In bad economic times, many worthwhile philanthropic endeavors suffer because potential donors possess far less discretionary income. However, there is a very important and effective way that individuals and businesses can help philanthropies and charities – volunteerism. Whether someone has suffered financially or not, most people are still capable of altruism.
By volunteering, individuals can make an important and valuable contribution. In today’s economy, where governments are running huge deficits, and many worthwhile projects are being put “on hold” or eliminated completely, especially by local and state governments, charities need volunteers as well as contributions to fulfill their important missions. Individuals can volunteer their time and their own personal labor, to help philanthropies better cope by reducing their expenses. If a philanthropy (or charity) can save money on expenses, it can often “stretch” its funds further into important programing.
Some forms of volunteerism include but not limited to: helping out with local community cleanups; working with others on local gardens; assisting in the office, assisting elderly or mentally handicap; joining the Board of local philanthropy; “pitching in” wherever needed, etc. All of these efforts reduce local charities’ overall expenses in times when government grants and other contributions may have been reduced and/ or eliminated.
In difficult economic times, donors need to be selective in their donations. A donor should look at the charity/ philanthropy’s financial information, to examine how much actually goes to programming. The higher the percentage that goes its core activities, the more comfortable a prospective donor should and does feel. Some excellent local charities still have high operating costs as a percentage of revenues, and if one feels strongly about one of those organizations, the best way to make others want to donate, is by helping the organization reduce its overhead. That is another area where volunteerism is both necessary and worthwhile!
While economic conditions changed, and schemists like Madoff separated so many from their money, it is more important than ever for people to be as generous as they can afford, because charities need help even more in bad times than good. In bad economic times, charities need to stretch fewer dollars further because there are so many additional community needs that the government has abandoned.
A donor should make sure that any philanthropy/ charity is responsibly discharging its duties, and striving to fulfill its mission, both effectively and inefficiently. Our politicians like to rhetorically support important causes, but many of these causes and mandates become unfunded, and charities and philanthropies must make up the funding differential. If each of us would make a personal pledge to maintain a minimum percentage of donation, both in good time or bad, the world would be a better place and there would be less suffering.
I urge you to consider a regular volunteerism schedule. It is so easy to be well- meaning, but to procrastinate when it comes to personally volunteerism. If we each do a little better, so much more can be achieved.