Want to Be a Good Helper? Do it Year Round
Last month we published 5 Tips You Need to Help You Decide if an NGO is Legit. To continue the conversation about charitable giving, we wanted to bring some focus to another related issue: droughts and floods in donations.
Most charitable organizations will say that they’ve tracked a distinct ebb and flow in people’s habits of giving. This takes place in a fairly predictable way.
There is a significant swell in donations both when a disaster or crisis hits, as well coming up to the holiday season: from November to December. Then a dry period happens from January until the end of March, and throughout the summer months.
This isn’t entirely individual donor’s fault. Many NGOs amp up their outreach and/or become increasingly visible during the ‘swell’ periods we mentioned.
However, people are instinctively much more inclined to start thinking about helping others during periods like coming up to Christmas, because of the culture of care-taking and sharing that is associated to it.
Similarly, when a crisis hits, media coverage elicits strong emotional responses and people rouse to action. As much as this is a beautiful show of human spirit, it can actually be problematic most particularly in the following 2 ways:
1) Stretched Thin or Overloaded
While having ‘too much’ in holiday seasons shouldn’t seem like a problem, it has the downside of causing rather a lot of administrative strain in processing, while also making it harder to plan strategically long-term due to lack of consistency and predictability.
In the periods of ‘drought’, when funds are getting stretched thin (for example June, when donations plummet by up to 50%), program planning and maintenance can become quite stressful. This has an impact on the quality and quantity of services provided to populations in need.
2) The Time Factor
When a sudden crisis happens, like a natural disaster, donations come in fast, but unfortunately often too late. The problem is, they can take up to a few weeks to process, meaning that the funds given once something has already happened don’t actually benefit the immediate disaster relief.
The Benefits of Monthly Giving
1) People who give regularly give more:
You donate smaller amounts consistently, but it adds up. This benefits charities not only because they have more finances, but because they can anticipate how much they will be getting and when, especially with the ease of tracking those who sign up for scheduled online giving.
2) Consistency breeds possibility:
Since agencies can know what they are getting and when, they can financially plan ahead, budgeting for programming and for unexpected events too. This allows smoother administrative processes and more well-developed services.
3) Commitment comes with intention:
If you plan to be giving monthly and long-term to an organization, you are more likely to take time deciding what (and who) you want to make the commitment to. Unlike the last-minute scramble of sending funds around the holidays or when a disaster strikes, you’ll be able to strategize and feel really good about the organization and programs you support. You’ll have a bigger impact, and feel like an ongoing part of the process of what that agency does, and you’ll be able to track progress. This brings our previous articles.
A Final Note
While things like natural disasters and war can appear suddenly and need serious and immediate attention, the majority of issues charities support (environmental, mental health, disease, poverty, famine, abuse etc) are year-round. That’s another reason why continual giving is something to consider.
Also, it’s not always about how much you give but what you give. Depending on the organization and time of year, personal care items might be preferable to clothing. Staples might be more important than presents for kids. Cash might be much more useful than canned goods. Sometimes a volunteer in person is more needed than any other kind of contribution. Make sure to check the website of the organization you are donating to see a list of their most needed items at any given time.
Finally, when you give, try not to be drawn immediately to the biggest and most well-known organization. Sometimes the charity’s relationship to power can compromise the services it gives and do not necessarily serve the interests on the ground. In other situations, it might be a better to go with the ‘brand name’ agency. Just do your research.
And thank you for your open hearts and hands!