roosevelt said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Whatever the amount, your donation now will make a needed difference. Celebrate the day with thoughtful, intentional giving and be part of something bigger than yourself.  Be well, and do good.

Written by Shannon McCracken, CEO of The Nonprofit Alliance. The Nonprofit Alliance serves as a voice of the nonprofit community to promote, protect, and strengthen the philanthropic sector in the best interests of donors and beneficiaries. You can learn more here: https://tnpa.org

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