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Posted on Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : noon

How to be a charity superhero, part 1: Why give?

By Neel Hajra

Now might not be the best time to talk about charitable giving: Your personal finances may be squeezed, or maybe you’re just playing it safe because of all the economic turmoil. Either way, I know that philanthropy can be a tall order, even during the holiday “giving” season.

I certainly can’t ask you to give money you don’t have. However, for those with even modest means, I hope I can provide some insight and tools that will make charitable giving an easier (and more informed) choice. Let’s start with a very basic question: WHY GIVE? Well, because…

You Do Good: Nonprofits enable you to take private action for public good. It’s a powerful way and easy way to make an immediate impact in the name of doing good. The world could use more superheroes, and here’s your chance to be one!

The Need Really Is Greater Than Ever: We’ve heard it in the past, but this time it really IS different. My organization, NEW, works with over 500 nonprofits in southeast Michigan every year, and the trends are stark: Human service agencies can’t keep up with the huge increase in demand. Arts/culture funding has taken a back seat to “basic needs” issues. Local and state government agencies are slashing nonprofit support across the board. Individual giving is down. Most nonprofits are truly hurting, and some face the genuine possibility of closing their doors. I’ve talked to dozens of local and national nonprofits leaders who categorically tell me that they’ve never seen such a challenging environment for carrying out their missions.

You Support the Economy: We hear a lot about how we all need to buy more stuff to support the economic turnaround. Well, did you know that the nonprofit sector in Michigan employs 10% of the state’s workforce?  Or that nationally, nonprofit output represents over 5% of our national GDP? Supporting nonprofits isn’t just the right thing to do, it also lends a helping hand to the economy.

Your Dollar Doesn’t Cost a Dollar: Contributions to 501(c)(3) nonprofits are tax-deductible, which means that it costs you less than a dollar to contribute a dollar to a nonprofit.

Your Dollar Is Worth More Than Other Dollars: Despite the constant press about splashy corporate giving campaigns and mega-foundations, individual giving still makes up 75% of total charity in the United States. Even more important, your money has less strings attached than money from companies, foundations, or the government (assuming you don’t restrict how a nonprofit can spend your donation). This makes every dollar you give more valuable than other sources of nonprofit support.

You Enhance Your Quality of Life:  Great communities don’t happen by accident, they’re driven by strong business, government, and nonprofit sectors. Our work, our families, our education, our natural resources, our recreation, and so much more are impacted directly by local nonprofits. On top of community, it’s generally accepted that charitable giving makes people intrinsically happier, and what’s not to like about that??

You Continue a Distinctly American Tradition: The U.S. nonprofit sector is by far the largest sector of its kind in the world . Nonprofit “private action for public good” reflects America’s tradition of independence, community self-help, individual empowerment, and private-public partnership. Regardless of your place on the political or economic spectrum, supporting nonprofits is a very American thing to do.

 Coming next: Finding a charitable mission that match up with your passions.

Neel Hajra is the President & CEO of Nonprofit Enterprise at Work.



Mon, Dec 14, 2009 : 10:46 p.m.

I won't be giving Christmas presents this year or probably never again. I have given to a charity in Central America who have it alot worse than here in Michigan. I am giving a present to Jesus Christ for his birthday by caring for the less fortunate.