Insightsthe blog of Porter Hills
‘Tis the Season of Giving
Katie Joseph, MPA
Director of Development
Watch the 13 On Your Side Senior Wellness segment on this topic.
It’s the time of year when bell ringers collect change, families volunteer at soup kitchens, and churches begin their Christmas toy drives. As the year winds to a close, more and more people get in the spirit of giving. In fact, nearly one-third of all charitable giving to nonprofit organizations happens in the month of December alone! Are you one of the millions of Americans who will give to charity this year?
Understand the Landscape
West Michigan is known for its deep philanthropic roots, and the Grand Rapids area consistently ranks among the most generous cities in the country, both for financial giving and volunteering for nonprofits.
In Kent County alone, individuals contribute more than $600 million in charitable giving each year. While some of that money comes in the form of major gifts from wealthy individuals, much of it comes from smaller gifts from people with modest means.
People donate to charity for many reasons, such as believing strongly in the mission of an organization or giving as part of a belief system (ex: tithing to a church). While older generations are more likely to write checks each year to established institutions, younger generations want to see the impact of their dollars and are more hands-on with the causes they support. Whatever the motivation, charitable giving is an important part of our culture and society.
Follow Your Dollar
There are several thousand nonprofit organizations in Kent County alone, working in areas such as healthcare, education, religion, human services, arts and culture, and environmental causes. With so many organizations serving important causes, how do you choose who and what to give to?
Thanks to our digital age, it’s easier than ever to learn about nonprofits and the causes they champion. Often, a nonprofit’s website will have statistics about the issue they’re focused on, their history, and annual reports showing the impact of their work. If you want to do a deeper dive, Guidestar.org collects data on thousands of nonprofits, including their tax returns and other public information. This can be a great place to learn more about the financial health of a nonprofit, their leadership, and how they utilize their donations each year.
While it’s great to look at the financial documents for an organization, it might not tell the whole story. Many nonprofits have a small staff that wear many hats and work tirelessly for their cause. If you have questions about how your donation will be spent or how an organization is run, it’s best to get to know the people behind that nonprofit and ask them questions. Tax forms can only tell you so much, while nonprofit advocates and stories from those who have been served in the community can give a bigger picture of the work being done.
The 3 T’s
When it comes to giving, people often talk about the three T’s – Time, Talent, and Treasure. Although donating financially is important, there are other ways to give back to organizations that you care about. Whether it’s volunteering at an event or serving on a board, nonprofit organizations need your time and talent as well as your treasure.
Nearly all nonprofit organizations utilize volunteers, ranging from weekly commitments to an occasional event or yearly drive. Websites like Volunteermatch.org can connect your skills and interests with organizations that need your help. If you live in the Grand Rapids area, ServeGR.com is also a great resource for finding local volunteer opportunities with many wonderful organizations.
No matter how old you are or how much you have to give, it’s never too late to start giving of your time, treasure, or talent. Not only does philanthropy make a difference in the lives of others, it can also make a difference in your life, too. Studies have shown that when someone makes a donation to charity, the pleasure center in their brain actually lights up! This is the reason that people often experience a “warm glow” when they choose to give things away instead of spending on themselves. Other studies have shown that people who spend a portion of their income giving to others are happier overall than those who only spend money on themselves. So, this season, consider helping others and making your own holiday a little brighter at the same time!
About Emmanuel Hospice
We are an interfaith collaboration created by St. Ann’s, Clark, Porter Hills and Sunset. With over 200 years of combined experience, we share resources, skills and expertise to deliver care with unparalleled compassion. We are committed to offering the highest level of quality care by being Medicare certified and CHAP accredited. Our local ministry is led by our Board of Directors and driven by our passionate Vision, Mission and Values.
National Philanthropic Trust
Forbes: Benefits From Giving, By Alan Feigenbaum
South University: Philanthropic Psychology Sheds Light on Charitable Giving
Psychology Today: This Is Your Brain on Charitable Giving, by David J Linden Ph.D.
Johnson Center: Philanthropy in Kent County, Michigan
AICPA: What Motivates Donors to Give?, by AICPA Communication