More than four years after the Great Recession and on the heels of the 16-day federal government shutdown, the country’s budgeting and financial woes aren’t yet resolved—and all those factors impact charitable giving.
"The numbers look much better in terms of charitable giving than they did a few years ago," Heather DeGaetano, associate director with United Way’s Center for Nonprofits, said. "My sense is that—as government budgets have been cut and the recession took its toll on nonprofits—there is a significantly increased demand for nonprofit services ... This means that nonprofits need more funding and more volunteer resources to fill these gaps."
Between 30 and 40 percent of all charitable giving is done during the holiday season, she also said.
Officials with nonprofits and philanthropic organizations typically organize fundraisers at the end of the year, aiming to ensure they have funds going forward, she said.
In the next couple of months, area residents will have a wide range of opportunities to give to organizations whose leaders aim to improve lives.
DeGaetano said that nonprofits need both financial and volunteer support.
"This is a time of pretty intense work for nonprofits because, as the government makes cuts, the way that nonprofits work is they typically try to step up and fill the holes," she said.
But giving hasn’t bounced back after the Great Recession as it has after other financial crises.
After recessions in the early '70s and 2001, it took about three years to meet or surpass the level of giving that existed before the recessions.
But in 2012—four years after the most recent recession—charitable giving is still below prerecession levels, according to Nonprofit Quarterly.
Religious and arts-related foundations have seen the biggest giving gains, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy and Charitable Navigator.
And organizations that rely on contributions from the country’s wealthiest philanthropists have bounced back fastest, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
The local opportunities
Chattanooga resident Jill Yarbrough has helped leaders of 10 area nonprofit organizations band together for an alternative gift fair that’s scheduled for Nov. 29.
"It’s a way for Chattanooga to pool their money together and make a difference," she said.
The event will be in Coolidge Park, and area residents can donate money to one of the participating charities: Chattanooga Cares, Chattanooga Room in the Inn, Forgotten Child Fund, McKamey Animal Center, Northside Neighborhood House, Prison Prevention Ministries, the Chattanooga Arboretum and Nature Center, Toys for Tots, Volunteers in Medicine, Go Fish fair trade store and event sponsor Gifts that Give Hope.
Participants can do so in honor of a loved one in lieu of a Christmas gift for that person, and there is a children’s shopping list of $5 gifts that participants can also give to the local organizations.
For example, the kids’ shopping list includes gifts such as pet food or a toy for an underprivileged child.
Local resident Jeff Clem has organized another way to help the community with his project, called Share the Warmth.
He is collecting blankets and coats to donate to Chattanooga’s homeless.
He is setting up different drop-off locations and scheduling pickups on the weekends through Nov. 24.
Current drop-off locations are at the North River YMCA, Hixson United Methodist Church and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure office at the Eastgate Town Center.
Although he has worked with nonprofit organizations, Clem hasn’t done anything to help the homeless before, he said.
"Everyone who walks around downtown, you get approached [and asked for money]," he said. "I don’t even look at them in the eye. I’m not ashamed to admit that, but I’m ashamed that I do it."
He is also accepting socks, gloves and sweatshirts. All the items he collects will be donated directly to the Chattanooga Rescue Mission, Clem said.
"To a person who is in the cold and who doesn’t know where they are going to sleep, a blanket or coat can help someone make it through the night," he said.
Leaders with the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults' Young Leaders Circle are hosting an event called Unwind for the Holidays. The event is a wine tasting contest on Nov. 15 at One North Shore Penthouse Club Room.
Guests will form a team of two or three friends. Each team brings three bottles of the same red wine to the event. One bottle will be set aside in the wine cache. The remaining bottles will be blinded and presented for guests to taste. Guests will vote for their favorite wine. The winner takes homes the wine cache. To register or get more information, click here.
The North Shore Merchants Collective is hosting a toy drive to benefit Northside Neighborhood House’s Santa’s Workshop. Chattanooga residents are encouraged to help those less fortunate by donating a new unwrapped toy to the cause.
In five years, NNH has gone from providing for 250 children to nearly 550, officials said in a news release.
Anyone who wants to contribute a toy may leave it at a number of North Shore business locations, and many businesses are offering a discount or other incentive to those donating a toy. Toys may be left at the following locations: Barefoot Bandits, Blue Skies, Epiphany Salon, Fitness Together, Frankie & Julian’s, Gigi’s Cupcakes and Yogurt, Good Dog, K::A Boutique by Katherine Roberts, Knitting Mill Antiques, Learning Express, Merch, N2shoes, Northside Lunch, Plum Nelly, Taco Mamacita, Tangerina’s and Sophie’s.
And if those giving options don’t fit, area residents can use this volunteer-matching website to find the best opportunity.
DeGaetano used that tool to find volunteer options to do with her daughter, she said.
The site allows users to find the best volunteer options. For example, the activity she did with her daughter was for 5- and 6-year-olds who took old Barbie dolls, cleaned them, dressed them, brushed their hair and gave them back to go to other children.
Her daughter loved it, she said.
And this might just be the time of the year to do something special for someone else, officials said.
"I do think there’s an emphasis on giving back—whether it’s financial or volunteer hours—at this time of year," she said.
Updated @ 9:54 a.m. on 11/4/13 to add more information.
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