Donor fatigue, charity backlash, and other excuses

From Andrea Ball’s story in the Statesman yesterday: “Charities Suffering in an Ailing Economy”

The Christmas Bureau of Austin and Travis County — which gives holiday gifts to needy children — still has 2,300 unsponsored families, more than double the number it had by this time last year.

“There are families who aren’t going to get anything,” Christmas Bureau Director Cynthia Colpaart said.

The story was remarkable not only because of the depressing data about charitable giving but because of the comments. It mentioned a couple of reasons why people may be giving less this season, the economy being the primary reason and donor fatigue being another. Then the commneters chimed in with their own reasons: high-priced celebrity speakers, the charity’s discriminatory practices, and the recent “hand-outs” by the feds to other charities like banks and auto makers.

It was kind of a downer to read those comments.

From that story, though, I was offered a link to this Statesman story: “Austinites Still Find Ways to Live Good Life”

News of the recession hasn’t persuaded all consumers to forsake lavish lifestyles. Some still eat at expensive restaurants, buy designer clothes and drive luxury cars.

So, of course, that story made me feel a whole heck of a lot better. (Sigh, still depressed.)


Then I saw this post on Tim Sander’s blog. He writes about sustainability at work – not necessarily charity – but this time he wrote about a toy drive. “At work,” he writes, “one person can unleash the power of many.” The quote from a man who put together a toy drive at his office was awesome.

It’s too late to adopt a family for Christmas giving, but I hope over the next week or two we’ll find other ways to share and give, particularly if it’s with a stranger who could really use our help. Here are some ideas:

1. That man on the corner you pass by on your way home from work everyday….? Roll down the window and give him some cash.

2. If you know of a stressed-out parent who could use an hour or two to just get her world together a little bit, tell her to send her kids over and play Candy Land with them for an hour.

3. Open the door for old people, people with too many things in their hands, people who are having trouble walking.

4. Give someone else that excellent parking spot.

5. If you live near someone – an older person, a person with a disability – who can’t get around well, leave some blankets or some fruit or a ham and a loaf of bread on their doorstep. Or better yet, ring the doorbell and say hello.

That’s just five nice, charitable, giving things you can still do this holiday and all the way into 2009. Enjoy feeling great about yourself after!


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