As the holiday season approaches (really, it will be here quicker than you know it), people are beginning to save and decide on their gift giving plan. With the economy having experienced some rough bumps this year, it’s uncertain how successful retailers will be this season.
One thing is for certain, though: there has been and will likely continue to be a decline in charitable giving this year. According to “Giving USA 2010: The Annual Report on Philanthropy,” released by the Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, Indianapolis, total charitable giving in the U.S. declined 3.6% in 2009.
Total charitable giving in the U.S. fell to $303.75 billion in 2009, down from $315.08 billion the year before. Sad, but true, as many Americans have been forced to tighten their purse strings, their ability to give to others has declined.
Despite the rough economic times, there are certainly still ways to give back this holiday season and make a meaningful impact. Some of these suggestions are worth considering and may even be more gratifying than you would have imagined.
Buy gifts which provide a percentage to charity
There are some ways to buy and still give back. Certain retailers and designers team up with worthy charities for the holidays, either giving a portion of overall sale proceeds or proceeds from a particular item to a charity. In the past, retailers such as Tom Shoes or American Express have been involved with charitable giving during the holidays. Inquire about specifics with the retailer.
Additionally, many charities are creating gift-like products so that consumers can satisfy the gift giving need while giving back. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Awareness Network has its own online shop which offers clothes, jewelry and home items, while UNICEF has a store full of interesting, international gifts, including candles, journals, and books.
Buy holiday cards that support your charity of choice
The holidays is often a time when we update friends and family about what has happened in our lives during the past year. Why not use this opportunity to buy cards that support your favorite charities? Often, these cards include some information about the charity, which could spur others to give, too.
Give your time
It is understandable if money is tight; however, time may not be. If you can’t afford to give financially, devote some time to a charity of your choice. Whether this means an afternoon at the soup kitchen, volunteering for a particular event, or even helping to raise money, your time can be very important. One afternoon can help make a difference to a charity that depends heavily on volunteerism!
Incorporate giving into a holiday event
Does your office normally have a “Secret Santa” party at holiday time? Rather than buy co-workers gifts, encourage employees to give the $20 amount normally spent on the gift to a charity of their co-workers choice. This will make everyone feel as if they’ve given back and it is possible to target several charities this way. (Plus, it could help everyone avoid unwanted holiday gifts from co-workers!)
Set aside a little each month
If money is particularly tight at the holidays, plan ahead and put aside a little bit every month. You can save this money to give at the holidays or even give on a monthly basis. December does not necessarily have to be the month you write a check. Charitable giving can be a monthly part of your finances.
One thing is for sure, there are many charities and many people and organizations in need. Try to find it in your heart to give back in some small way during holiday season.
Published or updated April 5, 2013.