I had a few thoughts about how generous people become this time of year. And it made me think about the direct mail appeals that charities send out. After all, this is the time of year non-profits always worry about them. And, they should. The majority of Americans make their charitable contribution (events aside) between Thanksgiving and January 31st. Some of it is driven by taxes, but mostly it is driven by the spirit of the season. Already on the news this morning I heard about a turkey drive with a goal of 19,000 turkeys to be donated by next Wednesday – the day before Thanksgiving. As of this morning, they only had four, but I’m sure they will make or exceed goal.
Coat drives, food drives, the Salvation Army kettle, are all as much a sign of the season as are lights and trees and store windows touting holiday sales. Perhaps even more. The season begins with our giving thanks, and for many culminates with a celebration of faith. We smile more, push and shove a bit less (discounting Black Friday holiday sales) and relish in the joy of giving gifts to loved ones and the special people in our lives. We are often filled with the “holiday spirit”. So, yes, we also give to our favorite charities.
That is why non-profits send out their appeals … to hopefully be the beneficiary of that giving spirit. The problem is getting through all that clutter with a message that resonates. This year, I think we are all still concerned about the economy, loss of jobs, loss of homes, debt that won’t dissipate – but seems to be climbing even higher. And, if we are weathering the storm, we know that our neighbor or people in our own community might not be. Our desire is to help that person next door, or in our town. For many, this is the new charitable giving. Bringing a neighbor that casserole or bag of groceries, helping take a sick friend for medical treatments, watching their children while they are out seeking a job. Writing a check might not be on the top of their mind. So, it is important that you clearly share how your organization is helping or can help their friends, their neighbors or their community. Charity begins at home has never been more heartfelt.
It is also just as important to remember people who have been giving to you regularly. Reach out to them. Perhaps add a personal, hand-written note of thanks with their appeal. You might think about calling them when they do renew their gift. And, if they didn’t respond to your request, maybe you didn’t cut through the clutter – or the day your letter came it accidently went into the wastebasket with the pile of ads and other direct mail appeals. Do send a second reminder – or call and ask them to renew their gift personally.
It is intrinsic in us, I believe, to want to give. It is in our nature. And people are just waiting to be asked. Do so considerately, thoughtfully and with a little reminder now and then.
Let the season begin.
The Philanthropy Therapist