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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Soup kitchens and shelters need help year round

Nearly every charity organization imaginable relies on hounding and often even guilt-tripping people during the holiday season in order to rake in their biggest donations of the year. People are most willing to donate time, money and food around the holidays simply because charity work is advertised so heavily near Christmas time. But what about the rest of the year? Though often put on the back burner, people are hungry, poor and needy during the other parts of the year as well.

“Forty-six percent of nonprofit groups receive most of their donations in October, November and December,” said Una Osili, the director of research at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. This means that in the other nine months of the year, charities often struggle to provide for their clients, as donations become much less frequent.

One explanation for this heightened willingness to give at the end of the year is the added benefit of a tax deduction right before the year comes to a close. However, regardless of this, it is still true that plenty of people are in fact giving charity purely from the kindness of their hearts — as it should be. The only problem is that this “kindness” is not so omnipresent in February or April, for example.

According to the most recent Ask Your Target Market’s survey, 38 percent of those who donate to charity said that they are more likely to do so during the holiday season. The holidays are a time of gift-giving, so it makes sense that more people are willing to give the gift of charity, but this still leaves a large part of the year unaccounted for.

Perhaps charity organizations ought to make more of an effort to advertise and be present in people’s minds throughout the rest of the year as well. Christine Parquette, executive directorof St. Vincent de Paul Society of Marin, said the immense load of extra help on the holidays is a double-edged sword, and that it can become a strain on the organization’s system, as there are too many volunteers and not enough experienced volunteer trainers.

Many other executives of food banks and soup kitchens were in agreement that the influx of volunteers around holiday time is overwhelming. “January 1 rolls around and we still have a lot of work to do,” Paquette said, commenting on how the vast majority of volunteers dissipate once the holiday season is over, despite the organization serving food and thus needing volunteers year-round.

Although it is nice to get into the holiday spirit by volunteering or donating, it is imperative that people do not put charity work in the back of their minds for the rest of the year. If we are working to reach out to those in need, we must remember that people are in need in every month of the year.

Increased publicity and encouragement about charity work throughout the entire year may help assuage the lack of focus on charity in times besides the holiday season. If you have the time and ability to donate time, money and/or food in November and December, there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to do the same thing (at least from time to time) throughout the rest of the year.


Follow Talya Jaffe on Twitter.


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